TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban didn’t come right out and say it, but the University of Alabama football team had a good closed scrimmage on Saturday.
That’s the conclusion one can make after listening to his subsequent press conference, and reading a little between the lines.
Overall, it wasn’t perfect (there’s probably no such thing just over a week into fall camp), no statistics were released and he didn’t single out any players. With Marq Burnett looking at the biggest concern, special teams, here are five indications that Saban had a good afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium:
1. Saban talked about the weather more than injuries
If you were in Tuscaloosa on Saturday you’re aware of how valuable shade was in the middle of the afternoon. Although the temperature was only in the upper 80s, and the heat index around 95, the dew point and humidity percentage were both in the 80s.
In short, the scrimmage was held in tropical-like conditions under a blazing sun. It’s what a coach wants during training camp while building a team up physically, but spectators hate. After the Crimson Tide worked in the air conditioned inside facility a lot this past week, there was a chance some players might have some trouble.
“This is probably the kind of day that you’d like to have at practice every day, so when you have a day like this, the players will be more prepared for it,” he said. “But I thought they sort of persevered pretty well through it.”
That’s a good sign about the team’s conditioning. Apparently suffered a major setback or injury, and only a couple of players were held out.
2. Alabama has a lot of guys who might contribute this season
Near the end of his press conference, Saban said a couple of new players went “rat trap,” which is his way of saying they were overwhelmed. “Couldn’t even get lined up. That’s all part of it.”
He didn’t specifically mention who, but you could probably throw a dart at a list of the 10 new players who reported over the summer and hit one of their names. It’s also normal as Alabama likes to throw a lot at players during the first scrimmage and similar to a pasta test see what sticks.
Even though the Crimson Tide are a pretty young team, remember that 16 new players were on hand for spring workouts.
“We have a lot of young players at a lot of positions that can certainly benefit from first time under the fire in action, and we had some older guys that played really, really well in this scrimmage,” he said. We just have to kind of build on that.”
3. The offense didn’t click, but has a lot of potential
This was really the first time that Alabama was live with new coordinator Brian Daboll, and everyone is still obviously getting used to one another. That’s why teams hold scrimmages, to work the kinks out.
“I don’t think we had the rhythm that we’d like to see on offense,” Saban said. “I’m sure he would say the same thing to you. I don’t think that’s a reflection on him. It’s just the way it went today. We’ve had good days and we’ve had bad days. Today we made some plays and we made some really good plays. But the consistency wasn’t what it needed to be in terms of finishing drives.
“There were a lot of good things to build on.”
Defenses being ahead offenses at this point is typical, and things usually start to even out by the second scrimmage.
Which means …
4. The defense looked good
Again, Saban didn’t say it, but if the offense wasn’t finishing it means the defense was keeping it out of the end zone. The coach also didn’t single out an offensive position group, like “Our running backs did really well today.” Everyone knows the Crimson Tide is stacked at the position and has a lot of playmakers.
The only time the coach referenced the defense was with his position group, the defensive backs: “I think that we have some good players in the secondary. I think the biggest focus I have is trying to get them in the right spots. How we match up the best. What kind of depth can we develop.”
He wasn’t specially asked about the front seven.
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) August 13, 2017
5. The scrimmage set a good foundation
More will come out about the scrimmage after the coaches go over the film and some players are made available to reporters next week, but the key line of the press conference was Saban stating: “I think we can have a really, really good team.”
He elaborated a little more:
“I’m not disappointed in what our team is right now. Are we where we need to be? Absolutely not. Are we where we’d like to be? I think we just have to focus on what we need to do to improve. Which I think, if every other team in the country was like that then we wouldn’t need to practice right now.”
The next step is to start solidifying roles, with another scrimmage scheduled for next week, followed by what Saban compares to an NFL team making roster decisions. It’s when the Crimson Tide coaching staff will determine which players it’ll count on the most this season and who will be relegated to reserve and scout-team status. Some of those decisions could be tough this year.