Nick Saban’s press conferences are often seen as a series of 45-second to two-minute long segments, usually consisting of reports on the progress of the team or, occasionally, reactions that are sometimes humorous, sometimes contentious and sometimes both simultaneously.
That’s no surprise. People are programmed to view press conferences that way. The format name itself, “question-and-answer”, suggests that they be consumed in that way. The media — and not just the television/YouTube takeaways, but the print media as well — presents them in that fast food fashion: easily consumable, somewhat nutritious Saban Nuggets of Information. This isn’t a diatribe against anybody else. I do it too, particularly since I’ve been doing more beat writing than column writing in the past month.
But there are other ways of looking at a press conference, not as Answer 1 follows by an independent Answer 2 and so forth. It’s possible to step back a few feet, make some connections and see patterns or find insights, even to a man who has been scrutinized as much as Nick Saban and even when the questions are as seemingly random as:
“As a fan of college football, do you have a favorite moment?”
“Who is the best quarterback you’ve seen?”
“How’s the team looking (the implied opening question)?”
His reply to the “fan” question was “Well. I’m not a fan. I’ve never been to … what do you call it when you get in the parking lot? Tailgating.
I’ve never been to one of those.”
That’s a funny answer and confirms the “all-business” image of Saban. Then mix that with his reply about the quarterbacks, which was related in a way. He responded with some familiar names — Elway, Marino — that he knew from the NFL. He mentioned playing against Michigan’s Tom Brady while Saban was coaching at Michigan State. (Saban did note that the Spartans won “because Brady only played about half the game,” so take that, Lloyd Carr.) But his memories weren’t a fan’s memories, of this guy being “great.” Everything was connected to the difficulty a defensive coach (i.e., himself) had in preparation, plus a touch of understandable recency bias, hence mentions of Trevor Lawrence and “the quarterback (DeShaun Watson) that they (Clemson) had before him.”
They are all data points. If they were complex data points, and hard to stop, they came to Saban’s mind, called up out of storage where they are kept in case there are lessons to be learned from that preparation. But Saban’s “past,” in that sense is only prelude — as simple as improving from a first scrimmage to the second so a player can become a “dangerous player, because that’s how you have a dangerous team.” So a press conference can become a story, not just an exercise like asking “Siri, what’s the capital of Ecuador?”
And with that said, here is a quick glance at Thursday’s bullet points because that, too, is what we do…
INJURY NEWS was milder than it has been in recent press conferences. Freshman defensive lineman DJ Dale (sprained knee) is expected back at practice on Friday on a limited basis, per Saban, although it isn’t yet certain if he will scrimmage on Saturday. Also, defensive lineman Stephon Wynn, who has been absent from the practice field amid much injury speculation, has what Saban called a “high ankle sprain” and may miss another week or so.
THERE HAS not been much discussion of the tight end position, where UA is looking to replace Irv Smith, Jr. From Saban’s tone on Thursday, not all the 2019 questions at that spot have been answered.
“We’ve got to improve at that position,” Saban said. “We have guys that have ability. They don’t have a lot of experience. They need to develop confidence in what to do, how to do it and why it’s important to do it that way.
“Miller (Forristall) is probably the only guy old enough to have enough experience, the only one that kind of gets it. I think the other guys are going to have to develop that and they’ve made progress. Giles (Amos, a walk-on senior from Perry, Ga.) has done a good job of taking advantage of the opportunity he has because of the lack of depth we have at that position. He’s gotten a lot of reps and he’s taken advantage of it.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt