TUSCALOOSA | If the physical condition the University of Alabama football team is in gives any indication of what kind of fall camp it will have, the 2012 version of the Crimson Tide should be well prepared by the time it plays Michigan in a Sept. 1 season opener.
UA coach Nick Saban said the Crimson Tide performed better as a team in summer conditioning tests than his UA teams of the past, a strong indication that players did not rest in the off-season in the afterglow of a 2011 BCS National Championship.
"(I've) really been pleased with the team chemistry and the attitude with this group of players that we have. We had very good summer of offseason work," Saban said. "This is probably the best test results that we've ever gotten from our performance in terms of quality performance on the test."
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Fifth-year senior Robert Lester said he has been impressed with the Crimson Tide's work ethic throughout the off-season.
"It's great to have these guys contribute the way they have in the summer," Lester said. "Jesse Williams benched 600 pounds. That says a lot about how hard this team's working."
Williams, one of the teams' most enthusiastic weight-lifters, documented his bench-press accomplishment online on his Twitter page last week. Lester said the conditioning test includes a 110-yard dash, a 40-yard dash, and the bench press. Suffice it to say Williams passed with ease.
"You pass it and you get to go home on a break before you go to camp," Lester said.
But with the team now on the practice field and full-pad workouts beginning next week, the time to translate good conditioning to good play is now.
"That doesn't necessarily mean you're a better football player," Saban said of the tam being in good shape. "It just means the players invested a lot in the conditioning work that they have, and that's going to give them a better opportunity to sustain some practices some things that they need to do to try to improve."
Sims to split time
Running back Blake Sims, who has practiced some at quarterback in his career, is likely to split time at the two positions in fall camp with Alabama short on experienced depth at the quarterback position.
"He will get turns at quarterback to see how our quarterbacks develop, and he may give us a different option at that position," Saban said. "He has repped there significantly in the past, so he'll probably split time between a running back and a quarterback. We'll certainly make sure that we look at the option of allowing him to develop what he can do at quarterback."
Returning starter AJ McCarron is the only UA quarterback who has taken a snap in game action. Redshirt freshman Phillip Ely worked in the morning practice Friday, while incoming freshman Alec Morris practiced with the newcomers in the evening workout.
Kouandjio on mend
Third-year sophomore Arie Kouandjio recovered from knee problems nicely over the summer, according to Saban. Kouandjio missed spring practice and has been hampered by injuries, but could be ready to contribute by the start of the season.
"He actually did a lot better in the summer than we anticipated that he might, relative to his injuries and the downtime that he had to have in rehab because of the type of injuries that he had and the multiple injuries that he had," Saban said. "He did a really good job. He also took reps in practice. We're hopeful that he will continue to progress and be ready to play in the first game, but that's going to be day-to-day evaluation to see how he can sustain the workload."
Kouandjio is the older brother of UA left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.
"I love the Manning camp. I think it's a great opportunity, not only to grow on the field but grow off the field and get a little wisdom from him and how he handles certain situations. I keep up with them guys - Mr. Archie, Eli, Coop (Cooper Manning), Peyton - I keep up with all the Mannings all year long. I'll shoot them a little text and ask for their advice on certain things. I think it helps." - UA QB AJ McCarron on his experience at the Manning Passing Academy in July.
The Crimson Tide's morning practice for veterans consisted of 53 players, mostly returning starters and top reserves. ... Linebacker Tana Patrick, who practiced at both outside and inside linebacker in the spring, opened fall camp on the outside. ... Alabama's first full-squad practice will be this afternoon (closed to public). Fan Day, which is open to the public, will be Sunday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Stadium gates open at 1:30 p.m. for a 2:30 p.m. practice.
Reach Chase Goodbread at Chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.