Saban Counting On Young Players

Alabama Coach Nick Saban suggested that Crimson Tide football success this fall will depend in part on how quickly some young players are developed. His address at Southeastern Conference Media Days Thursday was a reiteration of his familiar process.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban was one of four head football coaches addressing media at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover (suburban Birmingham) Thursday. Mark Richt of Georgia, Houston Nutt of Ole Miss, and Phil Fulmer of Tennessee were also on Thursday's agenda.

The event, being covered by in excess of 800 media members, began Wednesday with Florida's Ubran Meyer, Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom, Les Miles of LSU and Bobby Johnson of Vanderbilt. Media Days ends Friday with Tommy Tuberville of Auburn, Bobby Petrino of Arkansas, Steve Spurrier of South Carolina and Rich Brooks of Kentucky. Two players from each school have also been a part of the proceedings.

Saban touched on a number of topics but mentioned few players other than quarterback John Parker Wilson. Wilson, who will be a third year starter with a third position coach and offensive coordinator, should benefit from the past and from the present, Saban said. The coach said that it was difficult for Wilson to have different coaches and coordinators and systems "when he was doing it," but that having accomplished it will enhance Wilson's decision-making process.

Saban also called the offense that Wilson will operate under new coordinator Jim McElwain as "quarterback friendly." Saban explained that an offense can be so complicated that it slows down the decision-making ability of the quarterback, which is counter-productive.

Saban said that Wilson had profited from playing well in Alabama's Independence Bowl victory over Colorado and that the quarterback had a good spring and off-season. He called Wilson "more business-like in his preparation." He added that Wilson has "adapted extremely well" to McElwain.

In answer to a question about wide receivers, Saban acknowledged significant losses in D.J. Hall, Matt Caddell and Keith Brown and said that development of players at wide receiver "will be key" to the offense. "We need to have people step up and that will help the quarterback."

Saban mentioned Alabama having had a good recruiting year (best in the nation, as a matter of fact), and spoke in broad terms of young players having to come through for this year's team, but he did not mention specific freshmen or positions.

"I expect to take all the players we have and work with them and we'll make decision to play best players after we go through fall camp," he said in answer to a question about which freshmen might be expected to contribute. He pointed out that "All guys are different," saying they will develop at varying paces.

"If a freshman is best, we have no issues with playing him," Saban said.

Saban noted that Alabama had good leadership in its senior class, but said a "key" would be how young players were developed and fit in with the returning players. He said the team would have to establish an identity, "and how young players fit in will be critical."

He talked about the challenge of opening the season against a quality opponent and how that game against Clemson can benefit Bama. "It should enhance our development," he said. "It will show us where we are and help us down the road with the competition in our league." He noted that the SEC schedule is very difficult with "several in the top ten and six or seven in the top twenty."

Saban said the problem with the 2007 season was that the Crimson Tide did not play with consistency and did not finish well. The exception, he said, was Bama's win over Tennessee.

He said those things -- consistency and finishing -- were "focal points of the off-season." Saban said he is pleased that a number of his players have made progress "as players and as students."

Saban said the stength of the SEC demands that "we do everything we can to help out players develop so we can be competitive." He added that a goal if for Alabama to be among the upper echelon of SEC teams.

He said team chemistry has improved, describing that as a result of players having respect for and trust in one another and an improvement in confidence. Players have to have intelligence, intensity, a sense or urgency and trust in one another, he said. "Our concern is on guys being complete players rather than having specific coals such as catching so many passes," he said. "Our process is to do everything we can to get better every day. In our case, how the younger guys are brought into that will be a factor in our situation."

He said that players and coaches being in a situation for a second year would help continuity.

The issue of discipline came up and Saban said one of the pleasures of college football is helping players become better as athletes, students and citizens. He said he would not "clean house" because an athlete MIGHT be a problem. He said his goal is to have those players make correct decisions. When they don't, they cannot be a part of the program.

The full transcript is linked below.

BamaMag Top Stories