The succession of scheduled speakers who have ventured through the University of Alabama football complex completed with some words from a Navy Seal Friday night, who spoke to players about adapting to conditions while maintaining their best efforts. Fitting, because Mother Nature had a curve ball for UA's second and final scrimmage of fall camp Saturday. Heavy rains forced a break in the action, and UA coach Nick Saban said players adapted to the weather quite the way he would have wanted. "We may have to play a game in the rain. When that started to happen, we lost a little bit of our intensity, we lost a little bit of our enthusiasm," Saban said. "Even though we handled the ball well and still were able to snap it and throw it. So I was pleased with that part of it. ... So that was really, maybe not exactly what we ordered for the scrimmage, but there's some great lessons to be learned in terms of the situation that we're in and how we respond to it"
A foot injury has slowed down freshman Amari Cooper, who had been shining in Alabama’s preseason camp. The wide receiver did not participate Saturday in the team’s second scrimmage. “Not a bad thing,” Saban said. “It’s probably going to be day to day when we start the week next week. It may be a few days before he can get back out there, but we don’t think that’s a serious thing.”
“So, obviously, out there today we had an opportunity to play in the rain – which we may have to play a game in the rain. When that started to happen, we lost a little bit of our intensity. We lost a little bit of our enthusiasm.” And the Tide lost starting running back Eddie Lacy, who sprained an ankle and a knee “a little bit,” Saban said. “Not a serious thing. Probably going to be day to day but probably be a little bit slow next week. I think in five to six days he’ll probably be ready to go.”
Alabama coaches like to throw new things at their players throughout training camp, but the storm that blew up during the Crimson Tide’s second scrimmage on Saturday was an unscripted development. Lightning interrupted play for about half an hour, but the team returned to the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium and finished the approximately 140-play scrimmage. Alabama coach Nick Saban wanted to see how his players coped with the conditions. “When that started to happen, we lost a little bit of our intensity,” Saban said after the practice. “We lost a little bit of our enthusiasm. … “That was really, maybe not exactly what we ordered for the scrimmage, but there’s some great lessons to be learned in terms of … how you respond when things don’t go exactly how you want.”
"We handled the ball well and still were able to snap it and throw it, so I was pleased with that part of it. Even if we have to go in the locker room for 30 minutes and wait for the lightening to go away, we still have to play the game. That was really not what we ordered for the scrimmage, but there were some great lessons learned in terms of the situation we were in and how we responded to it." The scrimmage lasted approximately 140 plays with the Crimson Tide's first unit turning in a strong out under less-than-perfect conditions. The scrimmage also gave Alabama a chance to get valuable experience to the newcomers. "I was really pleased with the way the ones played in the scrimmage," Saban said. "From there on, we have a very young team and have a lot of work to do to try to improve some of these guys, so we develop the kind of depth we need to be successful."
“You look at this year, and it’s not so much that we have a lot of young guys,” Lester said. “Some of these guys are juniors and sophomores who played a lot last year, and I’m a fifth-year senior. These guys have been here and know what it takes. They know how to execute in this defense. So, really, it’s nothing like it was in 2010. And the other thing is that the leadership is a lot better.”
“We're going to need those guys,” Saban said. “Bradley Sylve has had a good camp and improved a lot. We're going to need those young players to come along and play, because that's the depth at that position. When we play five and six defensive backs, they need to understand what to do to go out there and play and do the things they need to do. They'll improve. “We've had to play freshmen around here before, and I think we have some really good freshmen in this class. It depends on how quickly they develop.”
Saban said the rain didn't bother the special teams Saturday. "We did quite a bit, even with it pouring down rain," Saban said. "We snapped the ball, punted, catched it, field it and return it. That was really good. We did not have a single play on special teams that was affected by the conditions."
