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SUNDAY, MARCH 25, 2007
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Saban ‘pleased’ with players’ response to tempo, teaching

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — There was an unfamiliar feeling to Alabama’s first football practice of the spring Saturday morning.

All the players wore name tags on the backs of their helmets — a piece of athletic tape with their name scribbled in ink marker. The non-contact players dressed out in black jerseys instead of the yellow that former head coach Mike Shula preferred, and everyone wore gray mesh shorts instead of crimson.

And of course, Alabama had a new person giving orders at the Thomas-Drew practice field. It was the on-field beginning of the Nick Saban era as Alabama head coach.

“Obviously, the first day is like all first days,” Saban said. “Players have a lot of anxiety, not knowing what to expect. There are a lot of new drills, new teachings. I was pleased the way the players responded to the tempo, and the teaching.”

For the portion of practice that reporters were allowed to watch, Saban worked mostly with defensive backs, teaching them technique and making minor corrections. Alabama has not picked up a graduate assistant coach for defense yet, and Saban helped make up the man-power shortage.

According to Saban, he does most of his individual teaching with the defense and works with the offense on team-oriented drills.

As for the players Saban said stood out, he mentioned wide receiver DJ Hall and starting quarterback John Parker Wilson.

“There were a lot of players who looked good out there in what they were doing as well,” Saban said. “But I noticed those two guys especially looking like they were a little ahead of the curve from where some of the other guys were.”

As for injuries, running back Jimmy Johns had a splint on his right hand, and backup quarterback Jimmy Barnes had a brace on his knee.

Wide receiver Will Oakley was in a black jersey, jogging slowly, and defensive linemen Lorenzo Washington and Byron Walton each donned black jerseys as well. Walton, a West Morgan grad, had a club-like cast on his hand.

Ezekial Knight participated in contact drills after being cleared to play Friday. According to Saban, Knight underwent surgery for a heart murmur in the offseason. Saban didn’t say much about the defensive end’s status.

“I don’t want to give out a lot of medical information that I’m not comfortable explaining properly,” Saban said.

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