Following Tuesday's Alabama football practice, Coach Nick Saban said he had emphasized to the players the need to work to be better. "We certainly have some guys that are doing that at a different level than others. I think the important thing is that we get everybody to elevate so they can play with a little more mental toughness, a little more discipline and eliminate the mistakes that are costly for you to be able to play winning football, which is what we are trying to get accomplished here in this fall camp."
An interesting example he cited is that of linebacker Rolando McClain, a true freshman from Decatur. Saban said McClain, a 6-4, 255-pound inside linebacker, "like a lot of young players, they learn something every day. They have a some eye-opening experiences. Rolando is a conscientious guy who really wants to learn things, really wants to know things. He's a little bit of a perfectionist, and guys like that it sometimes a little harder to unleash or pull the pin.
"What we try to get him to do is play fast, play hard, don't worry about making a mistake. We'll fix it and you'll make less and less mistakes.
"I think after the scrimmage on Saturday he probably learned that's how he should play. His identity is a player is more that than it is worrying about assignments. He's at a difficult position because he's a signal-caller.
"He's made nice improvement. I think more important than how anyone did in the scrimmage is how they responded to the scrimmage, how did they improve this week. An d I'd say he's had three of his best practices since he scrimmage and because of the scrimmage. He responded in the right way. He's making improvement and that's what's critical. We're pleased with the progress he has made so far."
As is his wont, Saban didn't use the word "hot," although it was well over 100 for the eighth straight day in Tuscaloosa. "The players have really worked hard under some tough circumstances out there ," Saban said. "I have been pleased for the most part with the way the guys have tried to work through it. Obviously your ability to work through it comes from the passion you have to try to be the best player you can be."
He said he talks to the team about "accountability" and about being "smart" players. "I think we're making some improvement," he said. "Hopefully we can get some of the young players to continue to mature, I hope the older players will help them to mature, and hopefully we can get the guys who are the prime-time players and the good players to have great years and all those things come together. It would certainly be helpful for us to continue to get better as a team."
The coach was asked about the "learning curve" on defense since a Saturday scrimmage in which the offense had over 300 yards and in which Saban said the tackling had not been good. Saban said, "I think we've made a lot of improvement."
He said, "I don't think this is unusual starting out with a new defensive scheme because on defense you have to make so many adjustments." He explained that players on offense do well when the scheme is simple, but as the "multiples grow" it becomes more difficult. And just as it grows on offense, the adjustments the defense has to make increase.
He said, "The biggest thing is they need to understand the concepts of what they need to do so they can go out and play with confidence and perform those things. If we get close to the game and they can't do that, then we minimize what we do and build on it as we go.
"I think we have some players who are making very good progress. We need a critical mass of guys to make a little more improvement, play with a little more mental intensity. If we could put a barometer on what they know and how they apply it on the field is where we have some issues. That's only going to come with repetitions. We're not disappointed in where we are right now. We just have to keep working on it."
Alabama is scheduled to return to the practice field Wednesday for what will be the last day of two practices. Bama will have a scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium (closed to all but a few hundred special boosters).
The Crimson Tide opens the season is two and a half weeks, hosting Western Carolina at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 1. Kickoff will be at 6:07 p.m. CDT with the only television coverage pay-per-view.
Saban said that freshman defensive back Chris Lett is still unable to practice because of a medical situation that existed before he came to Alabama. He said those players wearing black jerseys at practice "he's really not seriously injured. Maybe he's out for a day."