"There's a standard that we need to do it to and everybody needs to buy into that standard because spring practice is like a project, man," said Saban after a practice session earlier in the spring. "It's like building a house. We're building a new team, and it's got a beginning. There's a process of things you have to do to build that, and then spring practice will end and then we'll have another phase when the summer comes. Where will you take yourself to become a complete player is what I ask the players. What kind of effort, what kind of toughness and what kind of mental energy and intensity are you going to have? What kind of sense of urgency are you going to have to do it right now? That's going to help you become a smart and intelligent player which is going to help us be a better team."
Of course, all of the work by the defending national champions for the rest of this month will culminate with the annual public scrimmage that is the A-Day Game. It will serve as the 15th and final practice of the spring season for this edition of the Crimson Tide.
The game, which has become a must-see event during the tenure of Saban at the Capstone, is set for this Saturday, April 16 at 2 p.m. at Bryant-Denny Stadium. A-Day is once again free to the public, and the game will be televised by ESPN. Last year's game drew a crowd of 65,175.
Fans attending the game will obviously see a much different looking Alabama team in several areas, as many key contributors to the 2015 Crimson Tide title team, such as tailbacks Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, linebacker Reggie Ragland, defensive back Cyrus Jones, defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson, quarterback Jake Coker and center Ryan Kelly, have finished their accomplished UA careers.
With several holes left by those departed Alabama standouts, the A-Day Game will spotlight several battles for playing time at critical positions such as quarterback, running back and along the offensive line, among others. Some of those battles will likely linger even during the majority of the fall practice season.
At the always-pivotal quarterback position, the search to replace Coker has involved four main candidates during the spring, including junior Cooper Bateman, the only quarterback on the roster with any game experience, redshirt freshman Blake Barnett, sophomore David Cornwell and freshman Jalen Hurts. Although many Alabama fans seem enamored with the potential of Barnett, Hurts may be a challenger in the quarterback race to watch closely at A-Day.
Other key returnees to watch at the game who will be battling for some of those other vacant spots for the Crimson Tide include linebackers Reuben Foster and Rashaan Evans, running backs Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough, offensive linemen Charles Baldwin and Ross Pierschbacher, defensive linemen Da’Ron Payne and Da’Shawn Hand and defensive backs Ronnie Harrison and Laurence “Hootie” Jones.
Photos: Stan J. Griffin