A-Day All That's Left Of Spring Football

The End Is Near. For Alabama football players, the conclusion of spring practice comes Saturday, the annual A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama Coach Nick Saban calls it "an opportunity for our team to improve as a team and get more ready to play the first game."



Alabama went through its 14th practice of the spring Thursday in shells at the Thomas-Drew Practice Facility. The Crimson Tide's spring game, which concludes spring practice, is scheduled for 2 p.m. CDT at Bryant-Denny Stadium and will broadcast nationally by ESPN. There is no charge for admission.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban said the Tide would use the same format as last year's spring game when the first offense and first defense were on different teams and went against one another. It certainly worked out well last year. Bama followed up the spring with a 14-0 season and the national championship.

The format is not chosen for superstitious reasons, though.

"Last year we did it this way for the development of our offense," Saban said. "This year we're doing it this way so our defense gets a chance to play together and we develop." Last year the offense was replacing a large number of starters, including the quarterback, tailback, left tackle,

Saban said that while the format means the first offense goes against the first defense and the second offense against the second defense, there could be some exceptions in order to give certain players more repetitions.

"There's about three ways you can do it," Saban said of the format. "One is the best against the rest, which is not a very competitive game. You can have a draft, which I've always kind of liked, and done in the past."

The coach said, "We're really looking forward to this Saturday. I know our players are really looking forward to this Saturday. This has been a special day at The University of Alabama, at least in he three years that I've been here, because of the great fan support we have. I know the players appreciate it tremendously. I know it has a very positive impact on recruiting because of the positive energy everybody demonstrates for what amounts to a spring game of practice."

Alabama set what is believd to be a national record for spring game attendance when the stadium filled to capacity--92,138--in Saban's first spring in 2007.

"This kind of positive environment and support is probably one of the biggest reasons that we've had the success that we've had," Saban said. "And it's largely contributed to our fan interest and fan support, setting records for crowds at spring games, and all that sort of thing, and I hope we can continue to do that in the future, and I'm hopeful we'll have the same kind of turnout for this team this week. Our fans have always done a fantastic job of that."

Players who have missed contact this spring because of injuries and who are counted out of the scrimmage include center William Vlachos, wide receiver Michael Bowman, wide receiver Earl Alexander, and defensive end Milton Talbert. Saban said that offensive lineman Taylor Pharr suffered a concussion in Tuesday's practice and is doubtful. Offensive lineman Chad Lindsay was injured Tuesday, but returned to practice Thursday and "may or may not be able to play."

Saban said he appreciates the traditions of A-Day, noting particularly that he will join last year's captains for a ceremony at Denny Chimes at noon Saturday for Mike Johnson, Javier Arenas, and Rolando McClain to place hand- and foot-prints in concrete. "It's something that makes being a captain at The University of Alabama very special and it's something I look forward to," Saban said.

Saban said, "We've had two good days of work this week. We were pleased the players sort of stayed with it. We feel like it is important that we have purposeful practices each and every day we go out there. It is important to improve and important to get better. Every guy who is out there...you talk about guys investing in something. You invest in things and you get out what you put into it. That's individually and collectively. The more guys we have individually who invest in the right things, the better opportunity we are going to have to be successful."

Saban said, "I think we made a lot of progress this spring. I think we've had a good off-season. We've had a lot of guys make a significant amount of improvement. I'm not disappointed in where we are, but we're not satisfied in terms of where we need to be. We need more players to be able to play winning football. We need more consistent performance day-in and day-out so we have the kind of depth that we can play good team offense, defense, special teams, and all those things.

"We still have questions that need to be answered. Some of them won't be answered until fall practice. We may have some young players maybe able to contribute to those issues when we get here in the fall."

Saban said an examination of the video of last Saturday's scrimmage showed "a tremendous amount of improvement."

He said, "We didn't make as many explosive plays on offense, but I think that was caused by a couple of things. I think we played a little better on defense. I think that was probably the good news. We played better, we gave up less plays, we made less mental errors, we played better as a unit. That was one thing. I think we tackled better, we didn't miss as many tackles on defense. And yet we had good consistency in how we executed offensively. So it wasn't that the offense played poorly. I think the defense played a little better. The offense moved the ball and was very effective."?

Saban was reluctant to begin naming individuals, but said defensive lineman Marcell Dareus and wide reciver Julio Jones have been "great."

As for additional leaders, Saban named left tackle James Carpenter, tight end Preston Dial, quarterback Greg McElroy and center David Ross on offense. On defense, he cited safety Mark Batton, linebacker Dont'a Hightower, and said "Luther Davis is the only senior starter we have on the defense, and he's done a good job."

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