Edwards from Alabama's A-Day: Tide needs to get its edge back
by Mark Edwards
medwards@annistonstar.com
Apr 20, 2013 | 4138 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TUSCALOOSA -- A-Day spring games don't mean much, except when they do. And Saturday's game meant something at Alabama, even if the score and all the basic statistics are nothing more than meaningless numbers.

If you cheer for Alabama, it should concern you that your head coach, Nick Saban, has talked about effort all spring -- and not in a good way. It should concern you that he did so again after Saturday's game, in which the White squad, which had the first team offense, scored a 17-14 win over the Crimson team, which had the No. 1 defense.

He said this team isn't where it needs to be. He added, "Too many people are too comfortable with their position, and that, to me, does not lend itself to great competition."

Saban clarified later for a TV reporter, who he said misinterpreted his original quote: "I didn't say they were comfortable with their positions. I said they were too comfortable, period. That means they're too comfortable with their circumstances."

Essentially what he's saying is that the top level of players are playing about like you would expect. They aren't playing as if they've got another national championship trophy already waiting for its place in the Tide athletic complex.

For example, AJ McCarron mostly has worked like he has nothing guaranteed. He likely will be an All-America quarterback, and if he can stay injury free, he might compete for the Heisman Trophy. He was part of the conversation last year until he hurt his ribs against Mississippi State.

But he hasn't practiced like he already has that in line.

T.J. Yeldon is T.J. Yeldon. Amari Cooper is brilliant. So are C.J. Mosley, HaHa Clinton-Dix, Anthony Steen, Cyrus Kouandjio and most all the other veteran players.

But Saban was hoping for more of that from other people. That extra drive, extra hunger, extra effort isn't there with everyone. They're working and trying and competing, but not at the level Saban wants or needs.

Everybody who is entering his third season or fewer doesn't know what it's like not to win a national championship. And nobody knows what it's like not to be on the short list of contenders.

Perfect example: the backup quarterback race. Saban needs more from his quarterbacks not named AJ McCarron.

They're conceeding all the important snaps to McCarron, the senior. With the possible exception of Saturday's performance by redshirt freshman Alec Morris -- who Saban keeps calling "Alex" -- it's as if this year doesn't really count for them. They're playing as if the real battle doesn't start until next spring when McCarron is gone.

On Thursday, Saban said he hoped that when his team played its A-Day Game, he would see something good from his team, which would perform in front of ESPN cameras and a large crowd in the stands. Instead, the quarterbacks kind of went backward. If they don't improve, this team is ruined if McCarron gets hurt.

And their competition doesn't start in the spring -- it's ongoing.

Now, keep in mind this hardly is the end of the world for Alabama. Before diving into that "comfortable" quote, Saban handed out this nugget: "I do feel like we have a lot of components to develop as a team."

Translation: We've got enough players to compete for another national championship.

And he also added that he never is satisfied. He spent part of Saturday speaking to different alumni groups, who asked him to compare this team to the 2011 and 2012 national champions. (They apparently haven't learned Saban really, really doesn't like being asked to compare anything. Not players, teams, games, toilet paper, apples, oranges -- nothing.)

He pointed out how he was unhappy with those teams at this point in the year, too. If was satisfied, Alabama wouldn't have summer conditioning, workouts, preseason practice or all those meetings football coaches like to have. They simply would wait for the first game and play.

So, this isn't unusual -- but by the time practice comes again in August, Saban would like to see some guys fight it out a little harder for jobs.

Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at 256-235-3570 or mark.edwards@anniston.com. Follow on Twitter @MarkSportsStar.
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