TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — On Saturday afternoon, Alabama football hosted its first scrimmage of fall camp in preparation for the 2022 season.
Under sunny skies and temperatures in the low 90s, the Crimson Tide held its scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium — the first time that the team had visited the stadium since A-Day back in April.
While the media did not have access to the scrimmage, Alabama head coach Nick Saban spoke with the media following the two-hour practice. When Saban stepped up to the podium, his opening statement aligned what he believes the players should take to heart from the day's event.
"So as first scrimmages go, I think the number one goal is you wanna evaluate who'll go out there and compete," Saban said. "I've talked about this many times before during practice — coaches are telling guys what to do — but for the first time, they're out there on the field. They have to be able to show that they are responsible and accountable to do their job, but we also have to evaluate how can they sustain their effort, do they have the mental energy to sustain the kind of toughness to overcome a bad play, a dropped ball, a missed assignment — and that's one of the things that I think we need to do better.
"We started out today with a lot of energy and as things moved along we weren't able to sustain it. Sometimes you've got to be able to regain that energy when things are going bad and things get difficult. We want everybody to be able to reach their full potential — do what they're capable of doing, challenge themselves to be able to do it — and this is a tough time. Camp is a tough time to do it."
Saban elaborated, explaining that fall camps are not as difficult as they used to be. In years past, Alabama hosted two-a-days, then two-one-twos, where two practices would be held on day, then one on the following day. Presently, the Crimson Tide hosts one practice every day.
Despite there not being as many practices as there were in previous years, Saban said that the principle of fall camp scrimmages remains the same: self-evaluation and focus.
"But I also think that players have to overcome and define what is really hard," Saban said. "And what's my mindset to sort of stay focused on the things that I need to do to get better, have positive energy and go about my work in a way where I can improve."
Saban went on to explain how to him, fall camp is an opportunity for players to sit back after scrimmages and self-assess themselves and give themselves feedback. Not just comparative to those players around them, but also for them to realize what they are lacking personally and what is keeping them from achieving their own personal full potential.
Following Saban's opening statement, he fielded questions from reporters. His first question concerned the offensive line — a position group that arguably has the most question marks heading into the 2022 season.
That being said, Saban seemed pleased with his first-string linemen following the scrimmage.
"It's really hard to evaluate but I thought the first offensive line was improved," Saban said. "I thought the second offensive line struggled, struggled in protection, struggled to run the ball. But I was encouraged by the running backs and some of the plays that they were able to make, some of the runs that they were able to run.
"So, I would say all in all I thought the first line made some improvement, I thought the second line struggled a little bit at times, but I think every unit had its ups and downs and I think that’s what I'm talking about when I talk about maintaining consistency."
On Wednesday, Saban revealed that sophomore wide receiver JoJo Earle would be out 6-8 weeks due to a Jones fracture in his foot. Earle was slated to be a solid contributor for the Crimson Tide this season, so his absence left reporters and fans wondering who would step up in his stead.
With just several weeks left to go before Alabama's season opener against Utah State on Sept. 3, Saban said that improving on the receivers' consistency is what they need to accomplish most before the season gets underway.
"We were inconsistent at receiver today," Saban said. "We made some really good plays. We dropped some balls. I think Kobe Prentice, probably of the young guys, I think he had like five catches. He was probably the guy that stood out the most of the young players. But each and every day, there's a different guy that shows that they have some ability to do some things in a really positive way.
"So I think if I was gonna evaluate the group, I would say we all need to play with more consistency. We got to get at quarterback really comfortable with the receivers that we're gonna play with in the spots they're going to play. That's got to be a goal for us in the coming weeks."
Alabama will take Sunday off before returning to practice on Monday. The team will then host practices all five weekdays before hosting its second scrimmage of fall camp next Saturday.