Saban Discusses First Few Days

It was another step in the process, Sunday, one that allowed an estimated 5,000 fans to watch practice. Another 2,000 waited outside Bryant-Denny Stadium to be first in line for when practice was over and Crimson Tide players would be available for autographs.

An unusual Alabama tradition being built under Football Coach Nick Saban is Fan Day, the stadium opened for fans (and even media) to watch a two-hour practice, followed by the autograph session.

Everything Saban does has as its purpose to build a better football team. He has been successful with a national championship at LSU in 2003 and one at Alabama last season. Sunday was Fan Day, but it was also the fourth day of Fall camp, the second day for the Tide to be in shells (helmets, shoulder pads, but shorts).

Alabama will have 29 practices leading up to the season-opening game when the Crimson Tide hosts San Jose State at 6 p.m. CDT Saturday, September 4.

Prior to Sunday's workout, Saban said, "It's nice at the beginning of Fall Camp with the program that we have right now to go two days in just shorts and helmets then put shoulder pads on for a couple of days.  I really think, especially in our circumstance here, this is the best way to do it in terms of player safety and what is in the best interest of the players.

"We had a good practice yesterday (Saturday) for the first time that the players had shoulder pads on.  Obviously you can do a little more fundamental teaching when the players do have pads on, relative to block protection, blocking techniques, even to form tackle or to teach those types of things.  It helps our teaching that we have the shoulder pads on, but I think it's really helpful to the players not to have to go out there sort of cold turkey and just try to deal with the circumstances in full pads.  I was really pleased with the way our players handled that.  They worked through it yesterday in some difficult circumstances, and I think we improved and made some progress."

  "We've tried to have a program here that I would say is of substance.  It's about making good choices and decisions about what you do and what you don't do.  Every choice that you make has a consequence.  That consequence can be positive or it could be negative if you make poor choices. 

"I think we made progress in the program because our players have made better choices and have done things, not only on the field but off the field, to help themselves be more successful and give themselves a chance to be more successful.  I think that all comes from how you think because how you think affects what you do and it has a tremendous affect and impact on the result that you get.   There are endless temptations there for everyone everyday to get in a bad situation.  It takes a lot of self discipline on the players' part to continue to make good choices and decisions so that we can improve as a team and they can improve on their personal chances to be successful as people. 

"You have to challenge yourself every day.  I think especially in times like these that each player has to challenge themselves to win each day.  When I say win each day I'm talking about handling the circumstances, having enough mental toughness whether it's to deal with the heat, having the focus necessary to pay attention to detail, to go out and get something out of every repetition every opportunity that they have.

"It's so easy at this time when you're practicing every day when you get into camp to endure the practice and not really focus on what you need to do to improve every time you get an opportunity but just try to get through it.  ‘Let me get my four reps and get a drink of water,' and sort of endure the practice.  That's what we want to challenge our players to do, to win every day.   Winning every day right now is everybody making personal improvement, everybody making individual improvement that's going to help us continue to get better as a team. 

"We've got a very young team.  We probably don't have more than 10 or 12 guys that have been here more than three years out of high school on our entire team.  That doesn't mean that they're not capable of doing it, but it does challenge their maturing to be able to make the right decisions and do the right things in circumstances like these.  I think this is a good time for them to sort of mature into what they have to do to be the kind of relentless competitors they're going to need to be with the competition in our league."

Saban said that Kendall Kelly, a redshirt freshman safety, is going to be out of practice for a few days. In Alabama's first practice last Thursday night, Saban said, Kelly "had some sort of heat issues, a little dizziness.  Until we make sure we can identify what the issue is we're probably not going to let him practice again for a while.  He's here.  He's allowed to get medical attention, but he just can't go to practice and meetings.  He's not in the hospital or anything; we just want to monitor him for right now."

Saban was asked if he had learned anything after his 2003 national championship at LSU insofar as off-season preparation for the following season. He said he didn't really think in those terms, that the nature of his business is that there is a routine.

"There's a time that you recruit," he said. "There's a time that you can just make phone calls.  There's a time when you coach and teach.  There's a time when you're not allowed to be around your players.  There's a time when you really try to motivate, counsel and influence people to do the right things.  So there are all these things going on on a yearly basis, and that routine probably helps me stay focused on what we need to do to continue to be successful.  That's kind of what I think about."

And then he remembered one thing he had learned from his first national championship off-season.

"I think I was probably a little bit more guarded this year relative to things that I allowed myself to do," he said. "I remember after the 2003 season I was totally almost burnt out in the offseason by all the things that I did, whether it was speaking or whatever it was, because of the demands and the requests.  This year, even though the demands and requests were there, I sort of said, ‘Look, I'm standing pat.  This is the hand.  This is how many times I speak.  This is how many Crimson Caravans I do, and that's not changing.  We're not going beyond that.  We're going to do what we need to do to stay focused on what happens the next time.'  I do remember that.  I feel that this offseason was not any different relative to how this team is being approached for the next season as any other season."

The Tide coach was asked why the Southeastern Conference seems to have separated itself from the other power college football leagues.

"I think that you could write a book about that," he said. "There are probably a lot of things that contribute to it, but probably the most important thing is that there are great schools that have great traditions, and in recent years that there have been a lot of outstanding coaches who have done a really good job of developing strong programs.  I think that all sort of contributes to the parity and the quality that we have from top to bottom in the league, which in turn comes from the kind of football players that you can recruit and the athletes overall in the SEC.  It comes from the great leadership that we have at the SEC, who has had the foresight to do things to progress and develop the league so the success kind of gets manifested in a positive way throughout the United States.  I think all those things contribute to it.  I think right now we probably have more good programs, more good coaches, lots of good schools that a lot of people are very interested in becoming a part of.  That helps the overall success.  The exposure created by the league with the TV contract and media exposure is probably something that sort of inspires some of that interest on a national level."

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