Alabama takes cautious approach for final fall scrimmage

Christopher Walsh

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Although it was the final scrimmage of fall camp, University of Alabama coach Nick Saban took a cautious approach on Saturday afternoon.

Numerous players were held out, with others limited to a certain number of plays at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

It’s a balancing act that’s always difficult and even trickier this year with players practicing in brutal heat, but not as often due to recent NCAA rules that banned two-a-days and mandated players get a day off every week.

“The question to me is, they practice a lot less in the NFL than they used to, and they have just as many or more injuries,” Saban said. “So how relative is all that? If you’re going to play football you have to practice football a certain way so you don’t get injured.”

Freshman running back Trey Sanders suffered a foot injury during last week’s scrimmage and is expected to be out for most of the season. On Saturday, he entered the stadium ahead of reporters with his leg elevated off the ground on a small scooter.

Saturday’s biggest injury was again to a running back as redshirt freshman Jerome Ford is expected to be out “maybe a week” with an ankle sprain.

“We don’t think it’s all that bad,” said Saban, who added that Ford will have an MRI.

Among those who were held out of the scrimmage included redshirt junior tight end Miller Forristall (foot), freshman nose tackle DJ Dale (knee), junior defensive end LaBryan Ray (ankle) and senior offensive lineman Matt Womack.

Redshirt junior linebacker Terrell Lewis was also held out.

Alabama went with a bit of a different format, with the first 55-60 plays (25 for each the first-team offense and defense, which were facing the second-team units) like a game situation with the coaches using headsets and assigned to the press box or sideline like where they’ll be in two weeks when Alabama opens against Duke in Atlanta on Aug. 31.

It followed with situational work, with the first-team players facing each other.

Saban said the offense had too many turnovers and the defense was “Not where we want to be.”

However, the top priority was making sure everyone’s as ready as possible for the upcoming season opener.

The scrimmage marked a transition point for the team, with players pushed to their limits this past week.

Players will have Saturday night and all of Sunday off, with a light practice scheduled for Monday evening. Installation for Duke will begin later in the week.

Saban commented on some other key developments:

• The coaching staff is pleased with Tua Tagovailoa’s performance in fall camp. “I think offensively we’re good,” he said. “We have more guys with more experience. And the only position we don’t have a lot of experience at is tight end.”

• Redshirt sophomore Mac Jones is “way ahead” of the other reserve quarterbacks and was productive in both scrimmages. “He’s been here in the program for a couple of years, he knows the offense, he’s really smart. He makes good decisions for the most part. The big thing we’ve been trying to get him to do is when he doesn’t make a good play don’t hang on to it. Go on to the next play. He’s done a much better job of that.”

• Saban didn’t mention him by name, but freshman Christian Harris is getting serious consideration to start at interior linebacker replacing senior Joshua McMillon, who suffered a knee injury during last week’s scrimmage. “He did a good job. I’d like to watch the film, but he’s a football player. It’s important to him. He runs and hits people. Is he where he needs to be in terms of what to do, how to do it, why is it important to do it that way? But when we’ve had guys like this in the past, with C.J. Mosley playing as a freshman and [Dant’a] Hightower playing as a freshman and Rolando McClain playing as a freshman, we just put them in there and play them. And they got some on-the-job training. There’s still competition at that position, but he’s a guy who has made plays throughout fall camp.”