Mother nature couldn’t keep Crimson Tide fans from stockpiling into Bryant-Denny Stadium Sunday for Alabama’s annual Football Fan Day. Fans from around the state got their first view of Alabama practice, photos of the team and coaching staff, as well as interacting with players and coaches.
Before the festivities started, Nick Saban held a press conference inside the Mal Moore Athletic Facility. Coach Saban addressed his expectations for this year’s team. Saban said the time is now to start resurrecting and rejuvenating Alabama football.
“The message really doesn’t change,” Saban said. “The time is now to resurrect the identity of the Alabama football program. “We are confident in the players that we have, but it’s really up to them to a large degree in terms of what their mindset, commitment and preparation is on a consistent basis.”
Saban said he wants the players to buy into the “we”, not “me” mentality. He wants to develop the type of leadership into the players and desires for them to put the team first.
On the quarterback battle, Saban said it would come down to the guy that has the best accuracy, leadership and decision-making (judgment) skills.
“It boils down to who’s the most ready to play,” Saban said. It will be a working progress, but I’ve been pleased with how all the guys have practiced. It’s only been two practices, but everyone has a lot of opportunities to get better. We’re encouraged by the improvement that they’ve made.”
Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin took the podium 15 minutes later. Known for his love of conversations, Kiffin started his presser by saying how happy he is with being at the University of Alabama.
“I am excited and fortunate about the opportunity I’ve received to be here,” Kiffin said. “To be able to sit and learn under coach Saban is great. It’s one thing to see the process, but it’s another aspect to be involved in it.”
Kiffin said he’s made some mistakes in his life, but he has learned to deal with them and not make excuses. As for Alabama’s offense, Kiffin said that his goal isn’t the change the entire format.
Despite his love for competition, Kiffin said that his dream of being a head coach again would come in time.
“As far as being a head coach, it’s always in your blood to be a competitor,” Kiffin said. “However, this is not about Lane Kiffin or prior events. It’s about Alabama football. I’m excited to get in and get started. It’s a lot of hard work, but we have to prepare for a tough opener.”
Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart enters his eighth season at Alabama. He took the podium Sunday and said he’s optimistic about the team on defense.
“We have a long way to go, but potentially this is a very special group,” Smart said. “We have a lot of young players, but also some experience returning.”
Smart said that D.J. Pettway has embraced a leadership role and adds depth to the defensive line/linebacker position.
“It’s great to have him back,” Smart said. “D.J. has taught the younger guys how to take advantage of what’s here. He’s missed the atmosphere here and gotten along well with his teammates since he’s returned. Talent wise, you can’t deny his work ethic, size and huge play making abilities.”
When it came to freshman Tony Brown and sophomore Reuben Foster, Smart said Brown is a football junkie and Foster has come a long way.
“Brown is young, but has great potential,” Smart said. “He’s always watching game tape is very competitive. When he first got here, Reuben was lost. He always played fast and with a lot of energy, but didn’t know what he was doing most of the time. Foster’s made huge strides and we want to continue seeing him make more improvements.”
In losing CJ Mosley and Tana Patrick to the National Football League, Smart said that Alabama is thin at inside linebacker.
“We usually five guys that are prepared to play inside linebacker each season,” Smart said. “With losing CJ and Tana, that number drops to maybe one or two. We have to really cross train players for that position. Hopefully, our guys can stay healthy so we can rotate and have depth.”
Alabama practiced inside Bryant-Denny Stadium to the delight of the fans, but the party started after the rain ended. At 4:45 p.m., the gates were opened and the stampede began. Thousands of fans ran onto the field to get an autograph from Saban, his staff and the players.
Sunday supplied the fans a chance to see the team practice, but on Aug. 30, 2014 the fans will witnessed the first step in the Tide’s quest for a 16th national title as Alabama takes on West Virginia in Atlanta.