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March 24, 2010

Notebook: Saban disappointed, but not dwelling on NCAA ruling

TUSCALOOSA _ University of Alabama coach Nick Saban had little comment regarding the National Collegiate Athletic Association upholding its initial ruling regarding the vacation of 21 football wins (2005-7) from the textbook disbursement scandal.

They include five victories from Saban's first season: Western Carolina, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Houston, and Ole Miss, even though he suspended five players when the discrepancies were first discovered.

"Even though it's disappointing, it still affects nothing in the future, like it hasn't affected anything in the future since, and it won't (affect) us from moving forward now," he said.

Saban added that he wasn't aware of other schools using the vacated wins against Alabama in recruiting.

"Not that I know of," Saban said. "There is no negative to it and it certainly hasn't affected our recruiting.

"It's been two years now and it hasn't affected our recruiting to this point, and it has no significant affect on a guy's ability to get a quality education here or what kind of football team he's going to play on, and there's no penalties or anything in terms of (preventing) what he can accomplish during his career here. That's sort of how we've always looked at it."

Injury report
Running back Trent Richardson wore a black jersey signaling no contact and was limited during Wednesday's practice due to a hamstring strain.

The injury isn't considered serious.

"Yeah, I had to take all his reps," Mark Ingram joked. "I think he owes my some dinner tonight or something."

Defensive lineman Milton Talbert continued to wear a black jersey and center William Vlachos is expected to miss all of spring after having foot surgery.

McKeller's career over
Offensive lineman Darius McKeller, who enrolled in January as a grayshirt, never made it to the practice field due to what Saban called a "traumatic wrist injury" that has required numerous surgeries and would risk irreparable damage with another injury. He'll still attend the university under a medical scholarship.

"I broke a bone in my wrist throwing a ball around a few months ago," McKeller told BamaOnline nearly a year ago. "The bones didn't set back properly so they are going to go in and fix it on May 1. I will be fine by mid-summer."

The 6-foot-6, 280-pound offensive tackle from Jonesboro, Ga., was rated a three-star prospect.

Position moves
Saban gave some insight regarding the ongoing position experiments, especially at free safety. Wide receiver Kendall Kelly is learning the position and Brandon Gibson is splitting time between the offense and defense.

"We want to come out of the spring with some other guys on our team who know that position since we're a little short there," Saban said. "We have a couple of freshmen coming in in the fall. If they learn it quickly enough we won't need those guys, but this is a good time to make sure that those guys could do if they had to do it."

Saban once did the same with LSU wide receiver Michael Clayton, and during his sophomore season in 2002 he took 20 snaps at free safety against Texas in the Cotton Bowl and made three tackles, while also catching six passes for 88 yards.

The coach also mentioned that Undra Billingsley going from the defensive line to tight end and back to the defensive line could eventually lead to his being used as a blocker in a short-yardage situations.

"All those guys have done well," Saban said. "We're pleased with the progress that they've made and they've learned more quickly than we thought they would."

Tide-bits
Wednesday was the first spring practice in full pads. "It's always a little bit different for the players, it's been quite a long time since they've had pads on," said Saban, who called it a "difficult adjustment." "I was really pleased with the way our players sort of persevered it. We're pleased with the effort and the starting point we're at today."

One area that saw its first work Wednesday was kickoff coverage, which the coaching staff has targeted as an area needing improvement.

Freshman cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick returned to practice after being excused Monday due to a death in the family.

An interesting pairing Wednesday had Dont'a Hightower at weakside linebacker and Chris Jordan at middle linebacker. "We flip the inside backers every day," Saban said, adding about Hightower: "He plays Mike one day, Will one day." Part of the thinking behind that is for more players have a better understanding of the entire defense.

Alabama's annual coaching clinic begins Thursday evening. Headline speakers include Marty Schottenheimer and Danny Ford along with Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, Jacksonville defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and Ohio State offensive coordinator Jim Bollman. Former Crimson Tide players Amos Jones and George Teague are also scheduled to speak.


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