Saban: Focus is on the tree not the shadow

By Hunter Ford

In his Monday meeting with the media, Nick Saban said it was not necessary to categorize his quarterbacks as starters or non-starters.

“I know you (the media) would love to create a quarterback controversy,” Saban said.  “But one thing I noticed, that I hope you noticed, was when Jake Coker threw a touchdown pass, who was the first guy to go jump up and give him congratulations and a hug and all that? … Blake Sims.”

Saban said both quarterbacks “did some good things” and that both had room for improvement.  He said his focus is on getting both quarterbacks to play better and continue to improve.

Saying that the focus is “on the tree and not the shadow” Saban said “We’re trying to keep our guys focused on what they need to do here to be good players here.”

“It doesn’t matter what you think, or what anybody else thinks,” Saban said.  “It doesn’t have to be about one guy….it doesn’t have to be ‘this guy is the starter, and this guy is this’…I mean, we are so quick to try to categorize people.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Our focus is getting all players better.”

Towards the end of the press conference, Saban was asked if he would be comfortable not having a set starter when the Tide plays Florida in two weeks.  He said that was a hypothetical situation.  Saban has said in previous meetings with the media that he doesn’t deal in hypotheticals.

“I’m not ready to make any kind of prediction on the Florida game when we are playing Southern Miss this game,” he said, before joking that he was not ready to say who will start at safety when Alabama plays Texas A&M later in the season.

Speaking of Southern Miss, Saban said they would run an up-tempo, spread offense, similar to what Texas A&M employs.  Saban said he expects Southern Miss to run primarily out of a four wide-out set with a three wide-out, two running back set being a secondary formation.  Saban said Southern Miss showed good balance, running and passing, in its last game.

Southern Miss won 26-20 against Alcorn State last week.  Southern Miss, now 1-1, lost its first game 49-0 against Mississippi State.

Saban said the Tide’s victory over Florida Atlantic last Saturday was a “workman like job.”  He said he was pleased with the effort, toughness, and competiveness on both sides of the ball.  Saban said he wants to see continued improvement “finishing drives” on offense.  On defense he wants to see better tackling and more forced turnovers.  He said would like to see special teams become “more of a weapon for us.”

He said the teams goals are to maintain focus and continue to improve “one day at a time.”

“If each individual improves, we can improve as a team,” he said.  “A lot of people have a lot more to prove.”

Linebacker Trey DePriest and cornerback Eddie Jackson returned to the Tide defense last week.  Saban said both played well, but stressed they each need to continue to work hard to be able to “sustain” a high level of play.

Saban said receiver Amari Cooper has a “great work ethic” and has matured as a player to a point where he is not as affected by things that may have bothered him in the past.  Saban said successful screen passes in the first two games were the result of good blocking by receivers.  He said he coaches his receivers to be total payers.

“Sometimes receivers take what they do literally…they receive the ball,” Saban said.  “If you have a good game, you may catch five or six passes.  You have to be a complete player.  There are 70 more plays in a game…you have to block effectively.”

Saban also said receivers practice in constant rotation with the quarterbacks to ensure they are comfortable catching passes from each quarterback.