Then he saw a “woe is me” attitude at Saturday’s scrimmage.
By Monday, the Crimson Tide veterans had seen enough. Sick of the loafing at practices, a few potential captains stood up at the morning practice in hopes of stemming the undesired lack of effort as the weeks turn into days before San Jose State comes to town Sept. 4.
It was simply time for “the talk.”
A year ago, linebacker Dont’a Hightower doesn’t remember Alabama facing these issues and Saban wasn’t questioning the intensity with which his team practiced. It’s also a problem not commonly associated with a returning national championship team that tops virtually every preseason ranking.
“I think it’s new to the team this year,” Hightower said. “Last year, we had a lot of veterans, a lot more maturity. Right now, there’s a lot more rookies. Like I said, we can’t take the easy way out and try to blame it on the rookies. We all got to come out and lead by example and show a little bit more maturity than what we’ve been showing.”
There were many more veterans returning this time last year, and the August heat wasn’t setting state records in 2009 as it is this year. But, as Hightower said, excuses like that don’t fly in the Alabama football complex.
So, along with quarterback Greg McElroy, tight end Preston Dial and defensive end Marcell Dareus, Hightower got real with his teammates during the last two-a-day practice scheduled for the preseason.
McElroy said he wasn’t as much disappointed with what he saw Saturday, but Monday morning’s practice that was troublesome. In his words: “I was really displeased.”
”The thing that bothers me more than anything is not necessarily from a talent standpoint,” McElroy said. “It’s just how much do you care about the team. What are you willing to give to allow the team to be successful? I think that’s something we all need to take a look in the mirror, both as an offense, defense, special teams, everybody. We need to take a look and see what we’re not doing right and notice those problems and be honest with yourself.”
From McElroy’s perspective, the issues are no different from those faced this time every year. Still, he’s not fine with poor practice habits continuing into the final three weeks of preparation before the games start counting.
Most of the problems in Saturday’s scrimmage were on the defensive side, Saban said afterwards. He also used the opportunity to question the desire of his team for the second time in a week. At issue was the intensity shown on days following an indoor practice, but Monday’s workout followed the team’s first off-day since practice began Aug. 5.
McElroy said he didn’t think it was “a toughness issue,” but it was time for a little teammate-to-teammate chat.
“It was just kinda sorta planned, I guess you could say,” Hightower said. “Preston (Dial) started it and guys just kind of followed in. I mean, we kind of realized that we set the tone. We’re getting close to the season. If you want to play, you’ve got to show up this week and get ready.”
One final 2:30 p.m. practice is scheduled for today before shifting to the 3:30 p.m. time slot once classes start Wednesday.