For players, returning to an attitude of dominance, of “hatefulness,” has been the talk this week. You want that confidence from a defense that has taken some lumps off-and-on the last several years. But for the guys with the headsets, there’s been nothing but mutual, outspoken respect from one to the other.
Saban’s resume and track record as a coach, administrator, mentor obviously earns him respect. He’ll go down as the greatest for a reason.
But what Sam Pittman has done at Arkansas has been nothing short of a revelation. From one of the worst teams in SEC annals, and the lowest point in Arkansas football’s history, to a Top 10 ranking in just 26 games. That’s outstanding coaching no matter who you are. That is comparable to the work Bryant and Saban did when they took over Alabama programs at their historic ebb; to the coaching chops that Spurrier showed when he resurrected a probation-saddled Florida team and turned them into a powerhouse. While his record is “just” .556, this was a program that had not won an SEC game for almost three years before Pittman’s arrival.
A reporter mentioned that a lot of coaches might have thought Saban would have retired from the Tide before hitting 70 while asking Pittman about him.
“I don’t know if you’re supposed to [say it] or not, but I think he’s fantastic,” Pittman said. “He’s been so kind and so good to me. I sit right next to him in the SEC head coaches meetings and I ask him questions and he’s been kind enough to answer them.
“He’s treated me outstanding. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about him. … I kind of was wondering when he was going to retire, too, but I don’t know when that’s going to come.”
Saban, who called Arkansas a “dangerous” team, was also complimentary of his counterpart.
“Sam’s done a great job there, to me,” Saban said. “They play with toughness. They run the ball effectively, stop the run on defense. I mean, their guys play hard. They’ve got a real culture there that shows great intangibles.
“This is a really, really good all-around team. And it’s going to take great preparation on our part to go on the road and be able to play the way we need to play against a very good SEC team.”
Since these are long press conferences, we’ll link both of them below and hit you with some excerpts and selected pieces if you’d rather read them.
On game-planning against Alabama’s defense…
“The game plan, you can look at is as very similar to each and every year as long as Coach Saban has been the head coach at Alabama because they’re gonna be very similar to what we had at Georgia because Kirby was there and Dan Lanning at Oregon and all these different people that’s gone through Coach Saban’s tree. And you hit it on the head, it’s the players. So what you try to do going into a game is you find – and of course they have several of them. I think To’o To’o is playing his best ball I’ve ever seen him play. So you go in there and you go, ‘OK, who do they have that can ruin our game plan?’ And they have several guys. Obviously, you mentioned Will (Anderson), and I think To’o To’o is one of those guys. Byron Young, Moody, Hellams, Battle.
Sam Pittman on KJ Jefferson and his critical goal line fumble returned for a 98-yard game-winning Aggie touchdown.
“Those guys are tough, man. They’re physical. They play hard. They do a great job of doing what they do well. They’re really well-coached,” he said on Wednesday during his weekly press conference, according to 247Sports. “I think it’s a reflection of Sam’s personality, and that’s how their whole team is, and that’s what makes them really a good team. They’ve got good players, but they’ve got great, like, mental and physical toughness and really play hard and play together as a group.”
“I don’t think it’s fair to point out one guy. We’ve got a lot of freshmen who are trying to make progress. Jaheim Oatis is playing a lot on the defensive line. Several receivers have made nice progress and have played, Kobe Prentice and Isaiah Bond. We’ve got other guys – Kendrick Law’s making progress. Freshman running back has done really well, Jamarion, when he’s got a chance. (Tyler Booker) has played well when he’s played on the offensive line. It’s really not fair to single out one guy, and I think all those guys are making progress. And we need more of the guys to continue to make progress.”
Injury status of three ‘Bama players — including two crucial pieces: Battle and Young.