By Hunter Ford
Nick Saban covered a lot of ground in his Monday press conference as Alabama recovers from a loss to Ole Miss and looks forward to an improved Arkansas team.
Saban’s bottom line was “how do you respond?” He said it would be important for Alabama to “finish plays,” “finish drives,” and “finish the game.” He said everyone from the coaches down should be asking, “Who’s making this team better?”
Although he largely deferred questions about Kenyan Drake’s status to medical personnel, Saban did say Drake would probably need eight to ten weeks of rehab time before “he could even think about playing football.” Drake had surgery for a broken leg and ankle. Linebacker Denzell Devall also required surgery for an injury, but could possibly be able to play later in the season, according to Saban.
Center Ryan Kelly suffered a sprained knee and will likely be out for a couple of weeks. Saban said Bradley Bozeman and Josh Casher will take on the center’s role in Kelly’s absence.
CENTER POISITION IMPORTANT
Saban said it would be nice to have “our five best guys” playing at offensive lineman, but you “can’t just move the right tackle over and say ‘okay now you play center.”
He said the center has to be experienced snapping the ball and taking care of several pre-play responsibilities.
“There are a lot of things you have to do correctly before you can block the guy you have to block,” he said.
PENALTIES AND TURNOVERS
Saban said he couldn’t remember a time when he has emphasized ball security more, but the Tide continues to have issues. He said pushing hard to make big plays does no good if a player loses the ball, and he said “we are not carrying the ball correctly.”
“We need to reverse the trend of having a negative turnover ratio every week,” he said.
“There is nothing more important than ball security. Because we lose possession if we don’t protect the ball.”
Saban said “we have other people who are more capable” if ball security continues to be an issue.
He also said the defense has not been “attacking the ball” enough to create turnovers.
Young players on special teams need to make better decisions to avoid holding and block-in-the-back penalties, Saban said.
Regarding the interception in the end zone that ended Alabama’s hope of victory against Ole Miss, Saban said the pass play would have never been called except for a holding penalty. Alabama would have had the ball inside the 20 with 44 seconds to play and would have had more play call options.
PLAYING WITH MORE FOCUS
Saban said the Tide has not played with as much “energy” or “enthusiasm” in games away from Bryant-Denny. He later clarified that, saying “mental toughness and focus” was the issue, not necessarily energy or enthusiasm.
“We need to play winning football whether we are playing out in the parking lot, Bryant-Denny, on the road, wherever,” he said.
ARKANSAS IMPROVED WITH ‘DOMINATING’ RUNNING GAME
Saban said Arkansas has been “dominating” in the way it has run the ball this season. He said the Razorbacks have been able to pass effectively when they need to because defenses are forced to concentrate heavily on stopping the running game. He compared the Razorback offensive scheme to “old-time Bo Schembeckler, Woody Hayes football.”
He said the Tide defense has only played about a dozen downs of “regular” defense this season, because the opponents so far have been playing out of spread offenses for the most part. He said the Tide spent some time during the bye week this season reviewing “regular” defensive schemes.
“I never thought I would be here as a coach, in my lifetime, that running regular, I-formation plays and running the ball out of regular two wide receivers, two backs in the backfield, would be the anamoly of football,” Saban said.