TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — In a quick Wednesday press conference that saw Alabama football coach Nick Saban leave early due to a meeting, the 69-year-old coach talked on several points regarding his Crimson Tide.
Saban first discussed the LSU game as well as the likelihood of his return while he is still recovering from COVID-19. He noted that the Tigers are a talented team and that he also expects to return shortly.
When it comes to offensive analytics and stats, Saban said that he doesn’t pay attention to any stat in particular but instead focuses on the end result.
“No, not really,” Saban said. “The one I follow the most closely is did we win and are we doing the things that contribute to winning. I do look at those things on occasion, but as I told you in the past, explosive plays, turnovers, those things really impact winning and losing, so I've never been real big on that kind of stuff. I do think that efficiency, though, and not just being a big, little team.
“When I say that, I mean that you have consistently good plays in the game. Not a good play, a bad play; a good play, a bad play. Cause you want the guys to be focusing on doing the right things like all the time, not just occasionally. So that's something we're always emphasizing with our players on both sides of the ball and will continue to do.”
While everybody else in college football ogles the Crimson Tide’s stats on offense, the only thing that matters to Saban is what the scoreboard says at the end of the game.
One key playmaker on the Alabama squad that might not be getting as much attention as quarterback Mac Jones or wide receiver DeVonta Smith is offensive lineman Landon Dickerson, who has been a key player in the trenches for the Crimson Tide this season.
According to Saban, the center has also shown great leadership and consistency this season.
“He's got great leadership,” Saban said. “He's got a great personality. Plays with a lot of toughness. Really somebody that I think has made a tremendous impact on our team in a very positive way. Sets a great example in terms of his leadership. He's smart, he makes a lot of line calls. I think he helps the guys around him play better so it's been a really, really positive thing all the way around.
“His performance has been very consistent and he's played very well all year long as well.”
Sticking with the big men up front, one thing that Alabama has implemented in its offense throughout Saban’s tenure is pulling guards on the offensive line to block defenders. While a simple concept, the Crimson Tide has nearly perfected the craft with its current offensive line, allowing running backs big holes to make explosive plays.
Saban discussed how pulling guards affects what defenders do in response.
“Linebacker is key and linemen as well,” Saban said. “When someone pulls, everyone has their gap blocking so you are kind of down and then guys are pulling to kick out. So everyone is going to jump over and fit differently on those kinds of plays as opposed to man-blocking plays or zone-blocking plays. I think having all three of those kinds of plays in your offense is a positive thing and we try to do all three efficiently and effectively.”
The last item that Saban discussed before having to hurry out was his punt-return team. Since the injury to Jaylen Waddle at the start of the Tennessee game, Alabama has utilized three players in his place: wide receiver DeVonta Smith, wide receiver Slade Bolden and defensive back Patrick Surtain II.
Bolden initially returned in Waddle’s place, but due to an injury has stepped down while Smith has returned instead. After watching Waddle get injured on a kickoff, this has caused concern for the key receiver from the Alabama fan base.
Saban noted that all three returners have done well, and that he puts whichever one in that he feels will give the team the best chance for a strong return.
“I look at it a little differently,” Saban said. “We have confidence in both guys. Losing Jaylen Waddle, Slade having to do it, then Smitty having to do it has created more depth at the position. We have even had Patrick back there for one. It’s forced us to develop other guys at those positions, which I think is healthy long-term. And I feel like we are always going to put the guy back there that gives us the best chance to secure the ball and make an explosive play in a punt return.”