Clemson has a potent offense led by an impressive list of skill position players including tailback C.J. Spiller, James Davis, receiver Aaron Kelly and quarterback Cullen Harper. Harper is a key element for this offense, and he just might be one of the top quarterbacks in the country.
â€œCullen Harper is probably as fine a quarterback as their is in the country,â€ Saban said. â€œAnd will certainly be drafted very high in the NFL draft next yearâ€”maybe the first quarterback taken in the draft.â€
How will Alabamaâ€™s defense attempt to stop Clemson? Well Saban didnâ€™t provide any specific details; however, he did point out how the running game is an important component for Clemsonâ€™s offense.
â€œThe whole synergy of the team seems to center around those guys (Spiller and Davis) making great plays,â€ Saban said. â€œ…If we stop the run in this game this is going to give us the best chance to be successful.â€
Saban said the Clemson backs make plays on the ground and as receivers, so itâ€™ll be important for the players to minimize the mental mistakes.
Saban warned that while many people focus on Clemsonâ€™s offense, you canâ€™t forget the defense. Clemsonâ€™s defense ranked in the Top Ten in many important categories.
Redshirt freshman Nick Fanuzzi will transfer. The quarterback was finding himself slipping in practice as Thomas Darrah and Star Jackson were getting the most snaps in the battle for who would be the third quarterback in the Tideâ€™s rotation.
â€œNick is a fine young man,â€ Saban said. He represented all the values wanted in the program, the coach said. â€œWe are sorry to see him go.â€
How fast did Nick Saban recognize Julio Jones would start? It didnâ€™t take long in fall camp.
â€œJulio did an outstanding job coming in here in camp,â€ Saban said. â€œHe worked hard in the summer; he was in good shape. He has been able to sustain his performance. He has consistently made plays in practice as well as both scrimmages. And I think that probably after the first scrimmage it was pretty evident he was going to have some role as one of the three receivers that we use quite a bit. And, I think, this last week he certainly solidified his position as a starter. He and Mike McCoy have been our two best receivers throughout this camp in terms of consistency…â€
And Jones should see some special team play including use on kickoff returns with Javier Arenas and heâ€™ll serve as the backup punt returner.
Speaking of freshmen
Another freshman who has made a big impression is Donâ€™ta Hightower. Saban said Hightower came in learned the system and did it without getting frustrated.
â€œHe and Rolando give us two really good inside backers,â€ Saban said. â€œNot meaning to make any comparisons, he is the type of young player that seems to be able to come in and get it, learn it, take it to the field. He is a great competitor and it really bothers him when he doesnâ€™t do things well.â€
Expect balance from Alabamaâ€™s offense
Balance on offense isnâ€™t an equal number of runs and passes. In Sabanâ€™s philosophy, it is more about yardage.
â€œBalance means when at the end of the day and you sit down you had 250 yards rushing and you had 250 yards passing and that probably creates the biggest problem for the defense,â€ Saban said. â€œNow somedays it may work that way and some days it may not based on how the other team plays. Teams that play a lot of 8-man fronts probably are going to force you to throw the ball more in the game and people who play more split safety type coverages are probably going to create a balance where you are probalby goign to try to take advantage of running it more.â€
There will be games where Alabama throws it 40 times a game, and then there will be games with less passes, Saban said. â€œWe have a pro type offense and the most important thing for us is that we create a balance in what we do offensively so that we make it difficult for the defense to defend.â€