March 29, 2007

Spring Notebook: Showing progress

Three days into his first spring practice with the Crimson Tide, head coach Nick Saban appeared to me more willing than ever to discuss his team, his players and the direction they are headed. The Tide finished up its first day of practice in full pads on Wednesday and Saban said he was pleased with his team's intensity during its first practice of the year involving contact.

"After three practices, we've made a lot of progress," Saban said Wednesday. "We make improvement every day but we still have a long way to go in terms of where we'd like to get to and what we'd like to accomplish this spring. I think the players are certainly willing to do whatever we ask them to do. We're trying to develop a lot of new habits in terms of the intensity that we expect."

Saban intends to implement those new habits through a well-developed and time-tested teaching method he has used at each of his career stops as a head coach.

"There's three parts to teaching: what to do, how to do it and why it's important to do it that way," Saban said. "If we can get all the way through that third level where everyone understands why it's important to do it a certain way and why it's important for everybody to do it with discipline, I think we'll certainly make some positive strides."

One of Saban's major points of emphasis in teaching players how to practice is avoiding injuries and staying healthy.

"I like to practice safely. I don't want to get any players hurt in practice. We practice fast, and practice hard and stay up. Most guys that get hurt in football get hurt on the ground. It's physical, tough practice but we have to learn how to practice with the right pace and tempo."

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