"It looked a lot like a first scrimmage out there today," Saban said. "Today we had a lot of guys with nagging things that held us back."
Shyrone Carey was suffering a 24-hour bug that was causing dizziness. Marquise Hill had a freak spider bite that caused him to move slow and Chad Lavalais and Stephen Peterman were both nursing bum ankles.
However, the most pressing news of Thursday's scrimmage was the injury to the knee of Amp Hill. It seems Hill may miss the season with an injury to his MCL. Saban said the extent of Hill's injury will not fully be known until after Dr. Brett Bankston performs minor surgery Friday.
"I am afraid he needs surgery, probably is an MCL," Saban said. From the MRI, it looks as if it has pulled away from the bone. It is not an ACL, but it is not a three week injury, probably longer."
Saban said Hill could miss the season because if he is able to come back in mid to late season, they would not put him at risk in the latter part of the season.
"He wasn't going to redshirt," Saban said. "He would have probably been the fourth or fifth wide receiver and play on special teams. I feel terrible because it was just one of those plays where he was blocking and someone fell on his leg. We do a good job of keeping our guys off the ground, but these things happen."
Away from the injury front, the offense was the focal point of the scrimmage as quarterback Marcus Russell performed well as did projected starter Matt mauck. The freshmen also played well as Matt Flynn completed 5-of-7 passes and JaMarcus Russell tossed 4-of-10. Russell had thrown for an apparent 55-yard touchdown to walk on freshman tight end Andrew Wright, but freshman defensive back Nick Child pooped the ball loose at the goal line for a touchback.
"He (Russell) threw a frozen rope," Saban said. "It was a frozen rope for about 40 yards."
On the defensive end, a shakeup in the linebacking corps has brought about some drastic changes in the personnel. Saban said as of Thursday the first team backers included converted safety Adrian Mayes, Eric Alexander and stalwart Lionel Turner.
"It is a little bit smaller lineup but we have more speed at linebacker," he said. "Mayes needs to eliminate mental errors, but it is a good move for us. He plays hard with a lot of intensity."
Saban added that true freshmen LaRon Landry and Jesse Daniels are making huge strides at safety. After announcing these two freshmen will play immediately on Tuesday, Saban said they took a large portion of snaps with the second teamers. Saban added they are still unfamiliar with the total scheme of playing safety, but their effort and intensity far overshadows their inexperience.
"LaRon doesn't mind not knowing what's going on," Saban said. "He still made 10 tackles today, but he probably missed four. But I like that in a player though. We need for those guys to develop and continue to grow up quickly. They could be our backup safeties by the time the season starts."
Junior wide receiver Michael Clayton saw significant time at safety on Thursday. Saban said when Clayton is on the field at any position, he has a positive impact.
"He knows regular and special now so we can throw him in there any time," Saban said. "He probably played 10 to 12 plays on defense. When he is at safety we play Travis Daniels at corner. We have four good corners, but one of them is playing safety (Daniels)."
As for special teams, the development of inexperienced kickers continues. Ryan Gaudet hit on 4-of-7 field goals, including a long of 51 yards. True freshman Chris Jackson hit on only 2-of-6 kicks hitting on field goals of 37 and 28 yards, but Saban said his kickoffs were better as a whole than Gaudet.
"We will keep using both guys," Saban said. "Chris Jackson has a little bit stronger leg than Gaudet, so we may use him more on kickoffs. But we didn't miss an extra point all day."