Nick Saban’s warning shot was not heeded.
The University of Alabama’s football coach set his agenda for the upcoming open week mere minutes after the 59-31 win over Ole Miss. He said then he hopes players didn’t treat the week as a week off, but as an opportunity for individual improvement.
Tuesday’s practice is exactly what Saban wanted to avoid.
Both on the SEC teleconference and in his post-practice press conference on Wednesday, Saban said Tuesday’s practice was not a good one. UA quickly rebounded from it, having a better Wednesday practice as the bye week draws to a conclusion Friday.
“If you don’t have very good mental energy, then you put yourself in a position to create bad habits, and maybe even put yourself at risk in some cases, because other people are trying to do it and you’re not going as fast as they’re going,” Saban said. “So (Tuesday) was kind of a tough day for us outside, but (Wednesday) the energy and intensity was a lot better. The execution was a lot better. The tempo was a lot more better. So, we’ve probably made some progress from (Tuesday) to (Wednesday).”
The open week isn’t entirely for an individualized approach, thus requiring the mental energy Saban requests. He said UA spent some time on Arkansas and Tennessee before getting to Texas A&M later in the week, thus spending time on all three opponents between this open week and the next one.
Still, players were challenged to find individual points of improvement. Wide receiver DeVonta Smith mentioned blocking, defensive back Jared Mayden mentioned communication and running back Brian Robinson Jr. wants to finish plays better, particularly his decision-making at the second level.
On any front, Tuesday’s practice was not satisfactory.
“It was kind of a sluggish practice,” defensive back Shyheim Carter said. “Just one of those days everybody has. We knew that practice wasn’t how it was supposed to be, so the next day we was up to the challenge to come out and practice like how we supposed to practice.”
Robinson added, “Coach was upset, a lot of players were upset, tired of making bad decisions. People just weren’t focused in practice. So it just didn’t feel like a good practice.”
While Saban surely made the team aware of his opinion, Robinson made the case the turnaround from Tuesday to Wednesday was as player-fueled as it was led by coaches.
“We came together as a team. We talked. We discussed what this team should be about, what we should focus on, moving forward the practice habits we should work on,” Robinson said. “(Wednesday) was better energy. Not saying it was because we were inside, but it was a lot cooler and guys weren’t as tired.
“The focus was there. We knew we had a bad Tuesday and had to make up for it.”