Saban On Start Of Fall Practice

Alabama enters another stage of preparation for the 2009 football season Thursday when the Crimson Tide has the first day of fall camp. Although organized to the smallest detail, fall camp goes in increments. For instance, on Thursday the newcomers will be watching the morning workout when returning players go through practice. Thursday night, the coaching staff will have a newcomers-only workout.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban met with the media Wednesday to discuss a number of items related to the beginning of practice. He said, "We like to take all the young players and at least for one practice make sure we're teaching them, whether it's drills or fundamentals, and that they're going to get the reps and participation in that practice. So we split the squad and put all the young players in one practice. They get a little bit more time to prepare for that practice. They can actually view the varsity practice, so that they see what they did and learn from that. That's always been something that we feel helps the freshmen get off to a little better start."

(Sometimes a few returning players are in the newcomers practice just so there will be enough at a position or for some similar reason, but it is basically for the freshmen.)

After Thursday, Bama will have four days of one practice each day, including the open Fan Day practice at Bryant-Denny Stadium at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. (All other practices are closed.) On Monday, August 10, the Tide will go into full gear. The first day of two-a-day practices on alternate days begins Tuesday, August 11, and continues until school begins on August 19.

It's natural to look ahead as fall practice begins. The Crimson Tide has its first game on September 5, meeting Virginia Tech in an ABC-TV event at 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. central) in the Atlanta Georgia Dome.

Saban is also looking back.

Saban was asked how the team could be improved. He mentioned the areas familiar to most Crimson Tide followers. He said, "Obviously, we want to create more depth in the offensive line, we want to have a backup quarterback who is an affective player. If we had another go-to guy at receiver, that would make us a better team. We are always concerned about the kind of execution that we get at the quarterback position."

The Tide coach added, "Defensively, regardless of what we did last year, we gave up 31 points the last two games we played. Those guys have a lot to prove and a lot to reestablish in terms of who they are, what they want to do and how consistent they want to be. All the things that we emphasized, in the last two games, we didn't do. We were a pretty good red area team, almost 60 per cent no touchdowns in the red area, and those last two games they scored seven out of nine times they got in the red area, and that was the difference between playing in the National Championship game and not playing in it. We were plus-13 in turnovers and were minus-4 in the last two games. So, we had issues. We gave up more big plays than we'd give up all year. We had issues and we need to resolve those issues if we're going to become a better team."

Saban said the summer workouts had gone well. Tide players went through eight weeks of a designed conditioning program, then got a few days off before reporting on Wednesday. The players, both returning players and freshmen, were tested after the program and Saban said he was "very satisfied."

Saban said, "You always have some camp objectives that are important to having an outstanding football team, and even though you all would probably be more inclined to think who's going to play left tackle and who's going to be the backup quarterback, the most important thing to us as a coaching staff is to get the intangibles in place so that we can get the kind of consistency and execution that you need to play winning football on a consistent basis. Things like discipline, focus, ability to execute and do your job, to finish and have the work ethic and the championship intensity to see these things through on a consistent basis.

"We also need to establish leadership. We have team rules and values, principles and values of our team, and we have a critical mass of guys that buy into those things on our team, but I also think it's important that you have people on your team that understand the vision of what you're trying to accomplish and have the personality to affect other people to the vision. I always think that's very important to having the kind of leadership to affect some people who may need to be affected.

"The ultimate goal is that you play with a team full of guys that are all are self-motivated and all have the kind of intangibles that they don't really need to be affected by somebody else.

"We did not finish the season last year. Finishing the season, to me, is finishing games, plays, the season, all those things are still critical to establishing the right mental attitude for us to be successful. The real challenge I think is being able to deal with success. People sort of look in the mirror and fall in love with themselves sometimes when they have a little bit of success, and that's not really what we need. We need to have a burning desire to improve, to get better, to play better football than we did a year ago, to help and support young players and less experienced players so that they can develop to the point that they can play winning football on a consistent basis."

Saban said the team had been tutored by the Pacific Institute during the summer and would have meetings with various speakers in fall camp, meetings dealing with things as diverse as speaking to media and conducting themselves with women. Saban said some are educational, some motivational, and some relate to rules and behavioral issues.

Saban repeated a message he had delivered at SEC Media Days, "not one player is going to put our team over the top, but one player can destroy our team by not doing what he is supposed to do, by not buying in, by not being responsible to his own self-determination relative to what he needs to do to help our team and help himself be successful."

Saban said, "Every team has needs. There is no perfect team, there is no perfect player. Every player has something that he needs to work on to improve. Every player can improve. Every team has issues and problems relative to personnel, whether it's lack of experience at certain positions or lack of depth at certain positions, and obviously we're going to take every player that we have and do the best we can to put them in the best roster spot so that they can develop to try and satisfy some of those issues on our team so that we can have the best depth that gives us the best opportunity to be consistently successful throughout the season."

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