- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It might be the bye week for Alabama, but don't look for the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide to take any time off while class is in session. With no game scheduled for Saturday, it just means the coaching staff can prepare for several weeks in advance.
Next up on the docket? Five straight SEC opponents.
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban is preparing for them all, starting with a pair of opponents on Tuesday, the first day Alabama practiced since beating Ole Miss 33-14 on Saturday night.
"There's a lot of catching up to do," Saban said. "For us to practice on the teams we're playing down the road, we have to spend time preparing for that, too. Whatever team it is that we're trying to prepare for that particular day -- we worked on two different teams today -- so you have to spend a significant amount of time trying to get ready for that, too."
Senior linebacker Nico Johnson hinted at who Alabama might prepare for this week: Missouri, LSU, Tennessee. But the main focus, he said, will be the next opponent on the schedule.
"We still have a game the following week, we still have to take a step forward not backward," Johnson said. "We still need to improve. I think that's the most important."
Johnson said that with so many missed tackles against Ole Miss, Saban felt the team ought to return to the basics this week.
"The deeper you go into the season, the more the technique goes away," Johnson said. "This bye week is important to get back to the fundamentals."
With the focus back on the basics, practice has taken on the feel of fall camp, said sophomore receiver Christion Jones.
"We flew around today and did a great job focusing on the fundamentals, focusing on the details, getting back to the basics, coming back toward our camp practices," he said.
Given the rash of injuries suffered against Ole Miss, highlighted by season-ending injuries to Dee Hart and DeAndrew White, the bye week couldn't have come at a better time. But the wear and tear might be more mentally exhausting that physically.
"Now's not the time to sit back and relax. It's sort of get back mentally and let our guys rest, guys who are banged up, get players ready for next week," Jones said. "I think now we just take the time out to refocus on, like I said, our fundamentals and get back to how we started to get to this point."
But the focus on the little things will end when players get the weekend off to relax and unwind. Johnson said some will spend the time doing something they never get to do on Saturdays -- watch some football.
"It’ll be the first time when we really get to sit back and watch somebody else besides ourself," he explained. "We’re so busy on Friday with meetings, and we play on Saturday ... I think we will sit back and relax and try to watch some of our opponents, like South Carolina and LSU or whoever they play and just try to enjoy our time off."
Seeking fewer fumbles
Compared to the first three weeks of the season, Alabama's been positively careless with the football. Of the Tide's 10 total fumbles, seven have come in the past two games.
The fact has not been lost on UA's detail-oriented coach.
"If we have one fumble, I'm concerned," he said. "The ball has been on the ground too many times and that's one of the things we worked on last week and it was on the ground a couple of times in the last game. It's something we need to continue to work on. Ball security is very, very important."
Added Jones: "That’s our main focus on offense. From the center to the quarterback to the receivers to the running backs to handing the referee the ball you want to have ball security no matter what you're doing."
"As a football player," Saban said of Barrett Jones, "I don't know I've been around, maybe one other guy that can play every position on the offensive line and do it efficiently and effectively and win awards for all of those and still be as good of a person, as humble of a person, have as much humility as you could ever ask anyone and be very thoughtful of others. Just not very many people like him. He's special."
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