Following Tuesday's Alabama spring football practice, Coach Nick Saban announced that two offensive players from last season, Taylor Pharr, a redshirt freshman offensive lineman, and Ali Sharrief, who played at the running back position as a freshman last season, got a look on the defensive unit on Tuesday.
"These are not position changes, these are experiments," Saban said. "We took two guys, Taylor Pharr and Ali Sharrief, and looked at them on defense. We will probably look at them on defense for a couple of days until we get a picture or an idea of whether they might be able to help us, relative to whether their role being more significant on that side of the ball than where it is. Both of these guys are being looked at because they were impressive in what they were doing."
Saban cited several examples in his coaching career of experimenting with players at new positions, sometimes with excellent results. And, he said, sometimes the players go back to their positions after the experiment.
He said one by-product of the experiment could come in examining depth in the upcoming season. He said the coaches will have knowledge about what players could do if needed. He also pointed out that he never plays a player in a position he does not want to play, so those who get a look at a different position are receptive to the experiment.
"They didn't get moved," he emphasized. "They are practicing at that position for a few days. It is a reward for positive performance."
Saban said, "We've got to start converting opportunities offensively. We have a lot of opportunities with skill players and we have to make big plays. We're not finishing a lot of those plays now. We need to finish more of them. I think a lot of it is timing. The good news is we have a lot of guys who can make good plays. Now we need to finish them. We've got a lot of guys out there who need to start playing faster. There's a lot of thinking going on out there, a lot of new information. The big thing is guys have to remember what they did yesterday.
"It's not Etch-A-Sketch, you know that game you played as a kid where you play on that little deal, draw stuff, and then you lift up the paper and it all goes away and you start over again? Well we can't do that. We've got too much to learn, too much to do.
"Everybody's got to be individually responsible for doing that. We need more guys to make a more serious effort in that regard relative to the mental part of it so we can turn it loose, play fast, be more aggressive, play with more intensity, do things with a higher energy level.
"One of the things we want to do on offense is be a tempo type team. Get in and out of the huddle like a race car type deal. That's a learned characteristic that we really need to work on and develop so we can maintain intensity. I think a lot of that has to deal with the consistency. With consistency in performance, one of the main things you have to do is to be able maintain your sense of urgency and maintain your intensity. Half of the plays we correct have to do with mental errors, not physical ones, so that's something we are continuing to work on."
Saban said some players are playing close to that tempo, "but not enough."
He said the process is "conditioning and creating new habits" and pointed out that it takes time. "We're getting better all the time," he said. "I'm not disappointed. But we have to get better."
In answer to a question, Saban said the offensive line has been a pleasing area. "Experience helps," he said of the group that has five starters back from last year (thought right tackle Chris Capps has been limited). "They've been making progress," Saban said. "I've been pleased with that group." He added that it is "seven or eight" guys and said that some young ones have also shown potential.
Alabama practiced for approximately two hours under muggy conditions in the first of three scheduled workouts in the second week of spring . Temperatures were around 80 degrees for most of the workout, with light winds throughout the day. The Crimson Tide is set to work out on Thursday, with the first scrimmage set for Friday. All practices and the team's scrimmage remain closed to the public.