While Entertaining, Spring Football News Usually Means Very Little
By: Larry Burton
Yes, it’s interesting to watch head coach Nick Saban’s experiments each spring when he lets players try other positions. It’s interesting to see them either wrestle with the new duties, or just as interesting to see how easily they seem to take on new responsibilities.
It’s also important to keep up with injuries that evidently happen during this time of the year. Who gets hurt and how badly they’re hurt can often time lead to problems in the regular season, depending on how long the injury keeps them away from both practices and game times.
But reading into certain stats that may be leaked of spring camp don’t really tell you the whole story. Nick Saban’s warned us all about this for years, but people so excited for football news pay little heed. “Oh my Gosh, did you hear that “Whoever” ran for three touchdowns in practice today and racked up about 135 yards?” you’ll hear from someone. But what that someone didn’t know that while “Whoever” had a great day, he was running against the scout team or fourth stringers while others worked against the ones and twos. So does that now tell “the whole story” and show just one aspect of why spring football news doesn’t mean all that much?
The quarterback battle won’t be settled this spring. It has already been decided by Nick Saban and lip service will be given to the old mantra “All jobs are up for grabs” or Saban will let the battle continue into the first few push over games and anoint the one that’s clearly the best.
When people ask me and believe me, it’s the most asked question I get, on who the starting quarterback will be. My answer, whether correct or not is that the job is Tua’s to lose and it’s hard to see how he can lose it. But that does not mean in any way that we won’t see Jalen Hurts at quart erback some this season. There’s just too much talent in that young man and not using it in certain situations would be an absolute crime. If there’s a team that has a great pass defense and a crappy run defense, that team is tailor made for Hurts to destroy. A situation for a wildcat type play? Who would be better than Jalen?
So what’s going to be entertaining to me? Getting some answers to to some questions that will determine how “well oiled” this machine will be by the start of the season by getting answers to these questions.
Number One – How well do the new coaches or coaches in new positions are being both accepted by the players in their command and what they seem to bringing to the table to coach up the players in their charge.
Number Two – Seeing who plays the most reps with the number ones at certain positions, especially center. With the wealth of talent on defense, especially at linebacker, it will be fun to see who it looks like grabbing the chance to solidify themselves as starters. Lastly, I can’t wait to see how the new punter and placekicker seem to do in practice.
Number Three – They say that past success can be biggest obstacle to future success, so it will be interesting to see both the work ethic of the players and their ability to walk the straight and narrow and keep themselves out of trouble. In the past, I’ve seen players who practiced with a sense of entitlement. It happened the worst in the 2010 season. Players on that team could have and should have repeated as national champions. It was a great mass of proven talent. But they failed to be prepare and play as they had in 2009, Nick Saban’s first championship season at Alabama. That team bungled their way through the season and lost three games, finished outside the top 10, and gave the team a very sobering lesson to be learned. However, there is no one on this team that lived that and it may be a lesson that has to be relearned the hard way.
Number Four – It gives you a glimpse of who can be the surprise freshmen stars for the upcoming year. Last season it was obvious that Jerry Jeudy was going to be something special and see the field. It was also obvious that Najee Harris would get some carries too. So who are the stars of tomorrow going to be in this year’s freshmen class? Spring practice and the spring game should give us a clue.
So while there is some entertainment value is spring practices, the news and reports you get from them may not translate into what you’ll actually see on the field in the coming season, don’t get caught up in resplendent news of “Whoever” making ten tackles. He may have made them against the third string offensive line. And don’t get excited to hear that “Whoever” had three picks in a practice. He may have been told to throw the pass no matter what and the quarterback may not have thrown it in a real game because of the coverage he saw but he’ll fling it out there in practice because his coach told him to attempt the throw.
After all, the one thing we know about having Nick Saban so many years now, is that he won’t give us meaningful stats from spring practices, he won’t give us any details on how the leaks that did get out occured and he won’t tell us what squad he was practicing against. While that’s frustrating to us as reporters and writers, it still does give us something to discuss and draw speculations over.
In the comment section, we’d love to hear what you enjoy about a spring practice, what you get from spring practices and any other comments you may have.
Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter