Saban Warns, There’s More to a Team Than the Eye Test
By: Larry Burton
While there will still be lots of nervous Alabama fans following the A Day game, it will mostly be focused on the fact that the man who will more than likely be the starting quarterback still will not have taken a snap from center in a Crimson uniform yet. The future for the offense overall however, no matter who is the signal caller is very bright.
And on defense, there are big, fast bruising bodies everywhere you look fighting for playing time. The abundant talent pool of capable defensive linemen and linebackers has many in the press thinking that there is no problem in this area.
But not so fast says Saban.
It’s been a week since Saban told reporters inhis post practice press conference that he wasn’t pleased with what he was seeing and chided a reporter who implied that the defense “appeared” deep in talent and was looking good. That reporter got an earful from Saban who said that things aren’t always what they appear and that while “beauty” may have been in the eye of the beholding reporter, Saban himself wasn’t very pleased.
“They’ve got a long way to go,” Saban said last week. “I’m not satisfied with the way any of them are playing, if you want to know the truth about it. They’ve got to be more aggressive, physical, play with better leverage, hold the point better, rush the passer better.”
Saturday, the Tide had a full speed scrimmage for the first time since preparing for their bowl game last season. Did Saban see anything that changed his mind with the big bruisers along the defensive line?
“Defensively, the first defense did a pretty good job, but after that the tackling wasn’t what it needs to be,” Saban said in his post scrimmage press conference. “I thought we made too many mental errors with too many other guys to get the kind of execution that we’d like to get on a consistent basis.
“I think every player should be thinking about the same thing: I’m not disappointed with where I’m at, but I’m also not satisfied with where I’m at. So we all need to take it one day at a time and do the things that we need to do to focus on the improvement that we need to make to become a better football team.”
Trey DePriest was the standout of the group and that is something that pleases Saban and DePriest is not only stepping up his role as the vocal leader of the group, but backing it with up with solid play to serve as the example for others on the defense to follow. DePriest had 8 tackles to lead the defense.
But on defense, Saban still indicated that there was still a need to do more, especially for those players outside the most experienced and expected starters.
On offense however, Saban had nothing but praise. He was pleased with the play of quarterbacks, Blake Sims, who was 16 of 23 for 227 yards, Cooper Bateman, 14 of 25 passes for 102 yards and sophomore Alec Morris, who was 9 of 12 for 57 yards. He also heaped praise on the receiving corps and called out Amari Cooper and Christion Jones, who are the likely starters, along with DeAndrew White who is still not practicing due to a toe injury that is healing. Others who are coming along well like Chris Black and several young freshmen also show much promise.
And while we’re talking about not jumping to conclusions on a depth chart at running back at this point, Kenyan Drake led all rushers with 60 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. But there were four running backs, including Drake, who all pitched in at least 40 yards and had bright moments. But no one should read into these stats that there is a new starting running back. It was just a good day by a capable running back.
Overall, Saban seemed pleased with the first full speed scrimmage and his mood was better than just one week ago when he obviously was not so pleasant. “I really like the attitude of this team, in terms of how they go about what they try to do, how they work and the effort that they give, the mental and physical toughness they play with.” he told reporters in the press conference.
In a side note, as can happen in full speed scrimmages, there were some knicks and bumps. Eddie Jackson was the most seriously injured after landing awkwardly in attempting to catch a pass. An MRI was done on Sunday and it is not known how long Jackson could be out. Saban said in the press conference that Jackson was one of the leading cornerbacks on the team and was having a “great spring” and was “probably our best corner.”
Also injured was linebacker Reuben Foster, with a neck stinger that is not expected to limit his practice time, but may keep him from full contact for a few days. It is something he’s done in the past and Saban feels confident that it’s something that can be worked through. Foster was perhaps the leading candidate to take C.J. Moseley’s spot at linebacker.
Larry is an award winning writer whose work has appeared in almost every college football venue. Now he primarily writes for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter