Saban Likes Idea Of Starting Over
Alabama finished regular season football play with four consecutive losses and limped into the Independence Bowl.
"It's a one game season," Coach Nick Saban said. "We're going to a bowl and starting over. It's never too late to start the season over."
The Tide coach pointed out that Bama won its first three games of the season and had good enthusiasm and team chemistry with players committed following a good off-season program, spring training, and fall camp. They believed in the system, he said.
Then things began to unravel. Bama lost a couple of games to Georgia and Florida State, but seemed back on track with a convincing win over Tennessee. The home stretch of Southeastern Conference champion LSU, surprising Mississippi State, lightweight Louisiana-Monroe, and Auburn proved disastrous—four losses, each by a touchdown or less.
Now Bama has the chance to play what Saban called "a good Colorado team" in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport on December 30. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. CST with television coverage by ESPN. Both the Tide and Buffalos are 6-6 on the year.
Saban said the team had a very good year academically and no players are going to miss the bowl game because of academic ineligibility. He said the team also did a good job of "the things we asked of them" during the dormant period between the final regular season game and the start of practice Sunday. He said the players did what they were supposed to do in terms of weight-lifting, running and conditioning. Saban said carryover had been good. He said the players had also done a good job of addressing non-physical issues that are important to team-building.
Alabama has had a couple of recruiting weekends recently and Saban said the players did a good job with the prospects on campus.
Saban also said that the first two practices – one Sunday and one Monday morning before he met with media – had been enthusiastic. Another practice was scheduled for Monday evening, the only "two-a-day" work planned during bowl preparation. He compared early work to fall camp, getting back to fundamentals and being able to execute.
The Tide coach pointed out that bowl practice gave the staff a chance to work with young players who have been mostly involved with scout team work. Saban pointed out that players on the scout team do get coaching, and he said the scout team work was important. The disadvantage is that the players are not working on Alabama schemes, which they can get in bowl work. He said freshmen who had come to Bama last August would have the benefit of their first fall camp, bowl practice, spring practice, and another fall camp.
Saban said it is "one more chance for the seniors to, hopefully, go out with success."
He said enthusiasm and intensity had been good.
Saban said that Colorado is a good defensive team and has a quarterback with great management skills and a strong arm. But he said what impressed him most was the ability of the Buffalos to run the football.
Saban said that junior Antoine Caldwell was back at center. Caldwell was a starting guard as a freshman in 2005, a starting center the last two games of 2005 and all of 2006, and a starting center at the beginning of this season. Late in the season he also saw duty at both guard and tackle.
Saban said that Caldwell is now working at center. He said Mike Johnson was working at right tackle and Andre Smith at left tackle with Justin Britt at left guard and Marlon Davis at right guard. The coach said he did not expect the tackles to change, but that the three inside spots would be manned by the three best players available. POSITION CHANGE
Saban said that late in the season he had talked to back-up tailback Jimmy Johns about a move to linebacker. He said that Johns came to him and asked about the move. After the season Johns again made the request to move and that the junior is now working at weakside linebacker. He said he did not know if there was time for Johns to learn the position well enough to play in the Independence Bowl.
Kick return specialist and defensive back Javier Arenas is still not able to practice full speed in team work after suffering a late-season high ankle sprain, but both Saban and Arenas said Monday they are hopeful the sophomore will be able to practice next week and take part in the bowl game.
Saban said that three running backs all seemed to be healthy and he hoped that Terry Grant, Glen Coffee and Roy Upchurch would all continue to be healthy for the bowl game. NOT BOWLING
Saban said that three players would not make the bowl trip. He said that two freshmen walk-on players who were arrested on third degree assault charges recently would practice in Tuscaloosa this week, but would not be in Shreveport when the team reassembles on Christmas day. They are quarterback Thomas Darrah and fullback Jacob Vane.
Senior linebacker Marcel Stamps has had to work on academic concerns and is no longer participating in football, Saban said.
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