Saban remains aware that the rest of the team might wonder why he devotes plenty of practice time to the secondary. "I enjoy doing it, but it's my job trying to affect the entire team," he said. "I spend a lot of time in meetings with other players, and I think that's really, really important. But I think the other players on the team respect the fact that if you can make a contribution to a part of the team and you're willing to do it and it's going to help others have a chance to be successful, I think they understand that." That doesn't stop starting center Barrett Jones from teasing Saban about when the head coach will teach the offensive line during individual drills. Jones said Saban responds in the same spirit, delivering ribbing of his own. "We tell him he's spending too much time on the defensive side, not showing us enough love," Jones said. "And he'll fire back with something like he doesn't want to hang out with offensive linemen because they're fat and not athletic."
In the first three weeks of the season, Alabama faces two top 10 teams and, probably, two of the top four returning quarterbacks in the country. Firepower will be necessary. Alabama has talent on offense - especially on the all-star offensive line - but depth is another matter. For the moment, there is no reason to panic. McCarron has been solid in the first two scrimmages, and he is protected by the best line in college football. Lacy, according to Saban, is day-to-day, but that doesn't mean unavailable. Cooper is in approximately the same shape. And depth is being developed. The only way to do that, until the season starts, is to go out in the rain and the elements and get reps for younger players. "We have a lot of work to do to develop depth," Saban said. "I think some of them realize what it takes, and I think with every opportunity they get, more and more of them realize what it is going to take to be successful."
Statistics were kept by Alabama’s media relations staff, but almost none of the statistics for the Tide’s backup quarterbacks were shared. Only that redshirt freshman Phillip Ely threw a 47-yard touchdown pass. How did Ely, freshman Alec Morris and former running back Blake Sims do? “They obviously have a ways to go,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “They do some good things. They made some good plays, but I think understanding the situation in the game and not trying to take care of the ball better ... I think we had several interceptions today that, a couple of them were ill-advised throws. Especially in situations we were in at the time they got thrown.”
The Michigan football team entered its second week of preseason camp with one remaining gap in its new-look offensive line. And by the end of its third week, head coach Brady Hoke hopes to have that hole plugged. Hoke says he'd like to have all his starting offensive line spots settled 10 days before the Wolverines' season-opener against Alabama. Meaning, by next Wednesday, Michigan hopes to have a unified front five. "Probably 10 days before the first game," Hoke said. "I think (having) some continuity that we try to build consistently is part of (the reason why)."
It is still just under two weeks away from the first game of the season against the Michigan Wolverines and signs have pointed that the Alabama Crimson Tide may have to rely a bit more on standout freshman TJ Yeldon at running back. Alabama head coach Nick Saban announced after the second scrimmage Saturday that junior running back Eddie Lacy missed the practice, injuring his ankle in a previous session. During the same gathering with the media, Saban was quick to praise Yeldon, as it was later revealed the freshman delivered 16 carries for 60 yards and 2 touchdowns on the day.
As expected, several defensive players also turned in good performances over the nearly 140-play scrimmage. Junior linebacker C.J. Mosley recorded six tackles, two of which were for a loss. He also had a sack and an interception which he returned for 34 yards and a touchdown. Senior linebacker Damion Square and sophomore linebacker Xzavier Dickson also added four tackles and a sack apiece.
During the season even the ultra-paranoid Nick Saban, Muschamp's mentor who has won two national titles at Alabama, is more accessible to the local media than Muschamp. Steve Spurrier, when he coached the Gators, used to talk the media every day after practice and he won six SEC titles. Muschamp has won six regular-season games and talks to the local media only once during the week leading up to game day.
Greg Meyer might have to dig in his attic a bit, or maybe go through a few old boxes, but it's there. Somewhere in the residence of the Baylor University associate athletic director is the game ball Nick Saban gave him nearly 22 years ago. Saban's Toledo Rockets had just engineered a road upset of defending Mid-American Conference champion Ball State en route to a share of a 1990 MAC title of their own, but to Meyer, this one meant a little more than it meant to anyone else. "We won the game, and Nick had the class to present the game ball to me. I still really hold that pretty dear," said Meyer, Saban's offensive coordinator at the time. "It's a little deflated. I don't have a big room to display it, but I've still got it."
Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama was part of all that once separated this land and its people. But occasionally change is pushed along by something as simple as the idea that, if blacks and whites can play together, maybe they can live together, too.