Saban Pleased With Practice Work

Alabama Coach Nick Saban knows that his Crimson Tide team will be playing against an outstanding quarterback Thursday. Texas quarterback Colt McCoy won every quarterback award in 2009 in leading the Longhorns to a 13-0 record.

But that doesn't mean that Alabama Coach Nick Saban thinks that Texas is similar to Utah. Or that he is changing the Crimson Tide defense for Colt McCoy's offense.

Alabama went through its second practice at Costa Mesa High School Sports Complex Sunday. Afterwards, he praised McCoy. "You've got a quarterback who is an outstanding player, completes about 70 per cent of his passes, gets the ball out of his hand quick," Saban said. "He's got good receivers, they've got a really good pass offense team. He's also a very good runner and scrambles and makes plays as well as they have some quarterback runs in their offense which he's very effective at because he's got great speed and is a very good athlete.

"The combination of those two is always difficult to defend.

"We don't change our defense. We just try to apply what we do to what they do and make it work.

"Technically what we're trying to do is match up and defend."

Alabama, ranked number one in the nation, and Texas, ranked second, will meet at 5 p.m. PST (7 p.m. central time) Thursday from the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena. Both teams are 13-0 and playing for the national championship. ABC will televise the game.

Saban said Alabama has had two good days of practice since arriving in the Los Angeles area. He said both days were in full gear and noted that the players responded very well on Saturday when there was the acclimation process, including the two-hour time change and a long day of travel on Friday. The team is expected to be in shells Monday. On Wednesday the Tide will have the opportunity to have walk-through at the Rose Bowl, where new turf is being installed on a rush basis...starting following the Rose Bowl game last Friday.

"I thought the players responded very well and we had a really good, spirited practice today," Saban said. "We had good intensity. We still have a few things to clean up."

Saban wasn't specific about what things needed cleaning up.

"The errors that you make on some of the things we did today," he said. "Whether it's coverage things we haven't spent enough time on. Whether it's offensively, defensively or special teams-wise, you have an opportunity with an extra practice day to get some reps on."

The coach was asked if Texas reminded him of Utah, the team that upset Bama, 31-17 in last year's Sugar Bowl. "No, not really he said." Saban said they do some similar things, but noted, "Utah's offense wasn't all that different than anyone else's; we just didn't do a very good job of playing defense against it." He said the Tide had seen similar tactics throughout this season.

When Thursday's game kicks off, it will have been over a month since Alabama played its last game, a 32-13 win over Florida in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. It will be the same length of time since Texas defeated Nebraska in the Big 12 title game.

Saban said, "If you ask the players, they probably feel like they've practiced a good bit because players get in a routine. Typically we practice a little bit on Monday, then Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and then walk through and go play a game on Saturday. We've had 30-something days between games. We'll have 12, 13, 14 practices, something like that, and probably eight or nine of those are probably a lot of emphasis on what they're going to play against in the game against Texas, and I think that's a little more than they are used to."

Saban took the opportunity following the practice to thank the Rose Bowl for its hospitality. He provided a bare bones report of the night the players had at Disneyland. "That was a good experience for them," he said. "We found out who the best basketball players were, air hockey players, which guys could drive cars the best. I can't do any of the above anymore so I was kind of out of the competition."

He said he was also pleased with the practice facility, which includes both grass and artificial turf surfaces, a place for players to lift weights, and a convenient location. He said his staff had searched for an indoor facility to have in case of inclement weather, but in Southern California "we didn't find any. So the best thing we can have is an opportunity to practice on turf.

"We have just about all the things here we were looking for here. The people here have done a fantastic job of getting the facilities ready and the fields ready. I'm sure the Rose Bowl people had a lot to do with that, too."

Saban said the weather "is about as good as it gets. I think it won't be this warm when we play the game. It will probably be a little cooler. It's probably been a good thing for them we had cool weather at home. We haven't had a conditioning problem in practice, so I think they've adapted to it fairly well."

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