After winning two BCS titles in a row, Alabama came out flat in its annual A-Day spring game on Saturday, April 20.
As usual, head coach Nick Saban found plenty to grouse about after the scrimmage.
This year, however, he didn't have to nitpick. The game was sloppily played by both teams, and there were plenty of mistakes to learn from.
Heading into the summer months, these are the biggest areas in need of improvement for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama quarterbacks struggled on Saturday, and that's putting it mildly.
According to Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com, the team's quarterbacks tossed six interceptions and were held to a "paltry 102.8 quarterback rating, compared to the 174.3 rating it posted last season."
There's no doubt the toughest opponent A.J. McCarron and his offense will face all year will be on their own practice field; 'Bama's defense is as good as it gets in college football. That said, McCarron and his backups were embarrassed in a major way.
McCarron finished the day having completed 19-of-30 passes for 223 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Blake Sims and freshman Cooper Bateman were also both picked off twice.
As good as the team's defense is, McCarron will need to limit his mistakes in 2013.
He seemed unconcerned about the interceptions after the game, however, per the AP (via ESPN.com):
"It's just like playing in an all-star game. 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."
On the one hand, it's nice to see McCarron hasn't lost any of his bravado. On the other hand, he'd better be sure he brings his A-game this summer or Saban will make his life miserable.
In addition to the team's poor quarterback play, the offense lost three fumbles.
In total, the defense forced the offense into an astonishing nine turnovers, which would, in all likelihood, result in a loss against most SEC teams.
According to the AP report, Saban indicated that this wasn't indicative of how the team's offense had performed all spring, but it's still an area of concern.
Turnovers are killers, pure and simple. No matter how well you play on both sides of the ball, turnovers can sink a season.
The team must not approach the regular season like it approached this scrimmage. Sloppy play will derail Alabama's BCS title hopes in 2013.
After the scrimmage, Saban didn't shy away from making his displeasure known, per Tim Gayle of USA Today:
I don't think we are where we need to be. I think too many people (are) too comfortable with their position. That, to me, does not lend itself to great competition or being a great competitor...Your preparation, your ability to play with consistency, your ability to pay attention to detail, get the little things right, you don't inherit that. That's something you've got to earn.
He went on to elaborate a bit more, per the AP report, saying:
The biggest thing that I was concerned about is how would the team go out there. 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.
Saban won't allow his team to enter the 2013 season with a complacent attitude. He'll surely have his team prepared to battle for every inch and fight for every loose ball, and he'll use the team's poor performance on Saturday as a means to do so.
And while poor play such as we saw on Saturday is never something to be relished, it certainly gives the team a clear picture of what it must improve upon to reach its goals in this upcoming season.
Rest assured—Alabama will be prepared to defend its title in 2013.
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