Saban Pleased With Progress Of Offense

Following Alabama's A-Day Game, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said the offensive object of the game had not been to establish a running game. He said he wanted the receiving corps to develop some confidence and for the quarterbacks to have a good feeling.

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Alabama had 81 pass attempts and 41 rushing attempts in the A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday as the Crimson (first offense and second defense) defeated the White (first defense and second offense), 24-14.

"I was pleased by the way we played," Bama Coach Nick Saban said. "I don't think our effort and energy defensively was exactly what we wanted it to be, but we had a pretty simple game plan. I was pleased that the offense was able to execute plays a little better. We made some big plays, and I was pleased that we were able to score the points we scored. [Quarterback John Parker Wilson] did a good job putting together the two-minute offense just before the half.

"I was pleased by the performance of our receivers even though we had a few drops today, b ut they made big plays. Darius Hanks made some big plays; Mike McCoy made some big plays; and Terry Grant made some big plays.

"I was pleased with our offensive performance. We do have some issues with depth on offense. Nikita Stover is our most experienced receiver, and he has provided some leadership qualities to the younger guys."

Although he said the running game did not reach a high level in the spring, Saban said the offensive line had done well with good play by proven players such as Andre Smith, Antoine Caldwell and Mike Johnson and great improvement by Drew Davis and Marlon Davis.

Saban said a criteria is that the team develop depth. He said the first units are "pretty representative," but that playing time is available at many back-up positions. Saban seemed to be speaking to prospects, and noted that the crowd included a number of them. "We have some talented players, but we need mjore of them," Saban said.

(Although the crowd didn't measure up to last year's 92,138, Saban was very pleased by the turnout of 78,200.)

Saban said a number of players "have made a lot of improvement." He said it was not possible to compare Alabama teams at the end of 2007 and 2008.

Saban said Wilson had made much progress in the spring in a "quarterback-friendly" offensive system under new Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain. He said Wilson emerged from the Independence Bowl (where he was MVP) with confidence.

Here's a look at statistics from the A-Day Game:

Wilson was 17-34 with one interception and three touchdowns and 265 yards; Greg McElroy was 12-26 with one interception and one touchdown for 196 yards; Nick Fanuzzi was 2-7 with one interception for 33 yards; Thomas Darrah was 8-14 with one touchdown for 110 yards.

In the running game, Roy Upchurch had 11 rushes for 49 yards, Terry Grant six for 21 yards, Jonathan Lowe four for 19, Demetrius Goode six for 19, Wilson five for five, Jeramie Griffin one for minus four (and a fumble), Darrah one for minus seven, McElroy five for minus 17.

Darius Hanks led the receivers with four for 102 yards and one touchdown, followed by Mike McCoy with six for 101, Grant with four for 87 (and two touchdowns), Nick Walker with five for 69, Marquis Maze with four for 58 (one touchdown), Travis McCall two for 39, Earl Alexander four for 28 (one touchdown), and Goode two for 26.

P.J. Fitzgerald had seven punts for 302 yards (43.1 average) and Heath Thomas five punts for 176 yards (35.2 average).

Although there were punts and kickoffs, there was no "live" on returns.

Rashad Johnson had two interceptions, which he returned 47 yards, and Tyrone King had one interception. Ali Sharrief blocked a field goal attempt. King forced a fumble and fumble recoveries were made by Justin Woodall and Chris Rogers.

Tackle leaders were Sharrief with seven primary and an assist, Charlie Higgenbotham with five primary and three assists, Alfred McCullough and Cory Reamer both with six primaries, and Rolando McClain and Alex Watkins both with four primaries.

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