Spring practice is over for Alabama, and coach Nick Saban is less than satisfied with his team, as usual.
It really wasn't because of those nine turnovers in Saturday's spring game, either. Saban said some Crimson Tide players are “too comfortable with their circumstances,” but he notes that he found cause for discontent at spring's end for each of the three national championship teams in the past four years.
Unabashed praise just isn't his spring thing.
“I spoke to a bunch of different alumni groups today and they all want me to make a comparison between this year's team and last year's team and the team before that and the team before that,” Saban said after the A-Day game. “I wasn't happy with any of those teams at this point.
“If I was happy with them, we wouldn't have summer conditioning, we would not have fall camp, we wouldn't have 30 practices to get ready for our first game against Virginia Tech. We'd just pack it in and say, `All right, let's go to Atlanta and play the game.’ We're not there yet.”
`Bama has more than four months before that opener in the Georgia Dome to get there.
AJ McCarron completed 19 of 30 passes for 223 yards and a 40-yard touchdown to Kenny Bell but also was intercepted twice before an announced crowd of 78,315. McCarron's White team won 17-14 over the Crimson, led by the first-team defense.
The offenses combined for six interceptions and three lost fumbles, mistakes that Saban said weren't characteristic of the spring as a whole. He roamed the field surveying the action in slacks and a sports coat.
“The biggest thing that I was concerned about is how would the team go out there,” he said. “What would be their energy, their enthusiasm and their attention to detail. Mental intensity. I don't think that there were enough guys that answered that question in a positive way to my liking. But I'm never satisfied.”
T.J. Yeldon had 69 yards rushing, 60 receiving and scored the winning touchdown on a 7-yard run with 1:04 left to earn MVP honors of the spring game for the second straight year. The 1,000-yard rusher is set to replace potential first-round NFL draft pick Eddie Lacy.
McCarron set up the winning score with a 50-yard pass to Christion Jones, who played both receiver and cornerback as he has all spring.
Alec Morris led a drive down to the White 11 in the final minute but threw two incompletions to end the game while going for the win instead of the tie. The winners get a steak dinner and the losers beans and weenies.
It's unclear what the menu would be for a draw.
Alabama played seven quarterbacks and kept with the coaches' plan to get a bunch of reserves in the game in the third quarter.
Blake Sims, last year's No. 2 quarterback, completed 5 of 10 passes for 52 yards but was intercepted by Nick Perry on each of the first two drives. Early enrollee Cooper Bateman, a highly recruited freshman, had two of his three attempts picked off.
McCarron cautions against making too much of those mistakes.
“It's just like playing in an all-star game,” he said. “You don't get in a rhythm. It's not a real game, but it's fun. It's fun to go out there and try to make plays happen and get to do some trick plays and stuff.”
McCarron had an interception returned 86 yards for a touchdown by safety Vinnie Sunseri on the final play before halftime and chased him all the way to the goal line. Since he was in a black, non-contact jersey, McCarron only needed to get two hands on him.
“AJ almost caught me,” Sunseri said. “I never would have heard the end of that.”
Like their coach, Sunseri & Co. left spring with high ambitions and standards going into next season.
“We're trying to be an unbelievable team,” Sunseri said. “With coach Saban there, he's definitely going to let us know when we mess up. That's what we need. We've got a great leader. We've got a great quarterback. And we've got a lot of guys that are surrounding him trying to do something special.”