Stuart McNair

Alabama football will have first of three scrimmages, including A-Day

Alabama Coach Nick Saban wants players paying attention to detail

Alabama Coach Nick Saban opened his Monday post-practice press briefing with a plea to sports reporters to not ask any stupid questions, and thus have Saban end up ranting for the world to see on ESPN’s Sports Center.

And so, instead of “Is Jalen Hurts going to be able to hit the broad side of a barn on long passes this year?” we got “What do you want to see from Jalen Hurts in Saturday’s scrimmage?”

Alabama will have its first scrimmage of spring practice this week and Saban talked about what he is expecting. The week seemed to start off well.

Following Monday’s full-gear, two-hour practice in the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility, Saban said, “I was really interested in the tempo today, which was really good.”

The practice followed a long weekend off for Bama players. “Because we moved A-Day back (from a normal mid-April to April 22), we have a little bit more time so we’ve been spreading practices out. I think it’s helped the teaching because so far we’ve had an off day in between every practice, which has probably been good for the learning curve, especially for the young players.

“I would say we’re at the point now where I think it’s really important for people to start paying attention to detail. Probably a lot of guys are focusing on what to do, trying to struggle through how to do it, but they’ve also got to understand why it’s important to do it and we’ve got to pay attention to detail and what we’re doing.

“Most of the time when you didn’t have success it’s not because you didn’t have the ability to do it or get it done correctly. It’s because you either made a mental error or you didn’t do it exactly right or you weren’t focused on it and then we end up not playing together as a unit where it’s offense, defense or special teams.

“The focus so far has really been on installation, and I think that now we start focusing on allowing the guys to play. I talk about this just about every year that coaches are out there telling guys what to do, what formation to get it and how to get in it, what route to run, what coverage adjustment it is. But the telling tale is how do these guys go out there and, we have to give them some space to get them ready for the scrimmage to see exactly how they do when nobody’s there sort of looking over their shoulder, making sure they do it right.

“That takes a little maturity. But that’s the thing we’re looking to do to get them ready for the scrimmage. And when the scrimmage comes, basically I want to see who can do all the fundamentals things well. Who has the toughness? Who’s a good tackler? Who can block people and get movement on the offensive line? Who can hold the point of attack and get off of blocks on defense?

“It’s not going to be some schematic sort of escapade in what we’re doing. It’s going to be more how do we execute the fundamentals at this point and who shows the maturity and capability to do that with any kind of consistency? That’s what we’re going to be looking for Saturday.”

Monday was the Crimson Tide’s sixth practice of spring drills. Alabama will practice again on Wednesday and Friday before holding its first scrimmage of the spring Saturday inside Bryant-Denny Stadium (closed to the public).

Saban and the Crimson Tide football coaching staff will host the 2017 Clinic of Champions Thursday-Saturday. The clinic features Atlanta Falcons Coach Dan Quinn, Houston Texans Coach Bill O’Brien, United States Naval Academy Coach Ken Niumatalolo, Duke Coach (and Alabama graduate) David Cutcliffe, and Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line Coach Tony Sparano.

Saban said, “We try to do the best job that we can to have the very best clinic to make ourselves available. It’s the one thing that we can do to sort of repay the high school coaches professionally for all that they do in helping develop players and promote our game. We’re excited about the opportunity that’s coming up to have a lot of guys here and looking forward to making it a positive experience for them.”

The Tide will hold a second closed scrimmage on April 14, prior to the A-Day Game at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The security policy of clear plastic bags only (no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches will be in effect for the A-Day Game.

Oh, and as for that question about upcoming sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts, Saban said, “I think decision-making, getting the ball out of his hand more quickly, not looking at the rush, not drifting in the pocket, reading and having his eyes in the right place relative to the coverage and read that particular play has. I think those are the things that are fundamentally what we're trying to get him to improve on and I think he's doing a much better job in that regard. He still has the ability to run and make plays with his feet, but that's not what we want to focus on right now. I think he's kind of bought into that and done a really good job with it.”

And, by the way, Saban said he was only kidding when he suggested he was worried about appearing on Sports Center because a reporter put him into a rage.

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