It’s just a spring football game, but in Bama it can be very serious business

Nick Saban rounded the corner of the LSU training ground in his sports car in the early 2000s and came to a quick stop as he approached a sportswriter. The writer’s column that morning detailed 12 reasons to abolish spring football.

“You just don’t want to have to come here,” Saban said and ran away.

“That’s quite right,” I said.

Nick Saban loves spring football and the spring games. Alabama, fresh off a non-national championship season for only the seventh time under Saban since winning its first of six national titles with the Tide in 2009, will play its 15th A-Day spring game under Saban. Saturday (3 p.m. EST, ESPN+, SEC Network+), weather permitting. Thunderstorms accompanied by wind and hail are expected throughout the day.

What Saban loves about spring football is the educational aspect without the pressure of a real inbound game. The former Kent State defensive back, who was a secondary coach for most of his pre-chief practice days, can get dirty with technique and work with substitutes who don’t get as much attention during the game. season.

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“Depth of a route, reading of a quarterback, defensive players not having right eye control,” Saban said Thursday night. “The real goal has been to achieve fundamentally better execution and to try to show the players that if they do that, it’s the best chance we have of being successful.”

Wow! Date viewing at its best, right?

Yes, spring football is important for building a full squad heading into August practices and the season, but it’s not cinematic. Even after Saban won his first national title in the 2003 season at LSU, only about 25,000 showed up at Tiger Stadium for the spring game. There, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, boiling crawfish, LSU baseball, and just sitting on the porch then and now are still more interesting to most than glorified practice.

In Alabama, however, a crowd of 92,138 showed up at Bryant-Denny on April 21, 2007, for Saban’s first spring game with the Tide. It was a starving Bama nation that had just lost three seasons and a 6-6 under NCAA sanctions since 2000, and Saban left a two-year stint of 15-17 with the Miami Dolphins to be its savior after saying he would stay in Miami.

Fans actually had to be turned away that day.

“You know, one of the things that I think really helped this program get started was the first A-Day game we had,” Saban said Thursday. “We had over 90,000 people. I think it sent a message to the whole nation about our commitment to having a first-class program, a program you could be proud of.

Then Alabama lost, 21-14, to Louisiana-Monroe the following November and found themselves at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana, to wrap up a 7-6 season. But things have improved under Saban, even though he failed to change the date for this Easter weekend.

“For us to have a great crowd regardless of the weather on Saturday will send a huge message about our passion, desire and support for our program,” he said. “I know it’s a holiday weekend. Sorry the calendar worked out that way.

Saban and his team have a lot of work to do. Gone from his team that lost the national title to Georgia, there are NFL Draft-bound players like wide receivers Jameson Williams and John Metchie III, tailback Brian Robinson Jr., offensive linemen Evan Neal and Chris Owens, defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis and linebacker Christian Harris, among others.

He still has outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr., a consensus All-American last year as a sophomore who won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s top defenseman, and quarterback Bryce Young, who won the Heisman Trophy last season as a sophomore.

Saban will see his first team offense go against the second team defense and the first team defense will go against the second team offense for most of the game on Saturday to avoid lags.

“I did this 15 different ways,” he said. “It’s more like a game, which is really the ultimate goal of A-Day. It’s an exhibition game. We’ll try not to show anything exotic. Simplification helps players play fast and physically .

And I hope it will go quickly.

Other spring games on Saturday and next Saturday:

Arkansas, Noon, SEC Network+, ESPN+

Mississippi State, noon, SEC Network+, ESPN+

Georgia, 1 p.m., ESPN2

Vanderbilt, 2 p.m., SEC+ Network, ESPN+

Alabama, 3 p.m., SEC Network+, ESPN+

South Carolina, 7 p.m., SEC Network+, ESPN+

APRIL 23

Ole Miss, 1 p.m., SEC+ Network, ESPN+

LSU, 2 p.m., SEC+ Network, ESPN+

About Betty J. Snyder

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