With Alabama football these days, either everything is a crisis, or nothing is.
So far this season, there have been crises at the following positions: offensive line, running back, tight end, defensive line, linebackers and secondary. That’s led to some degree of panic about everything except the quarterback and the wide receivers. It also excludes the kickers, which have moved beyond the “crisis” stage into acceptance, like not worrying about the heat when you live in the Mojave Desert.
How urgent is each individual crisis? After all, Alabama hasn’t lost a regular-season game since 2017. But no one wants to lose a game. So you do have to be aware of issues, and coaches have to address them. Take the “inexperienced linebackers” situation, one of the big hot-button topics of September. You hear less about it now, which may say something about the media. Without Dylan Moses and Josh McMillon, there have been no options except to play young players like Christian Harris, Shane Lee and Ale Kaho. Perhaps they’ve gotten better. Of course they have. But isn’t Texas A&M, with a talented (if erratic) quarterback, a raucous crowd and an extra week to prepare just the sort of situation that’s still a risk?
Nick Saban has two answers, the philosophical one and then the practical one.
“It’s important to have discipline to stay focused on what you do,” Saban said Wednesday night. “A lot of people think that you get discipline on the field. I don’t think you get discipline on the field. I think discipline starts when you get up in the morning. Can you do what you’re supposed to do? You get up, you do what you’re supposed to do, you go to class, you treat people right. If you’re supposed to be some place, you don’t do what you feel like like doing, you choose to do what you’re supposed to do.
“It’s no different than strength. Do you develop strength on the field? No. You develop strength in the weight room and then you take it on the field.”
That’s the general prescription. Specifically, here is how Saban is trying to make time fly, in one of his patented in-depth answers.
“We do as much as we can to try to expose them to things that they have not seen before that they will see in the next three games,” he said. “We spent a little more time on this particular game (Texas A&M). We spent a lot of time, probably an (inordinate) amount of time, relatively speaking, to doing 11-on-11 walkthroughs so you are getting a multitude of reps with these guys to see things without wearing them out, running them all over the place. We’ve done extra meetings to try to increase their knowledge and ability to go out and feel confident in terms of what they are supposed to do.
“But there is nothing that you can do to teach experience. The only way you get that is to go do it. The more experience these guys get, the better they’ll play, the less errors they will make. Because you get exposed to more and more things, you’re more comfortable to adjust to all of those things.
“You heard what I said before (on Wednesday’s SEC coaches’ teleconference.) I said it this morning. These are AP classes — Advanced Placement. Those are hard classes. It’s hard to make an ‘A’.
“But that’s what we’re trying to do and these guys are working their tail off to try to do it.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt