With SEC Media Days going on, we got over an hour’s worth of press conferences from Nick Saban, Bryce Young, Will Anderson, and Jordan Battle. Overall, it was a fairly uneventful and unconfrontational day from the group. Though Will Anderson looking intensely at the camera and saying “We note it” when asked about Jimbo Fisher taking shots at Saban was quite a terrifying moment.
Saban also spoke multiple times on his thoughts about trying to maintain a semblance of competitive balance, and that he thinks it may take a Federal level body to govern it, as the NCAA can’t do anything without getting sued.
In regards to his own team, Saban seems to be very high on the mentality of the team, and was effusive in his praise to the player leadership. He also seemed fairly happy with the progress of a “rebuilt” offensive line, and, reading behind the lines, thinks that the new coach, Eric Wolford, is making a huge difference over the 1-year dumpster fire we had last year.
He did seem a little more concerned about cornerback than I had hoped. Both Kool-Aid McKinstry and Khyree Jackson are apparently recovering from injuries, and Eli Ricks is still proving he can do things the way Alabama wants to do them.
Saban also coyly dropped this line offhandedly with a bit of a smirk:
“I think we’ve had 113 players drafted in the last 14 years and 41 first round draft picks”
C’mon, Nick, you can’t say you think and then just drop super specific numbers like that. He knew exactly what he was saying, and he was doing his best to keep building up the Alabama brand all day long with his talks on player development, professional success, and NIL all being part of being in Alabama’s program.
In any case, here are the full videos below:
If you want more pontificating, I’ll add in some links from the different beat reporters:
“To have two players that make such a significant impact on our team as those two guys, I don’t recall ever having a circumstance like that,” said Saban at SEC Media Days. “We’ve had some great impact players, but never one on offense, one on defense of the caliber that these guys have been able to play on a consistent basis.
“But I think probably bigger than that is the impact that they have on the players around them. These guys set a great example. They’re players that other people on our team can emulate in a positive way because of the example that they set. These guys are very serving to their teammates in terms of they really do care about helping other people for their benefit.
“So these guys have not only been great players, they’ve contributed from a leadership standpoint probably as significantly as any leaders that we’ve had - and we’ve had some really good leaders in our program and organization.
McKinstry and Khyree Jackson, now a senior, were the first-team corners to close the 2021-22 season and also manned the boundary positions in the spring game for the White team, which featured the starting defense. That left LSU transfer Eli Ricks to suit up with the twos, but one of five Power 5 transfers that joined the Tide program this offseason, he will compete for one of the vacancies. A popular All-America preseason pick, Ricks gives UA experience.
How the cornerbacks, specifically those three, progress will be important for Alabama.
“I think that’s a work in progress,” Saban said. “Kool-Aid has been injured. Khyree was injured. So both guys have had limited work from spring practice until now. Eli Ricks is a guy that’s started in this league, and he has to sort of prove that he has a good understanding of what we want him to do and how we want him to do it and why it’s important to do it that way.
“But I do think that those three guys’ development is going to be critical to the success of our team. I’m not disappointed in where they are right now, but I do think we need to continue to make progress at that position if we’re gonna get the kind of consistency in performance that we need to do the things that we’d like to do defensively.”
“He’s a great competitor,” safety Jordan Battle said. “He’s very fun off the field, as well. We’re actually locker mates. He’s right next to me, so we talk a lot. We have a class together. Jahmyr’s a cool guy. On the field, he’s a great back. He’s fast, elusive and he can also catch the ball. He’s a good matchup for linebackers, as well. And our linebackers are getting better covering him in practice.”
Will Anderson confirmed Battle’s claims by detailing the difficulty of defending Gibbs.
“He’s like a little wide receiver sometimes,” Anderson said at SEC Media Days. “You have to take those wheel routes on him and stuff like that, you really get on your horse because he’s got wheels and he can run. He’s dangerous out of the backfield, but I love it. It’s fun to watch.”
Saban wanted him to gain a little weight. Up from 245 to 250.
On Derrick Thomas, who holds Alabama career sack (52) and tackles for loss (68) records. “I didn’t watch much football when I was a kid, but I’ve watched film. He was a freakish tackling guy. As soon as the ball was hiked, he was in the backfield.” Anderson has 24 ½ sacks and 44 tackles for loss, 33 ½ last year. “I’m going to approach the season just like I approached it last year. I’m just going to be Will Anderson.”
Is he excited about EA is going to come back out?
“I’m really excited about that. To be on a video game, that’s exciting.”
Would you want to be on the cover?
“No. That’s bad luck.
“I think the game’s about the players,” he said. “I wish you had some of our arguments we had in the staff room when we worked together. On the basketball court, too. This one (happened) to be public.
“The way I look at it is when people make comments about Nick Saban, I listen. I try to learn. I try to make improvements in my own self by self-assessing what can I do to get better.”
His cited his wife, Miss Terry, as an example. If it wasn’t for Ms. Terry, Saban may never have mellowed with the media since his early days.
“Miss Terry used to kill me when I first became a head coach about I did a terrible job with the media,” he recalled.
“I said, ‘You’re crazy. I’m OK.’ She said, ‘You’re anxious. You’re nervous. You’re curt.’ She said, ‘That’s why they kill you.’”
According to Saban, he reflected on what his wife said.
“I looked at it,” he said. “She was right. I tried to change. Hopefully, I do a little better than I used to.”
“I think the game is about the players.”— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) July 19, 2022
Nick Saban discusses Jimbo Fisher and the Oct. 8 game vs. Texas A&M pic.twitter.com/IAFtcsHxBE
“Look, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Gus,” Saban said. “I thought Gus did a fantastic job. Beat us more than I’d like to remember. Did it because he was a great coach, great play-caller, has made a significant impact on the game of college football in terms of some of the things he’s implemented through the years. So, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Gus.”
Whether Saban actually misses Malzahn residing across the state isn’t quite clear, though—certainly when you consider the latter’s record against the greatest college coach of all time. While Malzahn did not have a winning record against Saban’s Alabama teams, his Auburn teams were often a thorn in the Tide’s side during his eight seasons on the Plains. Malzahn went 3-5 in eight meetings with Saban during that time, with wins in 2013, 2017 and 2019, all in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
I like to think that Gus Malzahn helped build Alabama into what it is. His thorn-in-the-side strategies forced Nick Saban to learn to deal with the high school gimmick offenses, and prevented it from becoming a strategy that universally worked to dethrone the Tide.
Tell that logic to your Auburn coworkers. They’ll love it.
Nick Saban put a number to it at SEC media days Tuesday in Atlanta.
The Crimson Tide football coach said Alabama players brought in $3 million in NIL money in the first year after the laws and rules changed.
“I’m all for the players being able to do as well as they can and use name, image and likeness to be able to create value for themselves,” Saban said. “We have a great brand at Alabama so their value is going to be enhanced because of the value our brand helped them create.”
Roll Tide, and happy Gump Day!