09 October 2008
Alabama held its final practice before taking a three day break to enjoy the off weekend. In full pads for the second consecutive day the Tide split today's practice between the fundamental work that we've seen for the last two days and Ole Miss specific work.
The injury news still appears to be pretty good. Andre Smith was held out again with the combination of the elbow injury and an undisclosed illness. There's nothing to be alarmed about here. If Alabama played on Saturday Big Dre would be in uniform and on the field.
Everyone else participated, though some guys were held out of drills that they would normally participate in, for the purpose of giving them some rest. It's been a running theme in these practice reports to talk about Alabama's injury luck, and since it has been good luck to do so, I'm gonna keep on talking about it. Yes, I am also knocking on every wooden object that I can find.
The fact that Alabama is set to begin the second half of its season with every single player available is staggering. Yes, there have been a few guys miss time in games, most notably Andre Smith and Marlon Davis against Tulane and Mike McCoy against Kentucky. But when the Tide has faced its toughest opponents, everyone has been on the field. For a team that is not blessed with tremendous depth, keeping everyone healthy is vital, and Bama's been very fortunate so far.... again knocking on anything and everything wooden within reach.
Special teams has been a focus all week as Bama has gone back to fundamentals. With so many young guys working their way onto special teams units, having the opportunity to go back and teach basic lane assignments is great. Each team handles things differently from a return standpoint, but the basics of sticking to your coverage lane do not change. Kick and punt return coverage was not a problem against Kentucky, though the Tide had other special teams gaffes against the Wildcats. This week has seen a lot more work on fixing those problems than you will typically see in a game week.
Watching this coaching staff (Nick Saban in particular) work is incredible. The organizational detail is beyond anything I've seen before, so the level of efficiency is off the charts. To see them working in an off week is also very interesting. Seeing how they manage the players, making sure to give the right guys rest and the right guys more reps has made it easy to see why this staff is successful.
With Ole Miss looming there was an introduction to the game week scheming, though it was light. Bama will have to prepare to stop a very fast and active pass rush, most specifically from Greg Hardy. True freshman Michael Williams has been given the task of emulating him in practice next week. This gives Michael a chance to make a huge contribution to the team, despite not playing this season. The use of guys in certain roles on the scout team has been masterful, allowing talented guys to represent talented guys. It also gives the coaches a chance to see what some people are capable of.
The Tide players will work out tomorrow morning before heading off to whatever they have individually planned for the off weekend. Don't be too surprised to see some guys stay in Tuscaloosa, but for the most part everyone is expected to relax and enjoy the only real down time that they will have until late November. Considering the start to the season these guys have absolutely earned it.