Bama Injury News From Coach Saban

Injury news was the big story as Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban met with reporters in a mostly off-the-record briefing Thursday afternoon. The meeting was not so much a news conference as a final chance before vacations to check on some items.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban had an update on some Crimson Tide football players who have had injury issues, including confirmation that defensive back Lionel Mitchell will not be continuing in football for medical reasons. Throughout the spring Mitchell was held out of work with what was described as a "chronic" back injury, which is frequently a harbinger of "career-ending." Mitchell was an upcoming senior.

Saban said that returning starting cornerback Kareem Jackson and returning back-up linebacker Charlie Higgenbotham had been limited in the spring with "mild" sports hernia problems. Both have had summer surgery and are expected to be ready to go when the team reports for fall camp on July 31.

It will be a little closer call for senior wide receiver Will Oakley insofar as being 100 per cent when fall camp begins. Oakley suffered a metatarsal fracture in his foot while working in the weight room Wednesday and had surgery today.

Saban also said that sophomore starting middle linebacker Rolando McClain, who suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident in the spring, is "close to 100 per cent" and is working out.

Although Saban is not ready to report on the specifics of incoming freshmen, he did say that wide receiver Melvin Ray of Tallahassee, Florida, had signed a professional baseball contract and that defensive end Brandon Lewis of Pleasant Grove has "enrolled in junior college." [Coach Saban did not name a junior college. There have been published reports that Lewis is at Hargrave Academy, which is a prep school.]

The Crimson Tide coaching staff has conducted two summer football camps and will have a final one-day camp Saturday.

The Bama head coach said he thinks recruiting is going well and that he is pleased with those who have committed to Alabama. He said he does not put pressure on players to commit early and pointed out he doesn't judge recruiting by numbers of early commitments.

Saban said that quality big men – offensive and defensive linemen – are always a priority in recruiting and that linebackers will be a priority "until we recruit our way out of where we are." He does not, however, recruit by need under ordinary circumstances. He said there is "no place on the board where we have a zero," meaning that he intends to recruit players at every position if it makes the position and the team stronger.

He said the coaching staff is working on scouting reports of opponents for future seasons. It was interesting that he said the scouting efforts begin first with the last team on the schedule (Auburn) and work back towards the first team on the schedule (Clemson on August 30 in the GeorgiaDome in Atlanta). That way, he explained, the teams played early in the season will be the ones in which preparation was most recent.

Saban said players are working on their own in seven-on-seven drills two days a week and working on strength and conditioning, which he said was going "extremely well."

Both returning players and incoming players in summer school are all taking one course for no college credit, but a course Saban puts a lot of emphasis on. The University hired Pacific Institute of Seattle to provide non-credit courses on personal development.

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