ORLANDO, Fla. — Nick Saban was in a relaxed mood when doing his radio show on Monday evening from the lobby of the Alabama football team hotel for the Citrus Bowl.
Maybe it was because of the holidays, or he just hadn't said much since the end of the regular season, Saban made a number of interesting comments:
1. During his opening statement, Saban noted about how it always takes a while for things to click with young players, and it often happens during bowl practices when the team sort of goes back to the fundamentals. "I've seen a lot of our young players really improve."
2. Since he's not playing in the game, Tua Tagovailoa sat in on the defensive meeting today. Apparently he was a little blown away by how elaborate the scheme and play-calling is: "He could not believe all the stuff and all the adjustments that you've got to make and all the coverages, fronts and formations ... He was like, 'Man, it's really complicated to play defense.'"
3. Alabama scouts officials and goes over their tendencies with the players. That includes bowl games, where the referees are always from a neutral conference. “We have a list of all the things they call because some crews call things more often than others." The Crimson Tide staff also does postgame breakdowns of how the officials performed.
Saban added that the targeting penalty in the Clemson-Ohio State game probably wouldn't have been called if the safety had kept his head up because the quarterback ducked into the hit.
4. Saban said that sign-stealing is now more prevalent in college football than ever due to no-huddle offenses. He added that NFL teams used to film their signals when he was with the Cleveland Browns so he always uses decoys to try and make it harder on the opposition. Additionally, the signs Alabama holds up are only the formations.
5. Saban has been advising players that unless they received a top-15 draft grade they should play in the bowl game to increase their value. However only one player received that grade, and "he's injured. That injury may affect his grade, unfortunately, for him, right now." Consequently, Terrell Lewis and Trevon Diggs didn't take the advice as both are sitting, and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy didn't get a top-15 pick grade.
Note: Saban's approach to the draft is different, and players rated as first-round selections get his blessing for leaving school early as long as they still finish up their degrees later.
6. On Jaylen Waddle, the coach said "He's been outstanding all year long." He noted that he likes being a return specialist and when they put him deep on kick returns at Auburn said, "Now there's a new sheriff in town."
7. Speaking of the Iron Bowl, Saban said Alabama played with a lot of emotion at Auburn but "didn’t execute" very well.
8. When asked about Michigan's offense under Josh Gattis, Saban said there were "some similarities in what we do." He added that there also some similarities in what Mississippi State does because both Gattis and Joe Moorehead were previously together at Penn State. Earlier he said, "Playing an iconic program like Michigan is really something special for anybody."
9. The third segment of the show closed with a discussion about the "Value of persistence," and how coaches have to adapt more to players. Saban called perseverance and persistence lost qualities as some players quit or transfer when things get difficult.
10. Saban ended by thanking the fans and supporters. "I can assure you that no one is more disappointed than the players," but added that everyone is dedicated to making sure the program is headed in the right direction.
Bonus: Media guest Greg McElroy commented on his recruiting process, and said it took a long time for him to earn an offer than most other players (he was headed to Texas Tech at the time. "Thanks Tim (Tebow) for going to Florida," he quipped.
Saban's final pre-game press conference will be at 8 a.m. CT Thursday. BamaCentral will have full coverage.