TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Nick Saban spoke to reporters on Friday following the Crimson Tide’s first bowl practice.
Alabama faces Washington in the Peach Bowl semifinal on Dec. 31 in Atlanta.
Highlights from Saban’s time at the podium:
- We were really proud to have 14 guys graduate on Saturday. I think we’ll have 21 guys who are graduates in the game.
- We’re excited about how many guys we had win national awards and SEC awards. I’m extremely proud of what those guys have done for our program, and happy they were acknowledged.
- I was proud of the effort out there. I told the players to embrace the challenge. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done to this point.
- It’s very difficult to carry the momentum into a game of the season that’s this far off.
- This is the best team (Washington) we’ve played by far this year. People need to have respect and appreciation for them. We’re going to have to play our best to win this game.
- Dakota Ball had a hunting accident and shot his finger. Not sure how long he’ll be out.
- Tony Brown has a muscle pull. Marlon Humphrey was back out there.
- It’s going to be important for us to play well and tackle well against Washington. A lot of the time tackling isn’t good in bowl games because guys haven’t practice thudding very much.
- I think the knowledge and experience that Steve Sarkisian has makes him a great addition to our staff.
- Lane Kiffin will be the offensive coordinator for the playoff.
- (On the support system in place for Sark. What is that?) We have a lot of support people here for our players. We have support folks for anybody in our organization. We’re going to use all the support staff that we have to design – professionally, I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about professionals – which has been in place since the guy came here. And we’re going to continue to do that. Those people are going to help him the best that we can. We have players that need help, we have players that need support, we have people in our family who we are going to always help everybody that has issues or problems. I’ll say it again, I would not have anybody in this organization that I didn’t have confidence in that they would do a good job for our players. And that’s how the decision gets made.
- (On Washington’s very good in turnover margin. What do you see from their defense?) Well, they’re ball-hawkers, there’s no doubt about that. They play really good on defense. They don’t turn the ball over a lot on offense, either, and I think that’s where turnover margin sort of gets the way it is. They take good care of the ball. But they got physical players on defense and this is a good defensive team. They’re capable of making plays in the secondary and getting that interception, but they also get around the ball and the second guy in there is tugging at it. That’s how you create turnovers and they create a lot of turnovers. We’re going to have to take care of the ball and we did a good job of that in the Florida game. They had a similar type defense and we didn’t have any turnovers, so hopefully we can keep that up and keep the old adage that if every series ends in a kick you’ve got a pretty good chance. That means you never turned the ball over, whether it’s a punt, a field goal or an extra point.
- (On the permanent captains, and Eddie Jackson’s role?) I think the guys that get voted for captain obviously have the ultimate respect of their teammates in terms of the example that they set, being somebody that somebody wants to emulate, obviously showed that they cared enough about players to help other players on the team try to do things the right way. If I could have picked captains, those are four guys that I would have picked. I think just that many players on the team have that much respect for Eddie in terms of not only what he did when he was playing, but also the way he’s continued to be a part of the team when he’s not playing. He’s helped other players, he’s helped them on the sideline during the game, I think he’s tried to help some of the younger guys learn things. But he did that when he was playing. I think our players really appreciate that and have a tremendous amount of respect for it. I’m really pleased with the captains that we have.
- (On Chris Petersen’s trick plays) It’s a big focus because they score a lot of points on trick plays. They have some dandies. We have a whole reel of them and you’re welcome to come look at them. But it takes a lot of discipline in terms of everybody doing their job and having disciplined eye control – double passes, throwbacks to the quarterback, throw it to the quarterback he throws it to somebody else. I mean, they have lots of reverses. They have a lot of things – and they’re not junk plays, now, they’re very well conceived, designed things that complement their offense. I think that’s what make them difficult to defend and they’ve made a big plays and scored a lot of points off those things this year and through the years.
- (On Rashaan Evans’ development at ILB and replacing Shaun Dion Hamilton) That’s the guy that has the best opportunity to do it. He did a nice job in the last game. He’s played the most, he’s got the most experience. We have a lot of confidence in him. Hopefully, he’ll be able to go out there during these weeks and really get confident in what he’s doing and go out there and do a great job for us. Physically, he can run. He’s a good blitzer. He’s a good tackler. So hopefully knowledge and experience is something that we can gain through this extra practice and it’ll be helpful to him so that he can play well.
NEXT Alabama football: Nick Saban hires Steve Sarkisian as Tide’s offensive coordinator