Alabama was out in shorts and helmets for its first day of spring drills, one of three NCAA-mandated "light" practice days. Alabama will also work in shorts and helmets next Wednesday, before donning full gear for the first time for Friday's practice.
"I enjoyed the first practice," Mike Price said. "I was excited about it starting out, so I tried to restrain myself. Once I got out there it was just like other practice days. That's a great group of guys. I love their attitudes, their spirit and their enthusiasm. Their work habits are tremendous."
For the fourth- and fifth-year players, Price is their third head coach during their careers at Alabama, so both coaches and players are adjusting to each other right now. "Things were a little mixed up sometimes," Price acknowledged. "We're not perfect (offensively) right now by any means. We don't even know all the names of the walk-ons yet." Price went on to explain that he expected things to start off slowly, especially on offense, where he and his staff are installing entirely new schemes.
"Defensively, what we're doing is pretty similar to what (Alabama) did last year," Price explained. "Our biggest adjustments will come on offense. The quarterbacks will be throwing the ball far more, the receivers will be running a lot more routes, the offensive line has to get better at pass blocking. We'll do what we do best, but we've got to be able to throw the football.
"Right now we've got a long ways to go in the passing game."
Price noted that one problem now is there are too many receivers, which limits the number of repetitions for the top players. "That will change later on," he said.
With an entirely new offensive playbook to install and only four short weeks to work with, Price is being realistic about this spring. "I've got to relax and have patience," he said. "I'm not particularly worried about what our offense looks like right now. Now our execution is not anywhere close to what it has to be in the fall."
Price added that it would be up to the quarterbacks and receivers to throw to each other every day all summer long in order to develop their timing.
Price described his relationship with the Tide quarterbacks as "growing." He noted that Brodie Croyle might appear to have a lackadaisical attitude to the casual observer, but the sophomore QB isn't that way at all. "That's just his way," Price said. "He's actually quite a competitor. And he's very coachable."
"Actually, all three (scholarshipped) quarterbacks are that way," Price continued. "Two of them play baseball as well (Brandon Avalos and Spencer Pennington), which I've told them I don't like. But they're all coachable. They all listen."
Known for his humor, Price joked that it's probably a good thing that the squad is forced to spend the first two days of spring in non-contact drills. "If we were practicing in pads with so many players not knowing what's going on, we might hurt somebody. Right we're just in our underwear."
Price explained that the tempo of Monday's practice was slower than normal, because the coaches were taking the time to make sure everything was done right. He and his staff made the decision to cut in half their plans to allow time for proper teaching. Once the pads go on Friday, the pace will pick up considerably.
Asked to list several good things he saw today, Price started at quarterback. "All three quarterbacks are very athletic," he said. "I liked Greg McLain, who we moved from fullback to tight end. He looked good at his new position.
"I watched the defense for awhile, and the linebackers looked very good---as did the defensive backs."
"At receiver Zach Fletcher catches your eye. He's taller than the rest and a good receiver. All our receivers have a lot of work to do. They just haven't worked in a passing offense."
Price acknowledged that he did notice the scores of fans lining the sidewalks around the practice fields when he first came out. But as practice wore on he was "otherwise occupied." He said it was good to see and meet the former players who were on hand to visit.
Thurman Ward from receiver to defensive back was the only position move evident today, that had not been previously reported. Defensive tackle Ahmad Childress was not there at first, but he joined practice later when he arrived from class. A few players, including offensive tackle Wesley Britt, had to leave early to attend labs.
Former minor league baseball players, Michael Machen and Scoop McDowell, worked with the team. Machen plays quarterback and wears jersey No. 17. McDowell is at wide receiver and sports a No. 1 on his jersey.