Practice Buzz-August 19, 2008

Personnel notes: Evil over-signing Saban awards scholarships to walk-ons
Saban awarded scholarships to three walk-on players: kicker Leigh Tiffin, punter P.J. Fitzgerald and defensive back Tyrone King. I guess Nick Saban was so busy kicking players off the team to make room for his recruiting class that he got carried away and kicked off too many. This once again discredits Brian Cook’s diatribe against Saban’s over-signing. (For an excellent refutation see Pete Holiday’s blog on the matter.)

The three players who earned a scholarship did so through hard work and were rewarded for it, Saban said.

“Each one of these guys has played the most significant role of any of the guys who have walked on our team,” Saban said. “I think this is a message to all guys that want to walk on. We try to reinforce positive performance, guys that become contributors to our team in any way, shape of form; we certainly like to put them on scholarship when scholarships are available. We are happy and pleased that we (were) able to reward these guys for their effort and contribution to the team.”

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More Personnel notes
Linebacker Charlie Higgenbotham missed practice again Tuesday with a groin injury; he is day-to-day. Saban is hopeful that he will return in a few days; however, the team is being careful because Higgenbotham suffered a sports hernia injury after spring practice.

Will Oakley is running and started light cutting. He rejoins the team Wednesday as classes begin at the Capstone.

Player experiments
The biggest news of the day in terms of player personnel comes from the defensive line where Alfred McCullough was moved to offensive guard as part of “experimenting.” McCullough practiced at guard today.

“Alfred had a really good spring as a defensive lineman,” Saban said. “I think anytime we do this it really is a positive for a guy. We see him as one of the guys that may be in the top 50 or 60 guys on our team. He wasn’t working into the two-deep and having a role on defense, so this is strictly experimental because we think he is a good athlete and a good player and he could contribute to the team someplace.”

I watched McCullough play some in high school. I was very impressed. I’ve been waiting to see him play defensive line, but apparently the coaches can’t find a good spot in the rotation for him. I’m glad to see that Saban recognizes the player’s natural ability.

“(McCullough) has explosive quickness, good one step quickness and he plays with power,” Saban said. He is an instinctive football player.”

I’m hoping the experiment works. Apparently, it is working for Brian Motley.

Saban said Motley is making “tremendous” progress in transitioning to the offensive line.

Freshman Chris Jordan is now working at linebacker, Saban said.

Julio
All the questions at receiver haven’t been answered, but right now, what receivers have made the most consistent contributions in fall camp?

“Mike McCoy and Julio Jones have probably played the most consistently,” Saban said.

Saban said Marquis Maze and BJ Scott have shown speed and been a playmakers for the team, but are working on building consistency. Earl Alexander “is a real steady guy,” Saban said. Hanks needs to work on his consistency too, according to the coach.

But let’s get back to Julio for a moment. Footage of Julio Jones making a spectacular play during the last scrimmage was posted online. According to the Rap Sheet, the footage was eventually removed from the online service. Saban was asked what his reaction was to scrimmage footage making it to the Internet.

“Maybe you ought to ask the guy who leaked them out. I think he could answer that question for you,” Saban said laughingly. “It is no big deal. I don’t think that is something we want to do. That is why we close practice so the other team can’t see us. We got on the Internet to see if we could see any of Clemson’s plays from their scrimmage and we didn’t see any…I’m not pleased about it, and it won’t happen again.”

Scrimmage made impression on Saban
Saban said the team made improvement from the first scrimmage to the second scrimmage.

“I was encouraged by the scrimmage after watching the film of the scrimmage,” Saban said. “I think we were more aggressive. We played more physical on both sides of the ball. We showed a lot more toughness. We made some big plays on offense, which is a good thing; obviously defensively you don’t like to give them up. I was pretty pleased overall with effort and intensity and the improvement we made from the first scrimmage to the second scrimmage.”

Saban didn’t stop there in talking about his team’s development in fall camp. He said the young players were the most important development.

“I think that’s the most important thing and the improvement of a lot of the younger players,” Saban said. “That was pretty significant. A lot of the young players really got a lot better in one week, a lot of its probably anxiety, a lot of it’s a little bit of confidence and a lot of it is probably more knowledge and experience, in terms of feeling comfortable with what they are required to do and how they are expected to do it. We felt like we made a lot of progress as a team.

“We are not disappointed at all with where we are right now, but we certainly recognize the fact that we have a lot of things we can improve on. Today’s practice and tomorrow’s practice will be kind of dedicated to try and to improve on the fundamental things we need to do to get better and some of things that we haven’t been able to practice enough on and then Thursday, we will probably center our focus more toward the first game.”

No rest for the weary
Alabama returned to practice Tuesday following two days of rest. And what did Nick Saban have for his players? A list of things to work on.

“It was good that the players got a couple of days off,” Saban said. “We did get some time to review the film with them, make corrections and do a walk-thru with them. We spent some time with some of the younger players to help them improve and develop. At this time of the year, usually after the second scrimmage, we make lists on offense and defense at every position and position specific of what we need to do to improve and help our performance. We’ve had some time to do that now and those things were kind of emphasized today in practice as well as some of the things we haven’t had as much time to work on.”