McElroy Looks Forward To A-Day

A football team spends a lot more time working against itself than it does putting its skills and its plans against an opposing team. The past two seasons, Alabama played 14 games, which is a lot. Since the beginning of spring practice on March 12, Bama has had 14 practices, with a 15th--A-Day--scheduled for Saturday.

Following spring practice, Alabama players will spend the summer in strength and conditioning work and specialized drills. Then will come fall camp that starts about the first of August before the Tide gets into game preparation. The team will work Alabama vs. Alabama for a few days each week, though at least in preparation for a game. Bowl preparation includes another few weeks of practice for one game.

Last year, all that preparation paid off in the biggest way, a 14-0 season and the national championship.

All that coaching, all that practicing is to put on a show, the games against opponents. The next opponent for Bama is September 4 when San Jose State comes to renovated and expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium.

This Saturday, Alabama has the next best thing to a game. A-Day.

The annual spring game has become a big deal at Alabama, so big that for the second consecutive year it will be televised by ESPN. The event begins at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny. There is no admission charge and a large crowd is expected. Alabama Coach Nick Saban frequently points to the fan energy as an important ingredient for Alabama success.

Senior Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy said the team is ready for the A-Day game, which marks the end of spring practice.

"Spring ball is a difficult grind," McElroy said. "You're competing against each other day-in, day-out. You get so used to seeing the same things.

"You're never preparing for a game. It gets a little bit monotonous. I think we're very lucky to have the type of support that we have to make A-Day fun for everybody, both the fans and players.

"I think we're looking forward to competing. We look at is as kind of like we're a school band getting prepared for our performance. Everything we've worked on throughout the first 14 practices we're finally going to get to show the world what we've been trying to improve on."

That doesn't mean showing a lot.

"It will be very cut-and-dried," McElroy said. "We do what we do and I think everybody understands what our goal is as an offense and a defense. I think people understand our playing style. However, we also have installed a lot of new things this spring. We're going to keep those under cover until wins and losses count. Fifteen practices is not enough time to get those things sharpened up. We've got to have something new for San Jose State."

McElroy said the spring game is important, even though everything is "vanilla," basic offense and defense.

"It's something to build on," he said. "Once you've set that bar high, at the end of the spring, you have something to build on in the summer.

"When you set it up high the way we did last year, we had a lot of confidence. We just felt very proud of what we accomplished in the spring. Obviously, you want to have a great performance and you want to show well for the fans. You want to show well for the team. You want to show everybody how well you've done. It's so much more important than that. I think everyone wants to get out there and put their best foot forward and not have to think about a bad performance four months down the road, because it's our last opportunity to showcase what we can do until August.

"It's as important as anything in the spring. it's definitely something we need to build upon once Saturday is completed."

McElroy said the most impressive aspect of spring practice has been the work of the offensive line.

He said, "We had so much success with the O-line last year both in the running game and the protection schemes. I think that they've been able to gel and mold as quickly as they have is impressive. Every guy we have is really versatile. They can play all across the board. Everyone can play another position if needed. I think that says a lot about our recruiting and a lot about the guys' understanding of the offense. They continue to make strides and that's usually the last group to gel as far as the team is concerned. In my opinion, they have gelled much faster and I think we're going to have a great OL because of it."

More than any other offensive player, the quarterback can judge the opposing defense. In the spring, that opposing defense is Alabama's defense.

"They've made great strides," McElroy said. "That's always a credit to Coach Saban. We have so much speed. It's just unbelievable. We might not have the size we had last year, but they're tenacious and they play extremely hard. That really comes from the effort they've been exposed to. I don't know that they're necessarily playing with a chip on their shoulder, but they're playing with a vengeance. They're really making it difficult for us. They're really doing a good job. It's funny because we've had difficulties this spring on numerous occasions of just being efficient in the offense.

"Obviously, that happens sometimes in the spring. But a lot of it is credit to them. The defensive backs do a great job. The linebackers and defensive linemen disrupt the passer. Aside from an occasional bust–which is understandable–they're pretty lock down. I've been very pleased to see them grow and develop."

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