Alabama football scrimmage starts well, but Nick Saban wants a better finish | Goodbread

Chase Goodbread
The Tuscaloosa News

Finish is a big word for Nick Saban.

If it's not emblazoned in the massive letters in places only Alabama football players, staff and recruits ever see, it might as well be.

In coach-speak, and for Saban in particular, it imparts more than just the end of something, but rather refers to the importance of closing out any endeavor with the same vigor with which one begins. Finishing drills, reps, plays, games, even seasons – pick your application – and if you're an accountant, finish the math strong. It is at the bedrock of Saban's demand for the consistent, sustained effort that championships require.

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Saban didn't see a lot of finishing Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium, where the Crimson Tide conducted the first of two preseason scrimmages. Media didn't see starts or finishes, as it was a closed affair, leaving yours truly to decipher as much as possible from a brief post-scrimmage news conference. And if anything stood out in Saban's opening remarks, it was that on a blistering hot August day, things weren't exactly crisp toward the end.

"We started out today with a lot of energy and as things moved along, we weren’t able to sustain it, and sometimes you’ve got to be able to regain that energy when things are going bad or things get difficult," Saban said. "We want everybody to be able to reach their full potential, do what they’re capable of doing, challenge themselves to be able to do it, and this is a tough time, you know; camp is a tough time to do it."

The scrimmage began with about 50 plays that gave coaches a look mostly at first- and second-team players, and a sprinkling of third-teamers as well. It ended with situational drilling that ranged from work on the no-huddle and two-minute offense, to goal-line and red-zone situations and more.

Dropped passes, which were a consistent issue in Alabama's spring scrimmages, and penalties that Saban described as undisciplined but correctable – offsides, illegal formations and the like – slowed down the show.

"I'm sort of OK with where we are but also very much enthused about the challenges that we have to try to work to try to get guys better so that we have more guys who can play winning football," Saban added.

Perhaps most encouraging was the improvement Saban saw in Alabama's starting offensive line, which is developing two new starters at the tackle position while trying to block the most athletic duo of edge rushers in college football in Will Anderson and Dallas Turner. Incremental improvement against Anderson and Turner on scrimmage Saturdays could translate to exponential improvement on Saturdays that matter.

Saban noted some impressive individual efforts from a few inexperienced youngsters as well, including cornerback Terrion Arnold and wide receiver Kobe Prentice.

Teamwide, however, he'll be looking for a sharper performance in UA's final scrimmage of camp next Saturday.

Especially at the finish.

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Tuscaloosa News sport columnist Chase Goodbread.