Saban Discusses Variety Of Topics

Following the Crimson Tide's first practice for the Capital One Bowl Thursday, most of the discussion with Alabama Coach Nick Saban was about bowl preparation, Michigan State, etc. But the Bama coach also touched on juniors going to the NFL, coaching changes, the status of suspended safety Robby Green, junior college recruiting, and other things.



Conventional wisdom (not always correct) has it that at least three Alabama junior football players would be first round draft choices if they elected to forego their final seasons of college football. And there could be more than three.

Alabama has only eight seniors on the team that will head to Orlando and the Capital One Bowl game against Michigan State on January 1. But there has been much conjecture about the future of some Bama juniors, notably tailback Mark Ingram, wide receiver Julio Jones, and defensive end Marcell Dareus. Mentioned to lesser extent are safety Mark Barron, who is injured and will miss the bowl game; Dont'a Hightower, who was playing this season after missing most of last year with an injury; and outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw.

Coach Nick Saban was asked about his advice to junior players.

"I think every guy is different," Saban said. "I think we try to help the guys, try to help the families. We've been on home visits with everybody and talked to their families as well as them. We try to get as much good information as we can for them from various NFL teams as to where they might get picked in the draft.

"I think every guy is different, and I think this year is different. With the labor situation and the strike coming up, it really could affect how much a guy can develop this year. If there's no mini-camp, if there's no training camp, it will be much more difficult for guys to learn the system and make an impact. At the end of the day, it really comes down to what's in a player's heart, what he wants to do. There's tremendous value in guys staying in school and getting an education.

"Typically, if guys are first-round picks, I tell them that I support them going out for the draft. With the unknowns this year, I've kind of reduced that to guys that are a top-15 pick or that they don't have a chance to move up in the future. I'm not going to be specific about sharing any information about individuals. I think those decisions are probably ongoing with most of the players. I do think it benefits all the players to play well in this game, because they will be evaluated. There's no player on our team that won't benefit himself and his future by playing well in this game."

Much in the news recently has been the coaching carousel as changes are made in head coaching positions and the domino effect at both the head coach and assistant coach levels. Saban clearly was irritated at recent reports regarding members of his staff, primarily because stories cited unknown sources and didn't get comment from Saban.

There has been much speculation regarding the possibility of Bama Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart taking a similar position at Florida.

Saban said he had talked to new Florida Coach Will Muschamp (a former Saban assistant) and that the subject did not come up.

"Typically, if somebody is interested in one of your coaches, they contact you and you know it," Saban said. "Other than Curt Cignetti interviewing at Kent State and Jim McElwain at Colorado, I don't really know about anything that's going on. I've talked to Will on several occasions. Kirby has done nothing but indicate to me that he wants to stay at The University of Alabama and be here. I trust that's what he'll do.

"He's done a great job for us. He's one of the best assistant coaches in the country. Every year, he's closer and closer to being ready to be a head coach himself. He's made a tremendous contribution and been very helpful to every part of our program, whether it's recruiting or academics. He's interested in the big picture. He's done a really good job as the defensive coordinator. We're pleased that he is interested in staying.

"I don't know anything about anything else. Our guys are pretty good and pretty loyal. If anybody talks to them, they immediately let me know. We have good coaches and we have a good staff. I think it's a tremendous compliment to the staff that people are interested in them."

Saban said that safety Robby Green, who was suspended for the year prior to the start of the season for what is speculated as an NCAA issue, is not eligible to play in the Capital One Bowl. "He's suspended for a full season, a full year," Saban said. "He still has to do things to get reinstated for next year through the NCAA. He is practicing, but his status has not changed in terms of his eligibility."

A coach cannot comment on prospects until they have signed and submitted scholarship papers. Saban was asked if he could comment on junior college commitments Quinton Dial and Jesse Williams, both defensive linemen.

He said, "Quinton Dial is the only guy we've gotten paperwork back on. The other guys, we have not gotten all the information back, so we cannot comment on. "

Note that he said "guys," indicating presumably Williams and just announced offensive tackle Aaron Douglas.

"We're glad to have Quinton Dial," Saban said. "He's a guy we recruited in high school. He has some potential to be a defensive lineman, which is an area where we can use some big, strong guys."

Saban said it was not yet clear if Dial would be entering Alabama in January. "There are still some questions about that," Saban said.

Saban commented on seniors being invited to the Senior Bowl, to be played in Mobile. Quarterback Greg McElroy, offensive tackle James Carpenter, and H-Back Preston Dial will play in the game. "We only have eight seniors, so it's great to get three guys in the game," Saban said. He said Carpenter chose the Senior Bowl and also had an invitation to the East-West Game."

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