SPRING FOOTBALL UPDATE//Tide’s focus is on improving




The Crimson Tide held its fifth practice of the spring in full pads this past Monday afternoon. Even though Nick Saban says his team has made progress, he makes it clear that much more improvement is needed as Bama prepares for this Saturday’s scrimmage.

“I asked the players today to be honest with themselves on what they need to do, what we need to do, Saban said in the press conference. “How do we get where we want to go? The kind of effort we need. The kind of toughness we need to develop. The kind of preparation we need to have to develop the right habits so that we have more and more guys that can play winning football at their position. I think that takes a tremendous amount of discipline and focus to be able to play each and every play with the kind of effort, toughness and discipline to do your job that’s going to help us play winning football.

“Right now, we’re making too many mental errors. We have too many penalties. We have too much lack of focus, too much lack of attention to details. But we’re going to keep working with these guys, especially the young guys get the importance of doing the little things right, so that we have a better chance of improving as a unit when they’re in there, because we have more guys that are more complete players that are playing their position. So that will be the major focus this week in terms of what we need to accomplish so that we can go out there when we scrimmage on Saturday and have more guys that are confident in what they’re supposed to do and they can go out there and play fast and play the kind of football we want to play on both sides of the ball and on special teams. We got a ways to go to get that done, but we’re making progress.

“The one thing that you notice, and players that have a little maturity, have a little experience is that you give them the weekend off for Easter and they come back they don’t skip a beat. You see some of the younger guys on the team that you’re really trying to work with, they don’t seem to be able to retain the things that you work to get up to this point and you take a step back and now you’ve got to go try to take two steps forward. I think that’s maturity with young players. Experiences help them see what they need to do to work and focus and prepare better so that they know what to do when they go out there and get it done the way we need to get it done. That’s the focus on what we need to improve on.”



A few days into spring practice last year, Cooper Bateman was moved to wide receiver. He eventually returned to quarterback and spent last season as the backup to Coker. This spring, Bateman might be the early favorite to win the job.

“Cooper’s done a good job,” Saban said. “He obviously has the most knowledge and experience with the offense.

“There’s things that he needs to work on and that we need to work on with him so that he can go out there and play with the confidence and be the kind of leader and decision-maker that we need at that position to play winning football, and that’s what we’ll continue to focus on.”



By the end of last spring, it appeared that David Cornwell had a legitimate shot at winning the Tide’s QB job. But in August camp he fell behind Jake Coker and Cooper Bateman and never caught up.

He’s making another run at the job this spring.

“David’s having a good spring so far,” Saban said. “David has a really good arm. His arm talent is probably as good as anyone we have. His accuracy is good. He’s smart. Very bright guy.

“I think he’s got enough experience in the offense from having been around here for a while to have a really good understanding of it, and I think he’s made a lot of progress.

“The guy that wins the quarterback job will be the guy that wins over the team with his ability to play on a consistent basis, make the kind of choices and decisions, show the kind of leadership to affect other people.”



The Tide brought in three safeties in its 2015 recruiting class. Last season, Ronnie Harrison saw a significant amount of action at safety. Shawn Burgess-Becker played on special teams and got in a few plays at safety. Deionte Thompson spent the year redshirting as a receiver before switching back to safety.

“Ronnie played a lot last year,” Saban said. “He’s definitely ahead of the other two.”

Of Burgess-Becker and Thompson, Saban said, “They both have the ability to do certain things and really can be positive players on the team.

“But the big thing is learning what to do, how to do it, why it’s important do it that way, and to be able to go out there and play with confidence and execute it. That’s going to come from better focus, better preparation, better discipline, better carryover, and spending more time thinking about football when they’re not playing it, so that they get better at what they need to do.

“If those guys are going to make that kind of progress, that’s the kind of habits they need to develop and they’re only going to develop those kind of habits if they invest their time properly in doing those things.”



One defensive lineman expected to step up this spring is junior defensive end DaShawn Hand.

