Nick Saban Reiterates the Importance of Handling Success for Alabama Football

Joey Blackwell

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama football coach Nick Saban continued to harp on the importance of focus and handling success in his weekly virtual Wednesday press conference.

The almost-69-year-old coach opened up his media availability on Wednesday evening by first addressing how handling success play a factor in each and every game, especially after a big win.

"I think this week every player, every team, always has to make a decision on how they want to handle success," Saban said. "Some teams handle success well. Some teams can only respond when something bad happens, which is a little more like human nature. And hopefully we're trying to get our players to build on the momentum that we created in what we did last week and continue to work hard so that we can continue to play well in the future. But to do that, you've got to be able to handle success.

"You can't be casual about your approach. You've got to prepare. You've got to work hard. You've got to go out and earn it. You've got to play every play, and you've got to do a little extra sometimes to make that happen, in terms of your preparation."

The Crimson Tide are currently preparing for a trip to Knoxville, Tenn. to take on the Tennessee Volunteers. The Volunteers' head coach is Saban's former defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. The game marks the fourth-consecutive week where Saban has been pitted against a former assistant.

The Third Saturday in October rivalry goes way back for Alabama and Tennessee fans. The Crimson Tide have currently won the past thirteen annual matchups dating back to 2007.

To Saban, while he has seen much success against Tennessee, the game still means a lot and just because there has been success doesn't mean that he and his players should go into the game with the attitude that it will be easy.

"I think it's especially important to have this kind of focus in rivalry games because I don't think records really mean that much. I think how players perform, how they prepare, will affect how they perform, and that's really important. And a lot of folks, this game means a lot to [them]. It means a lot to me. And I want our players to be ready to go and ready to play well.

"Right mentality is really, really important, especially this time of year. Everybody gets a little banged up, beat up. Makes it a little more difficult to sustain, but we have to have the right mind-set to be able to do that."

When it comes to success on and off the field, Saban typically knows his stuff. Throughout this past week he has seemed frustrated at the effort and attitude put forth by his players in practice.

Saban reiterated that in order to develop team success you must first look at each individual player.

"I think you look at every individual player," Saban said. "How does every individual player find a way to sustain and grind through and have the mental toughness to be able to continue to stay focused on preparation, study, doing the things they need to do. Some players do it well, some players don't. Older players that are more experienced maybe understand it a little better. But we need to get the critical mass of people on our team being able to do that. Everybody that has a role has to be responsible for that role, and players that are backup players have to know that they're one play away from being in the role so they have to be prepared and ready to go. I don't really have a gauge. I don't have a meter.

"We look at different individuals differently and we're trying to get the critical mass of our team to be in the right spot when it comes to the disposition they have about improving throughout the season."

Tennessee enters this week with an overall 2-2 record after losing its past two games. Prior to that, the Volunteers had the longest win streak in the SEC at eight-consecutive wins against conference opponents.

Earlier this week in his Monday press conference, Saban spoke on how the Volunteers have made strides in recent years under Pruitt.

“I think they have made progress," Saban said. "I think you look at what a team does down in, down out, how the players play. They’re playing with a lot of effort, toughness. They’re very well-coached. They’re in the right spots."

Saban also spoke about how he believes that turnovers will play a large factor in this weekend's game.

"I think when you turn the ball over in this game — I don’t care if it’s us or them or whoever it is — it’s really hard to overcome," Saban said. "We do a little chart every week and show our players the record of every team in the country who’s +3, +2, -3, -2, 0 turnover, and all you have to do is look at that chart and it’s very telling in terms of the impact that turnovers have on the game. So, I think that’s been their issue, and it’s not the rest of their team. It’s not how they’re capable of playing. It’s not the progress that they’ve made. It’s just taking care of the ball.”

Alabama and Tennessee square off this weekend at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville (2:30 p.m. CT, CBS).

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