Alabama football to open 2020 preseason practice under unprecedented circumstances

Brett Hudson
The Tuscaloosa News

TUSCALOOSA — It’s possible no one on the University of Alabama football roster has gone this long without being coached, nor have any coaches gone this long without actively coaching a player.

An atypical offseason ends Monday when UA opens preseason practice.

One way UA comes out of the pandemic-altered spring and summer better than most is the lack of coaching turnover. Contrary to the trend, UA replaced just one on-field assistant coach this offseason, hiring defensive line coach Freddie Roach to replace Brian Baker. Spring practice would normally be an acclimation period for new schemes and/or coaches; since Alabama has none of the first and very little of the second, it is not making up for lost time like others are.

That being said, UA has multiple personnel points where it will try to make up for the lost time.

Twelve freshmen enrolled early for the benefit of spring practice, which UA never got to attempt. Some of those freshmen — Chris Braswell, Will Anderson Jr. and Drew Sanders — could play a role immediately on UA’s defense, and now their learning process has no head start.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban during a media availability at Bryant-Denny Stadium on the UA campus in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday August 3, 2019.

That lost developmental time is what had UA coach Nick Saban opining to potentially replace spring practice with a two-week instructional period in the summer, one that did not come to pass.

“I think the technique and the things you teach, whether it’s tackling, block protection, footwork, hand placement for offensive linemen, pass protection blocking for running backs, whatever it might be … perimeter blocking for receivers, block protection for DBs. I think the how to do it, the why it’s important to do it that way probably has a lot of carryover. That’s why we do it,” Saban said of spring practice on April 2.

“That’s why I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to do some sort of teaching sessions on the field even if it’s in shorts and T-shirts in summertime with our players. At least from a knowledge and experience standpoint we’ll be able to benefit their growth and development so they’ll be more ready when contact actually comes in fall camp. I don’t personally think making fall camp longer is going to get anybody any more ready to play.”

Of course every practice repetition helps when replacing a quarterback, even when the previous season established an heir apparent. Every rep also helps for injured players making their way back, as will be the case for what could be UA’s starting duo at inside linebacker, Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillon.

With health and safety protocols preventing media viewing of practices, the answers to these questions won’t be known publicly until the season starts a month from now, and in some cases not until the season finishes, whenever that may be. But UA faces those questions starting Monday.