Time to meet the new guy. Alabama offensive coordinator Brian Daboll spoke with the media on Saturday for the first time since taking the job after the 2017 season. He spoke about his background, Jalen Hurts, his impression of Alabama’s talent and more. Here’s what Daboll said:
“Appreciate the opportunity to be standing in front of you today. I’m very grateful to Coach Saban and the members of the University of Alabama to allow me to have this opportunity. We’ve been working really hard to establish an identity for our football team. Got a long way to go, really in the third day of training camp here, in fall camp. Just trying to string some good days together. And the guys are working really hard and putting in a lot of effort. I appreciate all of that and appreciate working with the staff that we’ve got here. A bunch of good guys that work extremely hard, are very helpful for me and hopefully we work well together and take it one day at a time and try to improve the best we can.
“With that, I’ll open it up to questions. Again, appreciate the time to take here with you guys.”
Can you talk about your offensive philosophy and also some of the similarities between Bill Belichick and Nick Saban?
“We have a ton of different plays that we can run offensively, and what you try to do as a coach is you try to put the players in position to be successful. Ultimately, Coach Saban is the head football coach, but we have a variety of different plays, both runs and passes, and we’re implementing new plays every day. We have a whole new package going in today, quite a bit a plays, throwing a lot at these guys. You try to be aggressive as an offensive guy, you try to take away the strengths of the defense and really the strengths of your offensive, you want to try to expose the defense with.
“In terms of Bill and Coach Saban, obviously they’ve worked together in Cleveland. I’ve got a lot respect for both of them. Learned a great deal, probably, from those two men more than anybody else in this profession. Detailed, organized, demanding, expect you to do it the right way. There’s no excuses to be made. You have a job to do, you go do it. Our mantra is “Do your job,” and that’s what everyone in the organization has to do is do their job. I can’t play offensive line, although I might look like it right now, and they can’t do our job. So, everybody’s got a job to do. A great leader, demanding, tough. Really appreciate the opportunity. Had some good experience with him at Michigan State as a graduate assistant. He’s a great to work for.”
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the college and the pro game?
“There’s some time requirements there that you can’t, maybe, meet as much, but, again, the philosophy of the organization and the structure and the detail that Coach Saban provides for us is very similar to the system that I came from. Coaching fundamentals is coaching fundamentals, so whether you’re coaching a 30-year-old man or an 18-year-old young man, a 19-year-old young man, you still got to coach the fundamentals and make sure they do it properly. And those don’t change based on age. So, leverage, hand placement, pad level, route detail, reads, footwork, those are all the same whether you’re coaching in professional or you’re coaching here. Your job as a coach is to show them how to do it and really accept no excuses. Demand they do it the right way and then if they mess it up or it’s not exactly the way you want it, you’ve got to get it fixed.”
Jalen Hurts, at one point, described what you guys are doing as a combination of what the offense has been successful doing in the past with you implementing some different things that you’ve been successful with and that the Patriots have been successful with when you were there. How would you describe what the approach is offensively? And is that a good way to sum up just what the approach and philosophy is?
“Every good coaching staff tries to do what their players do best, so there’s a lot of plays that you can run in offensive football. There’s obviously a lot of success here that they’ve had in the past and Coach Saban has had for the last 11 years he’s been here. So, it’d be foolish to just take one offense that you’re accustomed to running and try to adapt it to another team. Some of the plays suit, some of the plays don’t suit. So, your job is to go ahead and mix and match and really find the best results for the guys that you’re working with for that particular year.
Could you give us the one, definitive pronunciation of your last name?
“It’s Day-bull, like table. Daboll. Yeah, that’s it. I’ve heard a lot of them. Several.”
One difference in college is the number of running back you’ll be working with. Just talk a little bit about the guys that you’ve got back there and whatever roles you expect from Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris, etc.
“Well, I think we have an outstanding running back coach in Burton Burns. He does a great job with these guys. He’s been here the entire time with Coach Saban. Look, running back is a position that you can’t have too many of. You can find creative ways to try to use them, and everyone will have a role if they earn that role. So, there’s good players with all five of those guys, really. They’ve done a good job in the spring. And again, we’ve been out here for two days on with no pads on right now, so really it’s more of an execution, a detail, an assignment thing. We’ll get into the physical part of it here soon enough. But all of the guys are smart, they work really hard, are well-coached, so we’ll find some roles that we can use them as we see fit.”
Where has Jalen progressed as a passer?
“He’s an extremely hard worker, dedicated to his craft as a young man to try to play the position the best he can. We’ve watched every piece of film that he’s had, whether it was last year, in the spring. And our goal, our mantra really, not just for Jalen but all the quarterbacks and the guys on our team, is to improve every single day with their fundamentals. Because it doesn’t matter what play you call, your scheme, it doesn’t really matter until you really perfect your fundamentals. At the end of the day, when it’s crunch time, the team that plays with good fundamentals usually has the best chance to win. So he’s really improved his feet, his eyes and where he’s going with the football. But we’re in the third day of training camp and we’ll just keep grinding away trying to string some good ones together. But I appreciate the effort that he’s put in, (he’s) a great young man, really dedicated, smart, tough. So we’ll just keep grinding away with him.”
Why do you work so well with perfectionist coaches like Nick Saban and Bill Belichick?
