Nick Saban discusses first indoor scrimmage, Tua Tagovailoa injury in Saturday press conference


James Ogletree

This spring is Nick Saban’s 12th season as the Alabama head coach since he was hired in early 2007. Saturday marked an occurrence that had never happened before under his oversight: an indoor scrimmage.

The scrimmage, the second of three during the spring, was originally slated to take place inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, but was moved to the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility due to the threat of inclement weather. That threat included a brief tornado warning.

“It was pretty obvious that we didn’t have any choice,” Saban said. “After 11 years, we had to go inside for a scrimmage… The players have to be able to respond and react to things like this.”

Saban went on to say that the players cannot let interruptions affect their willingness to compete. He was pleased with their improvement from last Saturday’s scrimmage to this one, saying the coaches are mostly evaluating mental errors and unforced errors, which would include missed tackles.

“We can’t have those kind of mistakes because basically you’re giving [other teams] a free pass,” Saban said. “They’re not doing anything to earn what they get. And I do think we’ve made some improvements in that area.”

Despite that, Saban said a recurring issue has been getting the players, especially younger ones, to discipline themselves by doing only what each play asks of them. Everyone wants to make eye-popping plays, he said, but teams are more effective when every player just sets his mind on what he needs to do.

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was not warming up before the scrimmage with the rest of the quarterbacks. Saban explained that Tagovailoa suffered setback related to his broken index finger on Friday, and doctors are evaluating the best course of action.

At this point, the team’s intentions are geared toward the long term. Ensuring that Tagovailoa will be fully healthy by the fall is more important than rushing him back by the end of spring practice.

Saban said Jalen Hurts has had a good spring as coaches have worked with him on developing more trust in his protection and receivers.

“You can’t just think about making plays, you have to make plays based on how they’re designed and have some faith, trust, and confidence in the people that are playing with you,” Saban said. “If you go through your progression, that’s going to give us the best chance to be able to make some explosive plays in the passing game. And when it breaks down, then you use you athletic ability to try to make up for it. He’s done much better at that this spring.”

Third-string quarterback Mac Jones has also made more plays this spring, Saban said, and has been working on projecting a more unflappable attitude when things go awry. As the command center of the huddle, quarterbacks must consider how showing distress or panic will affect their teammates.

Saban attributed much of the quarterbacks’ improvement to the tandem of offensive coordinator Mike Locksley and QB coach/associate head coach Dan Enos. With the rise of up-tempo offenses in college football, Saban said young quarterbacks don’t always get the immediate feedback they need after each play because they’re already getting lined up for the next one.

Having Enos interact with the quarterbacks while Locksley stands on the sideline to call plays has helped them more precisely pinpoint areas of improvement, according to Saban.

Fans will get the chance to see Hurts, Jones, and the rest of the team in action next Saturday, April 21, at the annual spring game. The game will begin at1 p.m. CT.