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March 8, 2012

Tide set to hit the field for first day of spring drills

TUSCALOOSA | The University of Alabama gets spring football practice under way today, but it will still be a couple of weeks before there is a chance for any real progress to be made.

For the second year in a row, the Crimson Tide will hold its first practice just before spring break, and resume with a second practice on March 19. UA coach Nick Saban said the scheduling quirk presents the best of three options.

"I like to space out spring practices, and not have (practices) multiple days in a row ... You don't have as good a teaching time, the players don't have the recovery time," Saban said. "But when Easter falls in spring ball, we usually don't practice Saturday, so we have an extra practice. We have three options. We can have a practice before (spring break), 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."

Saban said the single practice before spring break helps younger players return with less anxiety, and also gives all the players a sense of where they stand either mentally, physically, or both, going into the break.

A-Day, the annual spring scrimmage open to the public, is set for April 14.

The Crimson Tide enters spring drills facing heavy turnover at the offensive and defensive skill positions. UA loses its top pass catchers at wide receiver and tight end, as well as running back Trent Richardson. Defensively, three key members of the secondary have departed in Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie, while three starters at linebacker (Courtney Upshaw, Dont'a Hightower, Jerrell Harris) also have moved on.

"We lost a lot of good players, and have a lot of good players coming back, but this will create an opportunity for some younger guys on our team to show what they can do," Saban said. "See what they can learn, see how they can develop some kind of consistency in performance this spring, and be responsible to do their job next fall. It will be an interesting spring for a lot of young guys to come of age, so to speak."

Saban said the late date of the Crimson Tide's BCS title game appearance, Jan. 9, created a shorter break for the players before offseason workouts began. That has resulted in better overall conditioning.

"When you play a late (bowl) game like we did, the players don't get as far out of shape as what they would if you played an earlier bowl game and they have more time," Saban said.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.

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