TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban’s point was so strong, he wanted to make it twice.
He made his bold statement once last Friday at the start of fall camp, and then again two days later: “The time is now to resurrect the identity of the Alabama football program.”
That’s been the theme so far after the first week of fall camp and will likely be the theme continuing into the 2014 season.
The Crimson Tide have plenty of question marks and storylines this fall. The stock report will hit on the major happenings from fall camp each week and give an update on some position battles and other developments.
Here’s your recap of Week 1.
For most programs, two losses, including one in a BCS bowl, would hardly qualify as anything needing “resurrecting,” but Saban and Alabama have set a championship-or-bust standard.
To hear the veteran players talk about last season, you might think Alabama was 2-11 last year instead of 11-2.
“That’s my first time being 11-2 at Alabama, but it was heartbreaking losing those two games,” said safety Landon Collins, a rising junior. “It was hard seeing those guys I look up to, those seniors I look up to that were great players, and we couldn’t thank them with a championship ring or a ring at all. It was heartbreaking.”
After reports of complacency started in 2013 before the season even began, players have said that there’s a different feel heading into 2014.
“I feel like our team is positive,” linebacker Denzel Devall said. “I feel like we're going out there, and we all got the right mindset, we want to win a championship. I feel like we're going out there each and every day with a chip on our shoulder and striving to get better.”
Suspensions, injuries shake up defense
Things have been relatively quiet on the offensive front personnel-wise thus far, outside of an injured foot for guard Leon Brown that has kept him from practicing so far.
Not so on defense.
Linemen Jarran Reed and Brandon Ivory, along with linebacker Tim Williams were suspended to start fall camp. Lineman A’Shawn Robinson sustained a sprained knee and has missed the last three days of practice. And linebacker Trey DePriest, expected to be the veteran signal-caller in the middle, has what Saban calls a “very, very minor” injury that has limited what he can do so far.
Reed and Ivory have since been reinstated, and they will be full-speed with the rest of the team after a five-day acclimation period that began on Thursday. Saban said they will be cautious on Robinson, but it is nothing that will keep him out of the opener.
Meanwhile, Williams has still been absent.
There’s been some good news in the injury department, though. Cornerback Eddie Jackson, who sustained a knee injury in the spring that required major surgery, is practicing and moving around much more than you would expect someone four weeks out of surgery to be. There is optimism that he could get game action sooner rather than later this year.
Kiffin installing offense
The Lane Kiffin show is here, and it is real.
While Kiffin, Alabama's new offensive coordinator, had the spring to begin to school players on his terminology and new system, things have ramped up in the fall with specific installs and schematic teaching.
“His experience and knowledge is beneficial for all of us,” tight end Brian Vogler said. “If I do something, if I make a wrong read, he tells me why it was wrong as opposed to just yelling at me and saying ‘you’re wrong.’ He says why you’re wrong. You should have done this instead of this. This is how you should read it. His knowledge is just helping us out tremendously.”
Kiffin had his first and only media availability of the season on Sunday, and already it seems Saban’s influence is rubbing off on him.
Kiffin was also clear that he wasn’t coming in to reinvent something that has already had success.
“As far as the offense, the last thing we'd want to do is come in and change a bunch of stuff,” Kiffin said. “As I mentioned before, it's a great offensive staff that's been together here. Had a great run here last year on offense, the number of players had great success last year. Really just coming in and looking at some things. Very small changes just to make sure at the end of the day we're putting our great players in the best position to utilize their talents in the best position for us to win games.”
Freshmen standing out
A couple of freshmen are already making names for themselves, largely on defense where the aforementioned injuries and suspensions have given some guys extra reps.
Saban named defensive tackle Josh Frazier, listed at 6’3”, 335 pounds, as a freshman who benefited from the defensive line shuffling. He already very much looks the part.
At linebacker, right tackle Austin Shepherd named a couple of guys who are causing problems already.
“Rashaan Evans is really fast,” Shepherd said. “He’s got really good speed off the edge. Same with Christian Miller. He’s one of those slim guys who has a ton of speed. Those two guys have really stuck out a lot to me.”
Evans was a 5-star outside linebacker from Auburn, Alabama, whom the Crimson Tide pulled out of their in-state rivals' backyard.
On offense, 5-star Cam Robinson continues to take first-team reps at left tackle and appears poised to start there against West Virginia.
No clear word on quarterback battle
Florida State transfer Jacob Coker is suited up and right in the mix in Alabama’s quarterback battle...and that’s about all we know at this point.
Coaches and teammates have pretty much stuck to the party line until this point, that Coker and redshirt senior Blake Sims are both good quarterbacks and the best one will win the job.
Coker appears to have the strong arm that many touted him for when his transfer was announced, but the nerves are apparent, as he sailed a few throws early in camp. As August progresses, and he gets more comfortable in the system and working with his pass-catchers, coaches will be able to get a better feel for what they’ll get from him in a game.
Sims, meanwhile, continues to be the steady option he has been the last few years. His feet give him a dynamic that Alabama quarterbacks haven’t really had before under Saban, but his accuracy and awareness remain his biggest weaknesses.
We should get a little bit of an update after Saturday's scrimmage, the first one of the fall.
Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from cfbstats. All recruiting information comes from 247Sports.
Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.
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