31 July 2008
We want to create the kind of habits that are going to allow our players to perform at a high level of consistency - to be able to sustain that and play winning football.Then, he ran down the personnel situations. Before we get to that, let's quickly discuss "the 105" - a term Saban used frequently in the conference. "The 105" NCAA instutions are allowed to practice with 105 players during the fall camp. So, we might opt to leave a player out of camp and bring them back when school starts. This allows the maximum flexibility. To that end, Saban explained (for the first time I recall) what he means when he says that depth charts are "for organizational purposes only". Basically, Bama will practice with a split squad - 52 in one session, 53 in the other. One of those sessions will be for the "younger" players and the other will be for the more experienced. Within those sessions, there will be 2 teams of offense and 2 teams of defense. So, while a player may seem to be working with the second team, that may only be because we need to make sure that the squads are balanced so that we can have two offenses and two defenses in each session. And while that will usually have some bearing on a player's actual status - it may not. Personnel Issues Saban discussed players at length, not only during his opening comments, but also later during the question and answer session. First, as we noted earlier, Prince Hall will miss the first three games. Really, anything beyond one game may as well have been three. That means he'll miss Clemson, Tulane and Western Kentucky. Sure, it' be great if could kick some rust off before traveling to Arkansas, but getting younger players in game reps helps just as much. No real surprises here. Hall has been working with the team and is among the 105 who will practice. Will Oakley will miss the first three weeks of practice. He is not part of the 105 for fall camp, but will be when school starts. He'll continue to work on rehabing his stress fracture, and then probably play very sparingly after that. I'm at a loss as to why he continues, frankly. He has to know that he's not playing much (if at all) and it continues to cause him pain. The kid must be tenacious as hell - and I suppose I have to respect that. Patrick Crump has left the team for personal reasons. His high school coach Rush Propst (formerly of Hoover - now elsewhere after exhausting the patience of Hoover City Schools) took the opportunity to be in the news, and said that he understood "his heart wasn't in it". He goes on to all but call him a baby. No one except Crump and possibly Saban know what's really up here, so we'll leave it at personal reasons. Three signees have failed to qualify. Devonta Bolton and Brandon Lewis have enrolled in junior college. Reports indicate that's East MIssissippi Community College in Scooba, Mississippi - 72 miles from Tuscaloosa. Once again, Kerry Murphy has failed to qualify. He has appealed this decision, but barring a change of NCAA heart (unlikely), Saban indicated that Murphy should complete enough academic work to be eligible in January. Until this guy walks out on the field and isn't penalized when we snap the ball, I'm not believing a word of it. Jermaine Preyear is out for the fall. He has a high school shoulder injury that has continued to bother him this summer, and will not be on the team. Saban then confused and confounded the press. He said - within seconds of each other - that we would "medical him for the fall" and "in effect greyshirt for injury". Well, Coach, those are two diametrically opposed options. Either he redshirts and counts for this year's 25, or he greyshirts and counts for next year's. My guess is he's trying his best to keep the options open here. If Murphy defies the odds and his appeal is accepted, then we'll have a spot for him in the year's class. Otherwise, we can count Preyear for this year. Melvin Ray and Destin Hood are both trying their luck with Major League Baseball (as we knew). Saban said:
We wish those guys well. They know their opportunity still exists if they ever want to play college football.That leaves the door open for them to come back to college down the road, as other minor league "washouts" have done in the past - see Weinke, Chris, and Mauck, Matt. One final note in this department about the incoming linebackers. When asked which position the new linebackers would play, Saban giggled "linebacker." Then, he elaborated, mentioning only Jerrell Harris by name. He indicated that Harris would start outside, but "most" of the other guys woulc start inside. After determining who could play inside, Saban say that some may move back outside where they may be "more natural". But the first priority was to determine who could play inside. Saban went on to describe the differences (or lack thereof) in the two inside positions and the two outside positions. He indicated that the two outside backers were "70% similar" and that there was a lot of carryover between the two. In addition, to understand one inside backer position, you must "basically" understand the other. That means a player can relatively easily move between the two inside or outside backer positions. Good to know. Finally, Saban gave an update on Colin Peek. Apparently, Peek is part of the 105, but the NCAA has denied his hardship appeal to allow him to transfer from Georgia Tech without sitting out a year. At Tech, new coach Paul Johnson doesn't use the tight end, so Peek needed out. The NCAA cares not. There are rumors that Peek's family is suing the NCAA to allow him to play - Saban said that "what his family decides to do in pursuing it with the NCAA is strictly up to them." This is one of those cases for which the hardship transfer rule exists. It's lousy that the NCAA isn't allowing him to play. Peek has already taken a redshirt year, so he'll have one year to play remaining - 2009. The "New" Offense Saban then talked a bit about new offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, and for the first time I've heard, seemed to downplay the change. Saban, in his own words:
A new coordinator basically means we have a new play caller. It doesn't mean we have a new system. There are some differences in the offense, probably quality control type things we were able to improve on. Certainly the new enthusiasm, the new knowledge and experience that Jim McElwain brings as the offensive coordinator has certainly helped us grow and develop as an offensive team and do some things that I think may feauture our personnel a little bit better. But we're going to have to learn that about our team as well - especially the new faces that may be able to contribute on this team.In short, it seems much of the terminology is probably the same, and McElwain will concentrate more on some different things that make John Parker Wilson more successful. Shorter, more controlled passes and easier reads are things Saban has mentioned before. McElwain has used a lot more two tight end sets than we saw last year, and likes to use the backs as receivers (motioning out of the backfield) more than we saw with Major Applewhite's offense last year. But we're still going to see a good deal of Joe Pendry's offense that we saw last year. Just with a little different flair.