Daily Archives: October 10, 2012

Saban’s Wednesday post-practice briefing with reporters

Nick Saban spent some time this evening with reporters, and here are the highlights:

Opening comments: “We’ve had a pretty good week so far this week. I think sometimes with players and you have a team that does a lot of different things, it gets their attention. They have a lot of respect for who we’re playing and what they do, so I think we’ve had a pretty good week.

“I think the focus that we’ve tried to get with our players is this is kind of a new season, a new opportunity for us to go out and play with more consistency and performance — not to say that we haven’t played well, we’ve played well at times, we just haven’t played well all the time. I think the basis for that is how important it is for the players to get quality reps in practice so they develop the right habits in practice, so that they can play well. But I also think it’s about how important it is to them, to the leadership, that demands sort of the standard that we’re trying to get. So you demand more of yourself and each other, and that’s all of us, me included.”

On graduate assistants: “Well, I was a GA myself once. I know how difficult it is get started in this profession, and I appreciated all the people who helped me get my first job, and all those through the year who have helped me get other jobs and other opportunities. I’ve been able to learn from each and every one of those.

“We’re looking for the same things as a character, quality standpoint, work-ethic what kind of person that they are, how important to them it is in terms of what they want to accomplish and what they want to do, and their willingness to put in sort of the quality work it takes for you to really learn, grow and develop. We’ve had some really good guys here, and a lot of guys who have gotten jobs. When a guy stays here for a year or two and really works hard, for relatively little compensation, we try and do everything we can to help them get to where they want to go. We’ve had lots of guys get opportunities and hopefully they’ll continue to get opportunities.”

On Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson: “He’s a good player. I think they’re very aggressive up-front, they’ve got good linebackers. They play the runs well. They do a lot of stunting and their players know the scheme well. They don’t make very many errors.”

On facing another no-huddle team: “We play against no-huddle all the time, and I think it’s just a part of the world that we live in now. I think the more you play against it the more your players sort of develop a conscious awareness of how they need to focus and what they need to do to play that pace in the game. Certainly playing against a team that was no-huddle should be a benefit to our players when we play the next no-huddle team. I think we’re going to see it a few more times before it’s all over too, so hopefully we’ll continue to improve and progress.”

On Deion Belue: “He’s done great. He’s done fine. Taken all the reps.”

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Saban helps North Carolina community mourn coach

Nick Saban thrilled a North Carolina coach’s family for writing a personal letter to them following the coach’s death. (AP photo by Dave Martin)

Alabama coach Nick Saban sent a letter to the family of a North Carolina high school coach who died Sept. 30, earning gratitude from the man’s family.

Mike Crowell, 52, coached the wrestling team at South Davidson High in Denton, N.C., for 25 years. He also spent five seasons as the school’s head football coach.

Crowell was a big Alabama fan, and his students turned to Twitter, using the hashtag #SabanforCrowell to try to get the Tide head coach to come to the school’s homecoming game Oct. 5.

From Twitter user ‏@DWhitty7: “#sabanforcrowell isnt just a hashtag, its the belief that one man can and did change the lives of hundreds of kids.”

Saban did not attend, but he sent a letter to Crowell’s family. He sent it to the school, and the principal took it to the family.

“Mike would just be so delighted,” Crowell’s sister-in-law, Karen Pierce, told North Carolina’s WFMY News 2. “[Saban] was an idol to Mike, and he would certainly be ecstatic knowing that Saban took the time to recognize him for the work that Mike’s done.”

At the game, the school honored Crowell by painting Crowell’s initials at midfield and putting the Alabama logo on the players’ helmets and on the field.

“He was an Alabama fan, passionate about football, was in our profession and worked very hard at it,” Saban said after practice Wednesday. “A combination of all of those things made it really easy for us to try to have gratitude for the support he gave the program, the help he gave young people through the years in football, and his family.”

Saban said that because Crowell was a high school coach, there were NCAA rules involved, which kept him from the game. But he still wanted to do something.

“We wanted to acknowledge his professionalism, his character and our appreciation for his support,” Saban said.

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Tide to face Georgia State in 2013

Alabama coach Nick Saban and his team hit the field in 2010 against Georgia State. (AP file photo by Butch Dill)

Alabama announced today it will face Georgia State in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 5, 2013.

The two schools played Nov. 18, 2010, which was a Thursday night, and Alabama won 63-7. The game was notable partly because the student section was mostly empty by halftime, probably because the movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I” was released in theaters at midnight that night.

Alabama’s only other non-conference game set for 2013 is the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome on Aug. 31. The Crimson Tide will face Virginia Tech.

Georgia State won’t be coached by Bill Curry, the former Alabama coach who has announced he will retire at the end of the season.

Georgia State hit the field for the first time in 2010, going 6-5. The Panthers posted a 3-8 record in 2011. They are 0-6 this season. One of the losses came to Tennessee 51-13.

They are FCS now but will be FBS in 2013 as a member of the Sun Belt Conference. They won’t be bowl eligible until 2014.

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Thoughts from Wednesday’s practice, other notes

Mercifully, the construction on the new conditioning and training center wasn’t loud at all during the media viewing period today, which was about 15 minutes. Nobody stood on a platform, banging a piece of metal with a sledgehammer.

Just in case, I moved over and watched the defensive backs, who work out about as far from the construction as you can get. One drill that’s fun to watch involves open-field tackling. Tide coach Nick Saban gets involved in this one, and he nearly got run over once. Each defender backpedals and/or slidesteps into position, while a teammate angles toward the sideline. The teammate is told whether to go inside or out, and the defensive back has to come forward, chase him down and wrap him up.

It’s interesting to note the guys who do well in this drill. It’s all the people you think would. Safeties Vinnie Sunseri and HaHa Clinton-Dix are especially good. So is safety Nick Perry. Freshmen Meanwhile, true freshmen Geno Smith and Landon Collins clearly are talented athletes, but they’re working to find their confidence.

I’m not sure if the guys who do well in this drill are the ones who are allowed to play, or if the guys who have earned playing time have the confidence to do well on this drill.

During our viewing period, one player wiffed on the tackle, arriving too late. That earned him exactly what you would think: Saban yelled in his ear as the player walked back to the line.

Other notes of interest:

–Wide receiver Kevin Norwood (lower leg injury) looked better today and was running routes. He seemed more upbeat than Tuesday, but then again, I’m not the greatest at reading body language.

–I’m told Tide defensive line coach Chris Rumph made a “Pulp Fiction” reference to his players during a drill Tuesday, but the guys didn’t seem to get it. No wonder, since that movie came out in 1994, which is before almost all of these players started grade school.

–Detroit Lions general mananger Martin Mayhew watched practice. Mayhew, a defensive back for eight years in the NFL, replaced Matt Millen in 2008.

–The 25 quarterfinalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award were announced this week, and center Barrett Jones, guard Chance Warmack and tackle D.J. Fluker made the cut. The award is given to the top linemen or linebacker in the nation. Only one question: Where’s C.J. Mosley?

–Phil Steele released his 2012 midseason All-America team, and it included six Tide players. Jones, Warmack, Mosley and defensive back Dee Milliner made first team. Fluker was second team, and quarterback AJ McCarron made fourth team.

We have a brief video of the defensive backs. Sorry, there’s no video of the open-field tackling drill. A staff member stepped in front of my spot, and unless you wanted to see video of his back, I figured I would delete that one.

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McCarron: We take what we’re given

The Crimson Tide’s AJ McCarron takes a few minutes after Tuesday afternoon’s practice to talk to reporters.

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron’s longest completion in the Sept. 29th win over Ole Miss covered only 17 yards.

That’s fine with McCarron, a strong-armed junior who had completions of 26, 28 and 51 yards against Michigan in the season opener.

“We just take what the defense gives us,” McCarron said. “Everybody keeps talking about the vertical passing game, but if they’re not going to give us the vertical passing game then we’re not going to take it.

“Teams have been giving us underneath and that’s what we’re going to take. We’re not going to force things.”

He added that it’s the same with the running game.

“Definitely. Some teams are going to load the box, play man, make you throw the ball vertically and beat them,” he said. “Some teams are going to play zone. They can have the outside linebackers stacked in, closer to the box, so they’re able to guard the pass in zone and play the run at the same time.”

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No bye-week blues for Crimson Tide

Alabama coach Nick Saban said practice has gone well so far this week, which isn’t always the case following a bye week.

But Saban said on this morning’s SEC coaches teleconference his players have responded the way he has wanted.

“Our players are excited about getting back into action,” Saban said. “It’s always about getting guys back into the swing of things after a bye week.”

Saban also fielded another question comparing this year to 2010, the last time the Tide defended a national title. It must be the millionth time he has gotten one of these questions.

He mentioned that it’s not easy for players to relate back to a couple of seasons ago. Instead, it’s a little easier to look back at this past weekend when nine teams ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 lost.

During Missouri coach Gary Pinkel’s turn on the conference call, he paid tribute to Alabama: “We’re playing a team that quite honestly has no weaknesses.”

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Tide works to defend Missouri’s uptempo attack

This is my story for today’s print editions:

TUSCALOOSA — Another week, another one of those dreaded uptempo, no-huddle offenses Tide coach Nick Saban doesn’t like.

Missouri quarterback Corbin Berkstresser (13) will draw his second career start Saturday against Alabama. (AP photo by L.G. Patterson)

A Saturday game at unranked Missouri is presenting Alabama with its defensive quandry this week. Saban and his defensive coaches are teaching their players to handle not only the no-huddle but the occasional formation with nobody in the backfield besides a quarterback.

That’s called an “empty” formation, and when Alabama beat Ole Miss in its last game, the Rebels ran a no-huddle but almost never used an empty attack. Also, Missouri likes to operate out of a spread, which also can spread out and tire a the defense.

“This is probably one of the most challenging offenses philosophically in terms of no-huddle, lots of different formations, lots of motions, lots of adjustments for the defense to make,” Saban said.

The Crimson Tide struggled at times against Ole Miss, allowing two touchdown drives of 13 and 16 plays apiece. The Rebels rarely gave Alabama time to substitute on defense, which occasionally caused an issue for the Tide. Alabama is working this week to make certain it can handle the long drives if Missouri manages them, too.

“We have to do our extra running after practice and get exra work in the weight room and watch film and be ready for everything they do,” Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley said.

The empty formation has the potential to cause problems for Alabama as much as the tempo. For example, the fifth defensive back, which the Tide calls “star,” usually covers the receiver in the slot. But what if there are two receivers in the slot?

“The coaches really just kind of distinguish calls and tell the star which way to go,” said the Tide’s Vinnie Sunseri, who often plays star.

Saban made waves nationally last week when he complained about the advantage the no-huddle gives offenses, saying, “I just think there’s got to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking, ‘Is this what we want football to be?’ ”

But if statistics mean much, this may not be the week to worry about the no-huddle. In its first year in the Southeastern Conference, Missouri has struggled to pick yards and points as it did in the Big 12.

In the previous four years, Missouri ranked as high as eighth nationally in total offense and no lower than 35th. This week, the Tigers are 95th and haven’t scored more than 20 points in any of their three SEC games.

On top of that, starting quarterback James Franklin and starting center Mitch Morse will miss Saturday’s game. Both have suffered sprained knee ligaments.

A pair of redshirt freshmen will replace them — quarterback Corbin Berkstresser and center Brad McNulty. Berkstresser started one game earlier this year when Franklin had an injured shoulder.

When Franklin went out in the first quarter of last week’s game — a 19-15 loss to Vanderbilt — Berkstresser relieved and completed only 9 of 30 passes.

“He’ll do fine,” Pinkel told reporters this week, according to The Associated Press. “He’s very capable. … He’s not the first quarterback who’s had a tough day.”

At one guard spot, Missouri is starting a true freshman in Evan Boehm, while a walk-on is starting at the other guard, junior Max Copeland. Left tackle Elvis Fisher has 44 career starts, but he missed all of last year with an injury to his left knee. He missed three games this year with an injury to his right knee.

“They’re very well coached,” Saban said. “They’ve had some problems and issues this season with some very good players being injured. Regardless of those circumstances and situations, I think that they have some very good players that are filling in.”

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The basic details for Saturday’s Alabama-Missouri game

Alabama fan Brenda Yarbrough with four grandchildren, who also are Crimson Tide fans. From left, it’s Victoria Yarbrough, Alysanna Yarbrough, Brenda Yarbrough, Gretchen Sargent and Campbell Sargent.

Who: Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) at Missouri (3-3, 0-3)

What: The first meeting between the two teams since 1978, which Alabama won at Missouri 38-20.

When: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

Television: CBS. Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson will call the game from the booth, while Tracy Wolfson will serve as sideline reporter.

Where: Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. The playing field was named in honor of former Missouri coach Don Faurot in 1972.

Capacity: 71,004. When Alabama played at Missouri in 1978, capacity was 62,023, but the contest somehow drew 73,655. That set the stadium record for largest crowd to that point. It has fallen since then to No. 4.

Missouri vs. No. 1: According to Missouri’s own record book, the Tigers haven’t won in 12 meetings against the No. 1-ranked team in the country. That includes the major polls. In 2010, Missouri beat No. 3-ranked Oklahoma, which was first at the time in the BCS standings, which aren’t a poll.

Missouri vs. No. 1 at home: Today will mark the fifth time Missouri has hosted the nation’s No. 1 team. The last time came in 1997 when eventual national champion Nebraska won 45-38. Nebraska also was No. 1 in 1971 and 1983 visits to Missouri. Alabama was No. 1 when it visited Missouri in 1978. The Tigers were No. 11 for that matchup.

Missouri vs. Alabama: These two teams have played only three times in their history. Missouri won 35-10 in the 1968 Gator Bowl in 1969 and 20-7 in Birmingham in 1975. Alabama, of course, won that 1978 game at Missouri.

Bama defense: The Tide leads the nation in total defense, scoring defense and pass efficiency defense. Alabama is third in rushing defense.

Most wins since start of 2008 season: Alabama has won 53 games in that stretch, which is second to Boise State (54) for the most in the FBS. Texas Christian is second with 51, followed by Oregon (50) and LSU (46).

Perfect kickers: Alabama’s Jeremy Shelley hasn’t missed in 31 kicks this year, including 24 extra points and seven field goals. Only five other kickers can make that claim, including Matt Nelson of Louisiana Tech (35-35 EXP, 7-7 FG), Jeff Budzien of Northwestern (23-23 EXP, 11-11 FG), Nate Freese of Boston College (16-16 EXP, 9-9 FG) and Navy’s Nick Sloan (9-9 EXP, 5-5 FG).

Next for Alabama: The Crimson Tide will play at Tennessee on Oct. 20. Kickoff time and television will be determined later. That game will be carried either on CBS at 2:30 p.m. or an ESPN channel at 11 a.m., 6 p.m. or 6:45 p.m.

About the photo: Nikki Sargent of North Carolina submitted the photo above. It was taken before Alabama’s game at Duke in 2010. Brenda is Nikki’s mother, Victoria and Alysanna are her nieces and Gretchen and Campbell her daughters. Brenda was undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the time, but Nikki wrote in an email she is fine now. The whole family attended the Alabama-Duke game. Nikki wrote she grew up in Andalusia and moved to North Carolina in 1985. “All of the grandchildren could say ‘Roll Tide’ shortly after learning ‘Mama and Dada,’ ” she wrote.

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A view of Alabama from Missouri

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch sent reporter Vahe Gregorian to Tuscaloosa this week to cover Alabama in advance of its Saturday game at Missouri.

Gregorian wrote about Tide head coach Nick Saban for his first story: “Alabama’s Saban never lets up.

It’s a good read. Also, it’s fun to see something written by somebody who isn’t around Saban all that much. Interesting perspective.

For today’s editions, here is what Gregorian wrote: “Alabama concerned with taking care of its own business.”

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