TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Coming off the Easter break, Alabama coach Nick Saban picked up on the difference between his younger players and some of the returning guys who have experience.
Saban saw that the experienced guys came back and were locked on, while the younger players had to be pushed a little harder or be retaught some things.
“The one thing that you notice in players that have a little maturity, have a little experience, is you give them the weekend off for Easter and they come back and they don’t skip a beat,” Saban said Monday. “And you see some of the younger guys on the team that you’re really trying to work with, they don’t seem to be able to retain the things that you worked on to get them to this point and you take a step back, and now you’ve got to try to take two steps forward. I think that’s maturity with young players. Experiences like this help them see what they need to do to work, get focused, prepare better so that they know what they need to do when they get out there and we can get it done the way we need to get it done.”
Asked about the progress of Ronnie Harrison, Deionte Thompson and Shawn Burgess-Becker, Saban said Harrison was “ahead of the other two” because of the experience he gained last season. Harrison played in all 15 games and earned one start. He served as the Tide’s third safety, filling in if someone went out or playing the “money” position as the sixth defensive back in the Tide’s dime package. Harrison is in a prime position to earn a regular starting role this season, with Geno Matias-Smith gone.
Thompson, who redshirted, spent time at both receiver and defensive back. He’s been with the defensive backs this spring. Playing mostly on special teams, Burgess-Becker saw action in 13 contests and made three tackles.
“I think the big thing that the other two — they fall into the category of the guys that I just talked about,” Saban said. “They both have ability to do certain things and really can be positive players on the team, but the big thing is learning what to do, how to do it and why it’s important to do it that way. And be able to go out there and play with confidence and execute it. That’s going to come from better focus, better preparation, better discipline, better carryover. Spend more time thinking about football when they’re not playing it so they get a better understanding of what they need to do. Come in and meet with your coach on days when we don’t have practice so you can have a better understanding of it. If those guys are going to make that kind of progress, that’s the kind of habits that they need to develop and they’re only going to develop those habits if they invest their time properly in doing these things.”
Saban said he challenged the entire team this week to “be honest with themselves” about what they need to improve on and how they plan on doing it. Through the first five practices, Saban noted that the team has had “too many mental errors” and “too many penalties.” Saban wants the team, particularly the young players, to show more focus and more attention to detail.
“That’s going to be the major focus this week in terms of what we need to accomplish so that we can go out there when we scrimmage on Saturday and have more guys confident in what they’re supposed to do and they can go out there and play fast and play the kind of football that we want to play on both sides of the ball and on special teams,” Saban said. “But we’ve got a ways to go to get that done. We’re making progress.”