Alabama Secondary Hit By Injury Bug

Those who have wondered about a possible chink in Alabama football armor have looked generally to a defense that is being rebuilt after last year's national championship season. Particularly, the secondary has been the subject of conjecture.



If the Alabama secondary was a problem before Saturday, it is worse after Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban took Bama to Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday for a scrimmage.

"We had a lot of guys injured in the secondary, which created some issues and problems in terms of trying to accomplish what we are trying to do," Saban said following the two-hour workout. He said the injured include:

Junior college transfer Dequan Menzie has a slightly pulled hamstring.

Freshman cornerback Demarcus Milliner suffered a twisted ankle.

Safety Robert Lester suffered a concusion.

Menzie and Milliner are "day-to-day," Saban said. Lester will be under the care of physicians who will make the determinations on when he can resume various activities.

There were also a couple of offensive injuries, one of which almost certainly caught the attention of several thousand in attendance – former players (including Ray Perkins and the Bama teams he coached, 1983-86) and Nick's Kids supporters.

Saban said, "Mark Ingram got the wind knocked out of him at the end of the game, so I'm sure we'll make a big deal out of that, that he got the wind knocked out of him. If there's anything else wrong with him, we'll be the first to tell you."

He said that milti-talented freshman Blake Sims (who has worked at safety, quarterback, and running back) suffered a sprained foot and would also be day-to-day.

Saban said, "It's been one thing after another in the secondary in terms of change in personnel, starting in the spring, starting at the end of the bowl game. Lose some guys, suspend some guys, some guys hurt now, so you can't get the continuity that we'd like. But we're going to stay positive about it. We like some of the players we have. We just have to get them on the field so they can work at it. They have to stay healthy enough to be on the field so they have a chance to improve and build a little confidence in what they are supposed to do and how they are going to do it, and go out there and make some plays. I think that would go a long way towards helping us to improve, but we can't put players in situations where they are not healthy. We have to have patience in how we go about this and do the best we can."

Saban said there are limited options in making personnel changes, if they are needed, and reminded that wide receiver Brandon Gibson did some practice work at safety in the spring.

Earlier, redshirt freshman Kendall Kelly, a wide receiver who had worked at safety in the spring and moved to safety for Fall camp, had a "heat issue" and has not returned to the practice field.

Saban reserved his praise for the defense. "A lot of good things happened out there today, especially on offense," Saban said. "I think the offense is way ahead of the defense in terms of we have a lot of experienced players back, a lot of explosive players."

He said both quarterbacks, Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarron, are playing well. "Greg played very well today," Saban said. "He's got a very good feel for the offense. He made a lot of good choices and decisions. He made a lot of good plays."

Saban said the scrimmage, which had many more passing plays than running plays, was designed to test the Bama pass defense. Saban said, "We wanted to work on our pass defense and tackling in the secondary, but we didn't do a very good job of tackling.

"We've got a work to do on defense. We made a lot of mental errors. We were immature on defense. We've got to learn and grow from it. We've got one more scrimmage and we've got to get ready for a game.

"It would help to get players on the field so we could get some repetitions and continuity. We've got to work through that."

Saban had a familiar refrain.

"All-in-all, I think it's a tough circumstance our team is in right now," he said. "We've got to get our team focusing on what they need to do to improve. That's the number one thing I talked to them about. Everyone needs to improve. Some need to improve more than others. It's a process.

"Every mistake is an opportunity to learn and grow and every player has got to look at it that way so we can improve and get better. That's the number one focus we have to take out of this scrimmage so we can improve and get better as a team.

"I don't think we had enough guys who that showed the maturity to overcome adverse circumstances and play with the kind of intensity and focus you need in difficult circumstances.

"We went inside Wednesday because it was so hot and we went inside Friday because it was very hot and we were going to scrimmage today. We had so much better energy and body language and mental intensity and practiced so much better (inside). And as soon as we get back out here, it's like ‘Woe is me.' And we're going to have to play games when maybe it's not this hot, but something that's going to be difficult. And we'd like to have the mental toughness that makes this an advantage for us, not a disadvantage. I think that's maturity, too. We've got a lot of young players, particularly on defense, and they've got to grow up and mature as football players and competitors. That's a process. And we're going to have to keep working each day. Giving them direction, instruction, and teach and engage and focus and do those things. We have to keep our eye on the target and keep on working to improve.

"The defense as a whole we did not play very well. We didn't have good gap control, didn't tackle, didn't finish, didn't knock runners back. We didn't have the eye of the tiger that we need to be a good defensive team. It's all 11 of them. When we have success, it's all of them. When we don't have success, we all suffer for it. I think everyone needs to step it up a notch and do the things we need to do to improve so we can have a good team. And it starts with everyone being responsible to do his job. Today we had many opportunities when guys didn't do what they were supposed to do, and results were not good."

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