TUSCALOOSA — Alabama has lost three fumbles through five games, and checking the NCAA statistics, that doesn't seem too bad.
Of the 120 teams in the NCAA's FBS division, only 33 squads have lost fewer fumbles than Alabama. Only five teams haven't lost a fumble this year.
Even so, don't dare suggest to Nick Saban three might be an acceptable number. Seriously, don't. Just don't.
"If we have one fumble, I'm concerned. OK?" Saban said.
According to the Tide players, fumbles were a point of emphasis this week during practice, although it could be part of a larger issue.
Saban has said he is bothered by sloppy play, especially when Alabama appears to have a comfortable lead. The Crimson Tide is ranked No. 1 nationally, but as he has said every week this season, regardless of the ranking or record, the work ethic should remain the same.
"The big question here is, if everyone in the organization is not doing everything they can do to help the team be all it can be, then we need to change the way we're doing things, change the way we think, change our attitude about what we're doing, whether it's how we play our position, how we coach our position, how we coach the team, how we motivate the team," he said.
And to Saban, fumbles are sloppy.
Alabama coughed up the ball three times in last week's 33-14 win over Ole Miss, and all three were frustrating to Saban.
In the opening quarter, receiver Kevin Norwood lost the ball after catching a pass for a 1-yard gain. Teammate Kelly Johnson, the H-back, recovered.
In the second quarter, Tide defensive back Robert Lester intercepted a pass, returned in 20 yards and lost the ball to Ole Miss. Then in the third quarter, with Alabama holding a 27-14 lead but back up to his own 25, quarterback AJ McCarron got sacked for a 10-yard loss and fumbled the ball. He recovered it, however.
For the season, Alabama has fumbled 10 times, even though the Tide has lost only the three. Lester lost one on the interception. Christion Jones lost a fumble on a kick return against Florida Atlantic, and an offensive drive against Michigan ended when Eddie Lacy lost the ball.
"The ball has been on the ground too many times and that's one of the things we worked on last week and it was on the ground a couple of times (against Ole Miss)," Saban said. "It's something we need to continue to work on. Ball security is very, very important."
Jones said Saban isn't kidding. He has heard about it after losing that fumble against Florida Atlantic.
"From the center to the quarterback to the receivers to the running backs to handing the referee the ball, you want to have ball security no matter what you're doing," Jones said. "If you're returning punts, returning kickoffs, even if you catch an interception, you want to have ball security.
"You don't want to take the ball away and then give it back. So ball security is the No. 1 thing in football that you've got to have."