Decision Time As Game Approaches

Alabama has had 22 practices in August. Today is the 23rd, and it will be different than the others. Today Alabama begins putting in the game plan for the season opener. That involves more than just the plays and schemes and alignments. There are personnel decisions to be made.

"I think this is kind of judgment day for us," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said following Thursday's practice. "We have to at least make some kind of determinations now, and we haven't done that yet, as to who we want to coach, what we want to do.

"Are we going to play guys? Are we not going to play them? Are they going to get ready to play? Because you can't get enough reps in practice to get everybody ready to play.

"It's a little bit D-Day, judgment day, in terms of personnel moving forward and how we want to sort of try to get our guys to compete, get better. We're still working on the fundamentals, but you can't do it with the whole team. Some of the team has to be ready to help get the other guys ready to play the games."

Alabama opens the season a week from Saturday. San Jose State provides the opposition beginning at 6 p.m. CDT Sept. 4 in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Saban thinks this has been a good week for Bama. Tide players scrimmaged last Saturday, then had Sunday and Monday off. Alabama was at full strength, no players out for injury, as of Thursday.

"I think the two days off helped a lot of guys," Saban said. "We had a group with a lot of bumps and bruises. I think the guys started to get their legs back.

"We looked a little crisper, sharper, fresher, faster, and all of that kind of stuff in these three days."

Saban said one big decision has to be made by the players. He said, "I think the team needs to be making some decisions about what the identity of this team is going to be. It's really not about who we're playing. It's a lot more about who we are in terms of the kind of competitive spirit that we have, the kind of maturity we have as competitors to go out there and be relentless for 60 minutes in the game, one play at a time, every play in the game. Try to dominate the competition and I think that's how we get better. Practicing that way helps you do that in games. We've shown some signs of doing that in these last three practices."

Although actual game preparation begins today, there has been some work on opponents as a part of practices this week. Tide players got a few periods each day with looks at schemes, etc. they could see in the first four games, schemes that are not a part of regular Alabama practices as the Tide has worked on fundamentals and on its own game.

Saban said, "It probably helps the defensive players who have less experience to get exposed to some of those things a little bit more than it does some of our offensive guys who have more experience and have been exposed to it."

Over the past few days there have also been some experimentations, notably in the offensive line where right guard Barrett Jones worked at right tackle and back-up tackle Alfred McCullough practiced at guard. On Thursday, redshirt freshman D.J. Fluker was back at right tackle and Jones had returned to right guard.

In a linebacker experiment, Nico Johnson had a few days at strongside linebacker (an outside position), but has returned to weakside (inside). Jerrell Harris, who had been a strongside linebacker, continues to get some practice time at inside linebacker.

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