Football is back in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama began spring practice Friday, kicking off a period of 15 sessions that will end with its April 16 spring game. The Tide will pause next week for spring break before resuming practice March 21.
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Nick Saban held his first news conference of the spring shortly before 6 pm CT. It was Saban’s first non-game news conference with reporters in person since the 2019 season.
Here were the live updates as it unfolded:
— Nick Saban is at the podium. He said they are happy with the offseason program, the attitude and commitment, and the conditioning of players.
— Saban said there are “guys that have opportunities” and there is competition at several positions.
— Ja’Corey Brooks, Darrian Dalcourt, Keanu Koht are out for the spring for injuries or “whatever,” Saban said. All other players will participate in some part of practice this spring, Saban said.
— Saban said all three transfers — Eli Ricks, Jahmyr Gibbs and Jermaine Burton — were impressive in practice Friday. “I think those three guys will be very helpful for us.”
— Saban said the analyst hires, including Todd Grantham and Derek Dooley, can add something to the staff. He noted both Grantham and Dooley have worked for him before. “Those guys can add significant knowledge and experience to help solve some of the issues and problems that we have.” Saban said analyst Zach Mettenberger is the son-in-law of Ken Whisenhunt, who Saban called a good friend. “I think Zach is a very, very good young guy who’s very bright and has a bright future. I’m sure he’s going to learn. He’s got a great work ethic. He’s been very committed and doing a good job since he’s been here.”
— Saban said he “really loves it” when players like Kendall Randolph, who returned for a sixth year, show great “resiliency, perseverance.” Saban said the first priority is for Randolph to compete for a starting job along the offensive line, presumably before considering him as a tight end/blocker.
— Asked about Joe Cox serving as a tight ends coach exclusively, Saban said they have philosophically they have had “different blends” of coaches, in terms of balance between offense and defense. Saban said they were a “little bit imbalanced” last season and “that’s the reason we made the changes we made.” Saban did say tight end is a position that has evolved to involve more alignments and responsibilities and “for those guys to get a little bit more focused attention is important,” and he said he has been “very impressed” with Cox as a “bright young guy.”
— “We’ve had one practice, so I don’t know how I can assess anyone’s progress from last year to this year,” Saban said about the offensive line. Saban did note Damieon George had a great offseason and they’re encouraged by him, “whether he plays guard or tackle.” Saban said they are also considering JC Latham and Javion Cohen at both guard and tackle. Saban said Tommy Brockermeyer was fighting injuries in the offseason but he will be part of the competition along the offensive line.
— Saban said they have two centers who started significant games last season in Dalcourt and Seth McLaughlin. “I feel really good about those two guys,” Saban said. “It’s trying to get the other guys in the right spot and maybe who do we develop to be a third center, because that’s always an important spot to have somebody to fill if you lose a guy.”
Mike Rodak is an Alabama beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @mikerodak.