Nick Saban looking at extra depth 'more than ever' as Crimson Tide prepares l Hurt

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

TUSCALOOSA - Nick Saban is a master at making a plan for the players he has on hand.

With the Alabama 2020 season opener a month away, barring a derailment,  the veteran football coach is also creating a plan in case players suddenly aren’t on hand.  

COVID-19, or as Saban euphemistically described it “where we are,” can wreak quick havoc with a roster, especially given the protocols set down by the Southeastern Conference and other participating leagues about contacts and quarantines.

Texas Tech was short 22 players on Tuesday. Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said a single unspecified position group had just one available player on Monday.

We are still a month away from play and perhaps a downward turn in positives could reduce the chances of that happening. But when dealing with the uncertainties of COVID-19, who knows what the virus can do? What happens if it does spread among an entire offensive line, or if it takes out two quarterbacks?

There is some flexibility built into the schedule but college football can’t stop and start in the way Major League Baseball has done. The logistics are simply too complicated. There could be postponements, or cancellations. Forfeits are probably a last resort. But there could certainly be games in which a team is short-handed, takes an upset loss and has to chalk up to 2020, the year of the murder hornet, the fire tornado and, maybe, a shocker at South Carolina

 Saban can’t cover every option but he will address as much as he can .

“I think the most important thing at this time of year is, how many guys can we develop to play winning football on this football team,” he said on Monday’s Zoom call with the media. “I think probably more than ever the depth of your team, the experience of your team, is critical, because we may have more issues just from a personnel standpoint just by the nature of where we are than maybe we’ve had in the past, even though all of our efforts are to keep our players safe.  

“We’re actually doing that right now, trying to get guys to learn multiple positions,”Saban continued. “We have not really had anybody cross the ball (from offense to defense) but  we’ve met with a couple guys in case that becomes an issue, but we haven’t really practiced anybody that way. Hopefully, we’ll be able to develop enough depth internally that we’ll feel good about every position.”

In addition to offensive linemen learning different spots, which is fairly common, some other possibilities are intriguing. Several defensive backs and wide receivers played both ways in high school.  Incoming freshman Drew Sanders is now an outside linebacker but could be a tight end. Plus, there is probably an emergency quarterback in the mix. Slade Bolden might be capable of duty in a 911 situation. Or could there be the Waddlecat? Put Jaylen Waddle behind that offensive line, let him take a deep snap and see what happens?

Saban didn’t tip his hand, of course. That doesn’t mean he isn’t studying every card.

Reach Cecil Hurt at or via Twitter, @cecilhurt