Saban Counting On Old-Fashioned Ethic
On Monday, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban was asked if time during last week's abbreviated practice schedule (Tuesday-Thursday) had included extra work on fundamentals.
"We certainly tried to spend a lot of time on fundamentals," Saban said. " In a day and age where a lot of people think it's what you do and not how you do it that determines whether you're successful or not, we're still old-fashioned in terms of how you do it is still pretty important. So, that was a big emphasis for us, individually and collectively, whether it was technique or systematically trying to improve in areas that we needed to fundamentally improve on."
Alabama also did some game preparation during the open week. Saban said, "We had a period each day, not just on Ole Miss, but on people that we play in the future and things that we'll see in the future that are different to what we have seen to this point. Obviously, their wildcat stuff, or whatever you want to call it, is something that is uniquely different and we did spend a little time on that."
The "wildcat" stuff is something first year Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt brought from his time as Arkansas head coach. It involves using a tailback in the spread formation quarterback position. The Rebels use Dexter McCluster, who is listed as a flanker, in that position.
Alabama returned to the practice field Monday after having had last weekend off. The Tide was out for two hours in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts. Bama is preparing to play Ole Miss, which also had an open date. Kickoff Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium will be at 2:30 p.m. CDT with national television coverage by CBS. Alabama is 6-0 overall and 3-0 in Southeastern Conference play and ranked second in the nation. Mississippi is 3-3 overall and 1-2 in SEC games.
Saban said, "The bye-week is over and everybody is healthy, so everybody is ready to go."
Saban said, "Ole Miss always plays physical, they are always tough, they always play hard and they always compete well in the game and never are they out of the game, as evidenced by some of the games we've had in the past with them, including last year's game. So, that's No. 1, in terms of the intangibles, that the teams play with.
"They have always been a difficult team to defend, relative to the things that they do on offense. They utilize the players that they have and how they change things so that they can utilize the players that they have. Usually they create a lot of problems because they are pretty different from what you see a lot of the time. They still execute it very well and I think that is the key to their success."
Saban said, "Houston Nutt is an outstanding coach. He has done a great job wherever he has been coaching. He did a great job at Arkansas for a long time. They (Ole Miss) have a very good team this year. Defensively, they are one of the top-ranked teams in the league. They are very difficult preparation with the different things that they do offensively and they've got good players to do it with. They've got a really good corps of receivers. They have been productive and all have big-play capabilities.
"(Dexter) McCluster is used all kinds of different ways as the wildcat back. He runs the ball, plays quarterback and runs the speed sweeps. (Jevan) Snead is an outstanding quarterback. He is throwing the ball well. They are not a one-dimensional team at all in terms of what they do, they have tremendous balance.
"Defensively, they have a lot of good players back, eight starters back, from last year's team. They create a lot of problems with their movement and their quickness. This is good all-around football team.
"They've also done a good job on special teams. They had a kickoff return for a touchdown. They have good return guys. They had a punt return for a touchdown. They blocked some kicks, blocked a kick against Florida. They have lost some tough games close. They have beaten Florida on the road.
So this is a very challenging team for us and a very challenging game for us. Obviously the focus needs to be on what we do and how we perform and how we play and that's what we're going to try and get our players to focus on."
Turning the attention to Alabama, Saban said, "The thing that is most important for us is to focus on the things that matter. We need to focus on preparation, intensity and energy that we bring everyday to what we do. It affects our performance. Everybody has the opportunity to show the maturity and focus on the details that are going to help us improve as a team. I think we look at every game that we play, like it has a history and life of its own and play one game at a time.
"We need to improve as a team and that should be what our focus is. We have a lot of really good teams to play. Ole Miss is one of those teams.
"I think it takes a lot of maturity to play with consistency and for whatever reason we forgot to do the things that got us to 5-0 (in a 17-14 win over Kentucky to get to 6-0). One of the coaches in our league said that this week. So, to have the foresight and understand the things that you need to do, so that you can continue to improve, get better as a team, play better as a team and build on a season is really the key to success."
Saban was asked if the Rebels are more physical now than they have been in the past. He said, "They had a very good team when David Cutcliffe was there and we played against them before. They were physical, they played hard on defense and they had a great quarterback (Eli Manning), who has done a great job in pro ball. So, we have a tremendous amount of respect for them. They do play physical now. They are very good up front with the offensive line. They've got four or five starters back. The left tackle (Michael Oher) is an All-America player and a very good player and arguably one of the best offensive linemen in the country and they play very hard and physical on defense, but I've never known them not to play that way."
Saban said Bama should expect a fight to the end. He said, "Houston Nutt's teams play tough and compete and are never out of a game."
He said the Ole Miss offense, in addition to being tough to defend, is unusual. Extra time must be spent on the "wildcat," but the Rebels will also be in regular formation and Mississippi also has an effective passing offense, making for more preparation.
Both Alabama and Ole Miss had open dates last week. Saban said, "Any advantage we had, they did too." (A team with a number of injuries might have a bigger advantage.)
Saban said, "The biggest advantage (is dependent upon) how your team responds to the rest. The timing is important because you don't want to have to play eight or nine weeks in a row. Strategially, it landed well for us."
He said during the three practices last week, "We had their attention."
As would be expected, Saban didn't have much to say about the importance of rankings halfway through the season. He pointed out that "25 years ago there were three, four, five teams" that were much better than the rest, but that parity means there will be games like last weekend's Toledo win over Michigan. He said Bama "needs to bring it's ‘A' game every week.
"That's the challenge of playing with consistency and improving. Focus on that which matters and the consequences if you don't. That's part of maturity."
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