SEC: Alabama practice 090813

So long Tuscaloosa

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
5:17
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Enjoyed my time in Tuscaloosa. It was a little on the hot side, but where isn't it hot in the South right now?

Every time I'm in Tuscaloosa, I'm reminded of what a gorgeous campus Alabama has. It truly is one of those places that looks like a postcard. I also challenge you to go into any eatery/grill and bar in Tuscaloosa and not find a portrait of Bear Bryant somewhere on the wall.

The Waysider Restaurant, which was a favorite of Bryant's and a great breakfast stop, is like a museum with all of its portraits and pictures on the wall. The food is great, too, but it's worth the visit just to check out all the history in the place.

As for a few final thoughts on the the Alabama football team, I'll start with the young talent in the program. It's staggering. Guys like Dont'a Hightower, Marcell Dareus, Courtney Upshaw, Mark Barron, Brandon Gibson and Jerrell Harris -- all sophomores -- are poised to take big steps this season. Hightower was a full-time starter last season.

Of course, that's not even counting Julio Jones and Mark Ingram from the sophomore class. And in this freshman class, Alabama fans are going to love defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick. He's a blur coming out of his breaks and has that swagger about him all the great defensive backs possess.

Nick Saban's stayed on Kirkpatrick pretty good through the first part of camp, but that's because Saban knows what kind of ability he has.

I'd be shocked if Kirkpatrick doesn't help the Crimson Tide in the secondary this season.

It sounds like the immediate future of freshman D.J. Fluker might be at right tackle. That's not to say he won't be a left tackle at some point. He's just a massive individual and probably still needs to shed a few pounds.

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Healthier Julio ready to take off in 2009

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
3:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN..com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama fans can't wait to see a healthy Julio Jones this season.

Neither can Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy.

 
  Marvin Gentry/US Presswire
  Julio Jones led Alabama with 58 catches for 924 yards and four touchdowns last season.

"We all knew he was banged up at the end of last season," McElroy said. "The first couple of games, we saw the Julio that is freakish. The one that breaks a tackle, stiff-arms a guy and there he goes."

Jones suffered a sports hernia in the Georgia game, cracked his left wrist in the Tennessee game and aggravated an injury to his left shoulder against the Vols that he hurt that week in practice.

"My teammates weren't going to quit on me, so why would I quit on them?" said Jones, conceding that he wasn't close to 100 percent toward the end of the season.

And for that matter, he wasn't 100 percent to start the season, either.

Jones said he came into the season nagged by a painful turf toe injury that limited him. He's had a special shoe made for him by Nike and hasn't had any more problems.

The hernia, wrist and shoulder injuries have also cleared up, which is bad news for the rest of the SEC.

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Saban thinks Tide got raw deal in textbook case

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
1:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- As Alabama awaits the results of its appeal on the penalties handed down by the NCAA in the textbook case, Nick Saban doesn't mind saying that he thinks the Crimson Tide got a raw deal.

The football team was forced to vacate 21 victories during the 2005-2007 seasons and placed on three years' probation. The university isn't contesting the probationary period, but is asking that the 21 wins be restored.

Saban's disappointment with the NCAA's decision to strip the Crimson Tide of five wins in 2007 revolves around the fact that the school took immediate action when it discovered that there was a problem. Starters Antoine Caldwell, Marlon Davis and Glen Coffee were suspended for four games along with Chris Rogers and Marquis Johnson.

"The institution did it right. This is not something we got turned in for by somebody else. We self-reported everything and gave every bit of information to the NCAA," said Saban, whose first season at Alabama was 2007.

"To me, if you're going to get treated that way, there should be something out there that says, 'When you self-report it and do things right and are pro-active in handling your situation and are giving the NCAA all the information, there should be some kind of established parameters as long as a competitive advantage wasn't gained -- cheating in recruiting, extra benefits, academic fraud.' All those things are different, completely different. But you didn't have a competitive advantage in this case."

In other words, Saban's having a hard time seeing how the punishment fits the crime, especially given the fact that Alabama suspended the five offending players for the number of games the NCAA said they should be suspended.

He simply doesn't get how a retro penalty of vacating wins would be tacked on when the Crimson Tide acted so decisively in 2007.

"We didn't win any games around here because of what happened," Saban said. "Nobody made any money on those books. All the books were turned in. If you got a book for your buddy or your girlfriend, they all got turned in at the end because that was the book policy here at the time. There was no competitive advantage gained.

