Nick Saban discusses expectations for first scrimmage, Jalen Hurts in third press conference of spring season

Molly Catherine Walsh

The Alabama Crimson Tide football team held its sixth spring football practice indoors on Monday afternoon in the Mal Moore Athletic Complex. Saban could be seen on the field calling play after play, and drill after drill until it was done right. In fact, other coaches such as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, could be seen on the field hovering over each player as they observed their footwork intently, timed each sprint, and critiqued each pass.

What will happen when the coaches are confined to the sidelines this season and all the players truly have to rely on are each other and their athleticism? Saban intends to find out.

“When the scrimmage comes, basically I want to see who can do all the fundamental things well,” Saban said. “It’s not going to be some schematic sort of escapade in what we’re doing. It’s going to be more how do we execute the fundamentals at this point and who shows the maturity and capability to do that with any kind of consistency?”

It could be argued that talent is what drives a team forward, but Saban argued that it boils down maturity in the face of distress. Alabama seniors Da’Shawn Hand and  Rashaan Evans have waited patiently for their turn to be leaders for the Crimson Tide both physically and mentally.

“I think both of them have responded well as starters this spring and starting to show some leadership,” Saban said. “I’ve been really really pleased with those guys. So, hopefully they’ll continue to improve and grow and they’ll become the kind of people who can impact other folks on our defense, so that not only do they play great football, but they help others do the same.”

While experience can lead to maturity, certain players showed it as early as their freshman season. Last season, true freshman Jalen Hurts stepped up to the leadership role of starting quarterback and handled the newfound responsibility as well as one could have. 

This season, Saban would like to focus on seeing improvements in Hurt’s passing game and his decision making. Hurts needs to get the ball out of his hands quickly by reading the play and making good decisions based on the coverage he sees, all while avoiding the pocket, of course.

“He still has the ability to run and make plays with his feet, but that’s not what we want to focus on right now,” Saban said about Hurts. “I think he’s kind of bought into that and done a really good job with it.”

Moving forward in the practice schedule, the focus will be on installation. It will not be about what they do, but more so how it is done. Saban would like to see maturity and capability on A Day in order to deduce who has developed.