Both on and off the sidelines, Alabama head coach Nick Saban constantly instills the idea of assignment football into each member on his roster.
After the Crimson Tide’s victory over Penn State this past weekend, Saban made it known again.
“We’re trying to make a standard here,” he said. “A standard of excellence that requires everybody to be on all the time. We just have to be more consistent in every part of what we do.”
Saban said the Tide is proud of its win, but there are still some mistakes both defensively and offensively that need to be cleaned up in practice before the next game.
Senior quarterback Greg McElroy is further proof that staying on your toes mentally is imperative in practice in order to succeed in a game.
“I felt like there were some small things that we needed to iron out, some mental mistakes like formation penalties and false starts and substitution penalties,” he said.
McElroy said mistakes the team made in the Penn State game were ones that can happen in the first few games.
“Those are typical mistakes early in the season, but they’re also things that we definitely don’t need lingering,” he said.
Alabama saw its first holding call in 42 quarters in the first quarter against Penn State game, and the Tide is eager to make up for the broken streak.
At practice and in games, Saban demands both mental and physical toughness from this year’s team. He devotes time in each practice to run drills and invoke muscle memory techniques to the successful plays he favors.
“Mondays we’re basically putting in our game plan,” sophomore safety Robert Lester said. “[Saban] wants us to execute and not make mental errors by playing assignment football. If you keep the game plan in mind during practice, you’re less willing to make mistakes during the game.”
Thanks to the coaching staff’s meticulous drills and his own personal skill, Lester currently leads the team in sacks and interceptions and is holding tight to his position.
“Hopefully I can stay on the top for turnovers,” he said.
Starting tight end Preston Dial said Saban and his coaching staff know the “master plan” and execution and consistency are mandatory during practice.
“We just have to execute whatever we do, whether it’s our bread and butter stuff or some of the more exotic stuff we run,” Dial said. “It’s the same week to week.”
Junior safety Will Lowery commented on the detailed defensive patterns incorporated into practice as well.
“I’ve spent this spring and the summer trying to get everything down,” he said. “I still have a lot to learn. It’s a complicated defense.”
Saban said he has the utmost respect for the Duke Blue Devils and admits to the pressure the team is under to win this weekend.
“This is a very dangerous team because of their ability to throw the ball and score points,” Saban said.
“It’s going to be important for us to do a good job in preparation, in terms of the experience we can gain this week and how we prepare for a team that’s very good at throwing the football.”