Winston Churchill once stated, "Russia is a riddle, wrapped up in a mystery, inside an enigma."
Granted, despite strong assertions to the contrary by some, Nick Saban doesn't quite rise to the secretive nature of what lied behind the Iron Curtain, he's still quite the enigmatic character.
At times, I really do just think that -- at this point -- he really doesn't care the least whether or not we win or lose.
Take last week for example. Terry Grant was tearing it up, and looking great. But he gets impatient on a couple of zone running plays and does not let the zone blocking develop in front of him. He basically blows the play up by bouncing prematurely to the outside. So what does Saban do? Bench him for the rest of the half, and then chew his ass out at halftime.
Or how about Kareem Jackson? Simeon Castille is the best cover corner we have, and we are facing one of the best receivers in the country. Sure, we're going to play a lot of Cover Three shell, but why not just rotate to where Castille is constantly lining up over Bennett? Well, we don't. Kareem Jackson ends up covering Bennett almost all day long. So what if he's a true freshman? And so what if he got smoked on the first play of the game for a massive gain by Bennett? Oh well. Baptism by fire, rook, best of luck to you.
And what about Prince Hall and Keith Brown? Brown has a ton of talent and is a three-year starter; Hall had a big year last year and we are razor thin at linebacker. Oh well, what of it? They didn't get it done in the off-season program, so he suspends them. And even when their suspension is over, big whoop. It's not like they are going to play very much. Forget that we could desperately use two players as talented as those two in the line-up, it really doesn't matter.
Or what about right tackle? The rest of the line looks good, so why not try to solidify it with Chris Capps, a two year starter at tackle, or B.J. Stabler, a two year starter at guard? Don't want to. I like Mike Johnson, and so what if he's a redshirt freshman who has never played a single down of college football before?
Again, I really don't think Saban cares at this point, I really don't. So what if we lose? He's interested in building for the future, and not much else.
He's really an odd-ball character in that sense. You would expect that with him being the highest paid coach in the country, he would have a lot of pressure on himself to win right away, but you'd be very wrong. At this point, he's all about building for the future, and if playing freshmen, benching upperclassmen, benching your star tailback, etc. causes us to lose a few games along the way, oh well. And in that sense, Saban is very much "... a riddle, wrapped up in a mystery, inside an enigma."
It's exciting stuff, all the way around, it really is. And honestly I imagine it will cost us a few games this year. But the future looks particularly bright in that sense. With Marcus Carter probably giving way to Ali Sharrief in the coming weeks, we're going to return as many starters as anyone in the country for 2008. On offense, we'll return nine starters (losing only Britt and Hall), and on defense, we'll return seven starters (losing only Gilberry, Saunders, Mustin, and Castille). On top of that, we'll return both kicker and punter (Tiffin and Fitzgerald). All told, that projects to be somewhere in the area of eighteen of twenty-four possible starters for 2008, and those returning starters will be assisted by one of the top incoming freshmen classes in the country.
And honestly, Saban's ways will probably help this year on down the stretch. All of the chaos being propagated by Saban will probably pay off down the stretch this year. I don't think that it's just a random occurrence that Saban squads almost always play much better as the year goes on.
The more I see, read, and hear about Saban, the more I think there's a method to the madness.