Nick Saban opened up Wednesday with his appearance on the weekly SEC Coaches Teleconference. Saban again reiterated the need for the Alabama team to improve overall and called playing against his former offensive coordinator Jim McElwain a “special challenge.”
Saban received a pretty interesting question about his former running back with the Miami Dolphins, Ricky Williams. Recently was hired as the running backs coach at the University of the Incarnate Word (an FCS catholic school in Texas), and Saban said that he felt like Williams would be a great football coach. He said that he was one of the better players to coach because of how hard he played every single down. Saban also mentioned his often talked about high intelligence and he even said that after he’s gotten more experience, Saban would certainly consider hiring him as a coach.
Saban spoke about Alabama’s poor start and finish defensively, something he talked about earlier this week as well. Alabama gave up 14 points in the first quarter and 21 in the fourth, while only giving up seven in the 2nd and 3rd quarters combined. He said that the defense played well in middle of the game, but very poorly in the start and end. He also pointed out giving up too many good plays, lack of pressure on the QB, and poor coverage on Mike Evans as other things the defense did poorly.
He did praise the way the defense hung in there after such a bad start, and the way they played hard through the entire game.
“You can’t give up that many big plays and be a good team,” Saban said. Saban again went into great detail, like he did Monday, on the problems the A&M defense gives defenses.
Deion Belue is still day-to-day according to Saban, and an interesting comment he made was that there are five corners right now competing for playing time if Belue can’t go. The names he mentioned were John Fulton, Bradley Sylve, Cyrus Jones, and “two freshmen.” He didn’t mention the freshmen’s names, but the assumption I would make would be that it’s Eddie Jackson and Maurice Smith.
Of the Alabama freshmen defensive backs, Smith is the only one to see any playing time this year, and Jackson is the only other one that practices with Saban’s group of corners; the other freshmen (Anthony Averett and Jonathan Cook) have remained with the scout team. Saban said that at the end of the week the guys that perform the best in practice will get the playing time if Belue can’t go.
It was interesting that Geno Smith was not mentioned; some believe he has yet to dig himself out from under the dog house after his DUI arrest.
When asked about the offensive line’s performance, Saban glowed and said it all starts up front on offense, and they did really well controlling the line of scrimmage, opening holes in the running game, and protecting the quarterback. He said there were still some things they needed to clear up (penalties) however.
The potential for a rainy day in Tuscaloosa Saturday was mentioned, and Saban said they prepare for that sort of thing, like using a wet ball for the quarterbacks or running backs in practice. Last year the team played in a downpour against Missouri. Saban said that a misconception of playing in the rain is that it’s a lot harder to play pass defense than it is to play pass offense, because the receiver knows where he’s running to.
Saban also spoke to the media after practice, and he opened by saying that more players on the team need to take more responsibly to be ready to play. He said the best part of a good team is that they continue to improve as the season goes, and having more players on the team that take responsibility to do their job. He wasn’t just speaking about the young players either; Saban said he feels that some of the veterans need to do the same. He also spoke about consequences of a player’s behavior, and that includes being a bad leader. He said that they don’t want to have those types of consequences for the players but at the same time players have to take responsibility as well.
According to Saban Alabama defensive tackle Dakota Ball broke his foot at the end of practice yesterday and he’ll likely need surgery on it. He’s likely done for the season.
After a question about the tight ends, Saban once again praised their play and improvement thus far this season. Saban feels that OJ Howard’s athleticism is a huge asset for the offense, but said how much he and the rest of the tight ends improve will go a long way in saying how good the offense will ultimately be.
When asked about Amari Cooper’s slow start thus far this season, Saban said that he feels part of it may be that Alabama simply has more weapons on offense healthy than they did last season. He said that Cooper works very hard and is a great player.
One thing that has been talked about since the Texas A&M game is how often McCarron was successful in changing plays at the line of scrimmage; something he has gotten better and better at while at Alabama. Saban said that they package certain plays for McCarron which are to be used at certain circumstances, and then the quarterback decides what the best play would be to use.
“He’s a really bright guy, really understands football well, understands what the other team does,” Saban said of McCarron’s ability to audible.
“Sometimes the players have a really good feel for what’s happening in the game, maybe even better than you do as a coach,” Saban said when asked about McCarron pleading to throw the ball on Alabama’s final touchdown drive. “I always listen and sometimes I wish that players would do that more in a game.”
In regards to whether or not Jim McElwain has changed his style of offense since leaving Alabama, Saban said that it’s very similar, and they use a lot of different formations like he did at Alabama. Saban also praised Colorado State’s quarterback and running backs.
- Preparation for Colorado State continues, and injured guard Anthony Steen was a more active in offensive line drills today than he was on Monday and Tuesday. Saban said that with Steen practicing today he will likely play on Saturday.
- Receiver Kevin Norwood and cornerback Deion Belue, on the other hand, continue to wear black, non-contact jerseys and working with trainers to the side as practice goes on. If neither are practicing at least partly with the rest of the team by tomorrow I would find it highly unlikely they play this weekend.
- The four Alabama freshmen running backs, Derrick Henry, Altee Tenpenny, Tyren Jones, and Alvin Kamara, continue to work with the scout team.
- The only freshman receiver that seems to be working on the scout team thus far is ArDarius Stewart.