TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Nick Saban fielded plenty of questions on the SEC coaches teleconference this week. The top-ranked Crimson Tide travels to Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday for a date with the ninth-ranked Volunteers. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.
Here’a s rundown of what Saban said:
On Minkah Fitzpatrick’s improvement, and what he thought when Fitzpatrick return the interception out of the end zone
I think he’s more confident now. He’s got a better understand of what he’s doing. I think guys that sort of approach the game the way he does and prepares well, they anticipate better and can play faster. I think that helps their performance, and I think it also helps them improve more rapidly because their knowledge and experience sort of escalates right along with their attention to detail.
The first thing I thought was, ‘Oh no.’ And then after he got to about the 10-yard line, I said, ‘He may go all the way.’ So it worked well. — Saban
On Gehrig Dieter’s production and how he’s adjusted in his new role at Alabama
He’s done a really, really good job. I think it took him a little bit to get used to a new offense, but I think he’s done a really good job for us. He’s been effective. We have some other guys that have probably gotten the ball more, but he’s been effective doing his job, and I think that’s all you ask for a guy. It’s not just about how many passes he catches. He’s been a very effective player for us and we’re really pleased and happy to have him. It probably is difficult for a guy but I think he knew that going in. He’s done everything that he can to make a good contribution to this team. — Saban
On how he would rate the defense at this point
Well, we’re not pleased with the number of big plays that we’ve given up, especially when we get a little bit ahead of games. I think we need to play better in the back end, be more consistent, play with a little more discipline and eye control, put ourselves in better positions fundamentally so that we have more opportunity to make plays and not give plays up. We just have four or five lapses in a game that lead to big plays for the other team. That’s how things accumulate on you. — Saban
On Jalen Hurts’ poise
Well, he’s done a nice job and he’s improved every week. I think his disposition as a player certainly enhances that, to some degree. He doesn’t seem to get too rattled by things and even when he makes an error or a mistake, he goes to the next play. I think that is what has been really, really helpful for him to play with poise. I think it’s going to be really important, especially playing on the road again, that he can maintain that level of poise that will certainly be necessary this week against Tennessee. — Saban
On what he’ll emphasize with Jalen Hurts heading into this game
The same thing we always emphasize. He’s got to be the commander in chief out there pre-snap and then he’s got to be a field general after he gets the ball in his hands and make good choices and decisions with what he does because he’s always distributing the ball to somebody whether he’s handing it off or throwing it. He has shown pretty good poise in doing that. This will probably be the most challenging situation he’s faced all year. We work with the noise all the time to try to help him. That’s about as good as we can do with him, I think. — Saban