Last week, A.J. McCarron announced that he would return next year for his senior season.
"With the quarterbacks, if you're not going to be on of the very, very top picks, where they're going to make an investment of you being the guy, where you'll develop as the guy…Otherwise it's difficult to develop because you don't get to play very much," Saban said. "If you play in college you can certainly have a better chance of improving and enhancing your draft status in the future."
McCarron, who will start in his second consecutive national championship game in less than three weeks, loves college football, Saban said, and didn't want his NFL decision to hang over his preparation for Notre Dame.
"He loves being here, he loves being on the team," Saban said. "He wanted to get this out of the way, make an announcement right away that he's coming back. He made a good decision in what he decided to do."
There are several other juniors, namely C.J. Mosley, Dee Milliner, D.J. Fluker and Eddie Lacy, who also have a choice to make. Milliner has been projected by some NFL scouts and analysts as a first-round draft pick. Mosley live tweeted from Alabama graduation this past weekend that he can't wait until next December (when he is supposed to graduate) and followed that up with a tweet that said, "Never said I was leaving." Fluker and Lacy are expected to leave.
"We don't press guys to make the decision," Saban said. "Some guys are more driven to do it than others. I think everybody's got their priorities of what's important. I think philosophically, you know we think if a guy's going to be a first-round draft pick, from a business standpoint, he's certainly got a decision to make about what he should do with his future. But it's in each and every guys' heart as what to do."
Asked if any more juniors will announce before January, Saban said, "Probably not."
Growing up a Notre Dame fan
If Saban didn't have a dog in the national championship fight, he might not know which team to root for, as he grew up admiring both the Alabama and Notre Dame programs. Their respective head coaches at the time, Paul "Bear" Bryant and Ara Parseghian, made an impact on him that remains today.
"When you're a coach, you really look up to people who did a fantastic job not only in their ability to be successful but in the example that they set," Saban said. "When I was a kid growing up, I always liked Alabama. I always emulated some of the things that they tried to do, but being a Catholic kid growing up I always watched Notre Dame and everybody in my family was interested in what Notre Dame did.
"I think Ara Parseghian probably was as classy a coach and as classy a human being, not only relative to what he did as a coach, but all that he's done since he's not coaching in terms of raising funds for research and fighting disease and different things that have affected his family.
"Coach Bryant, in his tenure here, to have the kind of success that he had over time, consistency in performance over all that time and winning all those championships, the intangibles that his teams always seemed to play with, are the things that you really try to get your team to do. When I first started coaching, I read coach Bryant's book and it had a tremendous impact on me."
Saban then added, smiling: "I know it's a little bit disappointing that you have to settle for me and the two coaches that we have in this game, but I guess that's the way it is."
After a couple weeks of rumors and speculation that Saban might return to the NFL, he was tactfully asked about it again Tuesday.
"I'm not sure, regardless of what I say, that anybody believes what I say, because I say it all the time," he said. "This is what we're happy doing. This is what we like to do. But nobody really believes that. So, you know, maybe it doesn't matter. I don't know what I have to say or do, but it's kind of funny to me.
"Plus y'all asked the wrong person. Miss Terry makes all the decisions about all this stuff anyway."
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