published Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Alabama practices for first time since Iron Bowl heartbreak

  • photo
    Alabama coach Nick Saban gives instructions during practice Tuesday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama plays Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Alabama's football team worked indoors Tuesday in the first practice since the Crimson Tide were stunned by rival Auburn on Nov. 30.

A lot has happened since then.

Coach Nick Saban was speculated for the same position at Texas before agreeing to a new contract that will pay him at least $7 million annually. The 62-year-old became a grandfather for the first time, and former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin showed up in Tuscaloosa to provide some offensive pointers.

The No. 3 Crimson Tide (11-1) practiced for two hours as preparation began for their Sugar Bowl date with No. 11 Oklahoma.

"I think we have a great opportunity against a really good team to prove that we are a good football team," Saban said in a news conference Tuesday night. "I think the seniors here have done such a great job that it would really be a shame if our entire team didn't try to finish the season the right way."

Saban was at the podium for 15 minutes and didn't receive a single question regarding the Sooners. When asked about Kiffin, who coached the Volunteers in 2009 and was fired earlier this season as Southern Cal's coach, Saban expressed surprise that the visit had received so much attention.

"Just about every year we have coaches come in and do what we call professional development type things," he said. "You exchange ideas. Oklahoma's staff has been here before when we've had bowl practice.

"Lane is a really good offensive coach, and I've always had a lot of respect for him."

Saban's face lit up when asked about Sunday's arrival of his grandchild, and he admitted he was already missing his "little booger."

The smile disappeared just as quickly when Saban was asked about his reaction to the situation at Texas.

"I think I've already made a reaction to that," he said, adding that there were "no talks" with any Longhorns officials.

Alabama will play in the Sugar Bowl without senior right guard Anthony Steen, who recently underwent shoulder surgery after playing with soreness the second half of the season. Replacing Steen could be senior Kellen Williams or freshman Grant Hill, and coaches could also move either Ryan Kelly or Chad Lindsay from center.

The Crimson Tide will hold seven on-campus practices before breaking for Christmas next Monday. Saban said the first four workouts will be used for fundamentals, and then the attention will turn to Oklahoma.

Alabama whipped LSU 21-0 in New Orleans to win the 2011 BCS championship, but this will be the Crimson Tide's first Sugar Bowl since the 2008 season, when they were surprised by Utah after having their undefeated season snapped by Florida in the SEC title game.

"We've had the crisis, and we'll see how we react to it," Saban said in reference to the Tide's last-play loss in the Iron Bowl.

Before Alabama practiced Tuesday, senior linebacker C.J. Mosley and junior tackle Cyrus Kouandjio were named first-team All-Americans by The Associated Press.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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