Both the offensive and defensive lines haven’t performed to Saban’s standards.
During the media viewing periods of practice, Arie and Cyrus Kouandjio, Ryan Kelly, Anthony Steen and Austin Shepherd have worked as the first offensive line group. Arie and Cyrus man the right and left tackle spots, respectively. Kelly anchors the middle at center with Steen at right guard and Shepherd at left guard.
“I’ve always been really pleased with the way our offensive line has played and progressed, but I thought today we didn’t get a lot of movement,” Saban said.
Saban mentioned the team’s lack of push and power blocking in the run game as a problem after the team’s first scrimmage a week earlier. On Saturday, Alabama’s two leading rushers, Dee Hart and T.J. Yeldon, combined for 81 yards on 12 carries, according to statistics given to reporters by Alabama’s athletics communications staff.
Saban harped on pass protection and unforced errors following Saturday’s scrimmage. Quarterback AJ McCarron completed 15 of 30 with 152 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
“Too many times we had a soft pocket, we got pressure in the pocket, made some mental errors up front, had a couple false starts – things that our offensive line typically has not done,” Saban said. “So, hopefully, this will be something they can learn from and improve on and we’ll get better and continue to progress.”
On defense, Saban expects more consistency from the pass rush. If there was one recurring knock on Alabama’s 2012 defense, it was the team’s lack of pass rush and overall pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
“Well, you know, I think we’ve got a long way to go in pass rush. It’s inconsistent,” Saban said. “I think we have more athletic guys. I think we have more guys that can be good edge rushers. I think there’s a discipline in pass rush that guys really have to learn to understand. It’s not all about sacks.”
Saban isn’t looking precisely for sacks -- he just wants to make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket.
“You get pushed by the QB, even if you pressure the QB, if you get pushed by the QB it doesn’t do any good,” Saban said. “If you’re an inside rusher and you can move the line of scrimmage four yards back, to where the quarterback can’t step up and throw the ball down the middle of the field, you can be a very effective rusher and make it difficult for the quarterback to operate and not really sack him.”
Saturday’s partial statistics revealed four players were credited with a sack -- Adrian Hubbard (3), Ed Stinson (1.5), C.J. Mosley (1) and John Fulton (.5).
“I think our guys, they want to beat a guy with a move and get in there and make an immediate whatever. Sometimes you do that, and there’s a time for that. But you can’t guess it. You can’t guess it. You can’t guess when you’re playing corner whether a guy’s going to run an in or an out.
“You’ve got to read it. And you’ve got to read how a guy pass blocks to know how you should rush. And that’s the thing that I think we need to get better at. I really do.”
For Saban, the entire group needs to get better at the smaller elements of rushing the passer.
“As a group and individually, so that we can get a little more consistent in pushing the pocket and making it difficult for the quarterback to operate,” he said. “Hands up, bat balls. Those types of things, rather than just worrying about sacks.”
Hart finished with a team-high 42 yards on seven carries, while Yeldon had five rushes for 39 yards. Three running backs managed one touchdown apiece: Derrick Henry (2-yard run), Tyren Jones (20 yards) and Kenyan Drake (9 yards).
Christion Jones caught four passes for 37 yards, while Kevin Norwood had three receptions for 36 yards. DeAndrew White’s two catches gained 33 yards.
Hubbard had seven tackles, while Fulton managed six. C.J. Mosley and Landon Collins each had five tackles, while Mosley added a fumble recovery.