TUSCALOOSA _ It's been 64 days since the University of Alabama football team held aloft the crystal football for winning the national championship at the Rose Bowl, but it took Nick Saban just one to make sure everyone knows what it means towards next season.
Friday afternoon, the Crimson Tide opened spring camp with the first of 15 on-field workouts, which will conclude April 17 with the annual A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Not only did it force each player to stick around and attend every class through Friday before going on spring break, but gave them something to think about next week.
"We feel like with this particular team to get started, especially with the young guys we have on defense, it's good to expose them, give them something take home with them during break," Saban said. "I thought the conditioning of the team was pretty good, the spirit was good, the attitude was good. Our guys worked hard. I was really pleased with the starting point of our team."
Making their debuts in uniform were seven true freshmen: Cade Foster, Jalston Fowler, John Fulton, Chad Lindsay, DeMarcus Milliner, Austin Shepherd and Phillip Sims, along with junior-college defensive lineman Brandon Lewis, who all enrolled in January.
It was also Jeremy Pruitt's first time coaching the safeties during practice, with defensive coordinator Kirby Smart sliding over to handle the linebackers. Pruitt had previously been the Tide's Director of Player Development.
Saban specifically mentioned two goals this spring, the developing of players, especially those stepping into important roles, and developing a new team identity. Alabama needs to find replacements for nine defensive players (plus nickel and dime backs), three offensive starters and just about everyone on special teams.
"It's like everyone has to step up at once," defensive end Marcell Dareus said, especially about the team leadership.
The Tide will also use the spring to try players in different roles. On Friday, Mike Marrow was working with the H-backs; Undra Billingsley was back on the defensive line; Kendall Kelly with the safeties; and Brandon Gibson is splitting time between the wide receivers and defensive backs.
"No rest for the weary," Dareus said. But for now, everything will pause at least until the next practice, March 22.
"It's been a quick transition, but honestly I'm excited about the possibilities of what this team can do," guard Barrett Jones said. "We're ready to start up, re-start the whole process and win another national championship.
"The message is this team hasn't done anything yet."