Tide Football Gets Over Its ‘Hump Day'
"I think the players are probably in the mood to play against somebody else," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said following Thursday's practice. "I think the last day of two-a-days (Wednesday) was probably the ‘hump day' for them. We had a lot better practice today, a little more intensity and enthusiasm and more guys playing with the kind of intensity we'd like to see out there on a day-to-day basis. I think we made some improvement."
Alabama will play "somebody else" on August 31, two weeks from Saturday. The Crimson Tide opens the 2008 season, the second under Saban, in a nationally televised game against ninth-ranked Clemson in the GeorgiaDome in Atlanta.
Saban said, "We're kind of happy to be out of two-a-days ourselves. Although the way the schedule is now, you really only have four two-a-days. I am pleased and happy with the way we went through it and we've been able to stay fairly healthy, knock on wood (he tapped his podium), and hopefully we can continue to do that and continue to improve as a team and practice smart so that we're able to do that. We're making progress. We've got a lot of work to do, but we're not disappointed with where we are and we're anxious to continue to make the improvements we need to make to become a good football team."
It was not the first time Saban addressed Alabama's unusually fortuitous injury situation. He said he thought part of the reason for Bama avoiding serious injury thus far in fall camp had to do with the Tide's "safe practice" plan in which players stay off the ground and (except in scrimmages) the tackling is "thud." He said another factor is Alabama's emphasis on strength and conditioning and the effort of the players in off-season and summer work to be in the best possible shape.
And, the coach said, "there's a certain element of luck. Sometimes you're just lucky."
The Crimson Tide wrapped up its second week of preseason camp with a two-hour practice in full pads Thursday afternoon at the Thomas-Drew Practice Facility. After a break in the summer weather the last week, the heat and humidity returned to Tuscaloosa for Thursday's practice, its 17th practice of the preseason camp.
Saban said, "I've been pleased with the way we've progressed offensively. We are throwing and catching the ball fairly well and (senior quarterback) John Parker Wilson is having a good camp so far. His leadership has been a real positive so far in the development of our offensive team."
In recent days, Saban has been putting more emphasis in talk about upperclassmen. Media coverage has reflected the interest of Bama fans in centering on the newcomers who made up the number one recruiting class in the nation.
Thursday Saban said, "I think the biggest thing with our young players is they need to be able stay focused on the process of what they need to do to be complete players at their position. They tend to personalize everything, because they are frustrated they are not getting the kind of results they would like to get. In some cases, they probably came in and thought they'd be able to make some significant impact and some of them will be able to do that. The process of getting them to where they need to be to do it is a little more difficult sometimes, because they've got to be able to not get frustrated and be able to stay focused on the things they need to do to get better."
In answer to questions about various positions:
Saban expressed satisfaction with the level of competition at strongside linebacker, where Ezekial Knight had been expected to play this year. Chavis Williams and Eryk Anders are working and he hopes that a winner develops from one or both
The coach said there is good competition at running back, mentioning Glen Coffee, Terry Grant and "some freshmen."
He said that wide receiver Marquis Maze has made "tremendous improvement." He said Maze is catching the ball well and has great speed and is more competent as a route-runner.
Alabama will return to the practice field on Friday. The team will hold its final scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. All practices and scrimmages are closed to the public. Members of the 1958 Crimson Tide football team, the first coached by Paul Bryant, are having their 50th reunion in Tuscaloosa this weekend and will watch the scrimmage. One of the Bama assistant coaches on that team, Gene Stallings, will be in Tuscaloosa for the reunion this weekend.
Saban said game preparation for Clemson would begin "sometime next week." He pointed out that all Alabama practices include work against "things we don't see," meaning things that other teams do that Alabama doesn't do. For instance, he said, the Crimson Tide defense has worked against things like no-huddle and spread. He noted that several 2008 opponents, including Western Kentucky, Bama's third game, use the spread.
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