Alabama Improving In Kick Coverage

Alabama has been spotty, at best, on kickoff coverage this year, part of overall special teams breakdowns. This week the Crimson Tide plays a team that is excellent in the kicking game, leading the Southeastern Conference in kickoff returns.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban said that he has "seen some improvement" in that area in practice this week. "We made some changes," he said. "We have to raise the standard of awareness. The problems are easily correctable. In fact, they are things we have practiced. We need greater awareness and a better attitude about what we're doing."

Saban added, "Those guys (Kentucky) are good on special teams. We need to do better."

Earlier this week Alabama kickoff man Leigh Tiffin revealed that he had been working with the cornerbacks under Saban when the cornerbacks had individual tackling drills. Saban said, "Tackling comes from want to. If he wanted to make the tackle, he would. I'm trying to teach him."

The coach added that the tackling by kickers "wouldn't break eggs or anything."

He told a story about legendary Cleveland Browns Coach Paul Brown. "People thought he was crazy because on the first day of practice he made everyone practice – quarterbacks, everyone," Saban said. "I don't do that, but I should. The punter, the placekicker, the quarterback all have to make tackles sometimes. The Arkansas quarterback didn't know how to tackle and you see what happened? Two touchdown."

Alabama defensive backs Javier Arenas and Justin Woodall both had interception returns for touchdowns against Arkansas and had to beat only one man – the Arkansas quarterback – to get to the end zone.

"We've had a couple of pretty good work days and the players are working hard," Saban said after Wednesday's practice.

Saban also talked about facing a solid defensive unit on Saturday when the Tide faces the nation's top-ranked scoring defense.

"Kentucky is obviously a very good defensive team and they have done a good job running the football. They are very good offensively and did a lot of things last year. They are a little bit more basic in their games so far this year, but we anticipate some different things in our game certainly. They have been able to run the ball effectively. The quarterback has done a nice job of not turning the ball over."

Saban also said that wide receiver Mike McCoy (hamstring) and tight end Preston Dial (knee) had some limited work on Wednesday and both remained questionable for the Kentucky game.

Saban said several men were working in spots usually played by McCoy, including Will Oakley and true freshman B.J. Scott.

Alabama, 5-0 and ranked second in the nation, and Kentucky, 4-0, will meet in Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CDT in a nationally televised game by CBS. Alabama is 2-0 in SEC games, back-to-back wins at Arkansas and Georgia the past two weeks. This will be Kentucky's first SEC game.

Saban also participated in the SEC Head Coaches weekly teleconference on Wednesday morning and here are some of those comments:

On success on the road and team's mindset going into those games:

"I think the biggest thing is trying to get your team to focus on playing the game and not get caught up in all the external factors that goes on when you play on the road. Whether it's the crowd or not being able to focus on the task at hand, which is playing the game between the lines. The field is usually 53 yards wide and 100 yards deep wherever you play. So, if you can get them to focus on just that then you have a chance to play good football. The other thing is when you play at home you can't have a relaxed mindset. We are playing at home, so that is an advantage. I mean, you have to make it an advantage to play at home by the way you play. That is what we need to do this week."

On number of SEC teams with home losses:

"I think it's a tribute to the competitive spirit of a lot of the teams that we have and the parity that we have in the league. It's still a matter of consistency, playing at the same level all the time. I think that is a challenge for all of us as coaches. It's not necessarily human nature to be as good as you can be and sometimes when you get satisfied you get relaxed, you lose your motivation and you don't play quite as well and it doesn't take much. Everybody is good and everybody can beat you if you don't play to your level or top capacity."

On cultivating toughness in the running game:

"I think the number one factor has been the mindset of the offensive line. We have three or four pretty physical players that have really played well and kind of bought into the responsibility of being the leaders of our offensive team and how we play up front is going to go a long way to determine the success we have offensively. They have been the sergeant of arms, so to speak, for our quarterback John Parker (Wilson), who is our leader. They have done a really good job. We have been able to get hat on hat. I think the coaching staff has done a really good job with the formations and the preparation of how we've played. So, I think it all starts up front and I think they take a lot of pride in trying to determine, or develop a reputation, of being a physical tough group and that's carried over to the rest of our offensive team."

BamaMag Top Stories