Saban Pleased With Tide Practices

If you are wondering where Alabama's football team is, Coach Nick Saban has the answer for you. "If we were climbing a mountain, we'd be somewhere around the base camp," he said following Wednesday's practice. "We've got a long way to go."

The next stretch of the football mountain for Alabama is Saturday when the Crimson Tide hosts Houston for homecoming. Kickoff Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium is at 2 p.m. CDT.

Alabama is coming off its second consecutive loss, a 21-14 setback to Florida State in Jacksonville. Bama is now 3-2 as the Tide approaches the halfway point of the season. The loss to FSU knocked Alabama out of the nation's top 25.

Coach Nick Saban said, "I have been pleased with the effort and attitude in practice this week. We have had two of our better practices from an intensity standpoint, even though this was a very difficult preparation for us. The scout team has done a really good job of trying to simulate not only a no-huddle offense, but also one that has a tremendous amount of multiples.

"Our focus is having our team improving, having a team playing winning football.

"Our focus should be on improvement, more and more guys playing with consistency, executing…down-in and down-out, offense, defense and special teams."

One area in which Alabama has been deficient, at least statistically, is in sacks. The Tide ranks 12th in the Southeastern Conference with only five in five games. (The leader, LSU, has 18.)

Saban did not dispute the statistics, but said that he thought Alabama had been getting good pressure on opposing quarterbacks. "We haven't been able to finish," he said, noting that Bama defensive linemen have forced quick throws and had the quarterback in the grasp or hit the quarterback right after the throw.

"But we have to be able to finish," he said. "We've been aggressive in terms of pressure. We haven't blitzed a lot."

He did say that opposing quarterbacks have not had the luxury of holding the ball for a long time, that the Tide defense has forced a lot of quick throws."

There's a special challenge from Houston's quarterbacks (they use two). Both are athletic, capable of scrambling for big plays, Saban said. He said the Houston offense is the same regardless of quarterback.

Saban first met Houston Coach Art Briles when Briles was a high school coach and called him "an impressive guy." The Tide coach has a lot of admiration for the Briles offense used by the Cougars, which includes a lot of wide receivers and offensive linemen taking wide splits, which makes it more difficult to make tackles on runners. "It will be a challenge for our front guys," Saban said.

He also said that Alabama will be using five or six defensive backs most of the game. Saban said practice this week would be a factor in determining the starting right cornerback. Lionel Mitchell started the first two games at the position (when Simeon Castille was in nickel, which has been most of the time), but Marquis Johnson was the starter at right corner against FSU.

"This is a good team," he said of Houston. "We need to be ready to go."

Defensive end Bobby Greenwood, who suffered a severely sprained ankle against Florida State, has been practicing this week, but not in contact work, Saban said. The coach said Greenwood would still be listed as "questionable," adding that "it will be interesting to see what he can do" in Thursday's practice.

Greenwood is backed up by Brandon Deaderick. Saban said, "Brandon has done a pretty good job of filling in. He's played quite a bit and gained experience and done a pretty good job all year."

The coach said that wide receiver Keith Brown and tight end Travis McCall, who suffered concussions against FSU, had been cleared and had been practicing this week.

Starting right guard Marlon Davis missed Wednesday's work after a death in his family.

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