"Now, if you had a guy on your team taking steroids, just as an example, and that created a competitive advantage because he was bigger and faster, you wouldn't go back and say every game you won because that guy was playing that you were going to take away the win.

"You suspend him moving forward, and that's his punishment. That's his penalty ... and we did that."

Kicking it with Alabama's Nick Saban, Part II

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Here's the second part of my Q&A with Alabama coach Nick Saban.

It's obvious in listening to him talk about his father, Nick Sr., what a huge influence he was on the younger Saban's life and why he is the way he is today.

The values the coach preaches in his program -- self-determination, being accountable, being disciplined, doing a day's work for a day's pay -- come straight from his father.

 
  Marvin Gentry/US Presswire
  As a kid growing up, Nick Saban was an Alabama football fan.

Saban's father died in 1973 of a heart attack. He was only 46. Saban was just starting his coaching career at the time as a graduate assistant on the Kent State staff under Don James.

How often do you find yourself thinking about your father and the influence he had on your life?

Nick Saban: He was a big influence on a lot of people's lives because he started Pop Warner football in our area [Fairmont, W. Va.]. He bought a school bus and went and picked up kids. Everybody lived in a coal mining town, so we hitch-hiked about every place we went. All of us did. We didn't have cars. You kind of knew who was going to go by. It was a rural area. You knew who would pick you up and who wouldn't. A lot of kids didn't participate because they couldn't get to practice. There are a lot of things I took from my dad -- work ethic, responsibility, compassion for other people. The lessons I learned working at that Gulf service station that my dad owned ... I still relay a lot of those lessons to our players now.

What were some of the most enduring lessons?

NS: I was working at the station when I was about 15 years old. I remember being in a bad mood because I had a fight with my girlfriend, and we broke up. So I wasn't treating the customers very well and talked back to a customer. In those days, everything was full service. You cleaned the windows, checked the oil, put the gas in, said 'please' and 'thank you,' got the change and gave it back to them. I was a little curt that day. My dad said, 'Your mom told me you broke up with your girlfriend. You're a little upset about that?' I said, 'Yeah, I'm a little upset about that.' He said, 'Let me just tell you this: When you let one bad thing that happens to you affect other things, sometimes you create more negative consequences than you like. You're about ready to cause a couple more. You don't have a girlfriend right now. Pretty soon, you're not going to have a job, because I'm going to fire you. And if I fire you, I'm going to whip your ass.' It was that kind of stuff from him all the time.

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Kicking it with Alabama's Nick Saban, Part I

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
8:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- He's returned Alabama football to national prominence quicker than anybody could have imagined.

Two seasons, to be exact.

A year ago, Nick Saban guided the Crimson Tide to the doorstep of the BCS National Championship Game thanks to a 12-0 start.

The finish to the season was a downer, but the message had nonetheless been sent.

 
  AP Photo/Tuscaloosa News, Dusty Compton
  Expectations are once again high for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.

They start this season ranked No. 5 in the coaches' poll, and you'd swear there's an extra pep these days in the Denny Chimes' bells as they reverberate across the Quad on the Alabama campus.

Not since Bear Bryant was dominating college football in the 1960s and 1970s and on his way to becoming an icon in this state has there been a more indomitable presence on Alabama's campus than Saban.

He won't say it, won't even hint at it. He's too process-oriented to do so. But it's pretty obvious that the Crimson Tide are back.

All the way back?

We'll find out more this season, but I had a chance to sit down with Saban on Wednesday in his office, and here's Part I of a wide-ranging Q&A with him:

How close are you to having the entire infrastructure in place here the way you want it?

Nick Saban: Everybody runs a program like they see fit. We have an idea of how we've done it in the past, and I'm not talking about the football part of it. I'm talking about the overall program. We do a lot of personal development stuff. We have three or four outside entities that really contribute to that in a positive way. Those have all been added in the last couple of years. They've made a tremendous impact on helping the players be successful and developing who they are, which is a big part of what we try to do. From an academic standpoint, we've done a really good job of graduating our players. We're tops in the league and probably moving upward from that. We had the most freshman Honor Roll guys (12), which was more than anybody in the league. From a recruiting standpoint, we have good people in place who do a good job, not only the coaching staff, but the support staff here who help internally and with the organization of recruiting. The coaching staff is really good and complements each other really well. The strength and conditioning part of the program is outstanding. The medical part of the program is outstanding. The one final piece, because we had a problem with it last year in the bowl game, is doing a better job in agent education. We hired Joe Mendez to come in here and help us with that. He's another outside entity. When you talk about infrastructure from a program standpoint, I feel like we've made tremendous progress.

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