By Hunter Ford
The focus for Alabama this week has been improving on execution and fundamentals, head coach Nick Saban said during his Wednesday afternoon press conference.
Alabama plays at home Saturday against SEC West foe Texas A&M, 4-2, 2-2, which has lost its last two games after starting 4-0.
“We’re trying to focus on our players…playing hard, competing well, and having fun playing football,” Saban said.
On Monday, Saban expressed frustration with what he deemed a negative reaction by fans and the media to a 14-13 win on the road at Arkansas. Saban said Jay Seawell, the University of Alabama men’s golf coach, paid a visit this week and commiserated with Saban about how high expectations can affect young athletes. Sewell’s golfers recently won back-to-back national championships.
Saban said young people can often experience “anxiety” when “expectations and the reality of the situation don’t meet.”
Sewell was sensing that kind of anxiety in his team recently, according to Saban. Seawell had his team watch the movie “Secretariat.” In the movie, the owners of a racehorse face intense pressure when their horse, which they had invested heavily in, was not doing well. Finally, one of the main characters in the movie said “just let him run,” Saban recounted. And the horse started winning.
Saban said that’s what he would hope Alabama fans can do for their team “just let them run…let them play.”
OFFENSIVE LINE, LINEBACKERS, DEFENSE
Saban said earlier in the week that linebackers would need to read and react quickly against the fast-paced Texas A&M offense. Asked about the progress of the linebackers so far in practice this week, Saban said they were getting better. He added that the Tide would likely have just one linebacker on the field at most times this week, as A&M is expected to have four wideouts on most plays.
Saban said the offensive line has had a lot of changes, due to injuries and “health and continuity” would go a long way towards making that unit better. He said the offense as a whole needs to execute better.
“We don’t always block on the perimeter like we should, or we can, or we have,” he said. “And the quarterback has to take what the defense gives us…we need total execution.”
Saban said he expects A&M to run an eight-man front on defense and force the Tide to throw the ball. The Aggies have one of the SEC’s best defensive ends in freshman Myles Garrett, who Saban described as “long, and difficult to block.”
“Our skill guys will have to play well,” he said. If A&M “splits safeties” and gives the Tide the chance to run, Saban, once again, said execution and “controlling the tempo of the game” would be crucial.
On offense, the Aggies feature four of the SEC’s top 13 wide recivers in Speedy Noil, Josh Reynolds, Edward Pope and Ricky Seals-Jones.
Controlling the ball on offense will help the Tide on defense. “One way they (A&M offense) can’t go fast is if we have the ball,” Saban said.
SEC COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE TO RETIRE
Saban praised Mike Slive, who recently announced plans to retire as SEC commissioner. Saban said Slive has meant a lot to the SEC and college football. He said Slive had “foresight and vision” and led the SEC with “honesty and integrity.” Saban said he couldn’t think of anyone who had “greater impact” on college football in the past 10-15 years.
Asked about the competitiveness of the SEC West, Saban said the SEC has always been tough.
“Everybody in our division has a really good team, and we all have to play each other,” he said.
Saban praised punter JK Scott, who kept Arkansas pinned deep in its own territory for most of last week’s game.
“He’s done really well all year long,” Saban said. “His first punt against West Virginia went 60 something yards.”
Saban said the Tide lost a lot of field position against Arkansas because of turnovers, but “we gained a lot of field position with (Scott’s) great punting.”
Alabama reserve tight end Kurt Freitag is under investigation by authorities who confiscated over 100 grams of marijuana and nearly $5,000 in cash from Frietag’s on-campus dorm room.
Saban, in his Monday teleconference, said he has been asked by authorities not to comment on the investigation.
Court documents obtained by the media do not indicate that Frietag has been charged with any crimes at this time.