Saban sends message that spring isn't time to panic
by Joe Medley
Apr 09, 2013 | 1359 views |  0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TUSCALOOSA -- One of Nick Saban’s great successes in 2012 was keeping his Alabama team hungry enough to repeat as national champions.

If we heard it once, we heard it at least once for every dollar Saban earned last year ‹ avoid the pitfalls of 2010.

Now that Alabama is the first back-to-back champion of the Bowl Championship Series era, what about it, 2013 team? Game for more of the same message?

Based on Saban’s signals during spring practice, this team is getting it Š in fits and starts.

Joe Medley

“We just don’t have the mental toughness we need from enough guys to sustain things, pay attention to detail, and do the little things right so we can execute better as a team,” he said after Saturday’s first spring scrimmage.

That statement, combined with others this offseason, caused discomfort in Tide land. It’s been a topic of discussion on statewide radio shows.

What’s Saban up to?

Could it be that this team doesn’t have the mentality to three-peat?

Oh no! Nick Saban isn’t happy! Panic!

It’s probably good the nation’s stock exchange isn’t based in Alabama.Imagine the selloff every time Saban speaks this spring, and what to read into his offseason discontentment?

It’s not the first time we’ve heard it, after all. He has talked about “entitlement” issues. He snarled a week ago, during and after the Tide’s first practice after spring break.

There seems to be more fluctuation in this Alabama team’s focus.

“We’re not where we’d love to be or would like to be,” he said Saturday. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a lot of work to do with a lot of guys.

“It all starts with guys being able to sustain the kind of mental intensity you need to have to be a good football player, especially when things get a little tough, it gets a little tough, you get a little bit tired.”

Saban reportedly went as far as to demote players, though he hasn’t said which ones publicly.

What do Alabama’s players make of Saban’s sour mood?

“We’ve got to start strong and finish hard,” said junior wide receiver DeAndrew White, who caught seven passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, in his first live action since suffering a knee injury in September.

“At the start of the scrimmage, the offense started slow, and the defense started fast,” White said. “As the scrimmage went along, the defense started slowing down, and the offense started clicking.

“On both sides, you’ve got to start strong and finish fast.”

Junior nose tackle Brandon Ivory, asked whether Saban’s spring fever is a matter of motivation or some other problem with the team, said a little of both.

“I’m sure he wants us each and every play to be motivated, have a positive attitude about the situation,” Ivory said. “I’m sure he sees some players, like, hyped, and other players not as hyped as the players. I’m sure that’s why he’s doing that.”

Sophomore offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio, who is seeing time at guard and tackle this spring, said Saban sees “a slight deficiency in mental toughness.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s incredibly big,” Kouandjio said. “But you always want to get better at the things you are good at and you also want to get better at things you are a little weak at.

“He sees a deficiency there. We’ve got to get better at it.”

In other words, it’s spring practice.

It was hard enough to repeat, even with seniors who remembered all too well the lessons of 2010. This team might need more prodding to get the message.

Fall practice is four months away, and the guy who has won three of the past four national titles is on the job.

Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, On

Twitter @jmedley_star.
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