WATCH: Saban predicted another title appearance for Clemson


by - Assoc. Editor -
    |

Alabama head coach Nick Saban told Dabo Swinney last year that he thought that Clemson would be back this year for another chance at a title.

Click here if video does not load

Q. Have you had anything like that?
NICK SABAN: No, that's a pretty dramatic opening, kind of enjoyable.

Q. Are you having fun, Coach?
NICK SABAN: I think you enjoy the challenge when you're in this position. Players have done a wonderful job all year of creating an opportunity for themselves, and as a coach, you want to do the best job that you can to try to put them in the best position where they have a chance to be successful, and that's always challenging, but it's always a lot of fun.

Q. We hear about the process a lot. Is there an overriding philosophy that defines the process?
NICK SABAN: I think what we're trying to say when people talk about the process is there's a certain way that you go about whatever it is you're trying to accomplish, and you define that so everybody clearly understands what their role is. Everybody has got to buy into it, or it doesn't really work.

But I think that's really what we're talking about. And I probably learned this most from Coach Belichick when I was with him at Cleveland. I learned a little bit about it all the way through from some great mentors, but he was really a well-organized, process-oriented type guy, and was all about putting the players in the best chance to be successful, whether it was personal development, whether in our case, academics, developing a career off the field, or putting them in the best position to be successful as a player on the field.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: No, because I think it's just -- I think there's been a lot of great college coaches. We've had great opportunity at Alabama and other places that we've been because we've had a lot of great coaches and a lot of great players. They've done a really good job of buying into doing the things the way we want to do them, and that's given them a very good chance to be successful.

Q. It seems like you like to give coaches a second chance; is that because they're good coaches or because you want to help them?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think first of all, it starts with the fact that they've got a really good track record as coaches, and whatever their issue has been that has sidetracked their career, if that's something that's manageable and you think that they can add value to your organization by what they bring, minus the issues, then I think it's worthwhile to give them an opportunity. And it's all relative to other people who are available who could do the same thing relative to what they would add to the organization.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, he's a really, really good player, very athletic guy for his size. They use him extremely well systematically in their offense. They have other significant challenges, as well, and because of the way they use him, his physical size and athleticism, he does create some challenges for you. You almost have to play nickel all the time against these guys, so you're going to end up with a smaller guy covering the guy a lot, and a lot of their perimeter runs and RPOs are actually plays where he becomes a little bit of a physical mismatch sometimes as a blocker.

Q. What concerns you most about Clemson?
NICK SABAN: The quarterback. Their entire system, their entire scheme, but Deshaun Watson, I've said this all week long, is probably the most dynamic player in college football, maybe the best player in college football relative to what he does for his team. A combination of his ability to pass the ball accurately, execute their offense in the passing game, as well as his physical ability to run the ball and add quarterback runs to their whole system of very good players, whether it's running backs or wide receivers, and he can utilize all the talent on their team because of his skill set.

Q. How do you know Brent Key and what do you like about him?
NICK SABAN: Well, he was recommended a long time ago by some of our coaches on our staff. When I say long time, I'm saying maybe three or four years ago, and we actually interviewed him and really liked him. A lot of times when you interview guys, you come out of it saying, well, I'd really like to hire that guy someday, but maybe in comparison, you end up going in a different direction and then when the opportunity presents itself later on, you have a really good feel about what you'd like to do, and that's certainly what happened in Brent's case.

Q. Did you talk to O'Leary about him at all?
NICK SABAN: Oh, yeah, several times.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: I haven't seen him yet, but I'm sure he's going to want to get even.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, we'd like for Jalen to execute the offense and take what the defense gives and Clemson has a very good defense and got a very good front. They do a lot of stuff to pressure you. So he's going to have to do a good job of understanding and executing what we need for him to do to have a chance to be successful and take what the defense gives and not try to force plays, not try to force the ball, not try to force -- got to read and see what he's -- and just execute and do what he's supposed to do and trust and believe that that's going to help him have the best chance to be successful on that play.

And he's had a good week, so hopefully he'll be able to take it to the field Monday night.

Q. We know that you don't necessarily like (inaudible). What did that time period in your career do to help shape what has turned out to be your career?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think Michigan State is a place that's very dear to my heart, A, because of the relationships that we developed there in the 10 years that we were there, five years as a defensive coordinator, which George Perles was the first coach that gave me the opportunity to be in a position of responsibility like being a coordinator, and I think that was very significant in my development as a coach and learning football because he had been with the Steelers for a long, long time and they had very good defense. And then to have the opportunity to be the head coach there for five years after being a head coach for one year at Toledo, I certainly learned a lot, but I think the number one thing is the relationships, because we were at the place for 10 years, and if there's any place that probably seems like home, we've been at Alabama now for 10 years, so it certainly seems like home, but that would be the other place that's sort of home away from home.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: It's going really well. He's done a nice job. The players have responded really well to him. He's very well-organized, and it's going very well.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think there's a lot of things that Deshaun Watson does well. Pretty hard to put your finger on just one thing. But I think one of the things is he throws the ball on time very well. You look at -- sometimes you look at an athletic quarterback, and you think, well, this guy is going to run around and extend plays all the time. He does that extremely well when he needs to. But that's not his style of play. He reads the defense, he gets the ball out of his hand quickly, he does a really good job of reading what you're playing on defense and tries to take advantage of it relative to where he needs to go with the ball.

I think trying to disguise things is important, but I also think not allowing him to extend plays, which is where -- they made some big plays on us a year ago where the defense breaks down because of his athleticism and then he takes advantage of it.

Q. When you have a guy like Sark, what kind of advice do you give him?
NICK SABAN: Sark has done this for a long time, and he's called plays for a long time. He's got a lot of experience, he's got a lot of knowledge. I think he's very well organized in his approach, and I'd tell him what I tell any coach; we've prepared to do certain things in certain situations; let's stick with the plan. Until we have to adjust the plan, that's what the players know, that's what we've practiced, that's what we need to go out and try to do, and that's going to give us the best chance to be able to execute and be successful. I think he'll do that.

Q. What's the difference in preparation in bringing Bo along?
NICK SABAN: Well, Bo, we've always had high expectations for Bo. We've always had high aspirations for what he can contribute to the program, and I think it's been a little bit more -- his history as a player relative to whether it's injury or some circumstance that has sort of created a little bit of an up and down for him to get to where he is right now, but certainly he's performed well enough to be a starter, and we certainly consider him a starter, and we think he's playing as well at his position as anybody, especially on our team right now.

Q. Talk about separating the atmosphere from the business at hand.
NICK SABAN: Well, I think any time that anything of significance gets accomplished, you know, it usually can start with the words "I decided." I decided to stay focused, I decided to not have regrets about how I prepared, how I bought in, you know, how I trusted and believed in what I was supposed to do, the confidence that I had, the confidence in my teammates.

You know, so all the players have to decide that, and you have to be able to separate what you hear me talk about a lot is the external sort of distractions that go along with something like this. I use the term clutter sometimes.

So you have to make the right choices, and you can't do what you feel like doing, you have to choose to do the things that you decided to do that are important that are going to help you be successful, and that's what we try to emphasize with our players, and I think the more maturity a player has, probably the better opportunity you have to get that done with them.

Q. You've experienced all of this in several different settings. What do you think about the way the College Football Playoff organization has done?
NICK SABAN: Well, I've only been here for a day, but I think it's a marvelous environment, and the people here have been very hospitable and accommodating. Very positive feeling about the welcome that we got when we came here.

I think the College Football Playoff is a great venue for fans. I think sometimes it's a little difficult for players, especially with the time between the last game of the season and the first playoff game and then the turnaround for the next game. But I think in the system that we have right now, everybody is doing a fantastic job of -- in terms of how we're presenting this and how it's being done.

Q. Here in the state of Florida (inaudible) cream of the crop. Has that enabled you to be as successful as you have?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think, first of all, we have a lot of players from all over. We have a lot of players from Alabama, and I think that it's important for us to do a great job of recruiting our own state and to try to do the best job we can, I always say, in a five-hour radius of Tuscaloosa, which includes several other states. But I think now in recruiting because of all the national recruiting services, it's a little easier to gain access to who the players are all over the country, so that's probably expanded national recruiting a little bit.

I think it's all relative to the number of players in your state. You know, Florida is a great state for talent. There are three teams here that all have had success winning National Championships or whatever. But there's quite a bit of talent here, too.

So maybe we don't have quite the numbers in Alabama and we have two schools that both have good programs, so it's always very, very competitive in your own state with the competition, and some of those battles we win and some of them we don't, but we've had a lot of really, really good players from Alabama who have certainly contributed to our success, especially when we first went there. Julio Jones, Mark Barron, DJ Fluker, a lot of players in our state that were really, really good football players for us that came to Alabama when we really weren't any good. Players come now because we are good, which is a good thing, and we have a good program, but all those players came when we were 7-6.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, Clemson's defense, A, they're very athletic. They've got a really good front. Very active linebackers. They're very well-coached. They have a good scheme. They create a lot of negative plays with their pressure, their scheme, the disguise, the things that they do. Their secondary does a nice job of executing. So all around this is a really, really good defensive team that the statistical information that they've been able to sort of accumulate through the course of 14 games sort of dictates that, as well.

It's going to be a real challenge for us up front as well as trying to beat them in the back end.

Q. Jalen, what have you noticed about his preparation and speak to the fact that he never seems to get rattled.
NICK SABAN: Well, I think Jalen has, for a freshman, really good poise, and probably the most redeeming quality that has helped him throughout the year is that he doesn't get frustrated easily, and when he does have a bad play or make a mistake, it doesn't affect him for the next three or four plays. You know, he can move on. He can focus on the next play and try to execute the next play. There hasn't been many times this year when he actually gets a little rattled, and I think that's the thing that's been very helpful to his consistency as a player regardless of where we've played or what the stage has been.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: You know, I've said this before, but this team has shown a resiliency to sort of -- whether they put themselves in bad situations or I guess the Ole Miss game would sort of define this a little bit when we got behind 24-7 on the road in a tough place to play with a freshman quarterback and then go on like a -- I don't know exactly what the numbers were -- like 45-3 run for the next 30 minutes of the game. I think that probably defines this team the best is they've always shown a competitive resiliency that has benefitted them in whatever situation they've created for themselves.

Q. What are the changes you defense needs to make from last year to this year?
NICK SABAN: Well, you know, Clemson is a very good offensive team. They present a lot of challenges. I think you have to give them a lot of credit for what they were able to accomplish last year. We didn't really always execute as well as we'd like against them. We made some mental errors and things that they took advantage of that I think it's going to be very important that we don't do things like that. But there's a lot of challenges there. I mean, they've got really good receivers. They've got a really good quarterback. They've got a good running game. They've got a good scheme, run and pass. It's tied together very well. So it's going to be really important for us to do a really good job of executing together as a unit, and we're going to have to play extremely well in all areas: Up front, linebacker, secondary, and trying to execute against the quality of people that we're going to play against.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think a lot of our players last year came out of this game, even though we won, not feeling like we played really well on defense. You know, hopefully that's a bit of a motivating factor for our guys to try to do a better job this year.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think that early on in sort of our philosophy of quarterbacks, we were a little bit more in the beginning at Alabama and other places that we've been sort of a pro-style approach in offense, so we look for a pro-style quarterback, and maybe didn't put the emphasis on athleticism, and then when we played with Blake Sims, who was a very good athlete, we sort of said, look, the way college football has changed, the way offense has changed, the spread, the RPOs, the issues that it creates defensively when you have an athletic quarterback who still has to be able to throw the ball effectively and we still have our elements of pro-style in our system, we actually are probably looking for, if we can find, the kind of guy that can be a pro-style quarterback but is athletic enough to challenge a defense, as well.

I think we philosophically changed a bit, and Jalen certainly fit that, but I think we would have recruited Jalen 10 years ago because we were impressed with him as a passer, as well.

Q. Have you stopped to think about (inaudible)?
NICK SABAN: Well, when you're in a leadership position, I think that you would like to think that you're being somebody that somebody wants to emulate, that maybe you affect other people because you care in a positive way. If that's true, then we would be pleased that we were able to accomplish that.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I hope it doesn't matter. You know, I've played in a lot of games where it was less than zero, so to me, that's not a bad weather game, but I guess to our players, it would be. But I don't really think that it should be a factor in the game. I think when it's less than 32 degrees that -- this is me in the old days coaching at the Cleveland Browns or Michigan State or Syracuse or someplace that it really got cold, that when it got less than that, I think it really physically can affect players in terms of the energy that you use to stay warm versus the energy that you use to try to play and execute. I think if it's 50 degrees, I think it may be a little uncomfortable, but I don't think it really should affect anyone's ability to play the game.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: I don't really have a choice. I mean, I think the field is going to be 53 yards wide and 100 yards deep wherever you play, and the numbers are going to be the numbers, the hash mark is going to be the hash mark. I don't think it matters. I don't. And I don't think it should matter to the players.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, we don't ever talk about winning a National Championship, we don't ever talk about winning the SEC Championship. You know, we basically talk about what do we need to do with every individual in our organization to help them be as good as they can be. That's how we start. And that's how we stay. You know, we talk about what do you have to do as a player to dominate your box, whether it's technical execution, physical development, attitude development, whatever it might be, to try to help you be the best player.

Our pyramid for success is we've got to be a team, so everybody has got to respect and trust the principles and values of the organization and each other, and everybody has got to have a positive attitude about what we're trying to accomplish as a group, which is for you to be all you can be as a person, as a student, and as a football player. And then everybody has got to be responsible for their own self-determination. I mean, you've got to make the choices and decisions to do the things that you need to do to have a chance to be all you can be, and that takes a lot of hard work, takes a lot of perseverance, takes an ability to overcome adversity because things are not going to always go exactly like you planned, and we talk about you've got to be a champion before you can win a championship, and that's really what we're trying to develop with our players.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, sometimes you have things that seem like you're taking a chance, but those are calculated risk. I think that you take based on whether it's the other team's assignment or something that you can take advantage of, whether it's offense, defense or special teams, and we had worked on that and thought by the way they were lined up we had an opportunity to be able to execute it, and players did a really good job of executing it. I felt like the way the game was going at the time and the respect that we had for them and their offense that was a little bit like a basketball game. When the basketball game comes down to the last two minutes, you'd rather be tied with the ball than tied with the other team having the ball. We wanted to try to create something, and we were able to score on the next drive, so I think that helped us gain momentum in the game, and I think it helped us finish the game.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Sark came in during fall camp just to visit and stayed with us for a week. We spent some time together during that time. He watched practice. I asked for his observations. Before he left, he said he was supposed to do some TV work or something, but he would really like to get involved in a program someplace, and if there was any opportunity for him to do it here -- and I liked him in the week that he spent with us. I told him, I said, there may be some opportunity for you to do that here, but since we play USC first, I'd rather wait until after that game until we sort of do it because I wouldn't want people to think that we're trying to bring you in to create some advantage or whatever.

And that's basically what we did. I think he was helpful all year long, helping in the planning and assisting in some of the things that we did all year long. I think it worked out well.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think it's all about this team and what they've created for themselves and the opportunity that they have. I think all those things that you just said are probably true. But we control how we think, what we do, what's meaningful to us. You know, I mean, I think our players have to understand that we played in a lot of games this year where we always see those signs that say we want Bama, so this is not unique for us.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think all the things that I talked about before I said be a champion, that's what we try to do.

Q. What kind of relationship do you have with Coach Swinney? I think it was reported that last year after the championship game you guys had dinner and you told him that Clemson was going to be back here this year. Is that true, and what kind of off-the-field relationship do you guys have?
NICK SABAN: I think good. You know, we both have Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande, whatever people call it, we both go there some, and he's had a place there for a long time, we've had a place there for four or five years now, and because of our schedules, we end up there sometimes at the same time. Dabo is an Alabama guy, coached at Alabama, he's from Alabama, so I've known him for a long time. But this situation sort of offers us the opportunity to get together sometimes and talk about things. And we do that a lot.

I did tell him last year, because of the respect I have for his team and the players they had coming back, that I thought especially with his quarterback coming back and the continuity that that would give him, that they would have a great opportunity to be here again next year, or this year now.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, it helped us a lot because he's athletic and especially on the quarterback run part of it because I think sometimes it's hard to find a guy that can execute and do the things that a quarterback like Deshaun Watson can do. Jalen was very helpful in that. It's been a little bit more difficult for us this year. We had John Parker do it for a day at home, and we had Blake do it for a day at home. But they obviously couldn't come here on the trip, so we have to use the quarterbacks that we have on the squad, which Cooper does it sometimes for us, as well.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, the thing I try to do in the game is focus on the next play and try to get the players to focus on the next play, and whether things went well or poorly on the last play, make sure that the people in the organization that have the responsibilities to make sure that we get that corrected so it doesn't happen again, whether we don't block punt protection correctly or whether we don't cover a kick correctly, whether we mis-block a play on offense, pass protection, make a mental error on defense in coverage or gap control up front, whether they do something different that we weren't prepared for. So it's sort of a constant focus on the task, next play, next situation, sort of anticipate what that may be, like if we're on offense and there's two minutes to go in the gap I might flip over to the defense and say, Jeremy, go through what we're going to do two minutes before the half. Review that.

So it's sort of just a constant trying to manage the game to make sure that you're doing all the things you can for the players to make the adjustments that you need to make so they can continue to be successful.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think he was really good last year, and I think he's really good now. It would be pretty difficult when you're talking about a guy that is very efficient, very effective, has played with tremendous consistency all year long, to say one thing that makes him better now than what he was then, because I thought he played phenomenally well in our game a year ago.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, we always evaluate the game that we just played regardless of the circumstance, having another game or whatever, because I think you always want to do sort of a quality control on that game. Here's what we did well, here's what we did poorly, here's things you need to improve on. So if you do have an opportunity to play somebody again, it's the first thing you look at.

So you know, we did that after last year's game, but we also worked very hard this week on trying to get our players to understand the things that they need to do to be able to contain their offense and his ability to execute that offense very effectively.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, there's not one thing. I think there's a lot of things. You've got to fit their running plays really well. You've got to adjust to their formations really well. You've got to be able to cover in the back end, because they can take advantage of what you do on defense in a lot of different ways. I think there's a lot of things you have to do well defensively and you have to play together as a group and everybody has got to do their job well.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Oh, I didn't read up on anything. I think you have a little knowledge of history, you have a knowledge of tradition, you have some knowledge of opportunity to be successful, commitment that the people have from an administrative standpoint to be successful, and see if you think you would be a good fit in a situation like that. I guess that's pretty much what we did.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: No, and I don't think of that and I don't listen to that, because really in this business it's what did you do on the last play, what did you do in the last game. That's what people evaluate you on. I mean, someday is someday. I'm worried about today and I'm worried about tomorrow and I'm worried about the game that's going to happen the day after that. I'm not really concerned about that. I'm concerned about our players, our team, our organization, giving them the best opportunity to be successful, and that's what we're trying to focus on.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think systematically they're a little different. LSU's defense is a very, very good defensive team. They're more of a 3-4 team. Clemson is more of a four-man front, even though they do have odd packages that they run. But I think if you want to make a -- I don't like to compare people, but I think from a talent standpoint, there's a lot of similarities. Clemson has probably got bigger, more physical guys up front, very active linebackers, very similar to LSU, and very athletic in the secondary, very similar to LSU.

Q. What is it about Jonathan Allen --
NICK SABAN: Well, you know, Jonathan is a hard-working guy that's very bright when it comes to football knowledge and instincts. He's very talented athletically in terms of initial quickness, can run, is very athletic, and he's a good football player, run and pass, relative to the techniques that he plays. So I think all of the above makes him a very, very effective player.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: I'm happy for the Dolphins to be in the playoffs. I don't necessarily follow the NFL. Sunday is a really big workday when you're in college football. It's the day after you played on Saturday. You're grading the film. You're starting to get ready for the next game. I don't know that I've watched an NFL game all season long, so other than checking the scores on Monday for five minutes, I couldn't tell you much about who's doing what. I always like to kind of check on our players and some of our coaches, Jason Garrett or somebody like that or people that have coached for you in the past. You like to see them do well. Adam was on our staff, so I'm happy to see him doing well.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think the first thing you said is we have good players. I've never -- I don't know how many years I've been coaching now, but I've never remembered coaching a bad player to play good. It's just trying to take the good players that you have and trying to develop them to be the best players that they can be and understand the scheme and understand the system, understand the importance of playing with togetherness and everybody doing their job. I think those things would probably all contribute significantly to having consistency in success on defense.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think, first of all, the basic fundamental things that make good football players, being physical, playing with toughness, good tackling, good fundamental execution in the secondary, being able to cover, play the ball, attack the ball, you know, you've got basic goals. You've got to be able to stop the run. Can't give up big plays. Got to play well on third down and the red zone, got to be consistent in the kind of pass defense that you play, get a lot of turnovers, affect the quarterback. If you do those things, you become hard to score on, and that's the number one goal when you play defense is are you hard to score on, how many points did you give up.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: You know, I talk to our players quite a bit, all players, including the quarterback. But what I talk to the players about is not necessarily something that I would share publicly. You know, we do communicate. We do have messages of things that we want to try to get across to our players that are important. But you know, I mean, it's kind of internal.

Q. We've been talking to the players about what impact (inaudible)?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think it's all about the players. I think coaching this game is all about the players. I think you really appreciate all the hard work that the players did all year long to create this opportunity for themselves, and you want to do everything you can as a coach to put them in the best position to have success when they play in a game like this because you know this is their goal, this is what they wanted to accomplish, and this is one of the things that define the legacy of a team when you have a chance to win a championship. I'd love to have that happen for the players.

Q. What about personally for them after they move on?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think coaching players is a lot like being a parent. Sometimes your children disappoint you with things that they do, and sometimes they make you very proud. But I think as parents, we always feel good when we see them grow and develop in a way that's going to help them be more successful in life, and that's probably all of our goals as a parent and certainly our goal as a coach with our players, and when they go on and they feel like the experience that they had at Alabama actually contributed to them having a chance to be more successful personally and in their future, whether it's as football players or in some career, that has a certain amount of positive self-gratification.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: I think fans are always important. I think they create a spirit that can be uplifting emotionally and very helpful to know that what you're doing, what you're working for is important to a lot of people. But I also think that being able to stay focused on what you need to do is really important, as well, even though I think fans do a lot to make the game what it is.

Q. Do you take great pride in developing (inaudible)?
NICK SABAN: Well, those guys were all really, really good coaches. Hopefully they learned something that has been helpful to them. But those guys all did a fabulous job for us, and they were really good coaches. I mean, I learned from every guy that I ever coached for, and I learned from our assistant coaches. They developed me, and hopefully there's something that we do that we share that helps them have a better chance to be successful.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, Jeremy has done a really good job. I think with the players, I think the players respond well to him. I think he does a really good job of preparing them for the games, and I think he's done a good job of adjusting during the games to help us. I think Karl has done a good job -- these guys all have worked for us before, so that's all helpful, I think.

Q. How much does Bear Bryant still (inaudible) at Alabama?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think Bear Bryant is probably the greatest coach that ever coached college football, and that would be my vote, and it would stay that way for a long time, because he had success over a long, long period of time. The environment of college football changed dramatically during his time, and he won championships running the wishbone, he won championships passing the ball. He effectively changed with whatever his players could do and whatever was required at the time. He had a great impact on integration of college football in the South, which may be his most significant accomplishment, and I think a lot of those things that he accomplished, I don't know that anyone else could provide the leadership that could match that.

Now, if you want to talk about the success that he had, that's rivaled by no one, as well. And he does loom large, and we're happy for that because the things that he did created our opportunity to be successful because of the tradition he established at the University of Alabama.

Q. How are you a better coach now than when you won your first national title at LSU?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think it is really difficult to have players deal with success. Everyone is more willing to change, improve when bad things happen. When good things happen, it's very difficult to keep people focused on what they need to do to continue to improve and not get complacent about what they need to do to be better, and I probably have gotten a little better at that.

You can recall this, I think the worst thing that can happen is if you play bad and win, because now the players don't want to respond to what they need to do to improve, but you know as a coach you didn't execute very well, and everybody remembers the Bluegrass Miracle, where they dumped the Gatorade on the other coach before the game was over, and then we hit the pass and win. We played horrible in that game. We played horrible. But nobody ever remembers what happened next. We got beat as bad the next week as we ever got beat in all the time I was at LSU and it was by Alabama, and because nobody responded to -- we didn't play very well, but we won. So what's the big deal here?

I think we've gotten a little better at managing those situations, because if you don't, you can't be consistent.

Q. What sets Tampa apart from other areas of the country?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think Tampa is a beautiful city, first of all. I think there's wonderful people here that have been very warm and welcoming us here. The hospitality has been very, very good, and we think this is one of the real unique, beautiful places in the country.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I coached with Bill's dad at the Naval Academy in 1991, and I was, I don't know, 27, 28. I have to figure it out. Maybe 29 or 30. I can't remember.

