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Trying to make Tide tougher
Spring drills a step in Saban's process

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — Alabama coach Nick Saban says he doesn't want to evaluate his football team yet.

Five weeks into the Crimson Tide's offseason conditioning program, Saban has tried to break down his team and push it to the brink of exhaustion to instill a new level of toughness. That is the first step.

The second comes Saturday when the self-described "process oriented" coach sees his team on the practice field for the first time.

The Crimson Tide will begin spring football workouts at 1 p.m. on the Thomas-Drew practice field.

"This is an ongoing process," Saban said Thursday afternoon in a meeting with reporters. "It's a work in progress. We're going to have changes.

"We have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of improvement to make."

Saturday marks the first of 15 scheduled practices. The CrimsonTide's A-Day game is set for April 21 at 1 p.m. at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

According to Saban and his coaching staff, the Tide has not looked deeply into specifics of the squad.

The coaches are in the process of instilling their own ways, values and teaching methods.

Saban has emphasized that all positions are open. There are no returning starters.

"The starting point of the depth chart isn't as important as the end point," Saban said. "The players need to compete which is what they have done. Our goal is to get the best players on the field and evaluate what they have done and what they will do."

While Saban did not comment on specifics Thursday, he added that Crimson Tide will need to improve on its defensive line.

"We're down, and we have to fight through it," defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said. "We've gone into this thing not trying to evaluate too much.

"You get too far ahead of yourself.

"You start saying, 'This guy looks good; that guy looks good.' The best thing you need to do is stay away from that, do the teaching, do the process and then evaluate it."

About Alabama's injured players, Saban said that quarterback Jimmy Barnes (torn anterior cruciate ligament), running back Jimmy Johns (hand), offensive lineman Chris Capps (shoulder), receiver Will Oakley and defensive lineman Lorenzo Washington will be limited, but will practice.

Saban did not disclose the injuries of Oakley or Washington.

Defensive end Ezekial Knight (head) is being monitored on a day-to-day basis but took part in some of the offseason conditioning drills, while receivers Tyrone Prothro (leg) and Aaron McDaniel (knee) will miss practice.

While Saban didn't go into much detail about Prothro, the Tide coach said Prothro may have to undergo another surgery on his broken leg.

"It's something that is ongoing as we speak," Saban said. "We are trying to do the things that are helpful to him trying to come back."

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