SAN JOSE, Calif. — Nick Saban has the opportunity to win his seventh national championship title as a head coach on Monday. That would be a record. He must be doing something right.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney seems to think so because he outwardly admires Saban.
“One, how he has just been himself, regardless of what people think or say or whatever,” Swinney said Sunday at the College Football Playoff’s final head coaches news conference. “He’s been himself, and he’s stuck to the things that he believes in, and that’s a lesson for me, to be myself and to be convicted in my beliefs and how I think that I should run the program.”
Both teams are undefeated this season.
The standard for success goes beyond football, though.
“We want to help guys be more successful in life because they were involved in the program,” Saban said, “whether it’s through personal development, making sure they graduate, develop careers off the field, help them in career development, be the best version of themselves, see if they can have a career as a football player.”
All of that would fall under what Alabama likes to call “The Process,” which Saban has been transparent about ever since he took the job in 2007. Clearly it has worked.
Swinney has called Saban in the past for advice. The two respect each other and what they have done for both Alabama and Clemson. Monday will be the fourth time in as many years the Crimson Tide and Tigers have faced off on the gridiron.
In order to be the best, a team has to beat the best.
“I think as a coach, we’re always studying and trying to learn from every program,” Swinney said, “and Alabama has certainly been the standard for a decade or so since he’s been there.”
Starting them young
Alabama took a risk last season and played a true freshmen quarterback in the national championship game. Tua Tagovailoa replaced Jalen Hurts, who had been the Crimson Tide’s start since he was a freshman.
Clemson now also has a first-year quarterback this season in Trevor Lawrence. It’s no longer odd to have a young player step up in that role and be successful.
“Well, there’s more and more guys, I think, that come into college programs that we see across the country that are more ready to play,” Saban said, “and I think that’s a reflection of offense in this day and age has changed a little bit, and these guys that are developing earlier in that style of play that’s more of a spread-type offense than rather 20 years ago where you played a little different type.”