SABAN: Tide Needs to Find Motivation (VIDEO)

The 2009 Alabama football team will not be staring over the edge of a cliff; its back is not up against a wall; it has proven that it can play at a high level. So what's the Tide's motivation?

That was the question framed by Alabama Coach Nick Saban Saturday after Alabama's A-Day game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. The coach assessed individuals and issued challenges to position groups, but he mainly challenged his entire squad to establish an identiy and a reason to get better between now and Bama's season opener against Virginia Tech on September 5th.

Saban, who did not coach either team and watched the scrimmage from the center of the field behind the quarterback, saw mixed bag in terms of energy and intensity from his players.

"The one thing that is very apparent in a spring game is the guys who have mental energy and intensity and have that look in their eye and look at the game and have fun and look at it as an opportunity to play, compete, and improve," he said. "The guys who are more nonchalant about going out and looking at it as just another spring game don't play as well. You can judge it all for yourself, but our goal moving forward is to get our team in the best possible position to get every player to be as good a football player and contribute in a positive way as best they can."

Saban wanted better play from the first team defense. He said after the scrimmage that he "wasn't crazy" about the way the defense played. "They need to be more disciplined, there's a few guys who think t hey are better than they are and it changes their work and if we weren't out there in front of 80,000 people I would've let them know about it. But they'll find out soon enough, we've got a meeting on Monday."

He challenged players at several positions, saying that he felt like there were excellent opportunities for young players on the team now or incoming player's to find playing time particularly at the skill positions on offense and in the two-deep on the offensive line.

"Offensively we don't have enough depth and we don't have enough playmakers," Saban said. "I don't think we have enough depth in the offensive line, and we need to continue to develop a backup quarterback."

The starting quarterback position does not seem to be very much up for grabs. Greg McElroy is way ahead of the two back-ups, Star Jackson and Thomas Darrah. Saban didn't name McElroy "the starter" against Virginia Tech, but he left little doubt that McElroy will be the guy.

"To me it doesn't matter," Saban said when asked about not officially crowning McElroy as the starter some four months before the season begins. "I think everybody knows that watched the game today and that has been to practice every day who our players have the most respect for, who has the most knowledge and experience, the guy that has shown with his consistency and performance that he is far and away our best quarterback right now.

"We don't have a depth chart for anybody yet. I think he (McElroy) knows that somebody has to beat him out. I think you know that, and I think that I know that, so I don't know why you need to keep asking that."

On the two vying for a back-up quarterbacking role, Saban said, "I don't know what the separation is at this point. I think both are competing, both need to make significant improvements, both have made progress, both are capable. Fundamentally, with their consistency, and technically being able to do things they need to do, both are too inconsistent."

Saban said left tackle junior college transfer James Carpenter has made improvements, but Saban said "we need him to improve" before the first game.


Saban was a busy man before the game, stopping for several speeches on his way to the stadium. Instead of having someone drive him around, however, Saban took his own car. In the video below Saban, with aide from a police escort, parked on University Boulevard next to Denny Chimes for the quad event honoring last year's captains, John Parker Wilson Rashad Johnson and Antoine Caldwell.

The video below is of Saban leaving that event and driving to the stadium in advance of Saturday's game to cheers from fans and tunes from the marching band. After the game, Saban opened his comments by talking about the atmosphere at that event and others throughout the day.

"First of all, we certainly appreciate the atmosphere that was created out there for our team," he said. "I think our fans coming out and us having over 80,000 people is a real positive for our players. It was great to have ESPN here today. It was tremendous exposure for the University, as well as the football team. We are excited about the day."

"The tradition that is emulated here on A-Day is something hard not to have tremendous respect for and respond to," he said. "Being out at Denny Chimes today and talking to the A Club guys that have worked so hard to develop the tradition that Alabama Crimson Tide people are so proud of and have so much passion for was great. All of those things I never have as much appreciation for during games because the game is the most important thing and you are worried about the team and that's all you focus on. But on a day like today, going around and making about six speeches to those groups, it's great to see the fans, it's great to see the passion, and it's great to see the enthusiasm, and it makes it really fun for the players."

It was especially important for me to see Rashad Johnson, Antoine Caldwell and John Parker Wilson at Denny Chimes. It is a great tradition and those guys were fantastic leaders for our team. They certainly did a lot and are going to be difficult to replace because of the intangibles that they brought. They not only talked the talk, they walked the walk and they affected other people.

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