What we’ve learned 1 week into Alabama football’s preseason camp

By Matt Stahl
After opening preseason camp on Aug. 3, Alabama football completes its first week of practice on Thursday. The Crimson Tide will scrimmage Saturday and continue camp through Aug. 26 before it opens the season Sept. 2 against Middle Tennessee State.
As the first week of camp draws to a close, here’s what we know about where Alabama is as a team.
The quarterback battle isn’t settled
Nick Saban would really prefer not to talk about it. He has three quarterbacks to choose from in Jalen Milroe, Ty Simpson and Tyler Buchner.
All three are taking first-team reps. All three still have a chance, at least according to Saban.
And the battle might not be over with a named starter.
“We’ve had circumstances around here where quarterbacks have changed during the course of the year,” Saban said. “You know what they are, you understand the history of what’s happened with this place. So that’s going to be the way this situation is. Somebody needs to separate themselves and then all the (quarterbacks) need to continue to compete so they improve.”
Caleb Downs could be a stud
Alabama had openings at safety after last season with Brian Branch and Jordan Battle both gone to the NFL. The Crimson Tide has veterans who are competing to jump in, but they’re joined by a talented true freshman.
Caleb Downs joined the team as a five-star prospect out of Mill Creek in Georgia. By all accounts, he’s impressed so far.
“He’s done great,” Saban said. “He’s got lots of maturity for a young guy, smart, understands football. Really conscientious about making sure he knows what to do and going out on the field and doing it. So he’s had a really good spring and really has added a lot to the secondary with the way he’s played. He’s a good player.”
Cornerback Terrion Arnold was impressed with Downs early in the week of camp when the freshman made a “crazy play” for a contested interception.
“Made a great play,” Arnold said. “Guy’s a playmaker.”
Tommy Rees loves running the ball
The Crimson Tide wants to get better at the ground game for 2022. Jahmyr Gibbs is off to the NFL, but Alabama has a stable of running backs who could see time.
New offensive coordinator Tommy Rees is all in on improving that facet of the game. He loves physicality, and the attitude is appreciated by his players.
“That’s very reassuring to an offensive line, especially ours,” offensive guard Tyler Booker said. “We want to make people quit this year, and there’s no better way to do that than running the ball. We’re going to run the ball this year. We’re going to pass the ball as well, because we have a lot of talented guys at receiver. We have a lot of talented guys who can throw the ball well. But having that run-first mentality, that gets us going because we want to make people quit.”
Kevin Steele is helping institute more discipline
One of Saban’s main messages has been focus. He wants Alabama players dialing in on every play individually and thinking less about outcomes.
Saban’s goal is to eliminate the late-game gaffes that plagued the Tide last season in losses to LSU and Tennessee. He’s joined in the effort by new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, who has instituted a system of players having to do up-downs for mistakes or penalties.
According to players, it’s having an impact.
“I’ve done a couple up-downs, I ain’t gonna lie,” linebacker Chris Braswell said. “As a defense, if you jump offsides or in the neutral zone, you gotta get some up-downs in. Just trying to emphasize that discipline. We had a lot of penalties last year, so we’re trying to clean that up on the defensive side. We want to remain disciplined as a team, and especially as a defense.”

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