Alabama held its second and final scrimmage of the preseason Saturday. Coach Nick Saban spoke to reporters afterward, saying the scrimmage marked the end of “camp” — although Saban noted the rules this year prevented a typical fall camp.
The Tide will hold three practices next week, Tuesday through Thursday, before another three days off. Alabama begins its season Sept. 26 at Missouri (6 p.m. CT, ESPN).
Here is what Saban said Saturday:
— The second scrimmage was more “game-like” than the first scrimmage and featured “30-something plays” that included kicking situations, turnovers, etc. The team later said there were 133 plays in the scrimmage.
— Saban said he was “very pleased” with the offense in the scrimmage and it was “pretty efficient.” He said the offensive line has played “really, really well” and both quarterbacks, Mac Jones and Bryce Young, “played well” in the scrimmage. He added DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are both playing “extremely well” and the other receivers are “coming along and playing very, very well.” He said he has been “very impressed” with his running backs, including younger ones who have played well. “We have a lot of good things happening on the offensive side,” he said.
— Asked specifically about the quarterbacks, Saban said both were efficient, had good completion percentages and threw for some explosive plays in critical situations. He said the third-down offense was good, which reflects well on quarterbacks’ decision making.
— Saban was less effusive in his praise about the defense, saying there were good things in the scrimmage but “a lot of things we need to clean up and improve on.” He noted the defense is less experienced and they need to learn to play together and communicate. “I think that’s something that we’ll continue to get better at,” he said.
— Saban said sophomore Justin Eboigbe has been the “most consistent” of the younger defensive linemen. “All those guys have made a lot of progress,” Saban said. “But we’ve got to get these guys to be good all-around players. We got to get them to be able to rush the passer. Some of them play the run; got to improve rushing the passer. We’ve got some guys who rush the passer well; they’ve got to improve on playing the run. It’s kind of a group effort to get that group continuing to improve.”
— Defensive lineman Christian Barmore will be “out for a few days” with a knee injury, Saban said. “Not significant, not serious.” He did not participate in the scrimmage. “He’s done really, really well,” Saban said of Barmore. ”He has been one of our best pass rushers.”
— Saban said DeMarrco Hellams has played the ‘money’ position as well as freshman Brian Branch. “We’re very, very thin in the secondary. We don’t have a lot of depth. We’ve got a lot of young players and it’s very difficult to train them at multiple positions,” Saban said. “We’re trying to use this time to be able to do that. Whether we can continue that throughout the season, that remains to be seen.” Saban said he feels good about the top defensive unit but, “it’s going to be a work in progress developing these younger players who have made extreme progress — I’m really pleased with them — but I just know from past experience that when you try to get, especially when the season starts and things change from week to week, you get young players to play multiple positions and they don’t have a lot of experience to draw from, it makes it very difficult for them,” Saban added.
— Saban said the specialists have done “really, really well” and a “couple of the punters” have been “pretty consistent.” Sophomore Will Reichard was 4-of-5 and missed about a 55-yard field goal, Saban said. “He’s been doing really well,” he said.
— Saban said he is “certainly not at all disappointed in the progress” the team has made to this point.
— Saban: “It’s very important that our players buy into the culture of what has helped us be successful here for a long, long time. That’s the intangibles that we play with, the work ethic that we have, the discipline that we play with, the toughness, the effort and people having a great sense of urgency about how important it is to do their job so that their unit, their team — our team — has a chance to be successful. That means we have to play to a standard. It’s not really anybody else’s standard, it’s our standard. I think everybody has to buy into that, buy into the team having success and winning is very important. … Most of the time, if you do that, you create tremendous value for yourself individually.”
— When practice resumes Tuesday, Alabama will focus on its early opponents — it opens the season against Missouri, Texas A&M and Ole Miss — and will need a “sense of urgency,” Saban said.
Mike Rodak is an Alabama beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @mikerodak.