Alabama held Fan Day festivities Sunday at Bryant-Denny Stadium, with Crimson Tide supporters getting to watch their two-time defending national champions practice for two hours before meeting them in the end zone for autographs.
Sunday was also the lone opportunity for offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to speak to the media, a policy head coach Nick Saban has maintained the past several years. The next media availability for Nussmeier and Smart would occur if the Crimson Tide reached the Southeastern Conference championship, which has open locker rooms after the game.
“Every year presents new challenges, and we’re looking forward to these challenges,” Smart said of a defense that returns seven starters from a unit that led the nation in total defense, rushing defense and scoring defense. “I think we’ve got a very energetic group of players who are eager to learn.”
Smart has started his seventh consecutive season at Alabama and his ninth in a row with Saban. He is one of two assistants to work under Saban in Tuscaloosa since 2007, with running backs coach Burton Burns being the other.
Alabama has consistently ranked among the top defenses nationally since 2008 and led the nation in the four major categories in 2011.
“Some of the best defensive coordinators have been at places for a very long time, and I don’t think that’s really abnormal,” Saban said. “Kirby has done a fantastic job here, and the way we’ve played defense the last five years is sort of the proof in the pudding. I don’t think those things happen by accident. They happen for a reason.
“His energy and enthusiasm have always been at a high level, and he has been able to sustain that with his players. I think he has tremendous potential in the future to be a very, very good head coach.”
Nussmeier is in his second season after replacing Jim McElwain, who left to take over Colorado State immediately after Alabama’s 21-0 win over LSU that decided the 2011 BCS title. In his first year with the Tide, Nussmeier led an offense that set school records in yards (6,237) and points (542).
The Crimson Tide scored 40 or more points eight times last season, emptying the benches on most of those occasions to avoid inflicting additional damage.
“I think any time you bring somebody on the staff who’s new, people think it’s going to be a big-time adjustment,” Saban said. “Doug brought new energy and enthusiasm and new ideas, and I thought he did a really good job from a transition standpoint of not making so many changes that it made it difficult on everyone else.”
Alabama has three new assistants this season — secondary coach Greg Brown, offensive line coach Mario Cristobal and receivers coach Billy Napier. A former Murray County quarterback, Napier worked last year under McElwain.
When asked about his successful staffs in recent seasons, Saban said, “We want people here to do it the way we do it. That’s a big part of the fit.”
Redshirt sophomore LaMichael Fanning played eight games on the defensive front last season but has started camp practicing at tight end. … Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Caleb Gulledge and true freshman defensive lineman Darius Paige have been disqualified medically to play. … Redshirt sophomore tight end Malcolm Faciane has been suspended for undisclosed rules violations.
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