TUSCALOOSA | Place national championship rings on the fingers of teenagers for two consecutive years, and preventing complacency and the problems that can accompany it can be a difficult task.
Difficult, but not impossible.
University of Alabama coach Nick Saban put his players through the first day of spring football practice Saturday as the Crimson Tide's returning players took the field to begin building Alabama's 2013 team. But as highly anticipated as the first practice was, the first day of the Fourth Quarter program -- Alabama's offseason conditioning regimen -- was perhaps just as welcome.
"Until we got into the offseason program and sort of got a handle on things, we did not respond as well as we'd like with this group. But I think they've made a tremendous amount of improvement," Saban said. "I think we had more guys miss class, more issues, the first behavioral issues we've had with the guys who got in trouble that we've had in five and a half years. A lot of little loose-ended things. When guys have entitlement, you see a little slippage."
Saban referenced four players arrested on felony charges in the offseason, three for second-degree robbery, have been dismissed and are no longer enrolled. Linebacker C.J. Mosley said a team meeting was held soon after to discuss the entitlement issues Saban spoke of. But once the Fourth Quarter program began, Mosley said the team found it easier to focus on improvement.
"We just didn't have all of that off time anymore. We could just go to class and get ready for football," he said. "Once you have football, it occupies most of your day. We just have to make sure we keep grinding."
Saban said the team's academic performance improved after the Fourth Quarter program began as well.
"Once we got into the offseason program where we were seeing the players just about four out of five days, and the coaches were around them more, I think we got them recentered and refocused and we've improved in all those areas," he said. "We've had the best academic week that we've had all semester, and guys are making progress. We really had a good offseason program and the attitude was good today at practice."
The Crimson Tide will practice in the spring 14 more times beginning Monday.
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.
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