TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- December afternoons don’t get much nicer than Saturday’s.
So Alabama took its operation outdoors. In the first trip outside since opening prep for the BCS national title game Dec. 19, there was a specialized focus.
It was all about the kicking game. The relatively low ceiling of the indoor complex doesn’t create the ideal space for special-teams action.
“The whole timing of catching punts relative to the punt return or kickoffs relative to the kickoff return or the coverage team trying to position themselves based on the punt -- it’s not possible to do that indoors,” coach Nick Saban said. “We’ve been looking for a day when we could go out, and it worked out perfect for us today.”
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Twice as much time was spent on the kicking game Saturday, Saban said.
There were other fringe benefits enjoyed.
“It felt good,” senior offensive lineman Alfred McCullough said. “The turf does something to your body when you’re in there so many days. It felt good to really get on some real grass.”
It might be a while before Alabama practices in the sun. After arriving in New Orleans next week, all practices are schedule for the Superdome or the Saints’ indoor facility.
Peeking at next year
After offensive lineman Barrett Jones announced Friday he will return to Alabama instead of make himself eligible for the NFL draft, senior center William Vlachos said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Jones take his spot next season.
But Saban wasn’t ready to go there just yet.
“When next year comes, we haven’t really looked at that,” Saban said. “We’re obviously focused on other things right now. But we’ll play the best five offensive linemen, and obviously having players like Barrett Jones, who can play multiple positions -- center, guard and tackle, that’s all of them I think -- certainly helps your ability to do that.”
Two days, no practice
The Tide will now enjoy two days away from the practice. Today is a complete off-day for players, and Monday’s schedule calls for meetings and lifting. The team will then practice Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon before flying Wednedsay evening to New Orleans.