TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- There’s a science to spring football.
Forget retooling the depth chart and replacing departed seniors, just fitting 15 dates on the calendar can be a struggle. Throw in Easter on April 8, and Alabama coach Nick Saban faced a decision.
The verdict: Start practice today, take a week off for spring break and then hit it hard on the other side. Workouts resume March 19 and conclude with the April 14 A-Day Game in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“When Easter falls in spring ball, we usually don’t practice on Saturday,” Saban said. “So we end up having an extra practice. So we have three options. We can have a practice before, we can have a practice after A-Day or we can practice three days in a row somewhere. We’ve done it all three ways, but the way that seems to work the best is when you have one practice before.”
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Alabama used a similar schedule for the 2010 spring routine. Saban said it helps ease younger players into the schedule.
Rising senior linebacker Nico Johnson said the parallels between that post-championship spring and this one ended in January.
“Going through that and having the majority of the players who played on that team coming back, we have better leadership than we had that year,” he said. “Just going through that (10-3 season) and being a leader next year, I’m going to try to tell everyone else we have to stay on our stuff, no matter what.”
Having the 10-day spring break after the first of two helmet-and-shoulder-pad practice can do a lot for the psyche of those competing for starting jobs.
“So that they can actually go on spring break with the idea that, whether it’s, ‘I’ve got a lot to learn,’ ‘I’m not in the kind of condition I need to be in,’” Saban said. “Whatever the issue is -- maybe in some cases it develops confidence. ‘I went through a practice. I know more. I’m a lot better than I was a year ago.’ There’s a lot more carryover.”
And there’s plenty of room for competition.
Three of the four starting linebackers graduated or left for the NFL draft, and two cornerback jobs are up for grabs.
Saban said one former running back will join the battle at linebacker. Freshman Brent Calloway will move to defense after redshirting deep on the running back depth chart last season. He is slated to play one of the two inside positions,
“We recruited him as a guy who could play running back, could play linebacker,” Saban said. “He played running back all last year, so now we’re going to look at him at linebacker and see where he would make the best contribution. These are experiments. This is not a final move.”
It’s all part of the spring practice dynamic.
Creating competition is the idea, regardless of perceived job security at any position.
“Every guy has an opportunity,” Saban said. “Every guy that we recruited that hasn’t had the opportunity to play yet, we want to develop each and every one of those players.
“All those players are going to, based on how they improve, how they develop, are going to have an opportunity to create a role on the team, whether it’s to be a backup player, a starter, a special-teams player, whatever that is.”