| NEWS Nick Saban on first radio show of season: ‘I like this team, I really do’ - AL.com

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For the first time this season, Nick Saban appeared on his weekly radio show, “Hey Coach,” on Thursday evening.

The hour-long appearance began at 7 p.m. CT and was hosted by Chris Stewart, who will also fill in for Eli Gold in the radio booth for Alabama’s opener Saturday night.

Here were the live updates as Saban previewed the game against Utah State:

FIRST SEGMENT

-- “You have to enjoy sort of the chase as much as you do the catch,” Saban says of getting a team ready for the season. “Now you see what you’ve been able to build.”

-- “I like this team, I really do. We’ve got a little more maturity on the team, I think. We’ve got good guys on the team. They work hard. They’ve got a really good attitude. We’ve got really good leadership.” He says he likes the intangibles the team has but he’s not necessarily saying it’s his most talented team. “We’ll see about that,” he said.

-- Saban noted there are 14 players who already have their degree and 11 others who will graduate at the end of the fall. The 25 players with degrees by the postseason is a sign of the team’s maturity, he said. “But we’ve got some pretty good 18-year old guys that are going to contribute this year, too.”

-- Asked about his season at the Naval Academy in 1982 and the discipline of those players, Saban said it’s funny it would be asked because he just gave a “lesson about insubordination” to his players this week and he brought up the military. Saban brought up a story of talking to the Navy commandant about why things are so structured, and he said it’s required when they need their sailors to make decisions in battle. Saban said chaos ensues when there is insubordination.

-- Customary first caller PeeWee asked about new offensive line coach Eric Wolford. Saban said they are “excited to have” Wolford and “players love him.” Saban said Alabama has more diversity in the running game and players have a better idea of pass protections. “I think it’s created a lot of confidence in the offensive line and the whole offensive team. ... I know Bill [O’Brien] feels a lot more comfortable about the input we’ve had from him.” Saban continued by saying all of the new assistant coaches have been positive additions and “they all have more energy and enthusiasm, and I think the players really like that, relate well to that and respond well to that.”

-- Saban said he’s pleased with the progress the offensive line has made and “I’m looking for better things up front.”

-- Asked if this season is unusual because of the several transfer additions, Saban said Alabama has less incoming transfers than most schools. Saban said summer scouting reports on opponents were more difficult because of the number of transfers those teams added this offseason. Saban said transfers Alabama added needed to play and Alabama needed them to play. He compared it to NFL free agency, saying they were looking for players with the right criteria for their position and for the program. “Our philosophy is, we’re going to create more value for them ... than they can get someplace else,” he said. Saban used that to say college is for creating value more than it is making money, even though NIL has brought that to the forefront. “Our guys have done really well in name, image and likeness because of the iconic brand we have at the University of Alabama,” Saban said.

SECOND SEGMENT

-- Saban said this fall camp had the “best group of speakers we’ve ever had,” crediting Ellis Ponder for helping choose them. Saban said Michael Phelps went six years in a row without taking a day off, specifically noting he ate spaghetti in the cold tub to get ready for the next day. Saban also brought up Larry Fitzgerald, Tony Robbins, Tom Rinaldi and “Shep” (C.L. Shepherd) as other speakers. He said the central message from all the speakers was about how choices and decisions get players to where they need to go. Saban said a speaker called “Miss Mack” spoke to the team about “sexual stuff” and “talks to all the NFL players,” too.

-- Asked about exposing players to traditions of Alabama, Saban said he talks to players about the culture of the program and how the players before them created a standard of excellence. Saban retold a story of Julio Jones doing summer rehab in Tuscaloosa and players doing 7-on-7 workouts on their own, and how Jones called a player over during practice for cussing out other players and said, “That ain’t the way we do it here.” Saban said he told the Million Dollar Band, too, that fans have an expectation of how they will perform.

