"What do you recommend? Do we take get-taller pills?" Saban said Wednesday evening. "I mean, I don’t understand what we can do. You always want guys to play the ball at the highest point. You’re always emphasizing that. "They do have big receivers and they’re very talented guys. You have to use good fundamental coverage technique on them. You have to do a good job of trying to be aggressive in how you play the ball, whether it’s swat and hook, tackle or get up there and be able to try and play with the size. It’s no different than basketball when it comes to playing against a little bigger guy. We’ve got some bigger guys that we practice against and I think that’s probably a little bit helpful to us."
As usual, A&M comes into the match-up with some of the SEC's biggest receivers. Still, the home run threat (Kirk) and the Aggies' best wideout (Reynolds) aren't the monsters that, say, Mike Evans was.
But make no mistake, he’s going to get another head coaching job, likely after this season. Alabama keeps winning, and CBS keeps showing him on the sideline. His ability to get Jalen Hurts playing at such a high level as a true freshman becomes another line on his resume. It’s not going to be anywhere near as glamorous as Alabama, but I can think of one possibility for sure. Fresno State, his alma mater, is 1-6 and all but certain to fire Tim DeRuyter. It would be the perfect low-profile job at a program where he can win, further restore his image and possibly springboard back to the Pac-12 in a few more years.
This is something we've been saying for months, and it makes too much sense to not happen. Coach Kiffin can be closer to his kids, out west, restore his alma mater, and instantly regain his credibility as a head coach. (And, yes, in my dream scenario, come back a bit older, wiser, and a better program manager to take over following Nick Saban's departure...as long as he promises he'll hire a "run the damn ball" coach to curb his excesses in the passing game.)
"I think too many people get caught up into how to finesse or how to maneuver Alabama out of the way in order to beat them," Danielson said. "When has Alabama beat themselves? Once? Against Ole Miss? Yes, having a mobile quarterback is OK if you have anything else. It's the icing on the cake. Tennessee showed it last week with Josh Dobbs, icing without any cake is just icing in a bowl, and you're not going to beat Alabama with icing in a bowl. To me, the only way to beat Alabama is to stand there man-to-man and be just as physical as they are."
No, Gary, the key isn't to be as physical as Alabama. There have been teams that have been as physical and have gotten swamped. The key is to hold up at the point of attack, make vertical plays, force turnovers, win the special teams battle, and take advantage of as many Alabama miscues as possible -- small or large. Every Alabama loss since 2007 has featured pass completions of 29 yards or greater. Every. Single. One. And, I don't believe Texas A&M can play that long con with this pass rush for sixty minutes.
It's clear Hurts is still developing as a passer. He followed an encouraging, 253-yard, two-touchdown effort against Arkansas by connecting on only 16 passes at 5.5 yards per attempt in Alabama's 39-point win over Tennessee this weekend. But even if Hurts's unreliable arm limits what offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin can draw up in the passing game, Kiffin has weaponized Hurts as a spread-option runner to devastating effect. Hurts totaled 132 yards on 11.0 yards per carry against the Volunteers, and he didn't give off the impression that it was all that difficult for him.
Let's not, people. Let's not. I'd much rather see Hurts get his basic reads and progressions (and get the whole playbook) down before we start tabbing him a Heisman hopeful. His ceiling is unreal, but right now he's still closer to his starting floor than what the finished product will be in a year or two (even if that floor is better than all but two or three other QBs in the SEC.) More impressively, even with those caveats aside, he's been spectacular, collected, a very good leader, and undefeated.
"This is one of those season-defining games for us. We’ve had a pretty tough stretch here, and this is obviously one of the best teams in the country, I think, in terms of their skill players on offense. They’ve got some really dominant defensive players and the quarterback’s playing really well for them. They’ve got a great runner. We’re full of challenges for this week in terms of what we have to do to have success against a very good team."
So many reporters wanted to make this about Alabama's loss to the Aggies in 2012 or the 2014 Sugar Bowl, but it is clear that Saban's focus has been on Knight's play in this system and the Aggies as constituted this year. He particularly singled out Myles Garrett for praise, and has mentioned Ford in the running game. He also brings up the excellent return game the Aggies have. Last year, Kirk burned the Tide for a punt return TD that breathed life into the Ags, and, after the first half against Tennessee's lethal return men last week, you can bet that was an area of emphasis this week.
"I did talk to him. I talked to the whole team about it," Saban said Wednesday evening. "I don’t know what category you would put the conversation in, whether it was talking to or we’ve talked about these elements of ass-chewings before. I don’t know where you categorize that one. "But look, that’s a young kid that needs people to look up to in the world, needs sports figures that he can sort of have some admiration for the way they carry themselves, the example they set, the things that they do. And that was not an action that actually contributed to that in any way, and it’s not how we want our players to represent themselves, their family or the program."
It doesn't sound like it was an ass-chewing that Bo got so much as a "do things the right way" lecture to the whole team -- in short, one of the teaching moments Coach Saban loves so much. Saban then continues to praise Scarbrough's incremental development as the season has worn on, signaling we'll see more out of the uber-versatile athlete. This certainly has to make Coach Kiffin happy as well, as Bo can be moved to the slot (and has practiced at slot in the fall and spring) and used a variety of creative ways in the passing game.
-- Lester Cotton remained the first-team right guard for the third practice of the week. Alphonse Taylor, the starter before a getting a concussion at Arkansas two weeks ago, was on the field but wasn't participating with the first or second teams. J.C. Hassenauer was the second-team right guard.
No word on whether Shank is still banged up (and I think he is,) or whether he's just been passed by. The presence of Hassenauer almost certainly tells you that he's still not ready for action.
"In time, I'd love to see Nick do it," Brando said Monday, following a speech to the C-Spire 1st & 10 Club of Mobile. "... I do think he would be good at that. I think when he graduates from his position at Alabama, he wants to be a major player in what's good for the game in totality. There's a side of him that people don't see. They think of him as just a coach, but he gets it. He's got a global sense of what's going on in the game." Brando said he's had offseason conversations with Saban about the coach one day becoming commissioner if that position were to be created. Saban "likes the idea," Brando said.
Not only would Saban love this idea, there are more than a few coaches that would love to see this happen if a commissioner-type position is ever created. Saban has always talked big-picture, and he also has the luxury of being heeded and respected by his peers, often saying (and taking the heat) for the thoughts that many are sharing.
"Coach Saban laughs all the time and says I've met with him more in the last 16 months than the last two coaches combined," Johnson said. "That's intentional. I like to pick his brain about things. I like to go into their practices and watch him work with the defensive backs every day just like I work with our point guards." ... Johnson said of Kentucky. "Yeah, you want to beat them, but Coach Cal has done a great job with his program, and while others are maybe envious or jealous, I'm not. I studying him a lot. "I like to study what successful people do, and I think it's great for our conference. We have to, the rest of the schools, on a consistent basis, we have to close the gap."
Johnson's media day comments yesterday were delightful. He said that "he couldn't sleep at night at the thought of scoring 65 PPG." He blasted Grant's recruiting and development and the state of the program when he arrived last April. He emphasized increased ball movement and assists. Finally, he talked about new bigs coming in to help with Alabama's poor rebounding (as well as the "triple threat" that Dazon Ingram is going to be.)
It was exciting as hell, and it's hard to be subdued when Johnson gets you going. #BuckleUp