TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — As most people reading this know, there is no Alabama football game this weekend. It's Alabama's annual bye weekend before the LSU game. While the start time for that LSU game on Nov. 6 is still up in the air, there is no start time for this Saturday because there is no Alabama game.
So since Alabama's "off" on Saturday, does that mean that they are "off" during the week? Not quite.
"We’re not going to take it as a break," said Alabama tight end Cameron Latu. "Like, we’re not playing an opponent this week, so we’re just going to focus on building what we need to work on offensively and defensively, but offensively we’re gonna come together as a unit and just focus on that.”
Alabama will practice as a team three times this week (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday), and for the Crimson Tide players this week is about two things: rest and improvement.
Left tackle Evan Neal said the bye week is extremely beneficial from both a mental and physical rest standpoint.
"It gives you a chance to rest your mind, rest your body," Neal said. "It also gives you a chance to work on the things you want to fine tune and get better at— and just overall take that time to relax, regroup, but also get better as a team."
When asked what are some of the things the team needs to get better at, Neal said they need to continue to work on finishing.
"I feel like finishing is a big thing for us, and that's definitely been an emphasis that's been pushed by leadership, especially this week," Neal said. "You know, we're viewing this week as a work week but also taking time to recover ourselves. But the work comes first, so I feel like just finishing."
Even though Alabama did a better job of finishing the game on a strong note against Tennessee, Latu agreed that it's something that the Crimson Tide needs to work on this week.
"But also pre-snap penalties," Latu said. "You know, things that we can control. That’s what we need to work on."
The Alabama offensive players want to work on finishing strong, but the defense wants to improve mental intensity, particularly in the secondary after being burned over the top a few times against Tennessee.
Sophomore safety Malachi Moore said the defensive backs have to have better focus during the game to recognize what situations they're in whether that be down and distance or time on the clock or lined up in the correct coverage. That's why according to Moore, there's not just one thing the defense is looking to get better at this week.
"I would say all aspects," Moore said. "I think we have to get better at open-field tackles and things like that and communicating and not having mental errors. I think that’s what’s really hurting us right now."
It's also fall break for the University of Alabama this weekend, so there are no classes for any students on Thursday or Friday. So this week, Crimson Tide players get a lessened practice schedule, two fewer days of class and one less day of media appearances.
Overall, it's not a ton different from other weeks of the football season, but eight games into a grueling SEC schedule, the bye week gives the student athletes a much-needed break to recover and regroup before entering the final stretch of the regular season.
After the last practice of the week on Thursday, the players will get a little bit of time off over the weekend before it's time to jump right back on the grind and begin preparations on Monday for a new game and opponent.