“Da’Shawn Hand has done a nice job,” Saban said. “He did a nice job when he got a chance to play last year. He’s doing a really good job this spring.

“With Jonathan Allen out, him and Dalvin (Tomlinson) are getting all of the reps with the ones. We’re not really rotating anybody else in there with those two guys.

“He’s made a tremendous amount of progress. He’s gotten bigger and stronger. He can still run. He’s still a good pass rusher. We’re trying to develop as an inside rusher as well for third downs. We’re pleased with the progress that he’s made and he probably would’ve been able to contribute even more than he did last year if he would’ve been given a little more opportunity.

“I think this is going to be a really productive year for him. He’s certainly had the right attitude about the things that he’s needs to do to develop and be that kind of player.”


Holcombe juggling football, baseball and school

Sophomore linebacker Keith Holcombe is pulling double duty this spring between playing baseball and practicing football. Plus, he’s a college student.

“I think it’s tough,” Saban says. “I don’t know how they do it. They (the baseball team) leave today and they’re gone until Sunday. I get concerned about a guy playing when he’s going to miss four days of school.

“We want him to play baseball (and) he wants to play baseball, but football players don’t have to miss a lot of school, because we play on Saturday, so seldom do we hardly miss anything. It takes a little getting used to for me for guys to do that.

“It makes it more difficult for him to balance what he needs to do in football, and he has a chance to be a great contributor next year on the football team. By not being there (when he travels with the baseball team) and doing some of the things in the (football) role that he fits into, it could affect his development to some degree. But whatever he misses, we will make every effort for him to make up so that he can get those reps so that he can get where he needs to be.”



“I think we have a lot more guys that have potential to play right now,” Saban said. “There’s a lot of guys that are in a developmental sort of stage.

“Lester Cotton had had a really good spring. He’s played left tackle and right tackle. (Korren) Kirven has done a really good job and he’s made a lot of progress. He’s having a really good spring so far.

“Ross (Pierschbacher) has done a good job at moving over to center.

“Cam Robinson (shoulder) is obviously not practicing. He’s doing individual drills, but is not doing any team drills. But he’s played enough around here that we think he’s going to be a pretty good left tackle.

“So I think the challenge is going to be with the guys that we have coming in and the experience that we have coming back, is getting the best five guys at the best positions that we can. So how we do that is going to be a little bit of a work in progress. But the faster we can do it, probably the better off we are.

“I think what we’re trying to do right now is giving everybody a lot of turns, so that we can make a good decision about who we want to invest time in for the future to get the best five guys in the best spots for us to have the best offensive line in the fall.”



One of the newcomers expected to contribute next season is JUCO offensive tackle Charles Baldwin. Baldwin is learning this spring what it takes to make the transition from junior college to Alabama.

Baldwin has worked at left and right tackle.

“He’s a very good athlete,” Saban said. “He’s got a lot of ability. He’s got a lot to learn. He’s got a long way to go. We’re going to continue to work with him to get him to do the things right, to get him to buy into doing things the way we need him to do them so that he can have success here. That might take some time, but we have a lot of patience and we’ve got a lot of people around here that are willing to see what we can make work with him.”



Rising junior left tackle Cam Robinson, who continues to recover from off-season shoulder surgery, is sitting out of all contact work. But Robinson still has an important role this spring of helping the younger offensive linemen in practices.


“He definitely has leadership qualities,” Saban said. “He’s got the sort of alpha dog personality that you really like in a leader. Some guys are willing to take that responsibility. He seems to be doing that.”


Saban said that Robinson’s shoulder was mending well.


“I think with Cam, he heals and he always feels like he can do more than what the docs are allowing him to do right now,” Saban said. “We’re certainly going to make the decision based on the medical staff. We’re not going to push him this spring, so that we can get him ready for the summer and the fall.


“I’m pleased with the way he’s responded to this in the role that he’s taken in trying to help the other players and set an example for them and be a good leader.”







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