Challenge Coming For Tide Players

You've heard about the fellow who retired and someone said, "How did you know?" The implication was that the guy didn't do much when he worked. Nick Saban may not have been in a good mood following Alabama's Wednesday practice, but no one noticed until he balked at a question.

"Bad timing," he said when asked about players who might be doing well. He said it had been a "bad practice."

Alabama is in the homestretch of spring football practice. The Crimson Tide will have a scrimmage Friday, and then have two or three days off before two practices prior to the A-Day Game next week. The Crimson-White game is Saturday, April 18.

It's the nature of spring football practice that there will be bad moments.

As he usually does, Saban gave good information, his mood regarding the practice notwithstanding.

"There's a lot of competition out there," Saban said. "We're not that anxious to put someone in front of someone else. The focus is on continued improvement. We're not concerned with firsts and seconds.

"We're pleased with a lot. We're not disappointed in what we've done this spring. But the guys need to improve individually so we can improve as a team."

In his opening remarks he noted that a goal each day is to have improvement individually, in position groups, as a unit (offense, defense, special teams), and as a team. He wants each player to ask himself if he got better in each practice, pointing out, "Ordinarily, you either get better or you get worse."

He said Monday's practice had been outstanding. Wednesday's practice was on situational work (two-minute, red zone, etc.) and Saban was not satisfied.

He said "We need to have more players respond to that. It's more game-like. We didn't have enough progress."

Now, he said, "We need to learn from it." He said he thought the team would respond because it is getting good leadership.

The Friday scrimmage will be a challenge with even more situations, opportunities for more mental errors. It is particularly difficult for young players, Saban said, adding this is the time they "need to take the next step."

Saban said, "Obviously one of the goals we talked about in the beginning of spring practice is to improve; to get as many guys to play with a high level of consistency so that they could play winning football for our team. I've been pretty pleased with that for the most part this entire spring."

The Tide coach noted that he has told his team it needs to play to its strengths, but it also must work on areas where it has been weak, such as when Bama "got spread out" in the Sugar Bowl loss to Utah.

Junior Greg McElroy, who is competing for starting quarterback job, understands the importance of both the mental and physical preparation needed on a daily basis to perform at a high level and continue to improve.

"Another year in the system has allowed us to be more prepared mentally, which allowed us to be more efficient physically," McElroy said. "The more you prepare mentally the better you are. That's an area we have improved, and now we have to go out there and execute."

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