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Nick Saban keeping a close eye on Alabama football's defensive secondary

Brett Hudson
The Tuscaloosa News
Coach Nick Saban watches his Crimson Tide team during practice Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019 in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

As it often is on the practice field, Nick Saban’s eye is on the University of Alabama’s secondary.

Saban is quick to point out that UA’s defensive performance over the past two seasons was below his standard: neither was in the top 20 nationally in run defense, and last year’s 18.6 points per game allowed was the most of the decade. If that trend is to be reversed in 2020, Saban believes the secondary is the starting point.

“I think the big challenge for this team, because of the four starters we lost in the secondary out of five guys, is to get that rebuilt with some good players who lack experience, but they are good players and we have confidence in them,” Saban said. “So that's going to be a key to the drill, especially with the fact that we didn't have spring practice and we weren't able to work with these guys as much as we usually are.

“But I really think a lot of these Zoom (call) things that we did in the offseason and the meetings that we had really helped conceptually understand the defense and what they were supposed to do. Maybe not so much how they were supposed to do it, but why it's important to do it that way and what they were supposed to do, I think there's a lot of benefit to that."

The learning periods in the spring would be particularly useful for new addition Ronald Williams Jr., a cornerback out of junior college who has a chance at immediate playing time with UA looking for answers at its second cornerback position and the star position.

Personnel update

Saban said linebacker Ale Kaho had minor knee injury that could keep him out of the first few days of preseason practice, but that is the extent of UA’s injury concerns at the moment. That includes previously injured defenders LaBryan Ray, DJ Dale, Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillon, all of whom have healed up and are practicing fully thus far.

Saban did not identify any players that have chosen to opt out with COVID-19 concerns.

“We have a lot of privacy laws relative to college athletics and college athletes, and we're going to respect those things when it comes to health issues with our players,” Saban said. “Those things will be kept internal with the team, and we'll keep those things in house.

“The players have asked me to do that, and I agree with them. That’s what I meant by the privacy laws and what we have to do to protect guys in college football. If and when a player is ready to make an announcement about that we’ll give it to you, and that will be his prerogative to do that.”

Teeing off

One day after UA Director of Athletics Greg Byrne voiced his displeasure via Twitter with the crowds at local bars, seen in photographs with little mask-wearing and less distancing, Saban did the same thing.

“I think democracy is great, and I think people that have all these freedoms, I think that’s all great. But I think there’s one thing that is probably a common denominator that really makes all that work, and that’s that people have great moral integrity in the choices and decisions that they make,” Saban said. “I’m not criticizing anybody here, but a lot of people have asked that we wear masks when we’re in public, when we’re in crowds, when we’re in large groups of people, that we keep social-distanced. I don’t think they’re doing that just for the heck of it. I think there’s a reason for it. We’re trying to control the spread of this disease, and I think that our ability to do that’s going to go a long way in saying whether we can play football or not.

“But bigger than that, it’s just your own personal bubble for your own personal safety. Every one of these students, to take the proper care of themselves and respect the protocols that people are recommending for your safety, and I just think that’s the smart thing to do.”

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson