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SEC Media Days 2023: Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban

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Southeastern Conference
Football Media Days
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Alabama Crimson Tide
Nick Saban
Press Conference

 

NICK SABAN: That was quite a fanfare, I appreciate that.
Great to see everyone. Hope you’ve had a wonderful
summer. We’ve certainly had our share of good times,
family times, this summer. SEC Media Day is one of my
favorites because this means we are closer to football
season. This is kind of the unofficial kickoff for football
season from my standpoint and maybe from yours as well.
This is the first time we’ve been in Nashville, and I think
this is a great place and certainly in the heart of SEC
country and a great venue for all of us.

I think you all know that we went on vacation to Italy, just to
clear that up, that was our 50th wedding anniversary gift to
Ms. Terry from some of our friends, which I successfully
got out of for two years. Failed to be able to get out of it
this year. Didn’t really want to go.

But it was a fabulous time. Fabulous. And I would
recommend anybody do it, lots of good culture, great
architecture, art, a lot of good things to see.

And I thought nobody would know us anywhere that we
went, and we got ‘Roll Tided’ everywhere we went.
Even in the Ferrari plant, we had a tour of the Ferrari plant
and these cats don’t even speak English and we’re getting
Roll Tide. I guess we must have a pretty decent brand, I’m
talking about the University of Alabama now, but it was an
enjoyable trip and I’d recommend it to anyone.

We’ve had a very good off-season with our team. Good
off-season program. Good spring practice. Very good
summer. The team is taking shape. We are still evolving
as a team. Lots of new players, some experienced players
to go with some of the good, young players that we have in
the program. New coaches evolving into the system, and
trying to get the young players on our team to be able to
develop in the system and so far the players are very
enthusiastic and very committed to developing the talent
that we have on our team.

I think that that’s a critical piece of sort of growing your
team and developing your team is that you can take the
talent that you have and create the right mindset to go with
that talent because talent alone is not going to help them
be successful because they are heading someplace in the
SEC as well as in the NFL if they have the opportunity to
get there, where everybody has talent.

So if you don’t have the right mindset to go with it, then
you’re never going to bring that talent to fruition, nor will
you be able to create the kind of competitive spirit that you
need and we are talking about having resiliency and
perseverance and ability to overcome adversity, and
discipline to pay attention to detail and do the little things
right.

One thing that kind of goes with all that is humility. When
you have humility, you always think there’s a better way.
So you are always searching. You’re always listening.
You’re always trying to learn. There for you very well very
good relationships with teachers, parents and coaches and
people who are trying to help you and you have gratitude
and you appreciate that, and that creates for great
relationships on your team. And if you just think you’re
really, really good and you’re better than everybody else,
sometimes you don’t take those and develop those
relationships with the same amount of gratitude and you
don’t have the same kind of team chemistry that goes with
players and coaches alike.

So we want to stay focused on the process of what we
need to do to play winning football at every position. And
I’m not here to create expectations for our team. Lots of
people will do that. But expectations in some way are a
premeditated way to create disappointment. I think you
can look at it in your life and that’s why I say we need to
say process-oriented, not focused on the outcome, but
focused on the things that we need to do to get the
outcome that we want, and you know, if you have high
expectations for what you want to accomplish and it
doesn’t work out, it makes you focus on the outcome and it
doesn’t work out and you’re very disappointed.

So we would rather stay focused on what we need to do to
get the outcome to be the best we can be as a team at
every position and with every player. We’ve had really
good success in a lot of areas in our program but one that
I’d like to mention is academics. You know, you’re really
going to college to prepare yourself for the day you can’t
play football. That’s what we always tell our players. So
we want our players to have the personal development
that’s going to help them create the right mindset to be
successful in whatever they choose to do, and we also
want them to develop a career off the field, which I think is
very important to long-term success because NFL stands
for Not for Long. There’s only a three-and-a-half, four-year
life expectancy in that league.

So it’s important for players to develop a career off the
field, and we’ve had a tremendous amount of success, I
think we are in the Top-5 in the country in APR at 995. Our
team for the second time in the history of University of
Alabama has over a 3.0 grade point average and we have
like 650 players that have already earned degrees since
2007 and we have been there.

So this is one of the challenges, I think, to have a program
that creates tremendous value for players on and off the
field. The three players that we have here today, JC
Latham, Kool-Aid McKinstry, Dallas Turner, all are on track
to graduate. You know, they are all really good players at
their position. They have been great ambassadors for the
University of Alabama in terms of the class and the
character that they have and we are very, very proud of
who they are as people, students and players.
The NFL Draft was pretty good to us again this year. We
had ten players drafted, three first-round guys. We’ve had
123 players drafted in our time at Alabama and 44 first
round draft picks, and this is part of what we want to do,
too: Help players develop a career on the field and that’s
really important to us.

We have some new coaches that I’ve been asked about,
two new coordinators, which it’s always the most difficult to
replace people on your staff that are in positions of
leadership. But Tommy Rees is a bright young guy who
has done a really, really good job, players relate well to
him. He relates well to them. He’s a good presenter. He’s
very bright and understands the game conceptually very,
very well and has done a really good job of implementing
our offense and adding to it things that I think will benefit us
in the future.

Kevin Steele was a long-time defensive coordinator in this
league and has coached with us a couple times before,
and he knows the system. He knows what’s expected.
And Rob Bala is a new inside linebackers coach.
Our team has worked really hard. I’m encouraged by the
progress that the team has made. I think every team has
to create its own identity by what they do in terms of how
they come together as a team, how people buy into the
principles and values of the organization, respect and trust
those things, respect and trust each other, have positive
energy about how they go about their work and how they
impact and affect other people, and everybody has got to
learn to be responsible for their own self-determination.

You know, football is a great game, and it takes
responsibility to do my job but you also have a
responsibility to the other ten guys to do your job because
they are all depending on you. So we are all depending on
each other. Football is one of the most inter-dependent
games of any game played where everybody has to do
their job for things to work out like you want it to work out.
So I think we’ve got some good, young talent on our team.
I think we have got some experience on our team. I think
we have a pretty good mindset on our team. Our team
seems to be pretty hungry this year and motivated, like all
teams, we probably have some issues that are created by
graduations and people leaving the program. Obviously
the No. 1 that people are most interested in is the
quarterback. We had a great quarterback, won a Heisman
trophy. Bryce did a fantastic job for us.

So we have three guys that are competing for that position
right now. All of those players are getting better, and it’s
important for us that all those players get better. I don’t
think anybody has actually separated themselves yet to
this with the and I don’t think it’s something that we are
trying to rush.

I used the analogy earlier, Grandma Saban used to bake
the best cakes in the world, and I used to stand by the
oven when I was a kid and say, “When is this cake going to
be done? When is this cake going to be done?”
She said, “If I don’t let it go through and take it out of the
oven too soon, it will turn to mush and it won’t be a really
good cake.”

So I think we have to sort of let this develop and make sure
we let the cake bake until somebody separates themselves
and all the players are working hard. They all have a good
attitude. They are all competing well.

At other positions on offense, we probably, I think, are
improved. The receivers are same guys, older, more
experienced. We have got good runners, offensive line,
doesn’t have a lot of experience returning but we have
some really good young players who have developed
nicely. Tight end, we have a transfer that can help us there
and some young guys that are developing.

Defensively, we have got six starters back, all five guys
that left got drafted, so challenging to replace all those
guys, but again, I’m pleased with the young people that we
have in the program that can develop, even though they
may lack some experience. I think there are properly guys
that can do a good job for us. We do have both specialists
back. Special teams has been an asset for us, and
certainly we want to continue to be able to affect games
and impact games with how we play on special teams, and
having two good specialists certainly is a good start toward
that.