Saban Puts In Late Hours- Real Late

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Memo to Mrs. Saban. A big bowl of chili just before bed for Nick. This makes sense if you know that Alabama's head football coach sometimes gets inspiration when he can't sleep. He gets up and works.

"It doesn't bother Terry," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said in revealing his late-night work habits. "Sometimes my best ideas come when I can't sleep."

He said when he was a secondary coach and defensive coordinator he sometimes would see diagrams on the ceiling. He got some good ideas and some not so good, he said, "as you can tell by my record."

His latest nocturnal inspiration resulted in Lorenzo Washington going to defensive end, Cory Reamer moving from weakside linebacker to strongside linebacker, and true freshman Dont'a Hightower getting his shot at weakside linebacker.

Saban explained that he couldn't sleep so he got up, went to his chair with a pen and notepad, and made a list of the top players. When he had finished, he decided on the position moves.

He said that Washington had already done some work at defensive end "and played well. He had a good spring."

And when Saban did his late-night list, he found putting Washington at end made sense. It gave Alabama three defensive ends with experience (Brandon Deaderick and Bobby Greenwood the others), while Terrence Cody and Josh Chapman are holding down the middle.

"Josh and Cody are doing well in the middle," Saban said. "Both can hold the point. They have to sustain. They have to improve on pass rush. We think both can. It helps our depth in the defensive line."

The move of Washington may have had an affect on the offensive line, too. Alfred McCullough, who won the Dwight Stephenson Award as the top lineman in last spring's A-Day Game for his play at defensive end, is now working at both offensive guard spots. "That's going okay," Saban said. "That's going to be an on-going process. He could go back to defense if he needed to, but we're going to give (the offensive experiment) time."

Alabama began preparations for Clemson Thursday afternoon with a two-hour workout at the Thomas-Drew Practice Facility.

"Tuesday and Monday were two fundamental days," Saban said. "Today we practiced a little like it was a Monday practice, which means we started some primary preparations for our first game of the season against Clemson. I think the biggest thing we are trying to get our players to learn to do is how to prepare for a game. Everybody on the team has a role for preparation for a game." The Crimson Tide, ranked 24th in the nation, will play ninth-ranked Clemson on Saturday, August 30, in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The game is slated to kickoff at 7 p.m. (CDT) and will be televised nationally on ABC.

"We had a good first day," Saban said. "We did a little bit more today than we usually do. I think it was a good start. I was pleased with the players' intensity and attitude towards trying to learn. You always make mistakes but that is why you practice.

"We have had a good camp and had a good chance to evaluate most of the players. We'll give you a depth chart Monday. We kind of know who we are going to go out there and work with. In some cases we are working with more than one player at a certain position. Those things may not be decided until game day."

Saban also said "Practice on the first day of practice is usually the worst of the year, but that wasn't the case this year." Classes at The University began Wednesday. Saban said the freshmen being in summer school and having become acclimated to campus was probably one reason for the good Wednesday work.

He said that linebacker Charlie Higgenbotham, who had a groin pull last week, continues to be the only player in black (indicating injury). The coach said he hopes Higgenbotham can return to practice Monday and get involved in preparation for Clemson.

When that depth chart is released Monday, there was a strong indication from Saban Thursday that junior Mike McCoy will be one of the wide receivers. Asked about McCoy, Saban said, "He had an outstanding spring and he's had an excellent camp. He's productive, he's consistent, he shows leadership. He shows intensity. He shows mental toughness in bouncing back from adversity."

Saban said young players could take a lesson from McCoy. The coach pointed out that many young players are frustrated because they have high expectations and have trouble achieving them. Those young players must learn to overcome the frustration with focus and mental toughness."

Saban said that freshmen who play in the opening game "are going to play because they are ready to play." He said there is no reason a freshman can't go out and play well, and that the coaches are trying to prepare them for the experience. He added that no one will no how good they are until they do it on the field in a game.

Tide center Antoine Caldwell was named to the Rimington Award fall watch list Thursday. The Rimington Award goes annually to the nation's top center. There were 43 centers from across the country listed on the initial list, including five from the Southeastern Conference.

Thursday's practice included a visit from actor Tom Arnold, who was a guest of Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore. Saban said the players appreciate knowing there is outside interest.

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