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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, 2007
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Players see Saban's hands-on approach
Coach continues to work with DBs

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — Following Alabama's second football practice of the spring Tuesday, cornerback Simeon Castille had head coach Nick Saban's paw print on his chest.

Castille wore a shirt that had a hand sticker on it. Each finger had some inspirational word written on it — "discipline" on the pinky, "commitment" on the ring finger, "toughness" on the middle digit, "effort" on the index and "pride" on the thumb.

According to Castille, the decal was something given to players who showed exemplary hard work.

And after Saban spent another day giving orders to the defensive backs and teaching his philosophies and techniques, the shirt did nothing to quell the idea of Saban as a hands-on coach.

"It is weird knowing that he is the head coach and he spends most of the time with the cornerbacks," Castille said. "With coach (Mike) Shula, I never saw him. I see coach Saban in my face all the time."

As Alabama's players were allowed to speak with reporters for the first time since the start of spring drills, they were careful not to allow too many open comparisons between the former coaches and Saban's staff.

Linebacker Keith Saunders said that the team is "getting after it more." Wide receiver Keith Brown said that Saban is the kind of coach that is "very intense" and that he liked somebody getting in his face — "not to take anything away from Mr. Shula," Brown added.

Saban again worked mostly with the defensive backs during the 20 minutes that reporters were allowed to watch.

Coaches were a little more vocal than the previous staff in terms of teaching the players.

Even the team managers were getting a workout as Jeremy Jordan, a senior manager, was following Saban's every move, blowing an air horn when the time came to switch drills.

"We know (Coach Saban) wants us to get better every day," said defensive back Eric Gray, a West Morgan High graduate. "It's nothing personal, but the quicker we learn schemes, the better we get as a team."

Saban has said several times that there is open competition for starting spots. And for fringe starters like Gray, it's a matter of showing the coaching staff what he can do while also trying to improve as a player.

"The best players need to be on the field to win," Gray said. "I have been here a long time fighting for a position and trying to stay healthy. We have to focus every day."

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