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April 19, 2011After a couple of days of reflection, University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban was ready Tuesday to declare last Saturday's A-Day game a rousing success," not because of what happened on the field, but because of the Crimson Tide fans.
Saban, who was in Cullman for the first of this spring's Crimson Caravan stops, said the record crowd of more than 92,000 impressed recruits," even ones who didn't make a weekend trip to Tuscaloosa.
"I was speaking in Memphis last night and posed for over a hundred pictures," Saban said. "And more than half the people I talked to said they had watched the game on television (ESPNU). That's a tremendous exposure, and I honestly think ESPN shows our game because of the number of fans we have in the stands, not because we are going to be any good (as a team).
Our fan support and passion are a real asset.
Saban wasn't despairing over the team's performance, either.
In fact, the Crimson Tide coach said his day-after review of A- Day exceeded my expectations.
"I thought we played with great effort,"? Saban said. "I thought both quarterbacks (sophomore-to-be A.J. McCarron and freshman Phillip Sims) made some good plays and they both made some plays that they would like to have back.
"I thought Trent (Richardson, the Crimson Tide's standout tailback) played well. And I thought some of our younger players, after having pretty good springs, sort of melted down out there. But you put them out for that reason, and it was a great experience for them."
Saban didn't elaborate on the quarterback play, and the ultimate outcome of the competition between McCarron and Sims will be a closely-guarded state secret until September, one suspects. But Saban did return to the play of another freshman quarterback, Blake Sims.
"He's our third quarterback right now," Saban said. "He actually threw the ball better and played the position better than we had anticipated. He does some things that we didn't (show) in the A-Day game that will give an added dimension to our offense."
Saban did not mention many other players, although he did name Barrett Jones, Anthony Steen and Aaron Douglas as playing well in response to a direct question about offensive line shuffling. He was also asked to follow up on a Saturday statement about a handful of players who would have minor surgical procedures, but said only that none of it is major and that UA would release a complete injury list later.
He also sounded an optimistic closing note.
"I have said that I liked the intensity of this team in the spring, their character and attitude,"? he said. "But the big question is what they will be willing to do individually and together to get a better payday at the end, a better result. That's the question, and right now I can't answer that."
Cecil Hurt is sports editor of The Tuscaloosa News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0225.