Hot Weather Adds Dimension To Practice

It was hot on the Alabama practice fields as the Crimson Tide was out in full gear Wednesday. Bama passed the midpoint of spring football practice with its eighth of 15 spring sessions and the Tide has made progress according to its head coach.



Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, "We've had a good week, made a lot of progress. As I said last Saturday, a first scrimmage lets you know where you are. We've made improvement."

He said, "Today was one of the hottest days we've had in pads, and we had guys showing that they have the intensity to persevere. They can't let external things, such as the heat, affect them. Having the perseverance to sustain is mental toughness. We have to keep working. There are mental toughness issues with every player."

Alabama will have its second scrimmage of the spring Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Asked whether there would be changes from the first scrimamge, Saban said the second scrimmage "is still going to be playing football."

He said the team would work on the running game and the passing game and do situational work such as goalline and third down, and "move the field" (scrimmage). He said there would be some different situational work because there isn't enough time in one practice to go over everything. He pointed out some different situations that might be worked Saturday could include coming out from the goalloine, get the ball back, and two-minute.

"The emphasis doesn't change," he said. "We don't want to get away from playing football."

Saban said, "I think we have a good attitude. I enjoy coaching these guys. There are a lot of good guys on this team. They are trying to learn and that makes it fun to coach them. The leadership on our team is better this year. Last year everyone was learning and in a state of flux. Now we've been through it and everyone is on the same page. More guys are doing things the way we want to do them.

"We still need to improve in everything."

Alabama's defense is listed as a 3-4, but the Tide rarely was seen in that alignment last year. Frequently, the jack linebacker is on the line of scrimmage and playing like a defensive end, which would make the defense a 4-3. More than that, Bama most often had either a nickel (five defensive backs, or a linebacker playing like a fifth defensive back) or a dime (usually six defensive backs).

Saban said that was partly because of the alignment of many opposing offensive teams with extra wide receivers forcing the defense to have extra coverage men. Saban said if the other teams continue with those schemes then the defense will continue to have the extra coverage men.

Beyond that, he pointed out, limited practice time doesn't allow a team to be proficient in nickel and dime packages and also in "regular" personnel; if the defense is going to have to play a lot of nickel and dime, it isn't going to be able to spend preparation time on regular.

On some other subjects:

EXPERIMENTS:

Saban makes it clear that when a player is at a new position during spring practice it does not necessarily mean there has been a position move. His theory of spring experimentation is to have a player work at a position to find out if he can play that position. Even if he can, that doesn't necessarily mean the player will be permanently or temporarily moved.

"It's not final," he said. "It's an experiment. We want to get the best guys on the field."

Baron Huber
Two of those experiments are underway this week. Fullback Baron Huber got a look at linebacker and Brian Motley, who suffered a broken finger that needed surgical repair, is working on some center skills. Motley, a nose tackle, can't play defense with his finger situation, Saban explained, so he is working on snapping the ball and on some offensive lineman techniques.

One factor in the look at Huber on defense, Saban said, is the development of tight ends. the coach pointed out that tight ends can perform some of the duties of a fullback.

COACHING CLINIC

Bill Belichick
Alabama will host its annual coaching clinic Thursday-Saturday. The big name visiting coach is longtime Saban friend Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. Although Saban is pleased to have his buddy as the featured speaker and is grateful to Belichick for sharing his time, Bama's coach said the clinic if primarily an opportunity for the Alabama staff to provide assistance to high school coaches. As he has frequently, Saban pointed out the importance of high school coaches in developing players and in promoting the game of football.





GRIDIRON BASH

Saban expressed disappointment in the cancellation of the Gridiron Bash, a series of concerts around the nation in conjunction with college spring football games. Alabama had been scheduled to have country music star Alan Jackson. The Tide coach also wanted to express gratitude to Alabama's fan base for its positive support by having been tops in concert ticket sales by a 3-1 margin over the next school.

A-DAY GAME ATTENDANCE

Alabama will have its annual spring game at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday, April 12. Last year a national record 92,138 -- a full house -- attended the game. In answer to a question, Saban said, "The support of our fans last year at the spring game was the most positive thing we've had since I've been here. It had a significant impact on recruiting. A lot of guys (prospects) were impressed with the support of our fans and it was helpful in a positive impact (on recruiting).


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