Could Saban Have Made Better Choice?

Did Nick Saban make a mistake? Well, no. Could he have done better? Perhaps, depending on how one looks at it. It's one of those situations the answer to which can never be known.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban and Crimson Tide players Antoine Caldwell and Rashad Johnson will address hundreds of sports reporters Thursday as the Southeastern Conference Media Days is held at the Wynfrey Hotel.

Caldwell and Johnson are certainly worthy Bama football representatives. In addition to being fine players, both are extremely intelligent and articulate. Both are also seniors, which is frequently a part of the equation. (Florida, though, will have junior Tim Tebow, and it would have been a shame if the nation's best player had not been a part of the event.)

Because of Saban's restrictive press policy regarding interviews of players, both Caldwell and Johnson are very much accustomed to dealing with the press. Each week Alabama provides a handful of players for a couple of interview periods each week, and it's usually the same handful with no more than an exception or two. Caldwell and Johnson were regulars in that group last year.

That's one reason one wonders if it couldn't have been better. Nothing against Caldwell, a center, and Johnson, a safety, but most media members could think of several Tide players who might be more interesting.

It's hard to go wrong with bringing a quarterback, particularly one like John Parker Wilson, an upcoming senior and two-year starter. No player is more aware of what is happening on the football field than the quarterback. No one has more to do with success or failure than the quarterback.

If Rolando McClain's name was on a ballot for the media to choose a representative of Alabama's defense, it is likely McClain would be a runaway choice. For one thing, he's the only returning starter in the linebacker corps for a team that ostensibly uses four linebackers as its base defense. For another he had a great freshman year, earning Freshman All-America. And, finally, he hasn't been interviewed much, not even after suffering injuries in a summer motorcycle accident.

Or what about Javier Arenas? The outstanding kick return man is now a leading candidate to be a starting cornerback for the 2008 Crimson Tide. The 5-9, 193-pound junior is a terrific interview, a very intelligent young man with a lot of interesting thoughts on football.

In many ways, Arenas' offensive counterpart is Terry Grant, another thoughtful young man who makes excellent responses to questions—and doesn't accuse anyone of asking a dumb question. Grant, a 5-10 soph, was the number one tailback for Bama most of last season, but suffered an injury late in the year. Grant set Bama freshman rushing records. He was back in the spring and will be fighting a large group to be the Tide's top tailback.

The list does not include Alabama's best player, Andre Smith. The pre-season All-America is a fine interview, but there's a limit to what a left tackle can talk about.

Caldwell and Johnson will do a very good job. One could not think of two Alabama players who could make a finer impression. Hopefully, they'll provide reporters with some news or interesting conjecture.

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