Stuart McNair

Steve Sarkisian taking over as Alabama offensive coordinator impresses Calvin Ridley

Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley is ready for championship game

Physically, mentally,and — it would seem — emotionally, Alabama sophomore wide receiver Calvin Ridley is looking forward to the Crimson Tide’s game against Clemson for the national championship Monday night in Tampa.
Alabama (14-0 and ranked first in the nation) and Clemson (13-1, ranked second) meet for the second consecutive College Football Playoff national title game.
Ridley, a 6-1,188-pound sophomore from Coconut Creek, Fla., hasn’t had quite the year he had as a Freshman All-America, but he has had a solid season with 67 receptions for 733 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Of some importance to him, he thinks he is more ready for the national championship game this year than he was last season when Bama defeated the Tigers, 45-40, in Glendale, Ariz.
“It’s been a long season,” Ridley said Thursday before Bama went out for its final practice in Tuscaloosa. The Tide will go to Tampa Friday morning to complete preparations.
“I remember last season I was tired,” Ridley said, “but this year I knew what was coming and I did it the right way, and now I feel fresh. Last year I was tired in that game. I’m ready for this game.”
He said his preparation through the season included things like getting in hot tubs and cold tubs and getting massages.”
Mentally, he said, “Ready to play football. Ready for the next game. I’m excited about going back to the national championship and want to compete at a high level and help my team win.”
For the better part of a month, with the exception of a short Christmas break, it has been all football for Ridley and his teammates since the completion of final exams in the fall semester.
“It’s great,” Ridley said of the all football regimen. Like what it would be like in professional football? “I don’t know what it’s like being a pro yet,” he said, “but when I can just wake up and focus on football… I’m not saying I don’t like school.”
But, he said, he has more time for film study. “I wake up and have breakfast, and then I’m here all day.”
The big news of the week is that Alabama has a new offensive coordinator with Steve Sarkisian taking over for Lane Kiffin, and that situation was a major part of Ridley’s meeting with the media Thursday.
Ridley had reached out to Kiffin, who has moved to his new job as head coach at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), with a “thank you” on social media. “It was just out of respect,” Ridley said. “I had always talked to Coach Kiffin, so I just game him respect saying thank you for what you did, being here. Just respect.”
But, he said, “I like Coach Sarkisian a lot.”
He said Alabama was doing “pretty much the same things,” but “everything is a lot faster and smoother. He coaches us real good.
“I can’t wait to go on the field Monday and see what we’ll do.”
Perhaps the biggest concern with the change in coordinators at this late date in the season is what effect it might have on freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, Ridley’s roommate. Ridley said, “He’s really locked — even though he was locked in the whole season. But I feel he really likes Coach Sarkisian, and Coach Sarkisian is giving him a lot of new tips, a of of new things to get better. I think he’s following up on that stuff real good.
“He says he’s getting a lot of new things that can help him. He’s watching a lot more film, breaking things more down for him. I guess he likes the coaching better.
“I feel like he’s got his confidence back and he’s ready to go out there and do what he needs to do. Coach Sarkisian is going to help him a lot with that, so it’s going to be all right.”
As for offensive changes, Ridley said, “We’re running a lot of new things. Not too much new, but we like the plays that we’re getting. We like what Coach Sarkisian is doing.”
Ridley said he had not had much interaction with Sarkisian, who had been serving as an offensive analyst (working with the coaching staff, but not with the players)
Ridley said prior to this week, “I met him but it was really nothing at all until he introduced himself again to the team, the whole offense. I really like him. He introduced himself real well. I feel like he’s really liked and ready to get involved heavily. He’s real focused, and I like him. So I’m ready to get involved.
“He’s real cool. I mean, he runs around with us, drill to drill. He’s always thanking us - thank you, thank you - when we’re working hard and running our routes full speed. It’s always good to have somebody in your ear like that, building your confidence, when you work hard.”
Is Sarkisian funny?
“Uhhh, I don’t know,” Ridley said. “Right now we’re just business. That’s all we worry about.”
As for Clemson’s secondary, Ridley said, “They’ve got good guys. They play the ball good, they can run; just guys that know how to play football. I respect them for that.”

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