Newcomers Join Varsity In Practice

Alabama Coach Nick Saban has seen the look. The start of a fall camp means bringing in new players, mostly freshmen. There is an anxiety factor for those freshmen. "Some of them, you look at their faces and they look like they're at a gang fight and their gang didn't show up," Saban said.

Alabama had its first day of fall camp with the newcomers and returning players working together Friday. It was the second day of fall camp. Bama is in shorts and helmets for practices through Sunday before getting into full gear Monday.

Following Friday's work, Saban said, "We're certainly pleased and excited about getting started. It was a good day yesterday to be able to have a split-squad practice, where we were able to work a little more with just the freshmen. Last night, we did a little teaching with them, gave them a lot of repetition. I think there is a lot of carryover with our varsity guys, which is very encouraging. We're always concerned with maintaining the intensity, a sense of urgency, effort. Nobody really likes to practice two-a-days. I never liked it when I was a player, I don't think anybody really likes it. I don't think anybody likes going out there and practicing when it's 100 degrees but the teams that are successful are the teams that can manage those things well. They can manage the drudgery of it because of the mental toughness that they have, they can manage the boredom of it all with the repetition, all the time spent in meetings, all the time spent on the practice field. They manage that because there is a maturity about them.

"We talk about young players. I think that's one of the most important things about young players, having an opportunity to grow and learn and improve and play, is how do they manage that. That's probably critical to guys having a chance to be successful; it's critical to our team developing individually and collectively."

Saban said that one thing he liked about the freshmen group is "they were not frustrated. They take coaching well. And in one practice, they showed they can be very good players if they do the things necessary to continue to develop.

"I'm not disappointed in any player out there."

Last year Alabama used 16 true freshmen in a 12-2 season. Bama has had recruiting classes ranked among the nation's best the past two years.

The Crimson Tide is working towards a nationally televised season opening game against Virginia Tech in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on September 5.

In the Coaches' Poll announced Friday, Alabama was ranked fifth in the nation and Virginia Tech is seventh.

Saban said, "It's certainly an honor to be represented in the top 10, but as I've said before, it's not where you start, it's where you finish. Preseason polls are really meaningless. It really doesn't mean anything until the end. And the whole idea is to get yourself in a position to be in the right position at the end. So even though it's an honor to recognized as a good team, I think it's also a challenge to be able to deal with success, to be able to remember what got you there, to be able to focus on the things that are important and continue to improve so that our team continues to grow and develop and we can actually get better."

Saban said, "I think the number one camp objective is we want to have the discipline to get the kind of execution we need to play winning football. The second thing is we want to develop the kind of team chemistry and leadership we need to have a team that can play with consistency. But I also think that it's really important that we get a very good knowledge and understanding of our systems offensively, defensively and on special teams so that when we come out here and have to make adjustments and get ready for opponents, we're going to have the best opportunity to do that because we have a good resource of information relative to our systems. And I think that's very, very important."

In answer to a question, Saban said he would hope to have a balanced offense. He said, "We want to make explosive plays and we want to be efficient running and passing. And we don't want to have turnovers. You can make more explosive plays if you are able to pass. Last year we were plus 53 on explosive plays in games we won and we were minus six or seven in the two losses. We were also negative in turnovers in those games we lost. We're always going to tailor the offense to what the players can do." He said players are first, schemes second. He pointed out that last year Alabama went into the season inexperienced at the wide receiver positions and that the running game was very effective. He noted, "There are different ways to win."

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