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April 5, 2013

Alabama set for first scrimmage

TUSCALOOSA | For Jeoffrey Pagan, it was Chance Warmack.

For Anthony Steen, it was Dont'a Hightower.

The veterans on the University of Alabama football team all have a memory of their first scrimmage at the college level, and most of those memories aren't too pleasant.

"I remember the first time I got laid out by Dont'a, on a linebacker blitz," said Steen, Alabama's returning starter at right guard. "I wasn't even looking. I don't think I'll ever forget it."

Tight end Brian Vogler said he sustained a shoulder injury in his first spring scrimmage, and a concussion in his first fall scrimmage.

So for the Crimson Tide's incoming freshmen who enrolled in January, more such forgettable memories will no doubt be made this afternoon as Alabama holds its first scrimmage of spring drills at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

But those are some of the growing pains that will help define the team in the fall. And there are plenty of younger players who already know the scrimmage routine well who are in a position to take over vacated roles.

UA coach Nick Saban said mental toughness is something his staff will watch for as well.

"I think what we're looking for at this point in time is guys that will go out and compete and be able to play their position with the kind of effort and the kind of mental and physical toughness and the discipline that goes along with being able to execute," Saban said, "and being responsible to do a job and do it play in and play out, whether they had success the play before or not."

The scrimmage is closed to the public. UA coach Nick Saban will hold a news conference following the scrimmage.

One area where the Crimson Tide faces turnover is at tight end, where it must replace 2012 starter Michael Williams. Vogler, for one, has high anticipation for the chance.

"I'm ecstatic. All the tight ends are ready to show their reliability and consistency, and Saturday is the first day we can actually show that," Vogler said.

UA will scrimmage again next Saturday afternoon, and conclude spring drills with the annual A-Day game on April 20.

"I think it's kind of what we look for in good competitors, guys that can sustain through thick and thin, play the game because they have a lot of pride in performance and they want to be really good players and it means something to them to go out there and play well and contribute to the team and be responsible to do their job," Saban added. "Those are the kinds of things that we're looking for, in terms of guys that do that extremely well. They've done it in the past. But we obviously have a lot of other guys that we need to get to that point so that they can contribute in a positive way to the team as well."

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



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