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Saturday, April 6, 2013
Saban decries effort at first scrimmage

By Alex Scarborough


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Nick Saban was none too pleased with the overall effort of his team on Saturday. Alabama scrimmaged for the first time all spring under a brilliant blue sky, but the picturesque afternoon would only serve as a misleading backdrop for the Crimson Tide.

"We've got a lot of work to do," the 61-year-old head coach said. "We've got a lot of work to do with a lot of guys."

Whatever the excuse -- warmer weather than usual, a lack of conditioning, etc. -- Saban wasn't having it. The mental toughness, he said, wasn't there.

"We need from enough guys to sustain things, pay attention to detail, and do the little things right so we can execute better as a team," he said. "We can make excuses for them in terms of coming back, having three practices after spring break, but if everybody would have done what they were supposed to do over spring break, I don't think we would have some of the issues that we have right now. I'm not necessarily pleased with enough guys."

Saban wouldn't point out exactly who had incurred his wrath, and without statistics from the scrimmage, it's hard to guess who he was targeting with his comments. It is safe to say, though, that his frustration began the day Alabama returned from spring break on Monday. His players minds were stuck somewhere on a beach instead of where they needed to be on the practice field.

O.J. Howard
O.J. Howard, along with fellow true freshman Derrick Henry, drew praise from Nick Saban after Alabama's first spring scrimmage.
Saturday marked the first day of full contact for most players. There were some good hits out there, Saban said, and there were flashes of the aggressiveness he'd like to see. But that all came with the caveat: good wasn't good enough.

"I just didn’t think the overall intensity of the scrimmage was what I’d like for it to be," he reiterated. "I think a lot of that is uncertainty. We have a lot of players who haven’t been in this situation before. I think we’ll make a big improvement as a team from scrimmage 1 to scrimmage 2."

Some rookies did catch Saban's eye, in particular running back Derrick Henry and tight end/H-back O.J. Howard.

"Henry, obviously, is a guy that has flashed at times of being a big, fast, strong guy," Saban said of Alabama's highest-rated signee in the 2013 class. The limited stats given to the media indicated that Henry ran the ball 12 times for 52 yards in the scrimmage. "He made a few plays today. Certainly is a guy that can help us in some areas of our team next year."

As far as Howard, Saban said the talented freshman needs to get better in the little parts of the game, in particular blocking.

"I think O.J. Howard is very athletic and a very good pass receiver," Saban said.

"Definitely needs to work on blocking and that type of thing -- which he didn’t do much in high school. So it’s what you would expect a guy to have to do. I think everybody else is sort of where we think they would be. We just need to work hard to get them where they need to be."

For more news and notes from Saturday's scrimmage, including full statistics, check inside The Tusk.