Things Change Now For Bama

It's not likely that anyone would be surprised by Alabama Coach Nick Saban's assessment of Crimson Tide players after 15 August practice sessions. "There's room for improvement by everyone," he said. "No one has really arrived."

Saban met with the media Tuesday and said a review of the tapes of last Saturday's Alabama scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium was encouraging. He said Bama didn't have a lot of penalties and "not a lot of undisciplined things."

Bama went through a two-hour practice in full gear that wrapped up the two-week fall camp in which there was nothing but football for the players. They have new responsibilities beginning Wednesday as classes begin at The University. That means one practice in the day, starting a little later than afternoon practices have been in the pre-season. There will be one more scrimmage on Saturday (closed to the public).

"I was very pleased with the way we bounced back (Monday) and had two practices and did well," Saban said. "Today was not as good a workout as what we have been having. It's so important that guys get rest and get into a routine. The academic part of what they do starts tomorrow. To go to class to do what they are supposed to do, and still get rest and take care of themselves and be able to practice and prepare like we need too. This is very important in guys trying to be successful academically and athletically.

"Tomorrow, as far as practice, is a regular school week. We practice a little bit later in the day and working after school. Typically this is going to be something that the players are going to have to focus through. There are a lot more distractions. In camp, basically it's football and that's it."

The start of classes also means that Alabama can expand the roster from the 105 permitted to report for fall camp. There is no limit on the number of players who can be on a roster during school, but Saban said it had been his practice to have about 130. He said the additional players "add a little more depth," and pointed out the importance of the additions (all of whom will be non-scholarshipped players) to the "prep teams, or scout team. They play their games on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays."

Alabama opens the season in two and a half weeks in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta against Virginia Tech. Kickoff on Saturday, September 5, will be at 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. central time) with national television coverage by ABC. Both Alabama and Virginia Tech are ranked among the nation's top ten teams in pre-season polls.

The Tide coach announced that Alabama has "more graduates on our team than any team in the country. That says a lot about the routines we have been able to establish in the past relative to guys doing what they are supposed to do."

Twelve members of the 2009 Crimson Tide team have already earned degrees. They are: Eryk Anders, Drew Davis, P.J. Fitzgerald, Mike Johnson, Tyrone King, Greg McElroy, Cory Reamer, Chris Rogers, Ali Sharrief, Travis Sikes, Heath Thomas and Lorenzo Washington. Another 10 players are on track to graduate in December.

Saban said that freshman wide receiver Kenny Bell has been suffering with shin splints and will be in a boot for the next week or so as he is evaluated.

The Tide coach also noted that freshman defensive lineman Kerry Murphy, whose brother was recently murdered, has returned to the team. Murphy took part in the Monday evening work, the last of two-a-day practice days.

In other news on Tuesday, Alabama defensive stalwarts – Javier Arenas, Terrence Cody and Rolando McClain – were named to the 2009 Bronco Nagurski Watch List. The award is presented annually to the best defensive player in college football by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte (N.C.) Touchdown Club. The three were among 62 defensive players named to the initial list, including 16 SEC players.

Also, senior offensive lineman Mike Johnson and sophomore linebacker Dont'a Hightower joined Cody and McClain on the 2009 Rotary Lombardi Watch List. The award is presented annually to the nation's best lineman – offense or defense – and linebacker by the Rotary Club of Houston. The SEC had 24 players on the Lombardi preseason watch list.

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