Game Week Brings Saban Comments

What may or not may be in store for Alabama football regarding NCAA violations didn't get answered in Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban's Monday press briefing. But he did touch on an issue raised by potential NCAA violations at Michigan regarding extra practice time.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban had his regular game week press briefing Monday as the Crimson Tide is readying to play Virginia Tech in the marquee game of college football's opening weekend. Bama, ranked fifth in the nation, and the Hokies, rated seventh in the nation, kickoff at 8 pm. EDT (7 p.m. central time) Saturday in Atlanta's Georgia Dome with television coverage by ABC.

The big question on the minds of Alabama followers stems from summer reports that Bama All-America wide receiver Julio Jones and top returning tailback Mark Ingram might have received extra benefits with a possible punishment of having to miss the opening game (or more). Saban was succinct in addressing that issue. "To this point," he said, Alabama has heard nothing.

It may be the issue is not before the NCAA. Presumably, Alabama has investigated the rumor and made a report to the Southeastern Conference, which would be expected to report to the NCAA. The NCAA has demonstrated (most recently in the case of Tennessee running back Bryce Brown) that it can rule quickly.

The fear is that the NCAA will stay nothing to Alabama. In that case, Saban has to make a decision. If he plays Jones and Ingram against Virginia Tech, the NCAA could come back later and smack Bama. If he doesn't, the NCAA doesn't have to say anything, but that could risk losing a game. Such a situation would speak volumes of the unfairness of the organization of which Alabama is a member, but it would be a surprise to no one who follows the workings of the NCAA.

Reports that Michigan players have reported they were forced to practice beyond the allotted number of hours prescribed by NCAA law are likely to be ignored by the NCAA, based on long-standing observation of the organization regarding the Big 10.

However, that issue was addressed by Saban Monday.

Saban said, "The players do have to do some things on their own. We try to define what they do on their own."

Players are allowed 20 hours per week with the coaching staff in practice.

"That time is adequate," Saban said. "We have enough time to do what we have to do. In fairness to the players, the first thing they have to do is get an education. They need time to be students. If I had a choice to have more time, I would want it for meetings."

Here are notes from Saban's press briefing:

In opening comments, Saban said, "It's game week, so it's time to set sights on someone else. I think the players on the team, who are great competitors, obviously, their energy, their enthusiasm, intensity, sense of urgency realize now is the time to get it done. Next week at this time is too late. And one of the greatest things in sports is that you have a chance to overcome with good preparation is regretting that you didn't do all the things that you needed to do to prepare well, to play well and that's certainly what we want to get accomplished this week in practice.

"The identity of this team, obviously this is the first opportunity against a very good team, to sort of establish or start to establish what the identity of this team really is; what the personality of this team is. Each individual player sort of makes the team what it is. The team does not make them what they are and it's important that we have the kind of competitive character, individually and collectively that will allow us to play with consistency and the kind of toughness and be the kind of relentless, competitive team that makes us a team that no one wants to play, which always our goal in what we try to accomplish as a team, as a program, as an organization.

"The next three days are very important. I've already talked about some intangible things, like enthusiasm and intensity. All of these things sort of indicate a sense of urgency and immediacy. The preparation, to me goes a long way to say how intelligently you will play, how many mental errors you will make because of the preparation and having it now, it doesn't just come when the game comes. You need the repetitions and the focus and attention to detail to get the little things right, so you can perform well. Nobody really performs well if they don't have those things. I think we found that out last year, I hope we found that out last year when we played in the Sugar Bowl.

"We are playing a very, very good team. Virginia Tech is an outstanding football team. They have been an outstanding team, the know how to win. Frank Beamer has done a fantastic job. He has been there for a lot of years. He is one of the winningest active coaches in college football. Offensively, they have a lot of starters back and a lot of good skill players. Tyrod Taylor is an outstanding quarterback, who is a play-maker type, who really does a good job. Everybody thinks he is a running quarterback, I don't really see him that way. He can create and pass the ball and make plays with his feet, as well as creating to make pass plays. I think those kind of guys are hard to defend. They have a good offensive line, a couple of good tight ends, an outstanding tight end, a big athletic guy (Greg) Boone. So, they've got a lot of good players. Defensively, which is what they are kind of known for, they are in the top 10 in the country. They are one of the top teams in the country in turnover margin, it seems like every year, and their battle cry is how well they play on special teams. They do have some significant players on defense. Number 6 (Jason Worilds), the defensive end is a really good player. They have a really good secondary. They do a good job of executing their scheme. The one thing I would say about this team is they have toughness, they play with toughness and you are going to have to match that toughness and intensity, if you're going to have an opportunity to have success against them."

A reporter said that Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said that it would be more difficult for the Hokies to lose the game and win the nantional championship than it would be for Alabama to lose and win the title. Saban was asked if he agreed.

"I think that's one of the advantages to playing in a conference like our conference," Saban said. "I think we've had two national champions, when we won (at LSU in 2003) we lost a game, I'm talking about SEC schools. Florida lost a game last year. LSU lost two games, the year they won it, a couple of years before that. I don't know that I agree with his part of it. They have a pretty good schedule this year. They play Nebraska and Miami, early in the season, as well as us. I don't know that I agree with that.

"Any team that has one loss still has a chance to win the national championship and there is evidence that a team with two losses has that potential as well.

"If there is anything that I dislike about the whole system now, and I have always been a bowl guy. I've always been a guy that lots of positive reinforcement for a lot of players who get the opportunity to play in a bowl game for their efforts. If there is anything that has created a negative situation in college football, to me, it's the fact that there is only one thing that matters and that's who wins the national championship. I don't think that's fair to all the other good teams in college football, or all the other players who play in college football.

"It's a pretty significant accomplishment to win the SEC. It's a pretty significant accomplishment to win the ACC. So, if there is a down side to our system right now, that's why I've always been kind of for the plus-one thing, where there are at least four teams involved in this. Maybe it wouldn't be so much that way. Because if you had four teams, there would be one and two losses, would not knock you out of it and a lot more people would be interested and there would be a lot more teams in the end. So now we're talking about the first game of the season, you're out of it. It's horrible. It's a horrible thought for any team to be out of anything for one game."

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