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Crimson Tide Photos / Alabama senior running back Najee Harris and his Crimson Tide teammates will have their first practice of 2020 on Monday, with all 15 of their spring workouts in Tuscaloosa having been scratched by the coronavirus outbreak.

Talk about giving it the ol' college try.

The Southeastern Conference is scheduled to begin preseason football practices Monday amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has already resulted in several conferences canceling their 2020 seasons, including the Big Ten and the Pac-12. Even the SEC, which is electing to press forward along with the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12, postponed the start of practices, which were originally set to commence Aug. 7.

"We all want to play," Alabama senior running back Najee Harris said, "but we're all going into fall camp wondering if we're going to play or not."

Given that eight of the 14 SEC institutions never conducted their first spring workout, it will seem like an eternity for many players throughout the league since their last practice. It may also seem like an eternity until Sept. 26, which is when the SEC is targeted to begin its 10-game schedule consisting solely of league contests.

The league will release its schedule at 7 p.m. Monday on the SEC Network.

This weekend provided more hope of the SEC safely moving forward when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued emergency authorization to allow the public widespread use of SalivaDirect, a saliva-based coronavirus test funded by the NBA and developed at Yale University. Yet it also provided another round of reality, as Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason revealed senior inside linebacker Dimitri Moore, the team's leading tackler last season with 99 stops, decided to opt out along with three Commodores offensive linemen — Bryce Bailey, Cole Clemens and Jonathan Stewart — who had multiple starts a year ago.

There was also Auburn junior receiver Anthony Schwartz, who expressed bewilderment on Twitter by posting: "Y'all said it's safer on campus, but I've seen crowds of people, and none of them are wearing masks. Our coaches and medical staff have been doing their absolute best to keep us safe, and I don't want them to be blamed for whatever happens going forward."

SEC teams will begin their camps by conducting four practices a week and will have three off days under the adjusted schedule mandated by the league office. Most programs are not allowing media to attend even portions of practice, and interviews after workouts are having to transpire via Zoom. Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt is scheduled to address the media in that manner after Monday's opening practice.

Harris and Alabama redshirt junior quarterback Mac Jones participated in a Zoom meeting Friday, discussing the most unusual and uncertain workouts they ever will have experienced.

"I've played football since I was 5 years old, and a lot of my teammates are the same way," Jones said. "We want to play football. That's why we came here. We want to play football, and we want to win a national championship. We want to see our players go on to the NFL. That's what we want to do.

"Every day we take risks. This might be a little risky, but we feel comfortable and we feel safe."

Jones explained that Alabama players are being tested three times a week and that speakers have been brought in to discuss the virus. Harris added that there are air humidifiers throughout the athletic facilities and "hand sanitizer is everywhere you look."

Crimson Tide players aren't intimidated by much in a program that has won five national championships under coach Nick Saban, but they fear veering from the safety protocols that have been put in place.

"If you're with somebody who has the virus and you don't have your mask, you're going to be out for 14 days," Jones said. "If you get the virus, you're going to be out for nine days. Either way, you've got to be really safe.

"We really don't know what's going to happen this year. Some people could miss games. Everyone has to be ready to roll."

 

Tide commitments

Alabama picked up its 17th and 18th football commitments for the current recruiting cycle this weekend, strengthening the nation's No. 2 class in the 247Sports.com rankings behind Ohio State.

Providing nonbinding pledges to the Tide were defensive Monkell Goodwine (6-foot-4, 260) of Fort Washington, Maryland, and cornerback Kyhree Jackson (6-3, 197) of East Mississippi Community College. Goodwin is the No. 9 strongside defensive end nationally and No. 112 prospect overall, according to 247Sports, while Jackson is the No. 5 junior-college prospect.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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