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Alabama football coach Nick Saban takes his players through the Tide’s first practice in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. With Saban on campus, Tide fans and former players are eager to see Saban’s new look for the squad.
AP photo by Butch Dill
Alabama football coach Nick Saban takes his players through the Tide’s first practice in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. With Saban on campus, Tide fans and former players are eager to see Saban’s new look for the squad.

Tide nation abuzz
Alabama fans excited to see Saban’s changes

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

Tanner High football coach Laron White says he normally doesn’t make his way down to Tuscaloosa during spring practice.

A former Alabama player, White may catch the Crimson Tide’s A-Day scrimmage every few years, but that’s about it.

With new head coach Nick Saban in charge at Alabama, White says he may make the two-hour trek one day in the next few weeks just to take a sneak peek.

“I normally don’t get involved, but I want to go down and see the changes that Coach Saban is going to bring,” said White, a Tide lineman during 1992-96. “It is exciting for me because in the past, I haven’t thought much of spring practice.”

While the coaching staff will spend time figuring out the value of each player and implementing offensive and defensive schemes, Tide fans will clamor to get a glimpse of what their team will look like next year.

And with a high-profile coach, the curiosity level is soaring.

According to Benny Perrin, a former Alabama player and NFL defensive back who lives in Decatur, people who frequent the restaurant where he works often ask his thoughts on the new coaching staff.

“People are coming here and asking the same questions, ‘What about Coach Saban?’ ” Perrin said.

“Every time you have a change, there is going to be curiosity and a buzz. But I haven’t seen anything like this.”

Perrin estimates that A-Day at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 21 — admission is free — could draw between 60,000 and 70,000 fans.

With spring practice serving as the unofficial start to the preseason hype, one of the main questions is whether the new coach and his staff are prepared for this unique kind of scrutiny.

Saban seems to have taken care of that with a group of coaches who understand the unique environment of coaching at Alabama.

“It would be pretty hard not to know if you’re in college coaching what Alabama is and the environment,” said defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, an Alabama fan growing up. “I think we’re well aware of that.”

Steele is not the only staff member who grew up rooting for the Tide. Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite cheered on Alabama as a kid and played at a similar football-mad environment at Texas. “I know what it means to be at Alabama,” Applewhite said. “It’s not a shock in terms of the importance football in this state. I’ve been in the office so much I don’t have to worry about being recognized, but it’s a great challenge, one we’re all looking forward to as a staff.”

Defensive backs coach Kirby Smart knows his way around the SEC after playing and coaching at Georgia, as does outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson, who coached at LSU with Saban. Tight ends and special teams coach Ron Middleton is a former Auburn player, and defensive line coach Bo Davis coached and played at LSU.

“I don’t look at (the situation) as being a challenge. I look at it as being a positive,” Smart said. “It helps recruiting. The fan base here has been outstanding.”

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