Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban covers a range of topics from Rolando McClain, 60 Minutes and hazing at Monday Press Conference
By Hunter Ford
At his Monday press conference, Nick Saban had plenty to talk about in relation to the upcoming LSU game. He also fielded questions about his reaction to the recent CBS 60 Minutes segment about him, about the future of former Tide linebacker Rolando McClain, and about hazing of younger players by upperclassmen.
In regard to the contest with LSU, Saban said his team has been able rest and recover for the November homestretch. “Some guys who have been playing a little nicked up, we were able to rest a little bit and get healthy, so we don’t really have a lot of injury issues,” he said.
“We have a difficult November schedule, starting out with this game. This is not the kind of game that anybody could not get excited about playing in,” Saban said. “Obviously, this rivalry, in the last few years, has always meant a lot to national rankings…the SEC West… it’s two really good programs, two really good teams.”
Saban said LSU will be formidable on both sides of the ball, with a high-powered and balanced offense and a tough physical defense with great speed.
LSU has an NFL prospect at quarterback in Zach Mettenberger, and the leading rusher in the SEC in Jeremy Hill.
“They are very good on third down, the best in the country. They have a 58% conversion rate,” Saban said. “It’s been hard to get them off the field on third down. They are the most explosive and talented team we’ve played all year.”
“Les Miles has done a fabulous job, in my opinion, of having, consistently, a really good football team for a long time, and this team is no different.”
Saban said the Tide will try to hide its defensive schemes to keep Mettenberger guessing where to throw. Saban said LSU will feature a receiving corps that is as good as anybody in the country.
“You have to disguise what you are doing so he can’t anticipate where to go with the ball,” Saban said. “You have to pressure him in the pocket, but when you do that you put a lot of pressure on your secondary. You really have to do ‘all of the above.’ If he knows what you are doing before you do it, he’s gonna have a really good chance of getting the ball to the right place at the right time. A lot of the timing routes they run are difficult to defend. We had close coverage on him last year and he was still able to put the ball where he needed it. “
Saban said Mettenberger will complete his share of passes. Part of Alabama’s defensive strategy will be to stop short passes from turning into big plays.
The Alabama Crimson Tide has been able to absorb losses in November over the past two seasons, and still advance to the BCS National Championship. Saban was asked if that could happen again.
“I really can’t answer that, because it’s kind of hypothetical in terms of what’s going to happen,” he said. “I think the thing we can control here is to try to get our players to play the best they can and focus on playing winning football against some very good teams we have coming down the stretch here.”
“How about let’s focus on what we can do to make that happen for us in a positive way? You have to have a tremendous amount of respect for what you have to do. There are three or four plays in every game that determine the outcome, and you never know when they are coming. It’s like a heavyweight fight. You can’t fade in any round.”
Saban was asked about hazing, a practice that has been reported on recently in the NFL. For example, a recent Sports Illustrated article documented a veteran NFL player shaving the mohawk of former LSU star Tyrone Mathieu, and also shaving off one of his eyebrows.
“We don’t have that here,” Saban said. “We don’t sort of aspire to that kind of treatment to anybody in terms of the personal respect each person should receive. We don’t want to affect anyone’s personal dignity.”
“Our approach has been to get older players to be supportive of the younger players…to remember how you felt when you were a freshman…maybe being away from home for the first time…adjusting to new things in your life…maybe adjusting to college and having a lot to learn relative to development as a football player.
“We want our older guys to engage our younger guys and help them do the things they need to do to be most successful in all those areas. We don’t think that being negative with them enhances that.”
Saban said the Tide has had 14 freshman play this year. He said that is one of the highest numbers of freshman playing for any team in Division One football.
“That means those guys are getting a lot of support and a lot of guidance,” Saban said.
Saban said he has heard a lot of positive comments about the CBS 60 Minutes segment that ran last night. He said he and his staff were working late and that he did not watch it. He said, however, he has heard positive feedback, including from his wife “Miss Terri.”
“That means it must have been okay,” he said. Saban said he considered the piece to be about the Alabama Crimson Tide program, not just about him.
“It represents the things we do as a program, whether its summer camp…we try to do the best we possibly can to help young players,” he said.
Addressing a question regarding former Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain, Saban had this to say:
“We want Ro to make good choices and decisions about what he does in the future. There’s a guy who has a tremendous amount of potential…a tremendous amount of leadership ability to affect other people. We want to help him any way we can.”
Saban said McClain is in school and Saban is encouraging him to earn a degree. As far as playing football in the future, Saban said McClain would have to make a personal commitment in order to do so.
McClain played with the Oakland Raiders for two seasons, and then signed with the Baltimore Ravens last year. He retired from football before playing a down for Baltimore, following a run-in with the law that, so far, has been the last of several incidents. Over the past few years he was charged with criminal conduct including menacing, discharging a firearm inside city limits, and assault.
Saban said McClain did a “fantastic” job when he was at Alabama “Representing the University” and providing leadership on the football team.