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Jumbo Package: Is it just me, or does Nick Saban seem a bit more intensely focused again?

From talking about criticism being legit and insinuating that no starter’s jobs are safe unless they perform, Nick Saban sounds freshly energized to terrorize college football

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 02 Middle Tennessee at Alabama Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

First up, we have a our standard Nick Saban press conference from yesterday:

If you prefer reading, here’s Charlie Pottter’s transcribed version of the presser:

Some notes, I like that Nick addressed that he’s trying to get players out of the mindset of talking about to some “Standard”, and get them back into the being the best you can on every single moment of practice. That’s something that I’ve been kind of annoyed about all offseason, so I’m glad Saban saw the same thing and is addressing it.

He also mentioned that he felt his offense was showing some tells on if the plays were runs or passes, and some message board stuff came out that Texas had keyed in freshman Kadyn Proctor’s stance.

Saban also went on a long answer about, essentially, no starter’s jobs are safe because it is a performance-based job. And when asked about former players criticizing the team’s performance, Nick Saban was quick to point out that, when you don’t perform, you get criticized. But, that said, he was very clear that he spent 100% of his time trying to figure out what to fix from the last game and how to plan for the next opponent, not listing to outside radio shows and news clippings.

All in all, I think I came away from this press conference feeling better than I had after the last few. Saban seemed a bit more no-nonsense and back to grind, taking on a lot of responsibility on himself for how things went, but also not cutting his players any slack.

Next, here’s a quote I want to stick on for a minute:

“I don’t know that, in this past game, we had much of an identity,” Saban said.

Saban continued by pointing out areas he feels hampered Alabama against Texas.

“I think we started out early in the game being able to run the ball effectively and did not mix up the play-action pass to complement the run game,” Saban said. “And eventually, it got harder and harder to run the ball. We did make some explosive plays on offense, but it’s too hit or miss. You’ve got to have consistency to be able to sustain drives. And that’s the one thing that we didn’t do. We made explosive plays, but we weren’t consistent enough in terms of developing an identity, to use your term.

So, I have a couple of thoughts: the old-school way of thinking is that you need to open the game running the ball, get that moving, and then work in play-action as the game goes on. That’s kind of been the prevailing theory for much of football’s history.

In the last 8 years or so, there’s been a lot of studying that the inverse is even better: go after the deep pass early and often while defensive backs aren’t fully warmed up yet, move into playaction to keep them guessing, and then go full anaconda with the run game to suffocate out the game.

Regardless, both methods have proven very effective throughout football’s - and both require something that Alabama lacked last week: play-action.

There’s basically no reason to not have some sort of misdirection on any given play. Even for quick timing passes that need to have the ball moving faster than a true playaction allows, you can still have wide receivers or running backs going with horizontal movement pre-snap to keep a defense from being able to key in on a certain direction.

On Saturday, there was extremely limited play action and even less horizontal... anything... from the Tide. No screens. No sweeps. No fake sweeps. No jets. No wonder Texas was able to key in on plays ahead of time.

On top of the lackluster play design there, I also noted multiple times on Saturday that, even when the Tide did call a play-action, Jalen Milroe gave very minimal effort at selling that fake. He’d just kind of point the ball somewhat in the direction of the running back while still keeping his body poised to make a pass. It didn’t slow any defenders down for even half a step, and was just a poor effort.

I had a similar complaint with Bryce Young as well. Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa were absolute masters at selling play action before that... And this isn’t something that is a natural talent - it’s just an attention to detail and dedication to actually do it.

Next up, I got a good laugh out of this column Ryan McGee from ESPN:

5. Around the bowl and down the hole, Roll Tide Roll (1-1)

I’ve been writing these rankings for a decade now and during that time pretty much every single college football power broker has landed in the Coveted Fifth Spot. From Ohio State and Michigan to Georgia and USC. Heck, Clemson was here just last week! I have put everyone here except Alabama — until now. Honestly, I didn’t think the Tide’s loss to Texas was an indicator that Bama is bad as much as it was the Horns are pretty good. Also honestly, I just want to see what happens now that I’ve finally done this. Will the earth break from its axis? Will someone throw a bottle of white Alabama barbecue sauce at me the next time I’m in Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport? Will Nick Saban have my SEC Network TV show canceled? Oh ... wait. Is it too late for me to take this back? Is this how Paul Finebaum feels all the time?

The whole column is well done, and, while I hate I never knew it existed before now, I’m happy that it took all of these years for me to even have a reason to see it.

Finally, please check out this Audible Original on Brian Branch from Emmy Award-winning journalist Jenn Brown and creators Francey Hakes and Spencer Gordon.

On night one of the NFL Draft, Alabama star Brian Branch sat backstage anxiously waiting for his name to be called.

This was the defining moment of his lifetime; the culmination of years of hard work, struggle, and determination. The small-town kid turned Alabama football star was expected to be picked in the first round, that’s why he had received one of the coveted invitations to attend the draft in person. Various experts had predicted that he would be drafted as high as pick 11. Would they be right? Or, as he so often felt, would Brian Branch have something to prove?

NEXT LEVEL follows Branch on his journey from high school player, to college star, to NFL hopeful. We learn Brian’s story, and the details of his early life that both challenged and motivated him: an absent father who struggled with mental illness, a single mother who fought to make ends meet and who, when Branch was 11, was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer. Along the way, we hear from the people who believed in Branch: his supportive mother, legendary coach Nick Saban, locker room friends, and more.

And, of course, we will ride along for Pro Day, the Combine, and Draft Day itself—all while Branch provides a firsthand account of one of the most demanding, intense, unpredictable experiences in professional sports.

Join Brian Branch as he tries to make it to the NEXT LEVEL.

Over the last few years, I constantly staked my support from Brian Branch on this site as a truly special player, who, for all of his accolades, was extremely underrated. The first episode above is free, and the rest are part of an Audible subscription.

The kicker? I was interviewed for this book and have an appearance later in the series. And aside from my cameo, it’s just a phenomenal series on Branch’s entire life and access to his journey to the NFL. Get an Audible free trial and give it a listen.