On Thursday, Alabama's football team was out in full gear for the first time in what is called spring practice. but which felt like winter workout. Although the temperature was around 40, the dampness of an overnight rain and the wind made it feel like late football season in Green Bay rather than spring practice in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama Coach Mike Shula said, "The first day in pads was interesting. The effort was good, which it always is with these guys. But we've got a lot of work to do."
After two days of practice without pads, the first day of contact work included some scrimmage work. Shula had said going into spring drills that the emphasis would be on fundamentals.
He said, "We worked on fundamentals, things like footwork, the first two days without pads. Then we put the pads on and they have got to continue to have good fundamentals, but now they have to do it in a contact situation, blocking and tackling. We have to see if those guys who did it in shorts can do it when the tackling starts."
Shula said, "As a coach, you always want perfection. But I'm trying to be patient. We don't want to give these guys too much. Now is the time to teach. We've got a lot more to install, but now is the time we can put things on hold until they are ready. Now that we are in pads, we don't want to try to give them too much."
Thursday's practice had limited scrimmage work, but no "to the ground" tackling. After a day in shoulder pads and helmets Friday, the Tide will be back in full gear Saturday and there will be more scrimmage. And, Shula said, this will include tackling to the ground.
He said, "We thought about having a scrimmage Saturday, but we're not quite ready for that because we have so many new faces in places. There will be time for that over the next few weeks."
A team is allowed 15 spring practice days, only three of which can be primarily scrimmage. One of those is the spring game. Alabama will conclude spring practice with its game on March 20.
Shula said "we were a little sloppy in the throwing and catching." The offense was at a little disadvantage in scrimmage work Thursday, Shula said, in part because they have more to learn, in part because there were some new centers which resulted in a few snaps ending up on the ground, and in part because "the defense did a little blitzing."
Shula said two men who caught his eye were veteran linemen, defensive tackle Anthony Bryant and offensive guard Evan Mathis. He also said Kyle Tatum, who moved from defensive tackle to offensive tackle this spring, "for his first day in pads at offensive tackle was pretty good. Now, he's still got a lot to learn."
Wide receiver is an area in which the Tide is rebuilding after the loss of five seniors from last year's team. Shula said that sophomore Tyrone Prothro, who was in the playing rotation last year, and redshirt freshman Matt Caddell were "the two guys who showed the most."
Offensive tackle Justin Moon, who missed Tuesday's workout because of illness, was back on the field, but did not participate in scrimmage work.
The practice was witnessed by visiting football coaches from around the state and region, primarily high school coaches but also some college men. Some 400 signed up for the spring coaching clinic that continues through Friday.