Saban Disagrees With AJ On Tide Leadership

Each week during football season, Southeastern Conference head coaches take part in a teleconference with sportswriters. For the most part, the questions and answers are similar to those from regular press briefings by the coaches.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban, though, had a bit of an off-the-wall question regarding A.J. McCarron’s assertion that this year’s Crimson Tide team does not have the leaders that last year’s team had.

McCarron, Alabama’s quarterback the past three seasons, was reported to have said on Tuscaloosa’s Tide 99.1 radio, "I think one of the things that this team is lacking that hurts them the most is not having the true leaders like we had last year and guys that, when things go bad, 'hey, let's calm everybody down, pick it back up and go back to work and get back on the right track. I feel like when things go bad, this team struggles a little with bouncing back and making good plays."

Saban responded, “I don’t really think it’s true. We have several guys who have played a lot of football around here who do a good job. I think sometimes people look at the quarterback position as the guy who has to be the leader and think sometimes when you have a new quarterback that guy’s really concerned with trying to do what he’s supposed to do. Maybe he doesn’t look to be perceived as a guy who’s effective by other people, but I actually think that Blake (senior Blake Sims, who took over at QB this year) does a pretty good job. He’s very well liked by his teammates, he’s a very positive, high-energy guy, and he has shown leadership. I don’t think we played real well last week, for whatever reasons. I don’t know if that’s on leadership, I’m sort of responsible for all that as well all are as coaches and players, to make sure that we’re ready to play our best against good teams in tough environments on the road.

“I don’t know how AJ would really know, but I don’t necessarily see that as the case.”

Alabama is preparing for Saturday’s game at Arkansas. The Crimson Tide (4-1 overall, 1-1 in Southeastern Conference play) is coming off a 23-17 loss at the hands of Ole Miss in Oxford. Bama will meet the Razorbacks at 5 p.m. CDT Saturday from Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. ESPN will televise the game.

As he has said previously, Saban said, “The big thing with us is how’s our team going to respond to a loss. What’s your adversity tolerance, how are you going to fight back, what are you going to do to try to get better.

“Arkansas is a very good team. They’ve played really, really well this year. They’re probably the most physical team that we’ve played in terms of their ability to run the ball, really played hard, and really played with a lot of toughness. They have some very good players, who can make explosive plays, so this going to be a real challenge for us playing on the road. We didn’t play great last week on the road so we can definitely improve in that area.”

As he said in his regular Monday press briefing, Saban said, “I think Arkansas is probably the most improved team I’ve seen that we’ve played so far this year. This is a really good football team and they’ve really done a great job of making their players better, relying in and believing in what they need to do to win. They play with great intangibles and great toughness, great discipline and I think that’s what you need to establish in a program. They execute extremely well and I think it’s a sign of a very-well coached team. Arkansas plays with a tremendous effort and intangibles, and they’ve played really, really well.”

Brandon Allen, a 6-2, 210-pound junior, will be starting at quarterback for Arkansas for the third time against Alabama. He took over because of injury in Bama’s 52-0 win in 2012 and was injured himself, though played, last year, another 52-0 Tide win.

Saban, asked how Allen has progressed, said, “I think he’s outstanding and I think he’s really, really playing well. He does a great job of getting them into the right play and doing the right things -- moving around in the pocket, making good decisions, throwing the ball extremely well. With the way they can run the ball with the play-action passes that they have he does a really, really good job for them. He plays quarterback for what they want a quarterback to do as well as any anybody that we played against all year. To me he’s really, really improved, tremendously, but that’s what having knowledge and experience does, and he’s playing extremely well.”

Alabama lost three top players to injury against Ole Miss – tailback Kenyan Drake, linebacker Denzel Devall, and center Ryan Kelly. Saban said, “It creates some opportunities for other players. Those guys are all really good players for us. You know, we lost three really good players in this game but it’s going to create an opportunity for some other players here and (they) have an opportunity to play well in the game. I have enough confidence that we have enough depth that our players will respond the right way and take advantage of the opportunity that they have.”

Two Arkansas natives, tailback Altee Tenpenny of North Little Rock and defensive lineman Josh Frazier of Springdale, will be on the Alabama squad this weekend.

Saban said Tenpenny, a 6-0, 218-pound sophomore, has “done really well. He’s been a really good special teams player for us all year. He certainly will get more opportunities. He’ll move up to the third back now (with the injury to Drake, behind T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry). Altee has done really, really well for us.”

The Tide coach was asked if Frazier, a 6-3, 335-pound freshman, would be on the travel squad. Saban said, “We haven’t done a travel squad yet, but he probably will be. We’ll try and play Josh and develop him and we think he’s going to be a really good player.”

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