This is the second and final part wrapping up Nick Saban’s comments to the media and fans at SEC Media Days 2016.
Part one, breaking down the team, discussing chemistry, the QB situation and more, is here.
Our coverage of Coach Saban’s remarks regarding Cam Robinson and Hootie Jones is here.
- Saban spoke briefly about the charitable work he, Jimbo Fisher, Rick Trickett, and Tom Pendry are involved in following catastrophic flooding in parts of West Virginia. Per Saban, the NCAA and SEC were gracious in suspending certain rules to permit these four coaches to fundraise for affected high schools and athletic programs. Coach Trickett and Coach Pendry have done most of the leg work, but the donation drive is to provide equipment and other resources so that high schoolers can still participate in sports. (For more on the work these four West Virginia natives are doing, the story is here.)
- Regarding the no-huddle/hurry up offense Alabama has begun to add to its arsenal: Saban emphasizes that he does not think this is the way that football should be played, nor is it how we should wish the game to evolve — taking a particular shot at linemen “seven yards downfield or whatever,” a clear allusion to last year’s game-deciding touchdown pass by Ole Miss, where two linemen had released seven yards from the line. However, as long as those offenses are legal, failing to take advantage of the present rules only put Alabama at a disadvantage. Saban stated that no one on the staff comes from a HUNH/spread background, but another reason the wrinkles were added to the offense is that these were the kinds of systems that had posed problems from a defensive standpoint.
- On OJ Howard: The offseason praise of O.J. Howard continued, as Saban indicates that Howard is a great team player, that he had big games and big receptions outside of the Clemson game. Saban feels that Howard’s contributions to the team largely go unrecognized, including how hard he has worked on his blocking, which is difficult for a longer, thinner, athletic tight end. Howard, according to Coach Saban, has improved his blocking every year he’s been on campus. Saban also emphasized O.J. Howard’s speed and very good receiving skills. “[OJ] should be developed and should be used.” Having said that, he also implicitly recognizes that there is only one football to go around, specifically mentioning ArDarius Stewart and Calvin Ridley as other weapons in the passing game.
- On the three former assistants now coaching SEC East programs: Saban stuck to his script, reiterating what he usually does regarding former assistants. He views his job as one that also prepares those assistants to get where they want to be and have worked for professionally. He wishes them all well during the season and hopes they have success. Coach Saban then expanded upon the question to name-drop the success that other former high profiles assistants have had, particularly Coach Mark Dantonio (Michigan State) and Coach Jimbo Fisher (Florida State.)
- Few specifics were raised with Saban, however, the white elephant did rear its head regarding back-to-back losses to Ole Miss, and whether the staff had noticed any trends in those defeats. Coach Saban first stated the obvious — that OIe Miss has had a talented ball club the past few years. Second, and one that was glaringly obvious last year, Alabama has to play field position and ball control football. Turnovers and short fields have doomed the Tide the past two seasons (Ed. Note: The Tide have turned the ball over 8 times versus Ole Miss the past two seasons.) Another problem he identified home the defensive lapses, particularly “lapses in the secondary,” which yielded too many points and explosive plays to the Rebels’ passing game. (Ed. note: You get the sense that last year’s fluke helmet play still annoys the staff, and that he feels that Ole Miss didn’t so much score on the fluke, rather because Eddie Jackson misplayed it.)
Those were the highlights of Saban’s scheduled remarks. Again, the real drama (manufactured though it was by Paul Finebaum) occurred about an hour after the speech and Q&A. As CNS remarked (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) what he was going to “seriously talk about has been written about by everyone in this room. Someone out here has written a story on everything I’m about to say.”
He wasn’t joking. From the Ole Miss breakdowns, to the depth issues along the front seven, to the quarterback drama, to Alabama’s support network for student athletes, there truly was nothing new under the sun.
A complete wrapup of Day Three will go live tomorrow morning, and we will conclude our coverage Friday morning of SEC Media Days 2016.