By Hunter Ford
Nick Saban, at his Wednesday morning SEC teleconference, said his Alabama Crimson Tide will focus on playing “our game” despite a potentially distracting crowd at Neyland Stadium.
Alabama plays Tennessee Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. CT, in Knoxville.
Monday morning, Saban was asked about Lane Kiffin’s return to Tennessee. Kiffin, now Alabama’s offensive coordinator, was the Volunteers head coach for one year, 2009, before leaving Tennessee for a stint as head coach at USC, and then landing in Tuscaloosa this season.
“The game is not about that,” Saban said. “The game is about the players, and regardless of what fans think or what fans do, I think our coaches and our players need to focus on what we’re going to do to help our team play their best.”
Saban was asked if Kiffin would coach from the sideline as he has done all season, to this point. He answered in the affirmative.
“I mean, why not?” Saban responded. “We’re going to play our game and do what we feel like we need to do to give our players the best chance to be successful.”
Saban said the decision to have Kiffin coach from the sideline was made early in the season. Saban felt that Kiffin’s presence on the field would help the offensive unit and quarterback.
“I don’t understand why it would be any different in this game,” Saban said.
In his afternoon press conference, Saban said the Tide has put in a good week of work so far. Center Ryan Kelly has been practicing, and offensive tackle Austin Shepherd was able to practice today.
Saban said he had some concerns about depth on the offensive line going into the season. Injuries to Kelly and Shepherd have given playing experience to Bradley Bozeman at center and Grant Hill at tackle. Saban says those players responded well, and have increased his confidence in the offensive line.
Saban said the Tide’s starting quarterback has done a “really, really good job” for the most part. Saban said Sims has had some issues at times when he has pressed too hard to make a play that isn’t there. He said Sims needs to continue to distribute the ball and make good decisions. Communication is a critical element of consistent quarterback play, Saban said.
TENNESSEE OFFENSE AND DEFENSE
Volunteer quarterback Justin Worley has thrown for 1,579 yards and 12 touchdowns, but he also has thrown eight interceptions. The Volunteers rank 70th nationally in passing yardage per game and 120th in rushing yards.
The Volunteers leading rusher, Jalen Hurd, has 414 yards and two touchdowns after seven games.
ALABAMA AROUND THE WEB
The Alabama-Tennessee rivalry is one of the most historic in college football. Alabama has dominated in Saban era, and the Tide is looking to extend its winning streak to eight, Saturday in Knoxville.
With the relevance of the Tennessee-Alabama game trending downward, at least one online publication is already looking ahead to the Iron Bowl.