The Heisman Trophy may be on the line in Tuscaloosa Saturday night, when the University of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and LSU’s Joe Burrow finally meet.
All eyes will be on those quarterbacks and the wide receivers that surround them, leaving an intriguing running back battle underappreciated.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron and UA coach Nick Saban were complimentary of the opposing running backs, Najee Harris for UA and Clyde Edwards-Helaire for LSU.
Both are on pace for 1,000-yard seasons. Harris leads UA with 642 yards and five touchdowns, Edwards-Helaire leads LSU with 683 yards and eight touchdowns.
“He’s a bruising back,” Orgeron said. “The thing that’s best about him, when he hits the hole, he hits it with speed, and he’s hard to tackle one on one. He breaks a lot of tackles, makes a lot of yards out of contact.”
Both coaches were also impressed with those running backs as receiving threats. Edwards-Helaire has been used more than Harris in that regard, catching 19 passes to Harris’ 16, but Harris has made more of the opportunities with 171 yards and four touchdowns compared to 125 yards and no scores for Edwards-Helaire.
“He’s got a low center of gravity and he’s kind of power-built, so he can run behind his pads,” Saban said of Edwards-Helaire. “Really good route-runner, really good receiver. Guy’s been an outstanding player for them, very, very productive.”
UA is preparing for President Donald Trump to attend Saturday’s game, but it won’t be the first time for either coach to be in the presence of a President.
Orgeron recalled visiting the White House after national championships won as an assistant at Miami and USC. Saban has made his own White House visits after his national championships, but Saban also had the White House visit him earlier in his coaching career — even confiscate some of his furniture.
Saban said Bill Clinton, “came to Michigan State to speak at the graduation commencement ceremony and they actually headquartered in our facility building, so I had an opportunity to meet him and talk to him.”
While occupying the building, the Secret Service asked Saban if they could borrow a couch from his office for Clinton to take a nap. Saban agreed.
Herbstreit talks Bama
ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit held a teleconference with media as ESPN prepares to have a hand in the two biggest games of the weekend: hosting College Gameday from Tuscaloosa for No. 2 LSU at No. 3 Alabama and ABC broadcasting No. 4 Penn State at No. 17 Minnesota.
On the subject of the Alabama defense, Herbstreit is looking forward to seeing the unit challenged.
“We just don’t know who Alabama is defensively, to be candid,” Herbstreit said. “Because they’ve got a lot of new faces on that side of the ball, who can we definitely say tested them to make us know? I mean, I respect (Texas A&M quarterback) Kellen Mond and Jimbo Fisher and that game was on the road, so maybe we can say at A&M against that offense was a test, but I can’t really say anybody else offensively against the Bama defense was enough of a test for me to be able to say definitively, ‘Oh boy, here’s what the Alabama defensive strength is for sure.’
“I mean, they’ve got some individual playmakers. You look at (Anfernee) Jennings and (Raekwon) Davis, obviously, those guys stand out. Xavier McKinney’s a great player. But I still look at them and I think, I know they can rush the passer on third down and long, but I don’t know yet how good their secondary is.”
You can read the full practice report by clicking here. Here’s what Saban had to say about Tagovailoa’s status after the practice.
“Tua’s worked hard to try to get back to where he has an opportunity to play,” Saban said. “He’s been able to practice some. We still don’t know what his status for the game is going to be, we’ll make the decision when the game comes. We don’t know what kind of setbacks he’s going to have and how he’s going to continue to progress.
“So, there’s nothing else I can really say about it, but his attitude has been great, his work ethic has been great. I think he has a real positive attitude about what he’s doing because he’s actually had this same injury before, and I think when you get injured, you’re very apprehensive about how to go about coming back from it. But when you’ve had it before, I think you have a lot more positive feeling about how you can come back from it. All of those things have been very positive for him.”
Later, when asked about Tagovailoa’s mobility and its importance in his attempt at returning, Saban’s answer was simple: “Not going to play the guy if he can’t move.”
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