There were good things in Alabama’s second scrimmage of spring practice, but as would be expected, also areas that Coach Nick Saban said were not so good.
“I saw a lot of progress in some areas, some areas maybe not as much,” he said. “A lot of good things to look to build on and also some things that we certainly need to improve on.”
The Crimson Tide is approaching the final week of spring football practice. The team will be off for the Easter weekend, have practices Tuesday and Thursday, and conclude spring practice Saturday, April 22, with the A-Day Game in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
It is natural for followers of Alabama football to focus on those who will replace departed starters and on the improvement of those returning. Saban took heart in a show of development of depth.
“I thought at times the twos, the second rep group, a lot of guys made a significant improvement and really played a lot better and competed a lot better against the first rep chart, which was encouraging in a lot of ways,” Saban said. “That is an encouraging part of the depth on the team. I was really encouraged with that.”
Without getting into details, Saban said, “I think the No. 1 thing you want to do is sort of self-assess -- if you're a coach, your unit, your players. And if you're a player, self-assess -- how much did I improve from last week to this week, because that's really the focus for our team right now is how do we grow, how do we develop, how do we get more guys to play winning football?”
Even though he said there was “a little more juice” on defense, the Tide coach was disappointed in aspects of Alabama defense.
He said, “I was really, really pleased with the way we tackled on defense last week. I thought we had more missed tackles this week, which means since we're playing against ourselves maybe the offense was a little better at running after the catch or breaking some tackles on some runs. But I didn't think the tackling was quite as crisp as what it was a week ago.
“I think that goes back to how players practice and how they prepare to do that because we don't tackle in practice so you've got to get yourself in position to thud properly, and that's a thing that's really easy not to do in practice, to get by with.
I” wasn't pleased with the way we played on the back end today. I thought we missed some 50-50 balls we should have made plays on and they turned out to be not great big plays but plays that could have been big plays for the defense but ended up being big plays for the offense. Your ability to make plays on 50-50 balls is really big and we can't give those up, whether it's technique or keeping a guy cut off or whatever it might be.”
On the other hand, he said, “I thought that the balance on offense was good. We had good balance between some of the passes, some explosive plays as well as I thought we ran the ball a little better and had a couple of explosive runs, which there was an absence of a week ago.”
He said the punters and kickers “were pretty good. We did block a field goal, which was a really good effort by the defense.”
Saban said that tailback Bo Scarbrough did not participate in the scrimmage “even though he’s been doing just about everything in practice now, but not getting hit.” Scarbrough suffered a broken leg in the national championship game.
“He loks to me like he’s pretty much full speed,” Saban said.
Tailback Damien Harris was also held out of Friday’s scrimmage after suffering a sprained foot in the first scrimmage last Saturday.
Saban said, “We’re not going to take any chances with any of these guys, pushing them into A-Day. But we'll make that determination later on. Other than that, we had no significant injuries today that I know of.”
The Tide coach was asked about Isaiah Buggs, an early enrollee at defensive end. Saban said, “I think he's gotten better every practice. I think discipline to play this kind of defense where everybody has a job to do and it's important for you to do your job and stay in your gap and play your gap, I think some of that stuff is a little new to him. But I think his effort has gotten better and better, he's getting in better condition and I think he's played better each day.”
As is often the case with players coming into the Tide system, Saban said Buggs has to have the discipline to do his job “rather than always trying to make the play. There's a difference in that. You always want to try to make the play but you've got ot make the play doing your job.”
Asked about the performance of the right side of the offensive line, Saban said, "I can't really answer that without watching the film, but we're trying some things there. Lester (Cotton) played a lot of tackle last year and he's done a really good job at guard. Sometimes we do things because we want to see what someone else can do and we want to make sure, like in Lester's case, that he could play guard or tackle next year. I can't really comment on how he played at tackle today, I thought he did okay. And I can't really comment on how the right guards did because I didn't watch the guys like I do when I watch the film, I watch each guy every play to get a much better feel for them. I don't think there was a major drop off or a noticeable negative in any way I can comment on."