-- Saban said Alabama has a responsibility and obligation to uphold the Alabama brand and tradition, and that is why they don’t change uniforms and, as he specifically brought up, wear white helmets.

-- Saban said Alabama’s had a mental health program “longer than people have talked about it” and that has helped players overcome adversity in their lives.

-- Asked by a caller about how he would handle an arrest like TJ Finley’s at Auburn, Saban said each and every issue has to be treated individually. He specifically noted the severity of a DUI has a lot more significance for a player than the example of “riding a moped and doesn’t have a helmet on,” because that would not necessarily put someone else in harm’s way. Saban said when you disrespect other people or affect their safety, that is something more significant.

-- Saban was asked by another caller about using defensive linemen as lead blockers and why Alabama no longer uses that, and Saban said they did try it last year but generally their big personnel was “stuffed” at the line of scrimmage. Saban said the way the game is played now, spreading it out and creating run gaps can be more effective. “That day and age of football is much more difficult to defend than what I call wad-ball,” he said. Saban did say there will be some form of “big people” on offense in the future and they’ve been “stuffed too much lately” in short-yardage situations, but he explained that going fast on offense and keeping the same personnel on the field can help by preventing the defense from substituting.

THIRD SEGMENT

-- Asked about sports memorabilia that he displays in his home or office, Saban said Alabama puts all the title rings on a coffee table in his office so the recruits can look at them. “But it’s not about what we did in the past,” he said. Saban said he’s “not big” on wearing his rings or displaying memorabilia.

-- Saban says people don’t have the “proper respect” for Utah State, which won 11 games last season and won their conference. “They run kind of a Baylor-style offense,” Saban said, noting it’s close to Tennessee among SEC schools. “They spread you out and they do a good job of making the defense declare itself.” Quarterback Logan Bonner can move in the pocket, has a strong arm, is very accurate and is “not a slow guy” but not necessarily a runner, Saban said.

-- Saban: “I think the rat poison this year, not to bring up a sore subject, it’s worse than ever. I’ve had more people ask me about how we’re going to do against Texas this week than how we’re going to do against Utah State.”

-- Asked by a caller about how many teams he thinks should be in an expanded playoff, Saban said he was “never a guy” that was in favor of expanding the playoff in years past. When they started the CFP, Saban said it would be tough to have playoff and the bowl games coexist, and bowl games have been one of the most enjoyable thing about college football traditionally. Saban said nobody “gives a hoot” about bowl games now and it’s all about the playoff. “So I’m actually for expanding the playoffs [now],” he said. Saban said going to the Sugar Bowl at LSU was the biggest thing in players’ lives, but now players opt out of bowl games. “I’m for having a 12-team playoff as long as we don’t make the players play too many games,” he said. Saban said he would use bowl games as part of the playoff to keep that system “alive.”

-- Saban said the ESPN show every November with weekly playoff rankings might talk about 50 teams if there are 12 spots, compared to about 10 teams vying for four spots.

-- Saban reiterated how the NFL values parity and “the more we can create that in college football is probably a good thing.” But Saban’s “first concern” about NIL is maintaining a competitive balance, because the “haves” are going to get better and the “have-nots” will get worse. “We’re one of the haves, so I’m not trying to worry our folks out there,” Saban said. He wants “guardrails” to create competitive balance and keep fans interested in games.

-- Asked by a caller about leadership growth from Bryce Young, Will Anderson and Jordan Battle, Saban said they learned how to be leaders last season after starting 2021 as young players. “Even though they had leadership qualities, they were afraid to step forward because there were older players that were supposed to be the leaders.” Saban said it wasn’t until the Texas A&M loss until the younger leaders stepped up. Saban also brought up Henry To’o To’o and DJ Dale as leaders this season, but said players need to embrace leaders. “I think sometimes peer pressure is much more effective than what a coach can do,” he said.

FINAL SEGMENT

-- Asked about working with Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerbacks and what they had in common, Saban said they need to do everything correctly on each play, even though only a few plays of the game they will be targeted -- and those will have dire consequences if they do not execute.

