Saban Isn't Only Nick Who Can Coach

It's safe to say that Nick Saban doesn't expect to learn much from sportswriters. Maybe he was a little surprised at the end of his Thursday media briefing when he talked about one of his players having the potential to be a good coach. But, Saban said, "I'll bet you he would be mad at me for saying that, because most of our guys probably don't think coaching is a great profession."



Alabama Coach Nick Saban was talking about senior nose tackle Nick Gentry. "I think he would make a really good coach," said the coach.

Saban seemed pleased when he was told that just the day before in an interview with sportswriters, Gentry had said that he would like to be a coach.

Gentry is a 6-1, 284-pound fifth-year senior nose tackle from Prattville. His teammates cannot say enough good about him as a player. Although undersized for the position, he has great quickness and technique and has seen a lot of playing time, on special teams primarily until last year when he became the top back-up to Josh Chapman in the middle of the Bama defensive line.

Saban sees a special quality in the Prattville native. "Most people are really all about themselves and worried about themselves, self-absorbed, ‘How does it affect me?' He's always been one of those guys who really cares about his teammates and has a special compassion for the younger guys on the team. It's very helpful, because he's smart. He understands what we're doing. He doesn't make many mental erors. He's been around here for a long time. He's always had some kind of role on the team. I think he really enjoys doing that. I think he would make a really good coach, too."

Gentry said, "I like being a coach. I think that's what I want to do in the future. I try to get the young guys in there and teach them everything that I know, what Coach Rumph is trying to teach me to teach them to get better."

Chris Rumpf took over as Alabama's defensive line coach this year. Gentry said, "Coach Rumph is an excellent coach. When you talk pass rush he knows everything. I think we're learning more and more from him than I've ever learned in the past as far as high school and everything. This guy is an excellent pass rush coach. I think we're good at the run but when you go out there and you learn new things every day you can't help but get better. 

He's everything you could ask for. He doesn't yell. He doesn't cuss. He's more of a motivator and I think that's what we need on this d-line. Every day we go out there he's trying to motivate us some how, some way. 

"He's hilarious. He'll get out there and yell at young guys, but he comes back and smiles at us. He does it out of humor. The young guys are starting to catch on to it a little bit. They're having fun, too."

Although Gentry is not a starter, he takes his position as a senior seriously. He said he wants to be a leader. "I think being a senior, even though I'm a backup, I try to bring good quality to the d-line as being a leader. I think everybody's trying to be a leader that is an older guy.

"We've got a lot of young guys in here trying to learn, and we're trying to teach them--staying after and watching film and everything like that. D.J. Pettway, Xzavier Dickson, Jeoffrey Pagan, they're going to be good players in the future. I'm just trying to teach them how to run this defense properly."

Gentry came to Alabama in 2007 and saw action in the Georgia game, but was injured and was given a medical redshirt. He saw limited action in 2008 and 2009, primarily on special teams. Last year he played in all 13 games.

"I've had some ups and downs," he said. "People talk about my size, but I think I have a big heart. I play big. I try to be good at the run. I've had questions at the run. I'm trying to get better every day playing the run, playing the double teams. I'm actually learning from Chapman because he's really good at it. He's trying to teach me the little things that I'm trying to learn. Every day I'm trying to go out there and progress and get better. 

"I'm not the biggest guy. Everybody knows that. I don't try to go out there and muscle people. I try to use my quickness to beat people. That's what Coach Saban wants and that's what I try to do."

Gentry came to Alabama recruited by Mike Shula for a 4-3 defense. When Saban came in, it was a new world. The 3-4.

Gentry said it was a surprise. "I thought I was going to come in and play a 4-3," he said. "That's what I've always played. I'm glad at learning this 3-4. It's a whole lot different coming from that 4-3 background. We ran a little 3-4 in high school, I've  learned a lot and I've enjoyed it."

He admits there was a time when he was worried it wasn't going to be a good fit.

"I doubted myself until last year," he said. "Coach Davis (former Tide defensive line coach Bo Davis) told me to stick it out. Hetold me, 'You've got a bunch of good qualities about you. You're quick, you're fast, you can work in this defense. You just have to learn the little techniques to being good in this defense.'"

Gentry had good reason to be concerned.

"They want big guys on the ends," he said. "I'd never really played nose. I'd always played end in high school. I realized I'm pretty much not tough enough to play defensive end. I've got to go with nose guard. I tried to learn every little technique I can to take advantage of what I have."

He said he doesn't play nose the way others do. "I'm not Josh Chapman," he said. "I don't bench press 500 pounds."

For him it's a matter of technique. Staying lose. Using his hips. Splitting the blocks on a double team instead of taking on two blockers.

In other words, he's no Terrance Cody. But for those looking for Bama's next Mount Cody?

"Brandon Ivory," Gentry said. "This kid is big, he can move, he is quick, he's got good hands, he's moving. If you guys want another TC he's the next TC. Mount Ivory. can move."

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