Nick Saban Wishes Everyone Happy Thanksgiving ... and Talks a Little About Auburn

Christopher Walsh

Super-short summary:

• Happy Thanksgiving.

• Alabama had good practices Monday and Tuesday (he didn't mention today).

• Davis, Mathis and Ruggs have all practiced. Dale questionable.

• As usual, all the players have a place to go for Thanksgiving. Saban had 30-plus players at his house last year. 

• The more comfortable Mac Jones is the better he'll be.

• Auburn's ability to run the ball makes it so good in the red zone.

• There are good things and bad things that happen why you put a spy on a quarterback.

• Auburn's defensive line is really good.

“First off, I’d like to wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving. I think this a wonderful holiday for all of us to have gratitude for all that we have. I know we spend a lot of time thinking about the things we don’t have or the things that we want, but sometimes you’ve got to reflect on all of the things that we have -- our health, our happiness, our family, the relationships that we have. All those things are really, really important, and this is a great holiday for everybody to take note of all that.

“We had really good practice Monday and Tuesday. I think the message to the players is you’re practicing to prepare yourself so that you can go play a really good game. And the question is is what are you willing to do based on what you want. But really what it’s all about is what are you willing to invest, aight, to get what you want. Invest in yourself as a player, create value for yourself, invest in the team in how you finish the season, the kind of goals and aspirations that we have as a team and how much does that mean to you and what are you willing to invest to be able to try to get that? I think a lot of it has to do with mindset and having the right mindset about you do on a daily basis so you can prepare to do that.

“I don’t really have anything [injury-wise]. Raekwon has been able to practice. Phil Mathis and Henry Ruggs have been able to practice. DJ Dale is probably still a little bit questionable in terms of what he can and can’t do.

“Tomorrow, we just move everything up an hour, so we get finished with practice an hour earlier and players can go someplace, either with their family if that’s possible or a lot of players come to my house. I think we had 30 players at my house last year, and they go to the coaches’ houses. But we make sure everybody’s got somewhere to have a great Thanksgiving dinner, and then we’ll have a team Thanksgiving dinner here when we sort of get done. On Friday, when we get back to getting ready to go to Auburn.”

On the importance for Mac Jones to stay calm, confident when/if adversity hits…

“I don’t think there’s any question about that. I think high anxiety is not going to help your performance any. Staying in the right place, being confident, and that comes with good preparation. Experience is something he’s gotten in a couple games, and he’ll get some experience in this game, too, against a very good defensive team. But I think that it’s really important that the players around him play well because that’s going to help his confidence because maybe then he can have a little success, which is always a good thing, especially early on.”

On Auburn’s red-zone offense…

“They do a really good job of running the ball. They use wildcat and a lot of different other formations, and I think teams that can run the ball effectively are very difficult to stop in the red zone. So, I think that’s one of the things that they’ve always done really, really well. It’s what they believe in. It’s what they do. And we have a lot of respect for their ability to throw the ball, and they’ve made plays passing, as well. But I think because you’ve got to stop the run, that enhances those opportunities, too.”

On the pros and cons of using a spy or spies against a mobile quarterback…

“I don’t think there’s any question that there’s some advantage to it. When you rush four guys, they usually have five guys blocking. If somebody gets out of the rush lane and you have an athletic quarterback, he has a chance to move up. If you can try to fill up the rush lanes and then have somebody that when he does move, that guy’s on him provided that guy’s a good enough athlete to get him on the ground. That can be helpful, at least if you disrupt the timing and try to put somebody on him so hopefully he can’t run, which is what you’re trying to avoid. So, I think there are some real advantages to doing that. Obviously, you’re giving up a rusher when you do that, so maybe you don’t get quite as good of pressure, but it’s important that you try to design those things where somebody has a chance to break the pocket so you at least make the quarterback move off his spot early in the down so the extra guy becomes the fourth rusher.”

On Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson…

“Those guys are outstanding players. They’re hard to block. That’s what makes them outstanding players. They both can rush the passer very well. They’ve got great size. They’ve got really good initial quickness. They play with power. So, you better strike the guy in the right place, you better have the right hand placement on them and you better work hard to finish the block because they’re very good at getting off blocks. And if you can’t sustain and finish then you’re not going to have much success run or pass. That’s what we’re trying to get our guys to do, and I think they have a lot of respect for them. They’re doing everything they can to get ready for them.”

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