If there were a single word to describe the University of Alabama’s annual Fan Day media conferences, “orderly” might fit the bill.
There was no Nick Saban explosion. There was none of the inevitable expectation that anything might happen when Lane Kiffin, the offensive coordinator for the past three years, stepped to the podium. His successor, Brian Daboll, an old Saban hand brought aboard from the New England Patriots, was friendly and informative. He even gave a quick lesson on how to pronounce his last name.
“It’s ‘Day-bull,’ like ‘table’,” Daboll said, although if he used “stable” as the rhyming memory clue, he’d have come closer to describing the mood, permeated by organization and stability. Neither of those were exactly Kiffin’s middle name, taking nothing away from his play-calling prowess.
In fact, if you were looking for a single question-and-answer that summarized the day, note what Saban said when asked if Daboll’s “background and organization meshed” with Saban’s coaching personality.
“I think that’s exactly what we want them to do,” he said.
In case anyone missed the point, Saban expanded on the matter.
“We want to be well-organized in our presentations and how we teach the players,” he said. “I think conceptually that helps players understand and learn more efficiently and effectively. And, of all the people that I’ve ever been with, Bill Belichick probably does this as well as anybody. For Brian to have been in that system and that organization for a long time, I think, is reflected in his organization and in his teaching progressions that he has for the players.”
If that all sounds terribly proper and dull, remember we are talking about what goes on in the staff room, in meetings and drills. The whole purpose of all that predictability, ultimately, is to be unpredictable on Saturday. Alabama is blessed with many offensive options — quarterbacks that can run, running backs that can catch the ball, wide receivers in abundance and each one with speed and power. The goal isn’t to take all that and return it to the bygone offenses of college football a half-century ago. Offenses — and specifically the rules of the game — have evolved, and Saban plans to take advantage of that.
“I think the biggest thing is the rule about being downfield, being able to throw RPOs, kind of play-action passes are a little bit different because the linemen can be 3-1/2 yards downfield,” Saban said. “But I think because we have a good staff overall, and we’ve made some additions with some people who have had a lot of success with that type of offense, it’s been fairly easy to learn and implement into our system that we’ve had in the past, for Brian to learn it and implement it into the system that we have now.
“I don’t think it’s a big issue. It’s all football and it all comes down to ability to execute, which is fundamentally how you block, how you tackle, how you run routes, what the quarterback reads to get rid of the ball, how we pass protect.”
It’s early August, and most fans are simply ready to fast-forward, to engage in all the hype of a great matchup against Florida State, to whoop and holler about how Jalen and Bo and Ridley are going to run wild and the defense is going to be better than ever. There’s a time for that. But if it is going to happen at all, the first requirement is careful preparation.
There were no explosions from Saban on Saturday. There was, instead, a strong undercurrent that the world under his control — Alabama football — is working the way he likes it even if that isn’t quite as the same ride as life in the fast lane.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.