Spring football has begun! You can hear the rejoicing. Even the players were ready to begin the drills.
“It was a pretty good day overall,” Alabama offensive lineman Mike Johnson said following Fridayâ€™s workout. “The guys came out ready to practice, obviously, we have been through fourth quarter (conditioning) the last few weeks, and I thought everybody was ready to strap it up today.”
Alabama spent two hours indoors to kickoff spring practice. The Crimson Tide is off for Spring Break, and returns to the practice field March 23.
The big news of the day included Saban’s announcement that two players were suspended. Saban announced the suspensions at a Spring press conference Friday. “We have two guys that will not be participating during the spring,” Saban said. “Prince Hall will not be participating in spring practice for a violation of team rules and policies. Brandon Fanney will not be participating today because of a violation of team rules and policies. I donâ€™t know when he will return. Prince Hall is suspended indefinitely.”
Other topics covered included Saban’s depth chart (you might be shocked, but he doesn’t like to talk about depth charts!), and the criteria for starting quarterbacks. You’ll also find a discussion of Greg McElroy and Star Jackson included in a press conference transcript below (courtesy of UA):
Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban
â€œWe are looking forward to getting back to practice today. Iâ€™m sure the players are as well. I know how much they cherish the fourth quarter program, the conditioning program that we do in the winter time, and thatâ€™s been a very successful program for us. I really feel like we have more players that can sustain, and are in better condition than what weâ€™ve ever had before. We still need to develop a sense of purpose as a team. We need to see how hungry this team is, what their drive is and what their commitment to a standard of excellence is in terms of what they can accomplish as a team. I think thatâ€™s a part of developing the team chemistry. Thatâ€™s something that we hope gets nurtured along here in spring practice.â€
â€œOne thing about the practice schedule, we are going to practice this one practice and then start when we get back. We are going to scrimmage on Wednesday, the seventh practice, Iâ€™m not sure the date (April 1). Itâ€™s the second Wednesday when we come back. Just to break it up a little bit more and have enough time in between to continue to put things in and develop understanding. It will give us a lot more time to correct some of the things from the first scrimmages.â€
â€œInjury wise, we told you there are no new injuries to report. Earl Alexander and Roy Upchurch are going to be noncontact guys, at least to start. We donâ€™t really have anybody else that is injured. B.J. Scott, I told you at one point that we were looking at him at defensive back, and we still are but now we are looking at him as a corner.â€
â€œWe have two guys that will not be participating during the spring. Prince Hall will not be participating in spring practice for a violation of team rules and policies. Brandon Fanney will not be participating today because of a violation of team rules and policies. I donâ€™t know when he will return. Prince Hall is suspended indefinitely.â€
On what goes in to deciding who starts at quarterback
â€œItâ€™s the guy who performs the best, who moves the offense, shows the most leadership and gets the best results for our team. There are a lot of intangibles that go with playing quarterback that I think are very important, and I think that with this situation you have to be patient. Thereâ€™s a process where you have to see and give guys a chance to develop. I know we want instant-coffee, instant-tea; right now, we want to know whoâ€™s going to be the starting quarterback for next year. But can we at least let them practice for a while, look at them, see how they do, give them a chance to develop before we make that determination. Itâ€™s important, and itâ€™s important to all players. I think itâ€™s one of the most unfair things now that there is so much attention given to recruiting that we create this expectation that guys are supposed to start or make a tremendous impact when theyâ€™re freshmen. Then if they donâ€™t do that they fail. Whatever happened to having an opportunity to develop? So thatâ€™s an important part of it, and some guys develop faster than others. That doesnâ€™t mean that theyâ€™re not going to be outstanding players someday. It just means that at this stage of their development, they might not be as ready as someone else.
On the characteristics and development of Star Jackson
â€œStarâ€™s really done well in the off-season. Heâ€™s gotten a little bigger, a little stronger. Iâ€™m anxious to see how he does out there with the team. In terms of his knowledge and experience and where he is, heâ€™s very athletic, he has a good attitude about what heâ€™s trying to do, and weâ€™re anxious to see how he progresses. We feel like he has a tremendous amount of potential, and weâ€™re looking forward to seeing how that develops.â€
On the trend of graduating high school in January in order to join the team early for spring practice
â€œWe had four guys join our team this year early. I think that itâ€™s a very positive thing if a guy puts himself in that position in terms of the ability to go through the off-season program. It helps them be more prepared for what we expect of them physically with regard to conditioning and strength. It starts the development process earlier for them. Obviously, spring practice is 15 opportunities to go out and learn and execute, which the cumulative effect, with summer workouts then fall camp where guys go back through those same things gives guys a better chance to develop. They gain knowledge and experience with the additional opportunities, so I think itâ€™s a real plus to have guys in that situation and circumstance. Weâ€™re looking forward to seeing what those guys can do, and obviously we have questions to answer in the offensive line so having two of those guys in the offensive line, weâ€™ll learn as much about them as guys at the quarterback position. We want every player to feel like they can compete for a position. Just because a guy started last year or played a lot last year doesnâ€™t mean that theyâ€™re entitled to a position. Every player has to be productive and every player can improve. â€œ
On the difference between having a returning starter at quarterback and having an open competition
â€œI think any time that you have experienced players at any positions theyâ€™re going to learn more rapidly. Our approach in spring practice is to always go back to square one. We donâ€™t assume that theyâ€™re in any position, that they really know anything. Weâ€™re going to go to day one teaching because we really want to develop all the players on our team. We canâ€™t start with a guy that was a 20 game starter, and say well this guy already knows it so we donâ€™t really need to teach it. We need to teach it to the player thatâ€™s never started before or a guy who redshirted last year who may contribute to our team, because the development of those 40 bottom guys on our team is critical to developing depth on our team. To answer your question specifically, at quarterback we donâ€™t have the experience at the position, but weâ€™re going to start the teaching just like we did last spring. I think what is interesting is how fast these guys develop and grow and how fast we can progress offensively. You assume that when you have a starter or an experienced player that you can do that a little more quickly, but both these guys are bright guys, Gregâ€™s been in the offense just as long as John Parker was; he just didnâ€™t play in the games, so I think his knowledge and understanding is good. Itâ€™s the game experience that he lacks.â€
On what you like about Greg McElroy and going into summer practice with a No. 1 quarterback
â€œWe havenâ€™t seen Greg do anything yet to this point except in practice, but last year we felt confident that Greg could step up in a game and do a good job for us, and when he did play, I think he did a pretty good job although I donâ€™t think he was in a situation where the game was on the line while he had to play. He got a lot of reps last year as our No. 2 and did a nice job, and like every player on our team, I think there are things he can improve on. I think one of the objectives for us offensively is to improve our pass offense, to make more explosive plays, be more consistent on third down, do a better job getting away from man-to-man coverage, being more accurate with the ball, things like that. All those things play into the quarterback as well; theyâ€™re not specific to him, but they are team things, so weâ€™re looking forward to that.
On the week off with only one practice/what the coaches will do and what the players should do
â€œWe will encourage the players to work out at least three times on their own while theyâ€™re gone. We also want the players to stretch and stride on Sunday before we start practice on Monday, on their own only because when we get back to practice, hopefully that will minimize problems for them. We are going to take a few days off as a staff, but we also have some professional growth visits that weâ€™re interested in doing and some personal studies that weâ€™ll do over this time relative to next yearâ€™s opponents, especially new opponents. Weâ€™ll also look at things or problems that we feel like we need to get solved offensively, defensively and on special teams, which is not an uncommon thing to do. This time is certainly a good time to do it when you donâ€™t have the players here.â€