AP photo by Jason Harless|
Alabama head football coach Nick Saban gives instructions to defensive back Ali Sharrief, left, during Sunday’s practice.
Crimson Tide draws 9,000 for fan day practice
By Josh Cooper
TUSCALOOSA — The pass came out of quarterback John Parker Wilson’s hand, flew down the middle of the end zone and landed in the grasp of wide receiver Nikita Stover.
About 9,000 fans who had attended Alabama’s fan day gave a rousing ovation to Stover, a former Hartselle High standout.
While it lacked the ceremonial nature of the crowd of 92,138 that came to Alabama’s A-Day game April 21, Sunday’s fan presence was tough to ignore. It was a stark reminder of the growing expectations for Alabama heading into the 2007 football season.
The Crimson Tide practiced for two hours at Bryant-Denny Stadium and signed autographs for 45 minutes. Alabama fans received a pre-signed photo of first-year head coach Nick Saban, 2007 football schedule posters and pocket schedules.
Saban spent about an hour signing almost 1,300 autographs.
The gates opened at about 4:45 p.m., but some fans arrived about seven hours early.
Saban said that the hubbub around the program is not affecting him as he tries to remold Alabama. But the players? The method is simple. Just all football all the time.
“I think it’s just the way we work. Now it is really hard to focus on the outside stuff when you are concentrating on new plays and trying to do this and that right and concentrating on all the little things,” cornerback Simeon Castille said. “It takes up all the space in your mind.”
When Saban first came to Alabama, he made it clear that external factors were not going to drive him professionally.
While he appreciated the support of the fans, he said it was important to focus on the task of winning football games.
“I cannot let external factors affect how we do what we do or the decisions we make,” Saban said. “I do not think it would be in the best interest of the program and us being successful here.”
AP photo by Jason Harless|
Wide receiver Matt Caddell (11) attempts to elude defensive back Tremayne Coger (23) during Alabama’s preseason football practice Sunday.
For Saban that might be easy, but for a roster of 105 college-age athletes it might be more difficult.
Saban has told his players to work on getting better on the field and not worry about the games yet.
Also, Alabama’s players have had to memorize new playbooks and endure a rigorous summer conditioning program. They say that it’s kept them more focused on football than before.
“(Coach Saban) keeps our minds so occupied with the offense and practicing that we haven’t had time to think about expectations,” left guard Justin Britt said. “He stuffs our minds so full of having a good practice and having the right mentality towards football. You don’t have time to think about that other stuff.”
According to the players, they have bought into Saban’s plan. And a lot has to do with Saban himself.
When he talks, the players take note of what he says.
“He tells us don’t focus on (external issues),” wide receiver DJ Hall said. “He has the type of attitude that when he says something, he says it so aggressively that you know he is serious, Every word that comes out of his mouth, guys listen because he talks with so much enthusiasm and emotion.
“Whatever he says comes from deep down.”
Alabama fan day
Alabama worked out for about two hours in front of a crowd of about 9,000 at Bryant-DennyStadium.
The CrimsonTide players signed autographs for about 45 minutes. Head coach Nick Saban signed an estimated 1,300 autographs in an hour.
Gates opened at 4:45 p.m., but some fans arrived about seven hours early.
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