Saban Wants Players To Give Best Always

Although Alabama Coach Nick Saban hasn’t been so entertaining for Crimson Tide football fans this week after Bama was upset by Ole Miss last Saturday, a staple of giving those fans the giggles is Saban having a little press conference rant. Although sometimes he thinks a question is worthy of a tirade, he can jump start it himself.

In any event, fans and the media have learned that when Saban is having one of those moments, the end result almost always is going to be good information. Such was the case Wednesday.

Alabama (4-1 overall and 1-1 in the Southeastern Conference) will be trying to bounce back from the failed effort in Mississippi last week when the Crimson Tide takes on Arkansas (3-2, 0-2) in Fayetteville Saturday. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. CDT with television coverage by ESPN.

One of the reasons for the loss to Ole Miss was Bama suffering several key injuries in the contest. One of those injured (and lost for the year with a broken leg and dislocated ankle) is Kenyan Drake. Although he was only the third tailback in the Crimson Tide’s rotation, he was quite valuable for his speed and receiving skills, as well as running ability.

It was natural, then, for Saban to get a question about the man who will move up into Drake’s spot on the depth chart, Altee Tenpenny. It is perhaps of greater interest this week because Tenpenny is a native of Arkansas.

Saban’s initial answer was as innocuous as the question, which was how Tenpenny had reacted to moving from the scout team to the playing rotation.

The Tide coach explained that Tenpenny had been getting work with the others, rotating up in practice. He added that Tenpenny, a 6-0, 218-pound sophomore, had been playing well on special teams. “Altee has done whatever we’ve asked him to do this whole season and done a good job of it,” Saban said. “He’s working hard now to be able to make a contribution to the offense when he’s needed.”

That seemed to be the end of it, but Saban had a message to share. Quite an interesting message.

Saban said he thinks sometimes the players have the same thought sas the question. He thinks the players perform in practice at a different level if they think they are going to play than they do if they don’t expect to play.

“That’s not really what we need,” Saban said. “We need every player on the team to go out every day and get better, and improve and play their best because our goal is that every player on our team be the best player they can be. Your attitude shouldn't be any different whether you're going to be the fourth back or the third back. Your approach should be the same because you should be striving if you're fourth to be third and if you're third to be second and if you're second to be first.

“That make any sense to anybody besides me?”

Yes it did. And he went on.

“That's probably one of the biggest problems that we have is the guys that play, they really, really go out there and work hard and try to do everything they need to do. Then a guy thinks he's not going to play doesn't have the same mental energy, intensity, doesn't prepare the same way. Guy gets hurt, he's in there playing. So can he do his job like he should?

“You understand what I'm trying to say? I know you all think I'm crazy but that's just how I think it ought to be, that's how I think players should do it. That's what I preach to them all the time.”

One wouldn’t be human if the first person wondered about was not Bradley Bozeman. Bozeman is a redshirt freshman center who had played almost not at all this season. When Ryan Kelly was injured against Ole Miss, Bozeman was thrown into the breach. As expected, mistakes were made. Center is one of the most important positions on the field, and Bozeman was going in cold.

Saban was asked how Bozeman and the men behind him, true freshmen Josh Casher and J.C. Hassenauer, were doing.

“Because they got a chance to play, they're like different people,” Saban said. “I mean, it's completely different. They don't even look the same. I wouldn't even recognize them on the street. They completely changed like, what was it, the Hulk. Was that the guy who changed? They play, they look like the Hulk. When they don't play, they look like the guy that, you know, sells newspapers or whatever.”

It sounded like there were a number of Hulk-types on the practice field this week.

Saban said, “Our players have really responded well this week. practiced really well Monday and Tuesday. It was a little difficult out there today; it was a little warmer than it has been. Did a lot of third down so there was a little bit more passing-type stuff. Players worked their way through it and focused on what we needed to do to respond the right way to the adversity we've created for ourselves based on how we've played and our focus is on fixing the things that will help us play better.

“Obviously there're some players that are going to get new opportunities. We're doing everything we can to help those players able to take advantage of those opportunities as they get a chance to play this weekend against a very good Arkansas team.

“How you respond to a loss is kind of like adversity tolerance. You've got to overcome a lot of things. You've got to admit what you need to improve. God gave you ability. He did not give you an attitude to make choices. We've got to make the right choices so we can improve as a team.

“Arkansas could very easily be 4-1. They're a very, very good team. Very physical team. Probably run the ball as well as anybody we've played against for a long, long time.

“A lot of teams in the top 25 stubbed their toe last week, so it will be interesting to see who can overcome and respond to the adversity, correct the things they need to correct and improve, and try to come out and be successful.”

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