TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Looking for any edge he can give his team, University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban is playing up the Third Saturday in October rivalry as Tennessee comes calling at Bryant-Denny Stadium this week.
Although the Volunteers are struggling and haven’t scored a touchdown since defeating UMass on Sept. 23, it’s still considered the SEC game of the week and will be shown Saturday on CBS (3:30 p.m. ET).
“There’s a lot of tradition involved in this game,” Saban said earlier Wednesday on the SEC coaches’ weekly teleconference with reporters. “I think our players have to be able to focus on the things they need to do to get consistency in performance and execution, is usually what allows you to do that with good focus and preparation. That’s really what we’re working on this week.”
Here’s some of what Saban said during his press conference Wednesday evening:
• Introduction: In games like this the records don’t matter, players need to be ready to play. I know it’s difficult at this point of the season, but it’s the most important thing that you can do. That’s the emphasis during practices. Every team in the SEC has good players.
Saban: Every team you play in the SEC has good players and are capable of making plays. These guys are going to come in here and play hard
— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) October 18, 2017
• UT defense does a good job with pressures, mixing things up on the back end, affecting the quarterback. That’s been very helpful to them.
• Senior linebacker Rashaan Evans has done more and more each week since coming off the groin injury. Still not 100 percent, but his presence and leadership are important to the defense. Has a lot of experience and versatility. He impacts the game wherever we put him.
• I want anyone who can affect the quarterback to affect the quarterback. We haven’t done enough of that on a consistent level. The secondary takes such attention to detail that you need to focus on every play. Saban said his confidence hasn’t changed with the unit.
(Note: I’m guessing that practice didn’t go that well today. He’s talking fast and tapping the podium, he’s close to going off).
• Physical reps are important because you need to go out and do it right. If you don’t have the right mental approach you don’t do it physically right. That leads to other things and is how Top 10 teams get beat. Everyone in the organization knows that, but it’s a choice. It’s a choice everyone makes every day. “I can’t make them choose it right.” If they respond the right way we’ll do fine, but if not we’ll struggle.
• Saban asked about safety Ronnie Harrison: He does a good job. When he’s got the right mindset, he’s as good a player as anybody.
• Final question: Saban asked how freshman wide receiver Henry Ruggs III is able to get open so often near the end zone, he sighs and goes with: He gets open and catches the ball. “I’m not trying to be a wise-ass, I don’t know how to answer the question.” He does what we ask him to do.
(Press conference ends. Saban was on-edge the whole time, and when were were watching practice he was doing a lot of yelling).