Saban Sometimes Hides His Anger
Meeting with sportswriters following Wednesday practice, Alabama Coach Nick Saban explained why he didn't have harsh words for Crimson Tide return specialist Javier Arenas following Arenas' fumble in the first quarter against LSU Saturday. "I used to yell at all of them," Saban said. "Then I realized they had to go back out and do it again." He said he didn't want to be negative with players.
He pointed out that he didn't yell at placekicker Leigh Tiffin when Tiffin kicked low on what would have been a game-winning chip shot field goal because "I thought he might have to kick another one. Sometimes you can create anxiety and make it worse."
Saban said he'd be more inclined to chew out a player who was not giving good effort, and pointed out that no one on the team tries harder than Arenas.
In Saban's injury update he revealed that he could empathize with Crimson Tide tailback Roy Upchurch, who was stricken with spasms in his neck prior to warm-ups at Baton Rouge last Saturday. Upchurch did not play against LSU and has been in a black jersey (no contact) this week. Saban said that Upchurch was able to do a little practice work, but remains day-to-day. He said that wide receiver Earl Alexander, who suffered a dislocated shoulder against LSU, also continues in a black jersey and also did some practice work, but is having trouble doing as little as getting his arm up. "Those are two guys who are questionable," Saban said.
The coach said he had suffered from the same problem Upchurch has "for 30 plus years" until he had it "fixed last January." Saban said the ailment is "unpredictable," and pointed out that Upchurch had an episode earlier in the year from which he recovered and was able to play. Saban suggested Upchurch will eventually have a medical repair.
Saban was asked about the sudden impact of freshman Marcel Dareus on the defensive line and about other freshmen who may have shown improvement in recent weeks. He mentioned linebackers Courtney Upshaw, Jarrell Harris and Chris Jordan and wide receiver Darius Hanks.
The top-ranked Alabama football team worked out for two hours in full pads Wednesday afternoon at the Thomas-Drew Practice Facility as preparation continues for Saturday's game with the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
"I am proud and pleased with the way the players have worked this week," Saban said following Wednesday's practice. "They've had a good attitude. It is a challenging preparation for us. It always is with the way we do things and the players have worked through it very, very well.
"I think on the offensive line we've done a good job of blocking people, getting a hat on a hat and that's going to be really important for us in this game. We've worked really hard to improve on the passing game this week. It was a little windy out there today, but seems like the timing and execution is getting better and that's something that will help us tremendously, especially in this game because they have such a good pass defense.
"On defense, we have to keep working at it. We have to be good in fundamentals. Our down linemen have to play better, be more physical. We have to stay in the gaps and we have to get a rush on the quarterback.
"This is a good opportunity for us. We have something to prove."
Alabama and Mississippi State will meet Saturday in a nationally televised game on ESPN. The kickoff is set for 6:45 p.m. CST from Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Saban also participated in the SEC Head Coaches Teleconference Wednesday morning and here are some of those comments:
On expectations and progression of Julio Jones:
"We didn't have any expectations for him. Anytime we recruit young guys, you bring them in and you try to help them develop and learn and grow and don't really know what their maturity is going to be and the ability to sustain. I think the biggest surprise for us is his maturity as a competitor. The way he has been able to learn and grow and improve during the season and not be affected by external factors, which is usually a difficult thing for a young player. I think that's why he has been so productive and that's why he continues to improve. He has had an outstanding year for us."
On progression of John Parker Wilson and the receivers other than Julio Jones:
"I think it's important that we develop a consistency in our passing game. I think when you throw the ball sometimes it is not determined as much by you as it is by how the other team plays. Teams play us with a lot of eight-man fronts. They play a lot of single coverage outside. So there is a lot of opportunity to throw the ball vertically down the field. If you don't do that on occasion, they are going to sit on all your routes short and they are playing man-to-man and that's going to make it more difficult for you. I do think Julio has played extremely well and we have some inconsistencies with some of the other guys, but they've all shown an ability to play well. I think the key to the drill is we all need a little more consistency week-in and week-out, player-in and player-out, so that we can develop a confidence with some of these other players that they are going to make plays and the other teams is going to have to respect them on the field as well."
On keeping the players focused for Saturday's game:
"I think our players have handled the external factors throughout the season. It doesn't really matter where you're ranked right now. It doesn't define what happens at the end of the season. It's always our goal to improve. I kind of tell our players they're climbing a mountain and you're at 19,000 feet and the air changes a little bit, and it's little bit rarer, and it's harder to breathe, but you have to stay focused on the things that are going to help you continue to climb. If you don't do that the consequences can be even more severe because it more dangerous at this elevation. It's always a management with people not getting relief-syndrome and being satisfied with where they are at and wanting to continue to strive and improve and do even better and I think that's going to be the real key for all the teams that are in the position that we are in right now. Who can do that the best?
On how senior leadership has helped your team:
"We have nine seniors on our team and they are all good guys and they all affect other people. Antoine Caldwell, John Parker (Wilson) and Rashad (Johnson) probably are he guys that get recognized the most as guys that will affect other people, which to me is the key element in being a leader. I think it's created a real positive attitude on our team. We have some young guys that have fit in well, which was important to this team. I think the maturity and leadership has allowed that to happen. Our offensive line has some real strong leadership that had affected the other players on our team with their toughness and tenacity and the way they compete and play. It's kind of a combination of a lot of things, but I don't think you can go into an environment like we did Saturday when you don't have strong character and leadership on your team and people staying focused, especially when things, you know, go poorly. We turned the ball over three times in the first half. We had to overcome a lot of adversity, and I think that says a lot about the character that we have and the leadership that we have."
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