TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The story centered around the crowd last season. More than 100,000 entered or surrounded the stadium to watch an Alabama team that eventually finished 7-6, never anticipating an SEC title or BCS bowl game. They wanted to see Nick Saban and his new team play at Bryant-Denny Stadium for the first time.
This year is different. A 7-6 season is unacceptable in Saban’s second year. Alabama fans need a reason to keep believing. So, Saban, what’s the difference between last year’s team at spring practice and this year’s squad at A-Day, won by the Crimson?
Saban said the personality of the 2008 Alabama football team is different. He said the Tide needed to develop more receivers this season, made obvious by Alabama’s incessant passing during the A-Day game. But there are other differences.
“There’s more players on our team right now that understand the expectations of how important it is to do their job and the level we want that job done on a consistent basis,” Saban said. “That’s a positive.
“The other thing is we have more players who understand the importance of how they represent the organization and how we want our team represented in terms of what we do and how we do it. And that’s on and off the field. I think we’ve gotten a better understanding of that. For the first time, I’ve seen leadership emerge this spring from some of our players to effect other players. That’s not something we’ve had a lot of here.”
Johns adjusting at LB
Former running back Jimmy Johns, now a linebacker, said he enjoys playing the weakside but isn’t ready to compete at the strongside linebacker position yet.
“I like the weakside a lot because you can move lateral and you’re free a lot,” he said. “At strongside, it’s a new position for me so I haven’t really learned it yet.”
Saban said he was pleased with Johns at linebacker, which appears to be the permanent position for the 6-foot-2 senior.
“I think the most important thing is Jimmy developing knowledge and experience to know what to do and being confident and doing it and eliminating mental errors so he can play fast,” he said. “When he plays fast, he plays pretty well. He is a thumper. He will hit you. That’s an asset for him. A lot of times he knows what to do but he has a tough time applying it on the field in terms of recognition.”
Johns said he still make take a redshirt this season.
With DJ Hall, Matt Caddell and Keith Brown departed from the program, the Tide looked for its tight ends at Saturday’s spring game.
Nick Walker led the White team with five catches for 69 yards. Colin Peek hauled in a 26-yard reception and Travis McCall caught two passes for 39 yards.
“We flexed out the tight ends all spring,” Saban said. “Last year, we played a lot of four wideouts. But one of the strengths on our team were the wide receivers that we had so we wanted to utilize their talents. This spring we didn’t have the numbers or the quality of the experience at that position, so we have utilized the tight end.”
What Saban wants
Saban said he watched the eyes of his defensive players during the scrimmage, especially with 78,200 in the stands.
“We’ve got enough show dogs around here,” Saban said. “We’re looking for some hunting dogs. That’s the look we’re looking for. We’ve got enough of them worried about how their britches fit and how they look out there and how their hair-do is. We need some guys that want to go dominate the guy they’re playing and get some hat speed and get after them.”