Nick Saban overhauling Alabama football practice to develop depth for unusual season

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Changing rep schemes in practice. Dividing the coaching staff in half for more attention to all levels of the depth chart. Some players even taking reps on both sides of the ball.

Alabama has left no stone unturned in its search for depth, as it prepares to have as many options as possible for a season where those options could be needed.

“We’re trying to practice all guys all the time,” coach Nick Saban said Tuesday in a Zoom call with reporters. “The staff is split so we can try to develop more. Sometimes we have actually trained a guy to play more than one position probably more so this year than we have in the past, so that you have diversity when it comes to, if you lose a few players, maybe you have a better opportunity to get the best players on the field.”

In some cases that has happened within one position group. Redshirt senior offensive linemen Chris Owens said he has never seen players train at multiple positions on the offensive line as he has this preseason. Saban also alluded to some players getting reps on both offense and defense, while declining to name which players are doing so.

COVID cases up slightly 

Saban has elected to keep most COVID-19 testing data private from the public, but did say the team had its positive tests numbers increase when the student body returned to campus.

“We’ve had a minimal amount of players that have tested positive, but we have had some,” Saban said. “I think we were less than 1% from the Fourth of July to when school started; that number probably went up a little bit when school started, but not significantly.”

Saban added UA has yet to have any players suffer from serious symptoms from the virus, many of them being asymptomatic. The virus has spread through the campus in recent weeks, with 846 UA students testing positive between Aug. 28 and Sept. 3, according to the UA system’s COVID dashboard.

Voting drive

UA recently held a voter registration drive among its athletic department, setting up services to help athletes register to vote.

“We’re trying to continue to create awareness on how important it is for everyone to vote, and the response, I’ve been very proud of the players and their response to register to vote,” Saban said.

Saban said he has not and will not endorse a political candidate, as he doesn’t feel it is his place, but added, “I think it is very important that every American has a voice and uses their opportunity to vote so their voice is heard. I encourage everyone to do that and I certainly do that, even though I do it absentee.”

In search of punter 

Saban said UA has three players competing for its punter position and freshmen Will Reichard is not one of them, considered an, “emergency punter.”

UA has six players listed as punters on its online roster: junior Skyler DeLong, sophomore Ty Perine, sophomore Jack Martin, senior Charlie Scott, redshirt sophomore Tripp Slyman and freshman Sam Johnson. DeLong is the only one on scholarship; Scott is the brother of former UA punter JK Scott.

Saban said the three players competing for the punter job have performed, “halfway decent,” adding all have areas for improvement.

Reichard, the sophomore from Hoover, was originally seen as a prospect who could both kick and punt in college; a hip injury derailed most of his freshman year. With punting off his plate, Reichard is focused on the place kicker competition with redshirt junior Joseph Bulovas.

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson