Tide Players Have Been Stuffed
In what has earned the name "short week," Alabama wound up practice for its regular season finish in an unusual Friday game. Bama will be at Auburn Friday for a game that will kick off at 1:30 p.m. CST and be nationally televised by CBS. It has been a short week for the Crimson Tide because Bama played last Saturday, a 45-0 win over Chattanooga that put the Tide at 11-0. Alabama is 7-0 in Southeastern Conference games and will play Florida for the SEC Championship on December 6. Auburn had an open date last weekend. The Tigers are 7-4 overall and 3-4 in SEC games.
Alabama Coach Nick Saban said his players had to get the same amount of information, practice time and repetitions as in a normal week. That meant, he said, "We tried to stuff. The bag got smaller.
"We tried to do the best we could, and I think the players responded for the most part pretty well to it, and practiced pretty well all week."
He also said there are no injuries "to speak of. A couple of guys nicked up."
Football teams under Saban have a Thanksgiving tradition. Players who live within a two-hour drive of campus were allowed to leave after practice Wednesday to go to their homes. Remaining players had dinner with members of the coaching staff and their families. Saban said he looked forward to having 17 players at his home Wednesday night.
"I've been doing it this way ever since I've been coaching," Saban said. "I trust the players. If they don't have this chance to give thanks to their mama for Thanksgiving, this is the only time they are going to be able to do it."
Saban pointed out that he doesn't have a curfew, so on a normal Thursday (Wednesday's practice was the equivalent of a regular week Thursday practice, 90 minutes in shells), he said, "I've got no control over where they are going to go or what they are going to do. I trust them to get rest and get ready to go. They've done that to this point.
"I'd rather they be at home," Saban said. "I think when they go home it's a good thing. They have good mommas and and good daddies. I think it's a good thing."
The pre-game schedule will be normal, even in an abnormal week. "They usually go to school on Friday when we have a game on Saturday," Saban said. "They go to school until 3 o'clock. When we have an away game whatever time we have to travel, that's when they come in." The players are to be back in time for a football team Thanksgiving dinner at noon. That will be followed by a meeting, a brief walk-through, "and then we're going on a bus trip."
Saban said, "I think from a practice standpoint and a player standpoint, everybody needs to understand this game doesn't get won or lost based on reputation, but certainly by action. Our players need to be ready to play a very physical game because in this game, most of the time, the team that is the most physical will win the game. I think that will be a real key to being successful. The mindset and focus and all those things will be determined and I think that's the most important part of this game."
He also expects special teams play to be important.
"I think they are very good on special teams and we've been good at times on special teams in certain parts of it," Saban said. "Kickoff returns, punt returns we've been pretty good at that; we've got a pretty good returner and I think we take pride in that. We've done a fairly good job in punt. Kickoff coverage is something we constantly try to improve on.?] We've been pretty good on the field goal part of it, and so have they. I think special teams are always important, have such a great factor in field position in a game.
"I think in a game like this, the two parts of your team where you have the best chance to be physical are in special teams and in the front seven, the offensive line and defensive front."
Saban opened his Wednesday press briefing by wishing " a happy holiday, a happy Thanksgiving. I think this holiday sometimes gets overlooked, but it is a time to have gratitude for all that we have. I know sometimes we all tend to think about the things that we don't have. I know that we all have a lot to be grateful for. I think this is a time to give thanks for that. I know that I certainly give thanks to all of those that have supported us, the program and the team this year, as well as all the people out there who have such compassion for others and help others.
"I think this is a great holiday and a great time for everybody to give thanks for all the good things that we have and we should be grateful for."
Saban congratlated tight end Colin Peek and offensive guard Barrett Jones on receiving Academic All-America recognition.
Bama Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart is a candidate for the Frank Broyles Award, given to the nation's best assistant football coach.
Saban said, "Kirby is an outstanding coach. He's done a great job for a long time for us. This is the third different place he's worked with us (Smart previously worked under Saban at LSU and at the Miami Dolphins). He's done a fantastic job with our defense, with our players, with implementing it in the game, teaching it on the field, all of those things. I couldn't be happier with what he's done. He's got a great opportunity to continue to grow and develop and be a head coach one day. He's got all the right stuff for that. I think it's absolutely fantastic that he's getting some recognition for his hard work for all the efforts and all the great things he's done for our program."
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