Nick Saban Breaks Down Positions Following Alabama's Final Fall Scrimmage
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama football coach Nick Saban had a lot to say about his team on Saturday.
The Crimson Tide wrapped up its second and final scrimmage of fall camp at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The team will now take two days off to rest before starting preparations on Tuesday for its season opener at Missouri.
Saban started his singling-out of players with wide receivers, specifically senior DeVonta Smith and junior Jaylen Waddle.
“We have some explosive players at receiver,” Saban said. “You know Smitty and Waddle are both playing extremely well and some of the other guys are coming along and playing very, very well.”
Saban also spoke regarding the quarterbacks, offensive line and running backs. Overall, the head coach seemed rather pleased with his offense heading into season practices.
Saban commented specifically on their efficiency and their ability to perform in high-pressure game situations.
“They were very good today, very efficient,” Saban said. “Good completion percentages, threw for some big plays, made some explosive plays, made some explosive plays in critical situations, made some good plays in special situations. I think the offense was pretty good on third down, which always goes back to quarterback decision-making and people getting open. So they played well.”
Saban didn't say much. Apparently he didn't need to:
"Really impressed with the running backs that we had. The young guys really played well, so you know we had a lot of good things happen on the offensive side."
Saban said it still has yet to be determined whether Landon Dickerson will primarily play at guard or at center as a starter.
“Landon has been great,” Saban said. “He’s been a really good leader of that group. He does extremely well when he plays center. He does really well when he plays guard. We’re going to make a decision at some point in time how do we get the five best guys on the field. That may have something to do with what the injury situation is. But as of right now, he’s played extremely well, and when we’ve asked him to play guard, he’s played very well there. But as other players develop, we always want to be able to get our five best guys in there, and that may mean that he ends up playing some guard at some point in time down the road.”
From there, Saban switched up to the defense. After a somewhat disappointing 2019 season, Saban and defensive coordinator Pete Golding have placed an emphasis on getting the unit back to the Alabama standard of performance.
While Saban said that he’s seen a lot of improvements, there is still work that needs to be done.
“Defensively I think there was a lot of good things but there’s certainly a lot of things that we need to clean up and improve on and again there’s a lot more inexperience on defense,” Saban said. “They have to learn the importance of playing together, communicating, not going out there and just pressing trying to do what they’re supposed to do but when circumstance changes that they know how to adapt and adjust and play together as a unit and I think that’s something that we’ll continue to get better at.”
Sophomore defensive linemen Justin Eboigbe, Christian Barmore and Byron Young have all improved from last season.
“I think they’re making progress,” Saban said. “I think Justin’s probably the guy that been the most consistent guy. All those guys have made a lot of progress. Barmore has certainly been one of our best pass-rushers. He’s going to be out for a few days with a knee injury. Not significant, not serious. He didn’t work today, but he has done really, really well. But we’ve gotta get these guys to be good all-around players. We’ve gotta get them to be able to rush the passer. Some of them play the run, gotta improve rushing the passer. We’ve got some guys that rush the passer well, and they’ve gotta improve on playing the run.
“So it’s kind of a group effort to get that group continuing to improve. Without watching the film today, I can’t really comment on exactly how we did, but for the most part, we have been a little more physical up front. And we get challenged every day because we’ve got a pretty good offensive line. I’ve been pleased with the way they’ve played, and it’s good competition for everybody.”
This season, especially with the ever-present concern for a COVID-19 outbreak among the players, the secondary has been stretched quite thin. This means that a lot of young players could potentially start as the season progresses, much like last season when multiple veteran players experienced injuries before the season even began.
However, Saban said that he has seen a lot of stepping up from the younger players on his defensive roster.
“We're very, very thin in the secondary,” Saban said. “We don't have a lot of depth and we've got a lot of young players, and it's very difficult to train them at multiple positions, but we're trying to use this time to be able to do that. Whether we can continue to do that throughout the season remains to be seen. But if we have to, if we have to — the best players to play when we're playing nickel, then we'll just have to play nickel instead of dime. I feel like we have a pretty good first group; it's just going to be a work in progress developing these younger players who have made extreme progress. So I'm really pleased, but I just know from past experience that when you try to get — especially when the season starts, things change from week to week.
“You get young players that play multiple positions and they don't have really a lot of experience to draw from [and] it makes it very difficult for them.”
Overall, Saban seemed pleased with the scrimmage.
“I think one of the most important things we need to do is it’s very important that our players sort of buy into the culture of what has helped us be successful here for a long, long time and that’s the intangibles that we play with, the work ethic that we have, the discipline that we play with, the toughness, the effort and people having a great sense of urgency about how important it is to do their job so that their unit — their team — has a chance to be successful,” Saban said. “And that means we have to play at a standard and it’s not ever really anybody else’s standard.
“It’s our standard. I think everybody’s gotta buy into that.”