Camera Doesn't Lie In Football World

It is never a surprise when a coach is asked how a player did in a practice or a game to get an answer along the lines of "I won't know until I look at the film." Film—now videotape—is an important part of preparation in athletics. Every play in game and practice is taped, graded, and notes used in instruction.

Following Alabama's first scrimmage of the spring on Wednesday, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban met with the media to discuss what he had seen. On Saturday, Saban's next meeting with sports reporters, he could tell us that his first impressions following the scrimmage had been validated by what he saw in the videotape.

Saban said that immediately following the practice he thought quarterback Greg McElroy had managed the game well and been efficient and made good decisions; that the defense, for the most part, had been good; and that the offensive line had been satisfactory in the running game, but needed work in pass protection. He added pass protection effectiveness "always takes longer."

Those thoughts were confirmed by examination of the scrimmage videotapes.

He said he was also aware "that we have more players on special teams with experience" because a number of young players were on special teams last fall.

Although Alabama was in shells Friday, the Tide had an injury to a first team player. Senior All-Southeastern Conference left guard Mike Johnson suffered a sprained ankle. He said that Johnson was on the ground (Saban makes a frequent point of how many times injuries occur to players on the ground) and "somebody fell on his ankle." The coach said he didn't know when Johnson would return, but that he thought it would be a few days.

Cornerback Kareem Jackson was also in a black (no contact) jersey Saturday. Saban said he had suffered a toe injury. Also injured in the past week was tailback Mark Ingram, who had a hamstring injury. Those three joined tailback Roy Upchurch (neck) and wide receiver Earl Alexander (shoulder) as non-contact practice participants.

Saban announced that outside linebacker Brandon Fanney had returned to the team Thursday and participated in Friday and Saturday practices. "He did what he had to do" to rejoin the team, Saban said, adding that now Fanney will have to show on the practice field that he can move up the "for organizational purposes only" depth chart, which he went into detail to explain means nothing.

Fanney was Alabama's starting jack linebacker last year and ranked third on the team in tackles with 66. Prior to the start of spring practice he was listed as "indefinitely suspended." Backup middle linebacker Prince Hall was also listed as being suspended indefinitely, but with the precise disciplinary action that he would not participate in spring practice.

Saban was asked about freshman (and mid-term enrollee) Kerry Murphy, the big defensive lineman originally from Hoover who has been at Hargrave Academy the past two football seasons. He said that Murphy would be "a work in progress," and indicated a key component of that work would be continuing to work on Murphy's weight. He said Murphy reported at 345 and was now down to 320 with a goal of 305. He said Murphy was playing both at nose tackle and at end. "We're excited about trying to develop him," Saban said. "He has a bright future if he does the things he needs to do to be successful and makes good decisions."

In a discussion of tight ends, Saban mentioned Baron Huber as being the Tide's only fullback and that since Alabama rarely uses a fullback that Huber is working with the tight ends. The tight ends are both "Y" (traditional tight end) and "H" (a hybrid fullback-slotback). He said all the fullbacks except Brad Smelley are working both. Smelley works only as an "H."

The Crimson Tide held its ninth practice of the spring Saturday afternoon at the Thomas-Drew practice facility. The work was in full gear. A large number of Red Elephant Club members watched the practice. So did a number of prospects. Following the practice Saban spoke to the Red Elephant Club members, then made his way to the Naylor Stone Media Center to talk to reporters. Before watching the start of the NCAA basketball Final Four, Saban said he had one more group to speak to: the ones he really wanted to speak to. "The recruits."

Saban hopes a large crowd will be on hand for A-Day in two weeks. The Crimson Tide will conclude spring practice with the Crimson-White game beginning at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday, April 18. ESPN will televise the game. Saban said the big turnouts for Bama's A-Day "has been a real positive show of support for the program and the institution. It's had a tremendous impact on recruiting." He added, "The players appreciate it and it's a chance to get a peek at next year's team." Saban seemed amused at the promotions of other teams to have big spring game attendance. "We have set the standard," he said. Alabama had a full house of 92,138 two years ago and over 70,000 last year. "It's like an arms race," Saban said. Alabama will return to the practice field Monday.

Saban acknowledged that Crimson Tide signee Kellen Williams, an offensive lineman from Snellville, Georgia, had suffered a knee injury that will require surgery. "We'll have to wait to see how he rebabs to see how it affects him in the fall," Saban said.

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