Nick Saban downplays position shifts

Nick Saban downplays position shifts

March 17th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Alabama wide receiver Kenny Bell (7) and defensive back Deion Belue (13) run a drill during spring NCAA college football practice Saturday, March 16, 2013, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Alabama opened spring football practice Saturday afternoon with several players working at different positions, but coach Nick Saban did not see that as cause for excitement.

Receivers Christion Jones and Cyrus Jones were working in the secondary during the segment that was open to the media, as was running back Dee Hart. Xzavier Dickson, an outside linebacker last year who racked up 33 tackles, five tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble, was practicing on the defensive front.

"These are not permanent moves," Saban said afterward. "None of them. They are experiments. I don't even know if we're looking to make permanent changes."

Saban said that Christion Jones is splitting time between offense and defense. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound junior tallied 27 receptions for 368 yards and four touchdowns last season, and the only Tide receivers with more catches were Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood.

Cyrus Jones had four catches for 51 yards in 11 games, while Hart had 88 yards in 21 carries in five games before being lost for the season.

Saban said he is looking to create some capable replacements should a position get ravaged because of injury. He cited a former receiver at LSU, Michael Clayton, who practiced at safety one spring and wound up having to play some defense later that year.

"It gives you a little bit of an insurance policy when a guy could make that transition because he's learned it at some point in time before," he said.

The Crimson Tide went through a two-hour workout in shorts and helmets on the Thomas-Drew Practice Fields. It was the first practice for nine early enrollees, including running back Derrick Henry and tight end O.J. Howard.

"We were talking on the sideline how Henry looked like a bigger version of Trent Richardson," linebacker C.J. Mosley told reporters.

It was also the first practice for new receivers coach Billy Napier, new offensive line coach Mario Cristobal and new secondary coach Greg Brown. Napier is a former Murray County quarterback who spent the 2011 season as a quality control assistant in Tuscaloosa.

Saban was asked by a reporter after practice about redshirt freshman kicker Adam Griffith, who played at Calhoun High. Griffith sat out last season while Jeremy Shelley handled the short kicks and Cade Foster the long ones for the BCS champions.

"He's certainly showed that he has a lot of potential," Saban said, "and there is certainly an opportunity that has been created by Jeremy leaving."

Alabama will hold its second spring practice Monday.