If nothing else happened on Saturday, Nick Saban gave an absolutely new perspective on roster management.
The Alabama head coach gave a quote that doesn’t quite fit in a Sunday morning family newspaper, even in 2018, concerning the impossibility of adding new players to a college roster once practice has begun. The quote has been reprinted widely on social media, where the rules are a little looser. If the kids are asking about it, just tell them it involves Cloning Process Number Two and see if they can figure it out from there.
Saban wasn’t trying to be vulgar. If he was unfiltered, then you at least knew you were getting his raw reaction. Here is the broader context. A defensive player, Chris Allen, who was going to be at worst an important backup at a thin position (outside linebacker) is now out for the season, having suffered a knee injury that will require surgery. This news came following Alabama’s second scrimmage, although the injury presumably happened before Saturday since Allen was not at Friday’s practice.
Add that to the fact second scrimmages are generally rough in any event. Players who are weary after three weeks of hitting one another, without even the distraction of classwork interrupting the routine, get tired of it. Saban is human, so he probably gets tired of it, too. That’s especially true of this preseason camp, when there has been dawn-to-midnight access for the ESPN cameras filming “Training Days.”
This also isn’t an entirely new topic for Saban. Like no other coach in America, he has to deal with what Einstein would have called the Alabama Paradox: no matter how much circumstances change, expectations remain constant. The question he was asked about “worry” pushed a button that has been pushed before. Remember “rat poison?” This wasn’t all that different.
“Everything is going to be perfect,” Saban railed. “All of our fans think that, you (the media) think that…I worry about (things) all the time. I may be the only one, but I do worry.”
The short clip from Saban’s press conference went viral, of course. The college football world loves nothing more than a good Saban rant, with a little spicy language for seasoning. I got it on Twitter as fast as I could, so I’m not criticizing anyone about knowing what draws eyeballs. If the rant did nothing else, it toned down the Tua/Jalen quarterback questions, which were dismissed with a terse ‘they both played well.”
Some people reacted like a frustrated (as opposed to angry) Saban was trying to be funny. He wasn’t. Others felt like he wanted sympathy. He doesn’t. He understands that injuries are a part of football. He knows that last year, there was just enough depth to get through a wave of linebacker injuries. He knows that Alabama recruits well. His concern is less with having adequate athletes and far more with having adequate experience.
But his point was that every unexpected moment must be dealt with and, as he pointed out last week, he can’t just fix things by waving a magic wand. Or by any other method, even a method that is more basic than magical.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.