Updates From Tide Coach Nick Saban
Not so, according to Alabama Coach Nick Saban. He offered the job to one man, Jim McElwain, who accepted the position on Tuesday night, was announced on Wednesday, and who was reportedly on the job touching base with prospects on Thursday.
Saban was understandably upset with shoddy reporting of the recruiting process. He met with reporters on Thursday evening for an update on several issues – including recruiting -- and made it known that he was not pleased with the misinformation that surfaced over the past two weeks following the resignation of Major Applewhite.
"How do you call yourself professionals?" he said. Later Saban said he was "kidding" about that slur, but he no one in the room believed him.
The media deserved criticism for reporting interviews that did not take place and were not going to take place. (BamaMag.com is not without guilt. We reported that Saban had interviewed Georgia Southern Coach Chris Hatcher and offered Hatcher the job, and that Hatcher turned the job down. Although Saban did not list those he had interviewed or all those he did not, it was learned that Hatcher was not contacted. We did not err on purpose. On the plus side, we also said it was futile to attempt to guess the name of the next offensive coordinator because Saban knew many, many more potential candidates than any reporter.)
Saban also dismissed rumors that there had been issues between Applewhite and Joe Pendry, who is Alabama's assistant head coach for offense and offensive line coach.
Saban said the process for finding an offensive coordinator had involved exhaustive research to find potential candidates, then interviews with "four or five." He said he did not interview anyone he had previously known.
The Tide coach pointed out that there is some difficulty in finding time to hire new coaches when he is doing a lot of traveling in the business of recruiting and then having prospects on campus on weekends.
Saban said "We feel very good about the two guys we hired." In addition to McElwain being added to the staff to replace Applewhite as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, Saban hired a man he was very familiar with, Bobby Williams, reportedly to coach tight ends and special teams. He replaced Ron Middleton. Applewhite returned to his alma mater, Texas, and Middleton went to Duke, where he rejoined David Cutcliffe. Middleton had worked under Cutcliffe at Ole Miss.
Saban called Williams (who had worked under Saban at Michigan State, LSU and Miami) "an outstanding coach."
As for McElwain, Saban said he "was the best candidate we talked to." Saban said he was impressed with the background of the man who comes to Alabama from the same position at Fresno State. McElwain had been a college quarterback, then was an offensive coordinator, a quarterbacks coach and assistant head coach in college stops. He then went to the NFL as quarterbacks coach of the Oakland Raiders for a year before going to Fresno State. Saban said a coach learns a great deal with a stint in professional football.
Saban was also impressed with the improvement at Fresno State in the year that McElwain was there.
Saban said that at Alabama "the offensive coordinator is the offensive coordinator. He calls the plays. He is the leader of the offense."
That doesn't mean there's a new offense coming.
"We have an offense," Saban said. "Alabama's offense. Philosophically, we aren't interested in changing the system, but tweak the system." He said there is the possibility of utilizing more formations and making personnel adjustments.
He said McElwain would work to have more balance and more explosive plays, be a good third down team, a team that scored touchdowns in the red zone, and a team that did not turn the ball over.
Refuting another alleged rumor, Saban said McElwain had experience recruiting in the South from his days as an assistant at Louisville and at Michigan State.
As for reports that Applewhite was hamstrung by Pendry, Saban said, "I did not see a problem in our offensive staff last year. The offense was developed from all the available expertise, The offensive coordinator was responsible for assembling that. Joe Pendry has a wealth of experience. We utilize everyone's strengths."
He added that both Applewhite and Pendry had done good jobs in 2007. He said Applewhite told Saban that his reason for leaving was he wanted to go back to Texas.
"If there had been issues, we would have fixed that," Saban said.
Saban touched on a number of other items.
He said spring training would "probably" be broken up in a couple of ways. For one, it will begin before spring break at The University. For another, it appears there will be one practice day following the A-Day Game on April 12.
Alabama had originally planned to begin spring practice after spring break and conclude on April 19. A national pre-Olympics triathlon has since been scheduled for Tuscaloosa on April 19, and Saban agreed to make the change in Bama's practice plan for the benefit of the city. It is believed there will be a couple of practices (March 13 and 14) prior to spring break.
Although there are legal restrictions to what can be discussed about a player's health, Saban said there was some good news regarding linebacker Zeke Knight, who had been hospitalized for an undisclosed ailment. Saban said, "Not for sure, but the last word I got was that he was to be released from the hospital today. We're very pleased he's doing better. I can't comment beyond that."
Kevin Steele is reportedly in the mix for the job as head coach of a football program to be started at South Alabama in Mobile. Saban said, "I don't know what the process, the procedure, South Alabama is going through. Kevin Steele has done a great job for us. He's a great coach. He would do a fabulous job for them. He is a great recruiter, a great leader, invaluable to the organization. I can't say enough good things about Kevin Steele. I would never stand in the way of anything he would want to do. We support him in anything he would be interested in."
Saban said he did not know the status of Colin Peek's eligibility. Peek, a tight end from Jacksonville, Florida, has been at Georgia Tech the past three years, including one redshirt season. With a change in head coaches at Tech, Peek decided to transfer to Alabama. Saban said he was aware his family was appealing for Peek to be eligible this year, rather than having to sit out a season, but Saban did not know the status of that process.
The Tide head coach also said he would wait until closer to spring training to discuss the results of off-season surgeries to Bama players.
As for recruiting, which ends with Signing Day next Wednesday, Saban said, "Recruiting is going well. We're pleased with the players we have. We always talk about finishing."
He said his assistant coaches "are all over the place." Not all of them are recruiting for next Wednesday, though, because only a handful of prospects remain on the Tide's wish list. Saban said when the staff arrived last January, one of the things that had to be started was making contact with juniors for the 2008 signing period. Now the staff is working on some of the juniors who will be recruiting targets in 2009.
Saban was asked about recruiting being an "ugly" business.
"Recruiting is not ugly to me," Saban said. "The way we go about it is we have a great institution here. We try to provide an excellent opportunity for our players to be successful as people, students, and players using the resources of The University. That's what we try to sell. I never say a word about any other institution. I don't say anything about their depth chart or anything like that because I don't know anything about it.
"I think if there is one thing that is ugly about recruiting it is negative recruiting -- people talking about things they don't know about or things they are envious of. It doesn't come out as a positive. I don't think young people should be subjected to that and our staff is not going to engage in that."
He is disappointed new rule that prohibits head coach going on road in spring. "I voted against it," he said. "I believe the head coaches should promote high school football and when we show up and show the interest in the high school programs" that is a positive.
Spring is a time for evaluation, not recruiting. He said players had earned scholarships because he – as a head coach – saw them in spring practice.
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