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August 16, 2010
Tide veterans speak up at impromptu meeting
TUSCALOOSA _ Although University of Alabama coach Nick Saban was frustrated by the first scrimmage of fall camp and his coaching staff spent a good part of Monday trying to convey that point, the loudest message sent and heard may have been from some of the players themselves.
After the morning practice of the final two-a-day workouts, the team had the equivalent to an open microphone session with many of the obvious veterans like Greg McElroy, Marcell Dareus and Dont'a Hightower speaking up.
However, the one who started it was senior tight end Preston Dial.
"It was just time," Dial said.
Among the biggest issues discussed include the lack of urgency shown by some players and attention to detail - essentially what Saban has been expressing all-along and during his press conferences.
"Little things here and there," Dial said. "Just emphasize keeping the tempo, up to Coach Saban's standards, up to championship standards. If you're going to play like a champion you have to keep the tempo, you have to work hard every play and not take any plays off.
"It's always good to get your good, the bad, the ugly out there so everyone knows what's going on. We had a good meeting and I'm super excited about this team. We have so much talent."
Lulls like what the players described this can be pretty common during camp, especially when dealing with something like stifling heat as Alabama continues to endure. McElroy added that last year's team went through something similar and also suggested that too many people, including himself, were looking at the first game on Sept. 4 and thinking it's still a ways off.
"One of my main focuses during my talk was I want people to care," the senior quarterback said. "I think the thing that bothers me more than anything is not necessarily from a talent standpoint, it's just how much do you care for the team? What are you willing to give to allow the team to be successful?
"I think we all need to look in the mirror."
While he used the example of body language, which has also been a point of emphasis for Saban, Hightower talked about poor tackling, which was evident during the scrimmage even though it was really the first time players were being taken down to the ground.
"I'm not going to take the easy way out and say that's one of the reasons," the sophomore linebacker said. "I think it's part of the way we practiced. During practice we're supposed to go through the runner and a lot of guys are kind of tagging off. Tagging off is a lot different from tackling. Some of the guys who were mainly tagging off were the ones who missed a lot of tackles. So we had bad practice habits. It was one of the things we emphasized today and I feel like we did a better job of doing that."
Hightower also introduced reporters to a new Tide term: "Our definition of a loaf is not changing their speed, not getting into burst mode, you're considered a traitor.
Overall, the players who talked with reporters Monday all said that they're excited about the upcoming season and the Crimson Tide's potential, but stressed that it's the attention to detail now that pays off in the long run. Also, Alabama only has one more scrimmage before most of the major roster moves have to be made and the team turns its attention to the regular season, so for some it's now or never if they're going to contribute.
"After that scrimmage, we all knew what had to be said, what had to be done," Hightower said. "We're turning the corner now, we're about there, on the street to the season."