Along with setting offense and defense in fall camp, the Crimson Tide must also fill special teams roles on its coverage and return units, and finding the right personnel for those jobs isn't easy. "If they're going to give effort and play with toughness, then they have to be responsible to do their job and do it with discipline so we're not getting penalties or making poor judgements and decisions," UA coach Nick Saban said. "So, it's not just about effort, it's about channeling that effort into productive performance that's going to play winning football for you on the special teams. Hopefully we'll have some young guys that do that. There have been some guys that have showed that they really want to do that and that's important to them. And that will be beneficial to us. Because the more you have to play starters on special teams, I think that affects you long-term in terms of the wear and tear that you have on guys and how they get worn down in games."
For a team of four- and five-star athletes unaccustomed to sprinting downfield on kickoffs, getting volunteers isn't always easy, but Saban has a strong sales pitch for them. "There's not a player that's not a starter on an NFL team that doesn't have to be a good special-teams player to make the team," Saban said. "I try to tell every guy on our team, especially the young players, the star players come from high school and never had to play on special teams, that you guys need to learn how to play on special teams right now. "Your ability to execute and do your job on special teams is just as important as it is to be a running back, a receiver, a defensive back, a linebacker or whatever position it might be."
"Our coach always tells us, you have to lock in and lock out (mentally)," Fluker said. "And be disciplined. Sometimes, you're going through adversity and you have to learn how to fight through it. That's one of those things that's brought me into being a better player. ... I have this burning rage I have in my body to succeed." Fluker and his family were victims of Hurricane Katrina when he was a youngster, and took up residence in Mobile after the storm. Fluker said the adversity that went along with that helped him mature early as a young adult. He credited both family members and teammates make up a strong group of supporters when necessary. "My mom, she tells me a lot, some of my step parents, they help me, and my teammates. Like Chance Warmack, Anthony Steen, Barrett Jones. They help me get through hard times."
Norwood said he has spent the offseason getting stronger and improving his route running as he prepares to battle for the starting job at wide receiver. Last season, he was buried on depth chart by seniors Marquis Maze, Brandon Gibson and Brad Smelley. This time around, those players are gone and it's Norwood's time to develop into a leader on offense. "Me and Kenny [Bell] have been looking forward to this," Norwood said. "We’ve waited, basically, three or four seasons now to be leaders." But, according to Norwood, who said he's in the mix in the return game as well, don't expect the job to be handed to both veteran receivers on a silver platter. The competition is just now beginning to ramp up as Alabama enters its first full week of practice. "It's a battle," Norwood said. "We're basically getting ready to put the pads on tomorrow so we can go out and play up to Coach [Nick] Saban's speed."
Freshman wide receiver Chris Black suffered a shoulder injury in Sunday's practice, Alabama coach Nick Saban said Tuesday. "He's going to be re-evaluated by a doctor tonight," Saban said. "We're not sure about what his status is. It's very, very questionable."
"I think the biggest thing we are trying to do right now is work all our players in the fundamentals they need to be good players," added Saban. "We are coaching every guy on the team. Everybody is getting coached, everybody is getting repetitions and everybody has an opportunity."
Alabama football coach Nick Saban started his post-practice news conference Tuesday by saying he is pleased with his team's progress after five days of camp. "I didn't say satisfied," he said. "I just said pleased. I think the players are working hard. They're trying to pay attention to detail. They're trying to work through it."
"We have a rule that you don't post anything about our team. We monitor what they tweet, because A) we don't want them to represent themselves poorly from a character standpoint, and B) we don't want them to do anything representing the team or what the team's trying to accomplish to be compromised by what they post.
Washington High assistant coach George Schellang accused Alabama assistant coach Jeremy Pruitt of steering Paige to transfer to Foley, according to the Pensacola News-Journal. "Darius came in the office one day during the summer after (former head) coach (Mike) Smith left and sat down and told me coach Pruitt, who is the Alabama coach who was recruiting him, wanted him to go to Foley High School," Schellang told the Pensacola News-Journal. "Basically, he said (Foley High) could take care of him academically. "My reaction was shock and dismay that a Division I coach would tell a high school athlete that he needed to transfer, that they had people there to help."
10b. Barrett Jones, Alabama, OL: The heartbeat of the country's top O-line, Jones can play anywhere on the Tide's front and succeed. When Nick Saban was asked last month if he's ever been around a lineman like Jones and who offers this kind of versatility, the Alabama coach went all the way back and mentioned the great Bruce Matthews, a Pro Football Hall of Famer. That's a mouthful.
Hightower had a year of eligibility remaining, but decided to turn pro so he could reward his mother for all the sacrifices she made working years of overnight shifts. "My dream has always been to get to the point in football to where she doesn’t have to work in a factory anymore," Hightower said. "I wouldn’t be in this situation today if it wasn’t for my mom and my sister (Quenette) being my backbone. "The reason that I do what I do is because of them, to take care of my family."
"I’m not a selfish person," he said. "Growing up, that’s just how my mom raised me. I don’t take anything for granted. You don’t know the people around you, so you can’t disrespect them or mistreat them. They might be the same people you meet later in life." When asked about potentially having a starring role in the offense, Jones talks about his chemistry with Ryan and gaining the confidence of coaches. It’s always about the bigger picture. "I really don’t care about the spotlight," he said. "That’s why going to a place like Alabama was good for me. When you put your pads on, you wouldn’t know who’s a walk-on and who’s a scholarship player." A recruiting story: Jones was one of the nation’s most sought-after players in 2008. Logic suggested the kid from Foley, Ala., was going to pick the school in Tuscaloosa. But it wasn’t until he met coach Nick Saban that he was sure. "Growing up, I really didn’t watch a lot of college football," Jones said. "But one of the reasons I liked Alabama was when I went to visit coach Saban, he said, ‘Well you know, we want you here. But we’re going to win with you or without you.’ I was like, that’s me. I just want to win. I don’t like stuff just given to me."