Making Lemonade Out Of Lemons

The Alabama football team had an unusual spring schedule, but the Crimson Tide made the most of the situation and it turned into an opportunity. The 15th and final day came Monday, one practice after the A-Day Game.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban had planned spring practice to begin after The University spring break in mid-March and complete it with the A-Day Game on April 19. It has been well documented that the City of Tuscaloosa landed an Olympic-qualifying triathlon and asked Saban to adjust his schedule to avoid traffic problems.

Saban acquiesced to the city's request, but never hid the fact that he would have preferred to keep his own schedule. In fact, he had a quip about that Monday afternoon when it was suggested by a sportswriter that Saban could do anything he wanted. "If that was true," Saban responded, we wouldn't have had the spring game when we did."

The change meant that Bama had two practices prior to spring break, then had one practice day remaining after Saturday's A-Day Game.

Saban said that the "unusual day" was a good one. "We got a lot out of it," he said. For one thing, the coaches and players got to watch the tape of the game and then have a practice to correct some mistakes from the game.

Had Alabama's spring game been on the originally scheduled day, this coming Saturday, assistant coaches would have been going out on the road for the spring period to watch high school football practices and meet with prep coaches and guidance counselors regarding future prospects. That period begins next week.

In addition to going over the spring game, the practice was used as an opportunity to work on some situations that have not been a part of spring practice, but which Alabama can expect to be possibilities from opponents in the early part of next season.

In reviewing the A-Day Game, Saban said the first offense had its best day of the spring, "less mental errors and less breakdowns." There were some and there were some "dropped balls," but on the whole it was a performance that should give the offense confidence as it goes into the next phase of preparation for the 2008 season.

Saban was not as pleased with the defense. Even though there were only four secondary coverages and a basic front and limited situations such as blitz, Saban said there were too many mental errors.

And, Saban said, there won't be a game where the defense will face an offense as simple as the one it played against Saturday. The coach said the first and second offenses had 14 explosive plays in the A-Day Game and on 12 of those there was an error by the defense.

The coach said there were players "who elevated their game, had a little spark." Others, he said, "disappeared a little bit. These are the things you want to see." He declined to name any players who had shown that spark saying to do so would lead to a negative conclusion about all the others.

Students are familiar with classes where the final examination is the heavy weight in grade determination. Saban didn't say the A-Day Game was equivalent to a final exam, but said "it counts more" than other practices and scrimmages. "It's a little bit different situation," he said. "They all count, but in [the A-Day Game] we see how the players respond."

Even though spring practice is over, there are still things to be done. Saban said at the end of the regular season and at the end of spring practice each player will meet with coaches. Top priority will be to make sure the players "finish the job academically." They will also get information on what needs to be done to be better football players.

There is also work to be done in "strength and conditioning—mostly strength," Saban said. He said players would lift weights until early June, then begin the summer off-season program.

Saban said the development of leadership was on-going, and he cited the previous "learning experiences" that some players have had with off-the-field issues. He said Alabama has "some players who are affecting other players and the players seeing that as an important ingredient. They see peer pressure does work. That's part of developing leadership.

Saban updated the injury situation from Saturday. He said that linebacker Charlie Higgenbotham had suffered a broken wrist (but practiced Monday) and that defensive back Marquis Johnson was "okay" after suffering a concussion. He said offensive tackle Charles Hoke had a shoulder injury that is giving him problems.

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