“The first units are starting to come together a little bit better,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “Some of the situational things we are still working on. Tomorrow we will get a little more work in for the first game. Preparation is so important, and I think that is probably the message of the day for everyone. You go through the off-season and spring practice, work hard all summer long then go through two-a-days and you lose sight of really why you do all that. The reason you do all that is to get yourself ready to play games.”
Williams will make his debut in his new starting assignment Sept. 1 against No. 8 Michigan. “Williams is a guy who is disruptive, somebody we’ll have to contend with,” Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said. Center Barrett Jones lines up against Williams routinely in practice. “He’s a really unique combination of not only strength and quickness,” Jones said. “He’s a lot quicker than you guys (reporters) give him credit for. He’s a really good player. The way I feel is that if I can block Jesse in a 3-4 nose, I can block anybody. He’s a really unique kind of guy who really is that true game changer at nose.”
"We don't want him hit," Borges said, summarizing the makeover. "It's disconcerting when that much of your offense runs through one player. You want him to be the centerpiece but to point that much onus on one kid is an accident waiting to happen." So what's the right balance for a quarterback with 22 fewer career carries than a Heisman finalist, Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball? "That's the big thing," Borges added, "It's going to take him a year or two in our offense." Robinson has 12 more games -- 14 most likely if Michigan plays in the Big Ten title game. Even before the games begin to dwindle, Borges gets annoyed when he hears that he is making Robinson into more of a pocket passer. "That is way too simplistic," he said. "He throws the ball in the pocket. He threw in the pocket before. We try to develop his skills inside the pocket. You can't roll out every time, for goodness sakes."
Part of Robinson's charm is that he knows he's far from infallible. Anyone who watched the first half of last season's game at Northwestern knows it too. Robinson three threw interceptions, and it's not as if they came on deflections. They were all lobs gift-wrapped to NU safeties. Asked if it's painful to look back at that performance, Robinson replied: "Oh, yeah. So many balls I wish I could have taken back. … I had 15 interceptions last year. That's not acceptable at all." To curb that, Robinson has worked to avoid throwing off his back foot. And he's no longer a newbie to coordinator Al Borges' pro-style system. "Now we're able to make audibles and adjustments because we know the offense," he said. "It's like night and day. Last year it was dark. Now it's sunny over here."
Simply put, Alabama’s opponents have to take the Crimson Tide out of character in multiple facets of the game to have a chance. And even then, they likely need a break or two — or four missed field goals — to go their way. Our elimination of Alabama’s home foes as upset contenders leaves us with five teams that have the chance in 2012: Michigan, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and LSU. Throw out Michigan and Missouri because their quarterbacks, while dangerous on the ground, won’t beat Alabama through the air. Dump the Hogs and Vols because their respective run defenses won’t be stopping Eddie Lacy and Co. That leaves the Crimson Tide’s vaunted bugaboo, LSU, which boasts a quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, who has the promise to do big things through the air, and a defense that can, at the least, slow down Alabama’s rushing attack. The pressure is on Mettenberger more than the defense, which has already proved it can stymie Alabama’s big backs. No matter what, Saban isn’t going to like my prediction, which is that the Tide will go 12-0 and earn a another berth in the BCS Championship Game.
Though he said Tuesday that Alabama would begin its heavier preparations for the No. 8 Wolverines on Thursday, Saban said that Friday’s afternoon practice would focus more on Michigan and less on Alabama’s next two opponents. Thursday’s practice, apparently, was more of the same of what Alabama has endured since camp began three weeks ago. The "message of the day," Saban said, centered on the importance of the next eight days of preparation. "You go through two-a-days and sometimes you lose sight of why you do all that," Saban said. "The reason you do all that is to get yourself ready to play games. "We’re actually looking forward to it. I’m sure our players are tired of practicing against each other. We look forward to the challenge of practicing against something different they can get prepared for."
Freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper has pedaled a stationary bicycle for three consecutive practices while wearing a black non-contact jersey. He is recovering from a foot injury that he suffered late last week. Saban called the approach to bringing Cooper back “a little conservative.” “Monday is sort of the target day right now,” Saban said.
Finally, cornerback Bradley Sylve fractured his hand Wednesday in practice and is wearing a cast. "It's a similar situation to Julio (Jones, in 2010). T.J. (and) Don't'a had it. They all were able to come back and practice in a day," Saban said. "Depending on how Bradley feels, he'll be day to day, but should be able to go out there and play in a cast and try to get ready to play in the game."
On the H-back position: "It's difficult to find a guy with the skill set to do it ... Smelley was a special guy at the position ... Kelly Johnson a is good, tough athlete ... Jalston Fowler, 250 pounds, can block, fast, good receiver ... Harrison Jones is working at that position ... Several guys that are working at that position and a couple of big blocking tight ends ... Maybe not all wrapped into one."
Warmack said he and Fluker have been friends their whole Alabama careers. “If I could write a book on D.J. it would be like 12 volumes,” Warmack said. “He’s a hard worker and a nice guy. He doesn’t hesitate to help anybody. He’ll help anybody even if he doesn’t know them. “And I owe him a lot. He helps me a lot. He helps me to be a better person. He’s a really nice person.”