It Takes Walk-On To Know Walk-On

Alabama is still in pre-season camp, but changes are coming. The University begins classes Wednesday, which affects the Crimson Tide football team in several ways.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban addressed the importance of players performing as well in the classroom as on the football field. He also discussed the possibility of roster expansion. And he noted that the start of classes means a change in the practice schedule.

Alabama has been allowed a maximum of 105 players in fall camp prior to the start of classes. With The University beginning classes Wednesday, the roster can be expanded. Although there are exceptions, most of the additional players will be non-scholarshipped players. In his first three years, Saban has added no more than perhaps 20 players to the practice roster with the start of school.

Saban recalled that when he first went to Kent State as a student-athlete, "I was a walk-on, actually, for a little while and earned a scholarship. I have a lot of compassion for guys who really want to play, who love the game, who are willing to go out every day and try to get themselves better to see if they have an opportunity to contribute to the team someday and also are willing to give of themselves to help the team, help the other guys on the team by helping them prepare, by being part of the scout team or the look squad or whatever. We have always tried to recruit good walk-ons. We promote walk-ons in our program and we're always anxious if we have scholarships available to reward guys who do a good job as walk-ons."

Saban said that with the start of classes Wednesday, "It's really important for our players to do the right things when it comes to academics. We've been pleased with what we've been able to accomplish here academically in terms of graduation rate and freshmen making all-SEC honor roll." His message was that players need to understand the importance of getting an education because of "the significance it has on the quality of their life."

The coach noted that the practice routine would change. Alabama will not practice Wednesday. Beginning Thursday there can be only one practice per day and work will begin later, end later. "It's always a little bit of a transition when you make this change," Saban said, "but hopefully we'll show some maturity with how we do it, the habits that we can develop and the routine we can develop as a team."  

Saban talked about walk-ons who might be contributors to the program.

Saban said, "I think (safety) Will Lowery is obviously a guy that is going to be a contributor to our team in some kind of way this year. Could be a fairly significant role. he's been with the program a couple of years and has learned a lot. He has developed nicely as a player. There are players like that out there, and we'd like to get as many of them to come and give them an opportunity to come to Alabama as we can.  

"Hardie Buck(wide receiver) is another guy that might have a chance to contribute on special teams.

 "We have a walk-on kicker (Jeremy Shelley) that could contribute. We have a walk-on punter (Cody Mandell) that could contribute. There are other players that we are actually looking at, some just on special teams, that do a very, very good job for us every day. It's an important part of the program because it gives you the depth to get the repetitions that you need in practice when you're preparing for a game, which I think can be a tremendous advantage to helping prepare your players who are going to play in the game."

Also joining the team after Wednesday will be safety Robby Green, who has been suspended from playing in games for the year, reportedly for an NCAA violation. He is permitted to practice, but was not brought in for Fall camp because, Saban said, Green "needed to get his tonsils out. We thought this was a good window for him to do that."

He said Green had gone through the summer program and will now be on the practice squad. Saban said, "He will work, we will coach him throughout the season, we will develop him as a player to play in the future here. His role is going to have to be to help the other players on the team improve and get ready to play, even if he has to be on the look squad some to help the offense to get ready. When you're out for the year, that's basically what your role needs to be. That's the best thing you can do to contribute to the team."

After what was a disappointing scrimmage last Saturday and a Monday morning practice that was followed by a team meeting, Saban said, " We've had two really good practices -- last night and today. I think the intensity, a little bit of the spirit is coming back a little bit with the players. I think that maybe Monday morning when we practiced, I was a little bit disappointed. I think the heat coming off the scrimmage, coming off the day off probably affected everybody's focus and ability to sort of sustain what we were trying to do. I was really pleased that the players bounced back and did really well last night as well as today.  

"I think this is a big week in terms of the improvement of our team because we will have to make some decisions about who we're going to coach after this scrimmage. I think some guys are getting a lot of reps right now, especially in the secondary, that's probably good for their development.  With Dee and DeQuan out in the secondary, two guys that probably would for sure be in the two-deep, and both guys that had opportunities to be starters. Andre Billingsley is day-to-day with an ankle sprain. Blake Sims dislocated a toe or something in the scrimmage. Nobody knows exactly how long any of these guys are going to be out. I don't think they're out long-term. Dee Milliner got a little ankle sprain, too. His may be a little bit more significant than some of the others.

" I know there were some questions about D.J. not being out there last night. He was sick. He was back at practice today and did a good job.  

"We did really, mostly out of necessity for practice, move Corey Grant to corner. That is not a permanent move. It is a sort of just evaluate what his chances might be to play that position.

Michael Bowman, we're looking at a little bit as an H-back, tight end type of guy.  

"Those two things are both things that are experimental in nature. They are not something that's sort of etched in stone."

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