| FTBL Nick Saban describes Alabama's daily operations during pandemic

JoseyWalesTheOutlaw

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The novel coronavirus pandemic ended Alabama’s spring football practice schedule before it even started. Hours before the first of 15 practices were set to begin on March 13, the Crimson Tide suspended its 2020 spring football season until further notice due to the virus.

This would have been Nick Saban’s 14th spring in Tuscaloosa, Ala. While he is still in town and at the helms of the storied football program, he was the only member of his coaching staff at the Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility on Thursday. Holding a media teleconference, and later more public service announcements, Saban shared how his daily schedule has changed.

“I think the whole world’s turned upside down, so it’s really different for everybody,” Saban told reporters. “But I think the best thing we can do is adapt and adjust to it the best we can.

“Basically, there’s really three areas that we’re trying to focus on. Every morning I have a Zoom staff meeting at 7:30 just like we always do. It’s now on Zoom, so there’s no personal contact with anybody. And we discuss basically what we’re going to do with our team and our players that particular day. We usually use the morning to sort of work on next year’s opponents, which is not something we’d typically be doing at this time of year with spring practices going on.

“On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, right now, we’re doing sessions with our players. I do video conferences and phone calls with recruits then in the afternoon. That’s pretty much what a day is like, and we’re doing the best we can and we’ll continue to do that.”

With his team scattered across the country, Saban said the additions of David Ballou and Dr. Matt Rhea have been “a huge positive” in keeping track of the players’ training routines.

“Dr. Rhea has actually got a PhD, so his knowledge and experience in a lot of technical-type testing and stuff that you can do with players and the new training programs that we’re doing, the players really liked,” Saban said. “Hopefully, this will help us with some injury prevention and help us be able to perform better when the time comes. They were very instrumental in setting up this whole program of what we’re doing with the players, in terms of Apple Watches for their workouts, apps on their phones for weight training programs.

“We had issues with some players not having a place to work out because high schools are closed, so we put them on band workout programs. They’ve done a really, really good job of managing this to this point, and the players have done a good job responding to it.”

Saban said “nobody knows” what the future holds when it comes to the coronavirus, but he did lay out how his coaching staff is utilizing the time they’re allotted to teach the players.

“We’re not in any real hurry with whatever installation we’re doing with the players,” Saban said. “I think basically there’s three parts to teaching -- what to do, how to do it, why it’s important to do it that way. So, if we just take a single concept, like for example, if we’re on offense and we’re teaching inside zone, aight. Well, we could take 30 minutes on teaching the techniques, the aiming points, the footwork and then actually show the players video of doing it correctly or actually let them evaluate whether the guy that we’re looking at is doing it correctly or incorrectly.

“I think conceptually, there’s a lot of benefit to it because we don’t have to hurry through it because (before) we’re going through this install and then we’re going to go practice in a half hour so we’ve got 30 minutes to meet then we’ve got to go on the field and we’ve got to be able to go do this today.

“I do think it gives the players the opportunity to be engaged, No. 1. But No. 2, I do think it’s a slow process of learning that can be beneficial to them having a better understanding of concepts. So, we’re not in any hurry. We’re kind of taking it slow, and so far, it’s worked out really, really well.”
 
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Nick Saban was spending an April Thursday morning as the only person in the Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility. Under normal circumstances, the building would be buzzing with his entire University of Alabama football coaching staff and the entire roster, all of them preparing for another spring practice.

Instead, days after telling The Tuscaloosa News how UA was improvising in its football activities around the COVID-19 pandemic, Saban gave a few more details to the daily operations in a teleconference.

“I think the best thing we can do is adapt and adjust to it the best that we can,” Saban said. “Basically, there’s two areas, really three areas, that we’re trying to focus on. Every morning, I have a Zoom staff meeting at 7:30 just like we always do. It’s done on Zoom so there’s no personal contact with anybody, and we discuss basically what we’re going to do with our team and our players that particular day. We usually use the morning to sort of work on next year’s opponents, which is not what we would typically be doing at this time of year when spring practice is going on.

“In the afternoon, we try to do as much as we can to stay in contact with recruits. On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday right now we’re doing segments with our players. I do video conferences and phone calls with recruits then in the afternoon. That’s pretty much what a day is like and we’re doing the best we can.”

In doing the best they can, it means position coaches running spring meetings quite differently than they usually would. Saban made a case that, in some instances, it makes for better meetings this way.

“We’re not in any real hurry with whatever installations we’re doing with the players,” he said. “For example, if we’re on offense and we’re teaching inside zone, we can take 30 minutes on teaching the techniques, the aiming points, the footwork, and then actually show the players video of doing it correctly or actually let them evaluate if the guy we’re looking at is doing it correctly or incorrectly.

“I think conceptually there’s a lot of benefit to it because we don’t have to hurry through it because we’re going through this install and then we’re gonna go practice in a half-hour, so we got 30 minutes to meet. Then we gotta go on the field and then we gotta be able to go do this today. I think it gives the opportunity for the players to be engaged, No. 1, but No. 2, I do think it’s a slow process of learning that can be beneficial to them having a better understanding of concepts.”

With that benefit considered, Saban still longs for the benefit of on-field instruction in the spring. He would prefer a 14-day instruction period before teams begin preseason practice, whenever that may be, even if that instruction period is just in helmets and shorts. The way he sees it, the contact of spring practice does not help prepare players for that season — that’s what preseason practice is for — but the instruction time therein is valuable.

Of course, there are other obstacles. The new heads of UA’s strength and conditioning program, David Ballou and Dr. Matt Rhea, have set up workout programs for players and collecting data from their smart watches and apps on their phones, but some players don’t have access to weight rooms as high schools are shutting down. Those players have to settle for workouts with resistance bands.

The smart watches were provided to players who didn’t already have them before players left campus, with the goal of players being able to monitor their own heart rate during workouts.

“The SEC is aware that Alabama provided Apple Watches to some of our student-athletes,” Senior Associate Athletic Director for compliance Matt Self said in a statement to The Tuscaloosa News. “We are in constant communication with the SEC discussing the appropriate manner in which to utilize these and any other resources to provide for the health and well-being of our student-athletes in this crisis.”

Saban also said linebacker Markail Benton has been suspended from the team, “and that hasn’t really changed.” Benton carved out a role for himself in Dime packages last season, ultimately recording 19 tackles, one for a loss, and a pass breakup. If he is able to return to the team for the 2020 season, he will be a redshirt junior.
 

TerryP

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Color me surprised Rivals beat writers would put something like this out there. 🙃

He's right, Drinkwitz isn't allowed to have contact with his players during the off-season. That isn't the case with S&C staff. But it was just enough to inflame his followers (and a few other rival fans as well.)



 

12gage

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The ATHLETIC: Keeping watch on Alabama and the Apple Watch

In his first media availability since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down spring football, Alabama coach Nick Saban dropped a nugget of information that immediately became a talking point around college football Thursday afternoon.

When addressing how Alabama’s new strength and conditioning coaches David Ballou and Matt Rhea were fitting in as the answer to the much-publicized exit of Scott Cochran to Georgia, Saban noted that they equipped Crimson Tide players with Apple Watches for the players’ training away from campus.

“They were very instrumental in setting up this whole program of what we’re doing with the players in terms of Apple Watches for their workouts, apps on their phones for weight training programs,” Saban said. “We had an issue with some players not having a place to work out because high schools are closed. We put them on band workout programs. They’ve done a really, really good job of managing this to this point, and the players have done a really good job responding to it.”

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As one Power 5 director of football operations told The Athletic on the condition of anonymity for competitive reasons: “I have no stinking clue how they’re doing that.”
 

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