And Bill used to come home in the summertime to visit his parents, and we would spend time talking about football, and we got to know each other, and then we sort of continued to have this sort of personal relationship.

I remember when I was at the Houston Oilers and Jerry Glanville had a rule that you couldn't meet with any other coaches in the NFL because nobody wanted to share anybody's secrets, and Bill was with Parcells at the Giants, and he had the same rule. We would go to West Point and stay in a hotel and talk ball.

It's just been a long time, and then when we coached together for four years in Cleveland, which is difficult, you know, it was not a good team, a lot of changes needed to be made, and we sort of rebuilt that and worked together on that, I think obviously professionally and personally made the relationship even stronger, and we stay in touch and talk personnel, football, all those types of things, and we've had a lot of people on our staff that have tie-in, too.

I think there's a lot of reasons for it. But the relationship is something that we really appreciate.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I answered this question before, so I'll try to do the best I can. We would never add anybody to our organization that we didn't think would create value in terms of how they could affect the players in a positive way. And I think if you look at the track record of anybody that we've brought to our organization, they've had a lot of success in what they've done in the past relative to that, and there may have been some issue or something that sidetracked them, and then it just becomes a matter of can we manage that issue, and do we think this person can be a positive -- in terms of affecting our organization in a positive way relative to somebody else.

So I think that's more of how I view it. Maybe some other people sort of condemn things that happen more harshly. I look at it like no one is perfect. We all have flaws. So it just depends on what that is and how it can be managed, and can that person actually create value in your organization and help your players be successful.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, he was with us all season long, and we saw -- we didn't see any problems or anything in terms of -- and his contribution was very positive. His personality is very positive. His organizational skills are very positive. He's a very good teacher, so there was a lot of positive things that he contributed over the course of the season that made us feel comfortable making him a part of the organization.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I really wasn't coaching back then, so I can't really speak from any experience. I think it would be better to ask that question to somebody who coached then and coached now, but I would say when you say it's harder to win, it may be a little harder to win a championship now because of the format of how you do it. I mean, there was a time where we didn't even have an SEC Championship Game. It was strictly just play the games and go to a bowl game and everybody voted and decided who had the best team, and sometimes they probably got it right and sometimes maybe they didn't.

But now you have to win a conference championship game. You have to win a playoff game, and you have to win a title game, and even when we just had the National Championship Game, every year that we played in the SEC Championship Game, we played somebody who went either on to the Championship Game if we lost, or we went on to the Championship Game. So we were playing -- we played Florida twice, and we were 1-2, so that was a playoff game. We played Georgia, they were three, all right, so that was a playoff game in essence.

Even when that was the format, it was harder to win a championship because you had to go beat another team.

When you say it's harder to win, I think it's always harder to win, but if you say it's harder to win a championship, it may be harder to win a championship now because of the format and the teams you have to play.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think there are a lot of good teams now, and I think there are a lot of good programs, but -- and I think as the years have gone on, the rules have been sort of created in college football to create parity.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, Tom Herman is -- I mean, I've only known Tom for the last three or four years, but we visited -- he's visited us. We've visited staffs. We've played against him. I think he's one of the finest coaches in college football right now. Very good mind and great personality.
Q. Have you had anything like that?
NICK SABAN: No, that's a pretty dramatic opening, kind of enjoyable.

Q. Are you having fun, Coach?
NICK SABAN: I think you enjoy the challenge when you're in this position. Players have done a wonderful job all year of creating an opportunity for themselves, and as a coach, you want to do the best job that you can to try to put them in the best position where they have a chance to be successful, and that's always challenging, but it's always a lot of fun.

Q. We hear about the process a lot. Is there an overriding philosophy that defines the process?
NICK SABAN: I think what we're trying to say when people talk about the process is there's a certain way that you go about whatever it is you're trying to accomplish, and you define that so everybody clearly understands what their role is. Everybody has got to buy into it, or it doesn't really work.