-- “The little things are the easiest things not to do right,” Saban said.

-- “I love it,” Saban said of coaching at this point his career. But as much as he loves preparation, there comes a time where you want to see where you are as a team. “I’m as excited as ever about doing it,” he said of beginning another season. Saban said each year Alabama gets a “little more organized” and he feels better about first games these days.

-- Saban said new tight ends coach Joe Cox is “probably going to be a coordinator sometime soon.” New cornerbacks Travaris Robinson has good relationships with players but is “very demanding.” Talking about new OLBs/special teams coordinator Coleman Hutzler, Saban said Alabama “slipped” last year on special teams -- not just the specialists -- and he thinks they’ve made progress there. Saban said players don’t always understand there are 41 spots on the team to play on special teams, and you can’t make an NFL team unless you contribute on special teams, unless you’re a lineman. “That’s something that’s really good for them to create value for your future,” and Hutzler has helped create “want-to” among players on special teams, Saban said.

-- For his final word, Saban said every team wants an identity but everyone is not committed to do what they want to do. Saban asked what people would write in your obituary. “You wrote it, so why don’t you go live it?” He said the same thing is true for a football season in terms of writing your legacy and making it happen.

-- “There’s more rat poison around than I’ve ever seen before,” Saban said, adding fans can’t be that way. Saban said people need to “figure out something better” to do than wondering about how Alabama can “run the table.” He asked why people can’t talk more about how Alabama can lose games.

-- Saban: “Three months from now. Who gives a shit? How about this game. How about the church of what’s happening now. Can we focus on what’s happening now? How come no one’s interested in that?”
 

BamaFan334

Scholarship Club
I'll say it, this will be a failure if we do not win the National Championship. We have the two best players in college football on opposite sides of the ball. We have seniority on the defensive line, at linebacker, and in the defensive backfield. We have talent at tailback, plenty of speed and talent at receiver, and an offensive line that almost got it done last year in a down year. We added the best portal talent in the country. We have no reason to not win it all in my view. I'm not saying it won't be difficult and without its challenges as every year forces new ones in your face, but I do not see another team out there with the playmaking ability on both sides of the ball as we do. Ohio State has it on the offensive side, Georgia has overall talent, Clemson has it on the defensive side of the ball, and you have a few other teams with ability, but none with difference makers on the same team on both sides of the ball like Alabama.
 

mando

Sideline Club
I'll say it, this will be a failure if we do not win the National Championship. We have the two best players in college football on opposite sides of the ball. We have seniority on the defensive line, at linebacker, and in the defensive backfield. We have talent at tailback, plenty of speed and talent at receiver, and an offensive line that almost got it done last year in a down year. We added the best portal talent in the country. We have no reason to not win it all in my view. I'm not saying it won't be difficult and without its challenges as every year forces new ones in your face, but I do not see another team out there with the playmaking ability on both sides of the ball as we do. Ohio State has it on the offensive side, Georgia has overall talent, Clemson has it on the defensive side of the ball, and you have a few other teams with ability, but none with difference makers on the same team on both sides of the ball like Alabama.
I will reserve my judgement on this when I see the OL and the D performance. On paper ok but that does not get it done on the field. Same coaching staff at OC and DC. Last years D had no business playing the way they did early on which cost them a game and in the end the NC game.
 

mando

Sideline Club
Definitely. Just stating if all things remain the same. We'll get dinged up, but I have no reservations about a backup defensive player. Offensive line is my only depth concern.
Only concerned with the depth at OL? I am concerned witht the starters until I see significant improvement from last year. I am hopeful based on what I have heard about the new OL coach.
 

bradenob

Extra Point Club
I want to see us challenge the starters and do well enough that any meaningful 2nd teamers get to play for experience and depth!

Sadly Bryce may stay in to continue to get a feel with his receivers, and the starting Oline will probably stay in to mesh well.
 
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