Henry, No. 2 Alabama start preparation for Michigan State
Dec. 17, 2015
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Derrick Henry, Kirby Smart and Alabama returned to the practice field after making the rounds on the awards circuit — or starting a new job.
The second-ranked Crimson Tide started preparation Wednesday for the Dec. 31 semifinal against No. 3 Michigan State at the Cotton Bowl four days after Henry won the Heisman Trophy.
Smart was back running the defense after taking over as Georgia's head coach. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was merely an observer at practice.
Despite all the off-the-field goings-on, coach Nick Saban thinks the mindset appears better than leading up to last season's playoffs. Alabama lost to eventual national champion Ohio State and Saban later said that thoughts of the upcoming NFL draft were a distraction to some players.
"We certainly didn't do a good job last year," he said Wednesday night. "I felt like our players did not approach the game like a playoff game. They approached it more like a bowl game, which was obviously not our intention, not what we tried to sell to them as far as what they needed to do.
"I think they felt a little entitled when they won the SEC championship and just didn't really want to ... look, this is a new season. So when you get into a new season, what you've done in the past doesn't have anything to do with what you'll do moving forward."
Saban said he asked the players, "Are you satisfied?" He said the very early indicators are that "their attitude is a lot better."
Henry's answer to the satisfied question would clearly be no. He said he didn't want to talk about "Heisman stuff."
Asked if it was difficult to balance focus on the holidays and the game, Henry said: "It's not difficult. Why would it be difficult? We want to win a championship."
Henry did say he was hoping to take the offensive linemen to dinner Wednesday night to thank them.
Pruitt, who held the same post at Georgia last season, was among the practice observers. He can recruit but isn't allowed to coach in practice.
Saban said hiring Pruitt, who spent six years as an Alabama assistant, was "a no-brainer" that didn't require an interview or search process. Just a phone call.
"There was no doubt about who I was going to hire," Saban said. "Didn't interview anybody, didn't talk to anybody. Just hired the guy."