Pads give Tide football new enthusiasm

rlee@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 26, 2009 

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After Monday’s practice, which drew the ire of coach Nick Saban, the Alabama football team came back Wednesday with renewed vigor and enthusiasm for two hours in the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility.

The Crimson Tide practiced in shoulder pads for the first time this spring while moving indoors for a second time due to inclement weather.

“More people were hustling to the ball, less mental mistakes, more attention to detail,” Alabama defensive lineman Lorenzo Washington said. “I think the coaches were happy. The effort and more people sustaining was there today.”

Said linebacker Cory Reamer, “It felt good to get the pads on, knock around with each other a little bit.”

Washington joked “people still thought they were at the beach” during Monday’s practice but emphasized it was just an anomaly and would not happen for the duration of spring ball.

“We definitely got after it today,” Washington said. “It was a good practice.”

Rotating linebackers

After spending Monday’s practice at the “Jack” or hybrid defensive end/linebacker spot, Don’ta Hightower worked at the “Will” position with the inside linebackers Wednesday.

“It changes from every day, it changes from every drill, it changes from every period, that’s just how it is,” Reamer said. “That’s how it is in the spring.”

Reamer, who started last year at the “Sam” position but moved to “Will” during the Utah game, pointed toward himself, Hightower, Jerrell Harris and Eryk Anders as players who “could flop around and change position.”

“We’ll find out tommorow where I’m at,” Reamer said. “Then the next day it will change again, then it will change again the next day.”

Anders, who played the “Rabbit” position last year (a third-down rush specialist akin to a “nickel linebacker”) has seen time at “Sam” and “Jack” through the first three days of spring practice.

“They’re moving everybody around, trying to find the right fit,” Anders said. “This year, I’ve gotten a little bit more work at the Jack and Sam positions along with the Rabbit.”

New linebackers coach Sal Sunseri, who came to Alabama from the Carolina Panthers, has worked primarily with the outside linebackers during the spring, while former Auburn linebackers coach James Willis has worked with the inside linebackers.

“He’s (Sunseri) got the NFL mentality right now,” Anders said. “He’s got us doing everything perfect. If you slack or loaf, he’s going to make you (do the drill) again. He only takes 100 percent. I think that’s been very beneficial to the team.”

Linebacker Rolando McClain said of Willis, “He’s like (former linebackers coach (Kevin) Steele a little bit. He’s animated and intense but at the same time laid-back and funny. When it’s time to practice, it’s time to be serious. When it’s time to joke, it’s time to joke. He’s a great coach.”

McClain, who led the Tide with 95 tackles last year at the “Mike” position, is the only Alabama linebacker who knows what spot he’ll play in the season — a situation he relishes.

“I know I need to be more of a leader,” he said. “I was a leader last year, but my role has intensified some. I just need to lead by example, do a great job of keeping everything intense, keeping people up.”

Quick hits

Linebacker Brandon Fanney was absent for a third time this spring, still with no word on when he will return. … Robby Green worked with the cornerbacks during the 20-minute media viewing session but returned to safety for the majority of practice. … Julio Jones and Mike McCoy worked as the first grouping at wide receiver, while Earl Alexander and Marquis Maze were with the second. Darius Hanks and Brandon Gibson worked with the third group. … At running back, Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch worked as the first grouping, while Jeramie Griffin and Ivan Matchett were with the second. Demetrius Goode and Jermain Preyear worked with the third group.

The Tide will next practice Friday.

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