Kickoff Coverage: A Slice Of Life

A primary reason for a press conference or press briefing is to provide a conduit for information to the public. In the case of Alabama football, it is usually an opportunity for the coach to provide information to Crimson Tide followers.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban effectively uses the opportunity to send a message.

It is not out of the ordinary for a Saban message to be well beyond the normal information of position work or injuries or that coach's staple of how great the upcoming opponent is. As often as not he has a message for his players, a message beyond football instruction. (No one doubts that he makes these points to the players in more direct and effective ways.)

Such was the case Sunday morning when Saban met with the media prior to Alabama's open practice at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Several reporters admitted they thought there was some announcement regarding an area of discipline coming.

Saban said, "We really try to control the work. We want every individual player to make good choices and decisions about how they go about preparing themselves to be the best players they can be. When I get asked about the freshmen, what I allude to is, ‘Will they be able to do this?' That will be the biggest challenge for each one of them.

"We kind of tell our players all the time, you control your choices, but you don't control your consequences. I'm talking about in life. I'm talking about as football players. I'm talking about everything they do. They can choose to be overweight. They can choose not to do the work they need to do to get in shape. They can choose not to finish things in practice. They can choose the level of discipline and execution and doing things the right way, but they can't really choose what all that creates.

"Just like you can make choices in life not to do the right things, but when you get arrested, you don't control that. You don't control that consequence. And they need to understand that, and I think football is a circumstance where they have an opportunity to learn a lot of these things. Hopefully that will help them become better football players, but it will also help them become better people."

There were no announcements of suspensions or the like. Later in his briefing, Saban came back to the subject (sort of) with a discussion of kickoff coverage.

"You know, it's amazing," he said. "We do something as simple as kickoff coverage at the end of practice and we're looking. And you would just think -- this all goes back to the choices and consequences thing -- you would think that some of the younger guys who would have great opportunity to play on special teams would be running down through these bags like demons. I mean, straining a gut and all that.

"But when you watch the tape, Rolando McClain, Dont'a Hightower, Julio Jones, Javier Arenas, these guys I see their picture in the paper for making the Playboy All-America team, they're the best guys running down on that.

"But the one thing it does is it sets a tremendous example for the young ones. They see that and they say, ‘Wow, I thought I was running fast and I really wasn't running very fast compared to those guys and I'm just as fast as those guys.'

"So what is that? It's the self-imposed limitations they put on themselves because they're a little bit hot, a little bit tired, a little bit overloaded circuitry-wise in terms of the learning curve they're going through. And all that builds a little anxiety and affects them. But I think they will respond in the right way because they're getting a good example and that's sort of leadership by example. "

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