Much at 'steak' in Alabama A-Day game

Anniston StarApril 18, 2014 

Alabama Football 2014 Spring Practice

Alabama coach Nick Saban coaches his DBs during the Crimson Tide's third 2014 Spring football practice, Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at the Thomas-Drew Practice Facility in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/AL.com, Vasha Hunt)

VASHA HUNT — AP

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Steak or beans and weenies.

That's what Alabama's players will be competing for during A-Day in Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday.

One is served with a side of bragging rights in an atmosphere that rivals a five-star restaurant while the other comes on paper plates with a nice slice of humble pie.

"We always have the traditional steak and beans on Monday, which I really enjoy," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said with a grin.

"As the commissioner, I can basically (pick what I want). The players were on me the other day saying, 'You have to choose a team,' because they get tired of me over there eating steak and not being on a team.

"It's not just the steak. It's the tablecloth, the roses on every table. Waitresses waiting on you. And the other side is paper plates, one pot, beans, paper towels for napkins, plastic silverware. And then all the (trash talk) that goes with it."

The players thrive off the competitiveness. Senior wide receiver Christion Jones said he has lost twice and said he doesn't want to eat beans and weenies following his final A-Day game.

Junior linebacker Denzel Devall said the intensity is similar to a fall Saturday in Bryant-Denny.

"This is my second A-Day, so I'm 0-1," Devall said. "Last year I had to eat beans and weenies and watch everybody over there eating steak.

"Eat like they're in a big fancy restaurant while I was eating off paper plates and plastic forks and stuff. That's another thing. I can't lose again. I gotta get steak. I can't watch that no more."

Which is worse, watching teammates eat the steak or listening to them talk about it?

"Oh, it's got to be listening because you don't hear the end of that," Devall said. "You're in the players' lounge, everybody running up to you, "Ha, how was your beans and weenies?' So you ain't going to hear the end of that. That's just a team thing."

It'll be the Crimson team versus the White team in Alabama's final scrimmage and workout of spring.

The Crimson team features the first-team offense and the second-team defense, while the White team is led by the first-team defense along with the second-team offense. Saban said this format allows the best players "for now" to play against the other best players and gives the backups a chance to face each other "so that it makes a very, very competitive game."

Kirby Smart (defensive coordinator), Burton Burns (running backs), Mario Cristobal (offensive line), Billy Napier (wide receivers) and Bo Davis (defensive line) will coach the Crimson team.

Lane Kiffin (offensive coordinator), Kevin Steele (inside linebackers), Lance Thompson (outside linebackers) and Bobby Williams (tight ends/special teams) will coach the White team.

"I look at a little bit like it's an exhibition game for our players and our team," Saban said.

"It's an opportunity for them to go out and play a game-like circumstance, a game-like situation, and it's really your first opportunity as an individual, as a unit or as a team, to really create an identity for who you are and how you play, how you compete, the kind of effort you give, the kind of toughness you play with, the kind of discipline you have to execute.

"The ability to focus on the next play regardless of what happened on the last play.

"Those things are important, I think, in being able to compete through the tough circumstances and adversity that we have in our league and the tough teams and tough places we play."

With recruits, former players, a new team and others on hand, Saban said it will be important to "have great support" from the fans and for the atmosphere to be "as game-like as we can get it."

"For seven years, we've had a great response to A-Day," Saban said.

"It's a great traditional day here for a lot of folks to come back here and a lot of activities for former players, A-Club folks, golf outings. A lot of fan interest and a lot of fan support.

"We'll have a ton of people here that are guys we're looking at for the future, in terms of recruits, that can be very much impressed by the energy, enthusiasm and passion that we show in this game.

"And I think it's a tradition and something that we're very proud of and something that has helped the program tremendously.

"I hope that we continue to show that kind of support for our team and the program. I think it's very, very beneficial."

For the players, they must balance playing hard while avoiding injury and/or hurting a teammate. But Jones said the team is accustomed to it.

"It's the way we practice. It's the style of practice. We practice fast," Jones said.

"We thud the runner, but this time we're tackling. You don't take cheap shots. You save your opponent, which is your teammate, at the same time.

"So you don't do anything crazy or anything stupid to hurt anyone."

Still, don't expect them to dial it back.

"It's full speed football, baby," Devall said with a smile.

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