There was thunder at Alabama’s Wednesday football practice, loud rolling claps that made it seem like a casting call for what many expected to be an even greater storm to follow in the post-practice press conference.
Instead, there were no sound effects needed. No pyrotechnics went off. Reporters did not need to wear demolition-site level hearing protection. Instead, Nick Saban handled questions about Jalen Hurts’ Saturday comments with unwavering composure.
Hurts’ interview circled the college football world pretty quickly when he noted that he felt a lack of communication about his future plans, whether as Alabama’s starting quarterback or a transfer. The reactions for three days touched on every imaginable issue from freedom of speech to loyal team leadership.
But Nick Saban’s reaction was simply this: business as usual.
“Look, this is probably a lot more important to people outside this organization than it is to people inside,” Saban said. “I don’t think it has any effect on our team. I’ve talked to a lot of our team leaders. The players are focused on what they need to do. The rhetoric will not have anything to do with who’s the quarterback. That will obviously be decided on the field by how people execute, how they do their job.”
That doesn’t mean there won’t be speculation. Differing opinions from fans are part of college football. Some fans are perfectly content when their team is winning, regardless of the inner workings of the organization. Others like to coach their favorite team vicariously. If you need to know how Saban feels about that, remember that he decried “rat poison” around the team last year when he felt that media coverage had gotten too positive. So he’s not going to feel like every compliment is definitive, or that every complaint, even from a player, is mutinous.
“Every player has a right to express what he feels and what he thinks,” Saban said. “And I think he has every right to do that with every coach or anybody in the organization that he has a relationship with, which we certainly do quite often with all players at all positions.”
This being Alabama football, conversation is going to continue, and words will be parsed. There is a possibility that sophomore Tua Tagovailoa wins the job on straight talent and the millions of words written and podcasted in the last seven months are as thin as Himalayan air. There is also a chance that Saban wants to watch a month of Battle of the Gladiators before he gives the imperial thumbs up to the victor. Either way, it was never very likely that Saban was going to give Hurts the heave-ho over his comments.
Maybe this weekend’s scrimmage will affirm what he already knows, or maybe it will truly be a piece to what remains, at this point, a puzzle.
If anything changed after Saturday, Saban wasn’t about to say so on Wednesday. Again: business as usual.
“The same parameters (exist) that we’ve talked about before in terms of who wins the team,” Saban said. “And winning the team goes along with execution, leadership, players having confidence and belief. And that’s not going to change. I don’t really have any more to say about it than that.
“I don’t think it is anything that has affected our team one way or the other.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.