So Far, So Good For Bama

Generally speaking, even the bad news (It was hot!) produced good news for Alabama's football team Tuesday. The Crimson Tide worked for two hours in full pads for the first time during preseason camp Tuesday afternoon at the Thomas-Drew Practice Field. It was the fifth practice of the season for the Crimson Tide.

"I am pleased with the carryover that we have had from spring practice," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said afterwards, "I'm pleased with the carryover that we have with a lot of the players from the spring. It's a lot better than maybe we anticipated. Obviously, it's a little more difficult for the younger players, especially the freshmen who are here for the first time and some of the new walk-ons but that's to be expected.

"These first five days, we kind of go through an installation. When we get to tomorrow morning, we kind of start all over a little bit. We do more than we did the first day, but we try to make it a point of emphasis to go back and throw it on the wall again and see what sticks. You kind of use the whole theory of learning and obviously that pertains to the older players who know something and have a good carryover with it.

"It's an indication of a good summer conditioning program. The players participated well in seven-on-seven things they did on their own this summer and that's shown.

"We have a lot of guys who have a better understanding. Now we're not where we want to be and we have to build on that. Defensively, I think we have a much, much better understanding, we're not making as many errors. At least from a concept standpoint, we kind of get it. Our ability to go out and execute it down-in, down-out like we need to is something we need to continue to work on and improve and we have to eliminate all mental errors on both sides of the ball.

"And we have to keep working on the kicking game so that we can do a good job and make that an advantage for us which is something we need quite a bit of work on. We have to figure out the best personnel to do it as well." The first Tide practice in full gear was with the heat index soaring to 108 degrees at approximately 3 p.m. For Saban, that's an opportunity.

"Obviously, the conditions, we're use to this. It was pretty hot in Louisiana, it was pretty hot in Miami, it's pretty hot here, so it's not really anything that's different. What we like to try and do is practice for about two hours and have a high tempo in what we're doing, try to get a lot of reps so we don't have to stay out there for a long, long time. I think that's something the players had to learn how to do. If they think they're going to be out there for a long time, they're going to do things slower but I think we've got better mental energy, better mental intensity.

"The conditions here create an opportunity for the players. It's an opportunity to overcome some difficult circumstances, to focus and concentrate when they get tired, to focus and concentrate and don't let external factors like heat, cold, wind, rain affect what you do. That takes a little mental toughness and a little discipline. Some players do it better than others. When we get a critical mass of players that can do it, we'll play with a lot more consistency."

He said, "The one thing we need to continue to improve on is we're a little too up and down, even in practice. Our level of consistency is not what it needs to be. We'll play good on one side of the ball one period, the next period we're a little bit flat on one side and the other side picks it up. We need to play up all the time. When you have some success, you do pretty well in one period, you make an 'A' on the mid-term, you take some time off, miss a few classes and don't study as much. We can't afford to do that in football because a 'C' in the class isn't good enough.

"We need to put the pedal to the metal all the time, go try to be perfectionists all the time in what we do and how we do it. Winners build on good things. People who don't win, they're happy to have good things happen sometimes. That's a big difference and that's what we've got to build. It's not something that happens overnight , it doesn't happen to the whole group at one time, it happens slowly and individually over time."

Saban updated the injury status of two players, freshman defensive back Chris Lett (Pensacola, Fla.) and junior receiver Nikita Stover (Hartselle). Lett has not practiced this fall, and Saban said that Lett's status for the future is uncertain due to an unspecified health issue. Stover returned to practice Tuesday after suffering a hip pointer in Sunday's practice which caused him to miss Monday's session. Stover was not at full speed, but was able to participate in a limited fashion.

Saban said, "Nikita Stover did practice. He was not full speed but he pushed through work and did what he could do. He has a hip pointer that will take a few more days for him to get back to full speed."

Saban was asked about junior Jimmy Johns, the back-up tailback to Kenneth Darby the past two years, now working at fullback. The coach said, "We've been practicing him at both (fullback and tailback) and he seems like he's been able to handle that. A fullback is a hard match-up position. If you look back at the Bill Walsh's (San Francisco) 49ers days, the fullback always had a lot of catches, maybe not for a lot of yards per catch, but a lot of positive 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 yard gains. Jimmy certainly can do that and he has the ability to run after the catch a little bit and he has some size so he might be difficult for smaller people to tackle.

"But that doesn't mean Baron Huber can't do that. He's made some improvement in that area as well and Jeramie Griffin has shown some pretty good athleticism at that position as well. We're also working him a little bit as a runner."

Reporters had a revelation from Saban Tuesday after asking about senior linebacker Darren Mustin receiving a scholarship this year. Mustin walked on at Alabama prior to the 2005 season after playing two years at Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro.

How did Mustin react, Saban was asked. The coach said, "I'm sure he was happy. I was a walk-on at Kent State and I was really happy I got awarded a scholarship my freshman year."

It was news to Alabama reporters that Saban had been a walk-on at Kent State.

Saban continued regarding Mustin, "He's a guy who has a great attitude, a guy that has been a very productive performer for us. He's got leadership qualities, he's on the peer group, he really cares about the team and we're very pleased and happy with everything he is certainly going to contribute to the team, God willing, if he doesn't have any injuries or anything. He certainly deserves to be on scholarship."

The Crimson Tide will hold its first two-a-day sessions Wednesday. Bama will go to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the first of its two fall camp scrimmages Saturday. (The other scrimmage will be August 18.) All practices are closed to the public.

Alabama will open the 2007 season Saturday, Sept. 1, against Western Carolina at Bryant-Denny Stadium. A kickoff time has not been announced, but could be revealed as early as Friday. If the Southeastern Conference's Lincoln Financial Network chooses the game, kickoff would be at 11:30 a.m. CDT. If the game is not selected for that telecast, expect Bama to choose an evening kickoff time to avoid heat as much as possible.

Editor's Note: Thanks to Tim Gayle of the Montgomery Advertiser for helping a fellow reporter with voice recorder issues in compiling these notes.

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