Instead of spending all the workouts focusing on their bowl opponent, Saban and the Crimson Tide are approaching them with a preseason-style mentality.
“We have an opportunity for a lot of young players to sort of re-learn,” Saban said. “It’s very difficult for young players to learn during the fall because you’re changing all the time, game plans and so forth. But to go back and fundamentally re-teach things that you did in fall camp and really focus on the little things that guys need to do to be successful players and try to get them to develop better habits, which are sometimes more difficult to do during the season.”
Per NCAA rules, there is no restriction on how many practices a team can have during bowl preparation. The Tide won’t begin preparation for Oklahoma until the beginning of next week.
“That’s kind of the point of the first three days, camp-like practices, just go back and work on the little things: footwork, catching the ball, running the ball,” Tide right tackle Austin Shepherd said. “Just your steps, all kinds of things. That’s kind of the whole point of it — it’s pretty much like camp.”
For the older players, they have a few more opportunities to pass down things they’ve learned to the guys who’ll try to carry on the legacy of the program going forward. The younger players have a chance to get a leg up going into the upcoming season.
“I think it’s a tremendous benefit to all players, but especially to young players,” Saban said. “I think it’s a little bit like what I said before. For the seniors, it gives them an opportunity to finish their career here the right way. And to everybody else who’s coming back on the team, they have a chance to make an impression for themselves as well as the kind of football team we might have next year.”
For Saban, it is more about sustaining a high level of focus throughout the coming weeks leading up to the game in order for the team to be successful.
“I think what’s more important is that you sustain whatever intensity you have, whatever sense of urgency you have,” Saban said. “That you sustain it, not get all excited about having one practice and then not be able to sustain what you need to do to continue to improve. I don’t know that a barometer can be made about one practice. I don’t think so. I think it’s going to be how we sustain this and how we focus right up to the game.”