“I was raised by some old-school grandparents, it wasn’t always easy too sometimes, they were pretty demanding. But it’s a mindset. You have a boss, you have a job and you’re hired for a reason, and you have to know there’s a hierarchy to every organization. So the leader of the organization is the guy you take the lead from. Whatever he asked you to do, that’s what you do. That’s your job. That’s your responsibility. And if you don’t do it there’s always consequences, especially in this business. I’ve had a tremendous amount of respect for Bill (Belichick) and Coach Saban, they’ve been great mentors. Obviously extremely smart, extremely successful. And I appreciate the way they do things. They make it easy to work for them. There’s a standard, you know the standard. You’ve got to meet it every day. And if you don’t, there’s consequences. I think it’s very fair, demanding, but I like the work environment from those guys.”
How’s Jalen handled the praise & criticism he got as such a young player?
“You know we don’t really talk too much about that. I just know that he’s a guy that loves the game. He loves learning about the game, and that’s all you can ask of these young players, that they come in, commit to working hard, do the things that you ask them to do. They try to improve every day, and take it one day at a time. Don’t look too far behind you, don’t look way far ahead. We have so long to go before anything (happens), let’s try to conquer today, let’s try to do the best job we can do today with what we’re asked to do. And then we’ll move onto the next thing. Can we learn from prior experiences? Sure. And you’d be foolish not to. But really our focus every day is how do we handle this day to be as good as we can be.”
Your providing positivity at practice, is that something that’s evolved?
“Well, it might not always be positive. You teach them what to do, you show them how to do it and then you accept know excuses. That’s how I was raised in this business. So if there’s something not run properly, you fix it. If it’s run the way you want it to run, you give some encouragement. Every play is not going to be perfect, so you’ve got to take care of the big things — ball security, knowing where to go with the football, understanding our reads. There’s a million things you can tell a player on every play, there’s a lot of things in football, there’s so many different plays and verbiages, make sure you take care of the big things first, and then you work on the little details as you go. You stay on them, that’s your job as a coach.”
Biggest differences you’ve seen in Saban since you last worked for him?
“That’s a great question. There really hasn’t … He’s a pretty consistent individual. Whether I was a graduate assistant at Michigan State or here doing this job, I’ve seen tremendous consistency, great leadership. He gives you a set of instructions to do. When there’s structure and organization and there’s things to be done and you have deadlines to do them, and he tells you how he wants them done, then it’s your job to go out there and do it. Whether you’re a GA or you’re a receivers coach, quarterback coach, whatever it may be. It’s a good work environment. He looks the same as 20-some years ago. I can’t say the same. I’ve got to get on his diet plan.”
How much did your senior year of college and the injury set you on your coaching path. Also you were rambunctious, what was up with that?
”You know, disappointed that you couldn’t play, obviously wanted to be part of it which led basically into this career where I went from there to William and Mary. I was the only child and I sent out a bunch of letters, a lot of letters, and I didn’t have any money. Everybody’s got their story. You’ve got your story. You come from wherever you come from, you work hard to get there. Fortunately Coach Saban gave me an opportunity.
”As far as being intense and focused, I think that’s kind of the way I’ve been since an early, young age. You know, that’s just kind of my DNA, just to full-steam ahead. Be focused and be determined, be energetic and really do things, try to do them the best you can and try to do them the right way.”
How does defensive background shape offensive philosophy? Also, the Patriots used a lot of rub routes, could we see a lot of that here?
”We’ll see. We’ll see about (rub routes).
”So what was the first thing again? You started talking about football and it got me thinking. Sorry. defensive background, yeah. So that’s kind of where I started and what I played and went from a small Division III school where we were very basic in what we did to a 1AA school where we didn’t do a ton of things. Then when I got to Michigan State it was like, ‘Holy Cow.’ I saw Coach Saban’s playbook, and obviously he came from the Browns, and putting it on a computer and learning it. I think learning the other side of the football, and I experienced that in New England, Coach Belichick has done that quite a bit, too. The defensive coordinator started on offense, offensive coordinator started on defense. So understanding the game and how you’re getting defended and maybe some of the weak points and some of the coverages and some of the front schemes or the force alignments, that can be an advantage. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be an advantage, but it can definitely be an advantage in terms of understanding how team are playing you and maybe how you want to attack them formationally or use some motion or lined up empty, your motion, whatever it may be. So I got to learn from Coach Saban and Coach Belichick which are two pretty good guys to learn from in that regard.”
What was your initial impression of the talent at Alabama?
”I came in with really an open mind and tried to be an honest evaluator as I looked at it. And honestly, in spring ball you get to go out there in pads, which is a little different than pro football when you’re out there in shorts and T-shirts and running around. Obviously, the NFL has an extremely high talent level, it’s the 1 percent. And the guys here are very talented, so you adjust your eyes, you see young players that are coming out of high school. You know, a lot of good young players here, let’s see if we can get them better, too.”
How have you adjusted to recruiting?
”I really enjoyed it. You come in from spring ball and you get out on the road and you get to meet a lot of really good individuals. A lot of really good high school football coaches out there, and sometimes you get to go out to practice and watch how they operate and pick up some things and develop some relationships with both the coaching staff and the players. It really was an enjoyable time for me to sit down to do that aspect of it. It’s something that I hadn’t done, but you try to develop relationships, be a good person and steer guys the right way and be a straight-shooter, which I try to be. I’ve really enjoyed it, enjoyed meeting these young players, developing relationships with coaches. I came here with an open mind, and it’s been a good few months. Now it’s time to get to work. We’re two days in, got a big day today with a lot of new things going in. The guys got to be up to speed with it, try to go as fast as we can, get them up to speed and demand they know it and do it the right way, and got to take some accountability with it, too. We’ll go out there and have a good practice. That’s the goal for today.”