TUSCALOOSA — Alabama is officially one-third of the way through spring practice, but still five-plus months removed from its next game.
“Yeah, that’s something you have to keep in mind, that the light at end of the tunnel is extremely far away,” rising senior tight end Hale Hentges said.
That is why, during the mundane and sometimes tedious early part of spring practice, finding the proper motivation can pull players through.
After the team’s fifth of 15 spring practices Thursday, Crimson Tide players were given the weekend off for the Easter holiday.
When they return to practice Tuesday, Alabama will turn its attention toward the first of three spring scrimmages.
The Tide’s five weeks of spring practice will culminate with the A-Day game April 21 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
In the meantime, each player must develop his own internal motivation to push through the routine, which is a common talking point for coach Nick Saban this time of year.
Rising junior offensive tackle Jonah Williams finds his motivation in reviewing practice tape and analyzing every snap.
“I might have a great play, but I’m like, ‘Man, my left hand was outside. I need to get that inside.’ So I’ll get excited the next day about how on this play, I’m going to get both my hands inside,” Williams said Thursday. “It’s just little details that I delve into. But for me, that keeps me motivated because there’s so many small things to get better at.”
Williams said he wants create more power at the point of attack, a likely objective across the offensive line after Alabama’s usually strong run game appeared to struggle creating push up at times last season.
“I’ve gained probably 12-15 pounds since the end of last year, and I’m continuing to do that and build my strength so I can be a powerful player, as well as an athletic one,” Williams said.
For many players, that motivation is aided by strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran and his reminders that games in the fall are won because of offseason work.
“That idea that we’re so far away from our games and what not, but the national championships and SEC championships are won now in the winter and spring football,” Hentges said. “It’s something that they do a really good job of telling us that the reason we’re working is for the ultimate goal. That’s just positive reinforcement.”
Some veterans find motivation in developing leadership skills.
Isaiah Buggs, a starter last season in his first year with the team, has developed into a leader among the defensive linemen.
“We have to be high intensity on and off the field,” Buggs said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys who are going to have to play a lot this year. We can’t get frustrated if they don’t know what to do. It’s all about paying attention in meetings, buying in and knowing what you’re supposed to do.”
Ultimately, the key to working through the drudgery of spring practice is about individual players striving for continued improvement, even when the result of that work won’t be evident for several months.
“I know I could do so much better, and that’s what motivates me — chasing that perfection,” Williams said.