Saban's Comments On Tide Scrimmage

Alabama football coach Nick Saban felt Saturday after his team's A-Day game like dozens of other college football coaches across the land: very optimistic about his football team.

"Nobody ever has a bad spring," said Nick Saban, who is heading into his sixth Alabama football season as head coach. "Nobody ever has a bad spring game. We didn't have one, either. We'll look and see how many guys have made progress. ‘How much did you improve? Are you taking charge of your development?'"

Every season means a new group of players, playmakers, and leaders. Saban is searching for all of the above. "In college coaching, there's always a challenging situation to develop team chemistry," he said. "Everybody's got to take ownership. We certainly made some progress toward that."

Saban, dressed in suit and tie as is his custom for the A-Day Game rather than in his coaching togs, was on the field throughout the game.

Asked how good his 2012 team can be, Saban shot back immediately, "I think that's kind of up to the team. We don't have the maturity as a team we had a year ago, but there are certainly enough good players on this team to have a good team."

Developing depth is always a spring practice concern, and that includes the all-important quarterback position. "I thought Phillip (Sims) did a good job," Saban said of his back-up signal-caller, who finished with 135 yards on 9-of-12 passing for the winning White team, which beat the Crimsons 24-15 before a crowd announced at 78,526. "(Sims) is still not 100 per cent. He's got a sprained muscle in his (right) shoulder. He made some big plays. Now, we can give him the rest he needs and get him healed up."

With the loss of starters Dre' Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie, cornerback is an area Saban knew heading into spring needing shoring up. Junior college transfer Deion Belue seems to be picking things up, the coach said, and added that a veteran also stepped up this spring.

"Deion (Belue) has had a really good spring," Saban said. "He's a good cover guy. John (Fulton) had a good spring. He's more confident in what he's doing."

Depth is needed at running back as well, with Trent Richardson NFL-bound and Eddie Lacy missing all spring with a foot injury. Enter true freshman T.J. Yeldon, an early enrollee who amassed 179 all-purpose yards Saturday (88 on the ground, and 91 receiving).

"(Yeldon) played well," Saban noted. "He's played really well all spring. He and (receiver/fellow early entrant) Amari Cooper are probably the two freshmen who have shown they're ready to play.

"T.J. did a good job in all the scrimmages. He was the difference in the game for his team, and had a lot of production. He's a good runner. He's got some speed. He can do a lot of things."

Another difference maker Saturday was White team safety Vinnie Sunseri. The Tuscaloosa sophomore had two interceptions, scoring on one and clinching the game on the other. Said Saban: "Vinnie (Sunseri) played like he always plays. He's one of those ‘ball-hawk' guys. He's always around the ball. He's a great competitor."

A huge area of improvement during the spring seemed to be the punting game, specifically the boots of junior Cody Mandell, who averaged over 42 yards a kick in all three scrimmages and boomed punts of 66 and 60 yards Saturday.

"We always felt like Cody (Mandell) had the ability to do it," Saban said. "He's got a lot more maturity in duplication, now, whether it's his drop step or just consistency. He seems to be a lot more confident in what he's doing and has done a really good job (this spring)."

Asked about any changes in the offense put in by new coordinator Doug Nussmeier, Saban said succinctly, "You didn't see anything new. Do you want to email Michigan what we're doing? If I saw anything new, I'd be upset. There were some new players.

"We don't have a Brad Smelley-type guy this year (who can play both H-back and slot receiver). We're trying to develop (red shirt freshman) Brent Calloway in that area. Doug (Nussmeier) has some new ideas, and we'll develop those ideas as we go along."

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