This will always be remembered as the A-Day where Nick Saban placed himself on injured reserve.
As the traditional close of spring football, A-Day is always a time for taking stock of where the University of Alabama football team stands going into the summer. That season used to be a hiatus, a vacation for some players, a chance to get summer jobs for others.
Those days are gone. Football is the summer job for college football players — weight room work, 7-on-7 drills, film study. Coaches get little relief either, heading into a routine of summer camps and recruiting, days that might start at 6:30 a.m. instead of 5:30 — but perhaps with some family time, a beach vacation or some golf wedged in among the responsibilities.
Saban will miss the golfing for a few weeks, at least. He will take the time to “have his hip fixed,” as he has expressed it. The procedure may curtail a couple of weeks of travel and it will certainly address the vexatious question of whether Saban can be a model patient. It also will allow him to coach “a lot more years,” which he pointed out partly from transparency and partly because of the annually-increasing speculation from recruiting rivals Saban may be headed to retirement. Always be recruiting, above all else.
The announcement capped a press conference that required the usual Saban translator. When he called out the Crimson team’s media coaches for failing to win a spring scrimmage despite having an All-America quarterback, that was an inside joke of the sort he enjoys and that the media gets, even if it comes across on Twitter as anger. But there were also times when he was low-key but clearly perturbed and there was a stretch where he flashed some real frustration. Yet he seemed, as he has seemed all spring, to be fairly happy with the progress that the team has made overall.
That leads to a few traditional-style A-Day observations, taking into account the fact intrasquad games are by definition zero-sum endeavors.
Quarterbacks: Mac Jones had a good day against the second-team defense. Paul Tyson seemed to have “a lot of anxiety,” as Saban said, but that is natural for a freshman. The other freshman, Taulia Tagovailoa had what was probably the best throw of the day on his touchdown to Jalyn Waddle. Taulia’s older brother, as Saban noted earlier in the spring, is the starter and will be fine.
Running backs: On a day where holes were sometimes hard to find, Tuscaloosa’s Brian Robinson Jr. ran hard.
Wide receivers: Everyone who threw the football for Alabama, including Slade Bolden, should be thankful for the embarrassment of riches at this position. It was inevitable that true freshman John Metchie winning the MVP Award would make Saban angry (it did, although he probably would have been just as angry had Mac Jones, who probably deserved it, had won.)
Kickers: Usually a fountain of frustration, this was actually one of the day’s positives. Will Reichard kicked well and Skyler DeLong’s punting appeared to be much improved.
Defense: Not short of talent. Not even close. Another linebacker would be nice, in the way that another billion dollars would be nice if you were Warren Buffett. Maybe Shane Lee, who was an eye-catcher, will fill that spot
Did any or all of the above make Nick Saban happy? There is no way to tell. And at this point, Alabama fans want a healthy coach, not just a happy one.