SABAN: Suspended Players Not a Problem
It ain't a problem.
Nick Saban, driving the point home after Alabama's 41-17 win over Tennessee at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday, said that losing five players for what was called a "violation of institutional policy involving impermissible receipt of textbooks" in a statement by The University didn't affect his plan for the Tennessee game and won't affect it going forward.
"It ain't a problem because we ain't gonna make one," he said. "We didn't change anything that we were going to do."
Asked whether he expected Antoine Caldwell, Glen Coffee, Marlon Davis, Marquis Johnson and Chris Rogers back at practice next week, Saban said he had "no idea."
"I've already told you as much as I know," he said. "If I knew I'd tell you. I don't think anybody knows. I'm not worried about it one way or the other. You all would like to make this a big deal. It ain't a big deal to me, just like it wasn't a big deal to the guys that went out there today."
Saban said he wasn't informed that the players would have to be suspended until Friday night.
"Obviously we had some players that did not use good judgment in what they did," he said. "I don't know circumstances around it. There's obviously some mechanism set up to prevent it that didn't work. There are consequences in not using good judgment. I don't know what the extent of this will be in the future."
"We're going to support our players," Saban said. "One of the most difficult things I had to do yesterday was tell five guys who made the same commitment that all the other guys you saw out there make today that they weren't able to do it. Hopefully there's a lesson in it."
"I know you're gonna try to make it a problem but it ain't a problem," he said. "You want to talk some more about that? Anybody want to stand up on that? I'm ready to jump."
Missing 40 per cent of its normal starting offensive line certainly posed no problem for Alabama. With BJ Stabler and Evan Cardwell filling in for the suspended players, John Parker Wilson had a career performance, completing 32 of 46 passes for 363 yards and rushing for 28 more, while only taking one sack.
"Most of our offensive linemen know all of the positions or at least multiple positions," Stabler said. "Coach (Joe) Pendry has done a great job of teaching us all of that. Honestly, I was just focused on what to do the next play."
Receiver DJ Hall tallied a school record 13 receptions for 185 yards and two touchdowns. The Crimson Tide made on the field in racking up 510 yards of offense and shutting Tennessee out in the second half.
"Offensively we had a great plan. Our coaching staff did an excellent job," Saban said. "John Parker did an excellent job offensively of executing the plan. I think we had the fewest errors that we've had all year long."
"We moved DJ around so that they can't actually put a guy on him," Saban said. "In a lot of our spread formations he's the third inside receiver. He does a great job getting open and using his hands. They played a lot of three deep when we were in two backs and we had the out route."
Saban said the confidence that has developed other past two weeks in the passing game, and the multiple formation in Alabama's offense, prevented Tennessee from zeroing in on any particular set of plays.
"We didn't think we could run on Tennessee maybe all the time," he said. "It was important t have a lot of short passes that were almost like runs."
Part of the plan, to play keep away from Tennessee's potent offense, commenced at the kickoff when Jamie Christensen executed a perfect onside kick which Demarcus Waldrop recovered to give Alabama the ball.
"I'd rather do it in the beginning of the game so it's not the end of the world if you don't get it," Saban said. "We played Auburn at LSU once and did that, and same thing happened. I think it was a great momentum-getter for us and they had a great offensive team which contributed to us not wanting them to get the ball first."
The kick began a day in which Saban was as animated as Alabama fans have seen him. Safety Rashad Johnson and kicker Leigh Tiffin experienced Saban's wrath after a sequence just before the end of the first half when a poor kick followed by a late hit call allowed the Vols to kick a field goal and cut the Tide lead to 24-17 just before the half.
"Anybody that got his ass chewed out the way he got his ass chewed out after the way he kicked the ball off right before the half-- after that I actually looked at him before the next kick and said are you alright. He smiled at me and said ‘I'm okay.'"
"(Tiffin) and Rashad got it about as good as you could get it," Saban said. Getting a penalty right there before the half. I don't know where we'd be without him because he makes a lot of checks back there in the secondary and I feel bad."
Saban said he hoped his intensity would rub off on his players.
"When you get as old as I am you can't get fired up all the time," he said. "You might not make it through. I wanted to win for our players today. I wanted to win for our fans today. I wanted to see them do what I knew they were capable of doing. I felt my intensity might help theirs.
"I'm really pleased and happy for our players. I don't think I've seen them any happier than what they were today. I think that's the first time this year we've played a complete game – beginning, middle and end."
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