Alabama Football Getting Into "Game Mode" As Final Preparations for Missouri Take Place

Tyler Martin

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Final preparations are being made for the University of Alabama’s season-opener against Missouri on Saturday night and coach Nick Saban expressed his final emotions leading up to the contest Wednesday evening with the media via Zoom. 

“I’ve been pleased with the players’ preparation this week in practice,” Saban said. “I think the effort has been good, the intensity level has been good. But I’m encouraging the players to make all their decisions based on winning.

"Each day, you have to choose to try to dominate the guy you’re facing every day in practice so that you can create the habits you need to be able to finish plays, finish games. Play one play at a time in a game so you can finish games. And I think that’s the big thing that we’re trying to emphasize to our players -- we’ve gotta finish.

“You’ve gotta finish blocks. You’ve gotta finish your tackles. You’ve gotta finish the clean-up on defense, finish runs. I mean, that’s the big thing. We haven’t played a game for a long time, so we’ve gotta get out of practice mode and make sure we’re practicing to develop the habits that are gonna become a part of our DNA as competitors in terms of how we play in the game. So, that’s probably the most important thing.

“As I mentioned, we’re really looking forward to this game. A good Missouri team, playing in an unfamiliar place, really, to us. But the field will be 100 yards deep and 53 yards wide, so we’ve gotta go there and compete and stay focused on what we’ve gotta do and keep out all the distractions and try to focus on what we need to do to play and execute and do the things we need to do to be successful in the game.”

Like many first games, Saban's team is looking forward to shaking off the rust and getting back on the gridiron, but figuring out who rises to the occasion and shines is what Saban wants to see.  

“I think there’s a lot of questions,” Saban said. “I don’t think there’s any biggest question. Every player that you’re playing that’s a new player that hasn’t been a starter before, it’s obviously how they’re going to respond when they get in the game environment, especially young players who haven’t been in a situation like that before.

“I think when you have new starters at any position, regardless of what their role on the team has been in the past, how are they going to respond to the new role, the new responsibility that they have? Same thing with leadership. Some guys are assuming leadership roles now that they didn’t have to do in the past even though they played. How are they going to manage that? There’s a lot of questions that get answered in the first game. I think first games usually tell you a lot about where you are and who you are.

“And that will be probably the most interesting thing to find out for us overall.”

One of those question marks is at the punter position, where Ty Perine, Charlie Scott, and Sam Johnson are all listed as co-starters on the depth chart. As for who gets to travel to Columbia, Saban and his coaching staff will make that decision at some point today.

“No, because we’re not gonna take multiple guys on the trip,” Saban said. “We can’t take extra specialists. We’re gonna evaluate how everybody did over the course of this week. I think we have three guys that are very competitive at that position, and we’ll probably make a decision tomorrow. But we’re not gonna take multiple punters. We can’t afford to do that on the road. We need to take as many healthy players as we can that have a role and contribute in some way to the team and to the depth of the team.”

Since this is the Crimson Tide's first game during the pandemic, Saban and the coaching staff will all to wear masks on the sidelines, and that is something will take some getting use to during game time. 

“This is the kind of mask that I wear, and it is a little bit difficult to speak with this kind of mask," Saban said. "I may do a little research in the next couple days and see if there is something better to do. I think especially when you’re talking to somebody from a distance, it’s natural to want to pull it down so can -- not yell at them but yell to them whatever it is the point you’re trying to make. 

"I think it will be a challenge, but I also think it’s important for everybody to respect what we’re trying to do so that we can play safely."

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