But I think that's really what we're talking about. And I probably learned this most from Coach Belichick when I was with him at Cleveland. I learned a little bit about it all the way through from some great mentors, but he was really a well-organized, process-oriented type guy, and was all about putting the players in the best chance to be successful, whether it was personal development, whether in our case, academics, developing a career off the field, or putting them in the best position to be successful as a player on the field.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: No, because I think it's just -- I think there's been a lot of great college coaches. We've had great opportunity at Alabama and other places that we've been because we've had a lot of great coaches and a lot of great players. They've done a really good job of buying into doing the things the way we want to do them, and that's given them a very good chance to be successful.

Q. It seems like you like to give coaches a second chance; is that because they're good coaches or because you want to help them?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think first of all, it starts with the fact that they've got a really good track record as coaches, and whatever their issue has been that has sidetracked their career, if that's something that's manageable and you think that they can add value to your organization by what they bring, minus the issues, then I think it's worthwhile to give them an opportunity. And it's all relative to other people who are available who could do the same thing relative to what they would add to the organization.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, he's a really, really good player, very athletic guy for his size. They use him extremely well systematically in their offense. They have other significant challenges, as well, and because of the way they use him, his physical size and athleticism, he does create some challenges for you. You almost have to play nickel all the time against these guys, so you're going to end up with a smaller guy covering the guy a lot, and a lot of their perimeter runs and RPOs are actually plays where he becomes a little bit of a physical mismatch sometimes as a blocker.

Q. What concerns you most about Clemson?
NICK SABAN: The quarterback. Their entire system, their entire scheme, but Deshaun Watson, I've said this all week long, is probably the most dynamic player in college football, maybe the best player in college football relative to what he does for his team. A combination of his ability to pass the ball accurately, execute their offense in the passing game, as well as his physical ability to run the ball and add quarterback runs to their whole system of very good players, whether it's running backs or wide receivers, and he can utilize all the talent on their team because of his skill set.

Q. How do you know Brent Key and what do you like about him?
NICK SABAN: Well, he was recommended a long time ago by some of our coaches on our staff. When I say long time, I'm saying maybe three or four years ago, and we actually interviewed him and really liked him. A lot of times when you interview guys, you come out of it saying, well, I'd really like to hire that guy someday, but maybe in comparison, you end up going in a different direction and then when the opportunity presents itself later on, you have a really good feel about what you'd like to do, and that's certainly what happened in Brent's case.

Q. Did you talk to O'Leary about him at all?
NICK SABAN: Oh, yeah, several times.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: I haven't seen him yet, but I'm sure he's going to want to get even.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, we'd like for Jalen to execute the offense and take what the defense gives and Clemson has a very good defense and got a very good front. They do a lot of stuff to pressure you. So he's going to have to do a good job of understanding and executing what we need for him to do to have a chance to be successful and take what the defense gives and not try to force plays, not try to force the ball, not try to force -- got to read and see what he's -- and just execute and do what he's supposed to do and trust and believe that that's going to help him have the best chance to be successful on that play.

And he's had a good week, so hopefully he'll be able to take it to the field Monday night.

Q. We know that you don't necessarily like (inaudible). What did that time period in your career do to help shape what has turned out to be your career?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think Michigan State is a place that's very dear to my heart, A, because of the relationships that we developed there in the 10 years that we were there, five years as a defensive coordinator, which George Perles was the first coach that gave me the opportunity to be in a position of responsibility like being a coordinator, and I think that was very significant in my development as a coach and learning football because he had been with the Steelers for a long, long time and they had very good defense. And then to have the opportunity to be the head coach there for five years after being a head coach for one year at Toledo, I certainly learned a lot, but I think the number one thing is the relationships, because we were at the place for 10 years, and if there's any place that probably seems like home, we've been at Alabama now for 10 years, so it certainly seems like home, but that would be the other place that's sort of home away from home.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: It's going really well. He's done a nice job. The players have responded really well to him. He's very well-organized, and it's going very well.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think there's a lot of things that Deshaun Watson does well. Pretty hard to put your finger on just one thing. But I think one of the things is he throws the ball on time very well. You look at -- sometimes you look at an athletic quarterback, and you think, well, this guy is going to run around and extend plays all the time. He does that extremely well when he needs to. But that's not his style of play. He reads the defense, he gets the ball out of his hand quickly, he does a really good job of reading what you're playing on defense and tries to take advantage of it relative to where he needs to go with the ball.

I think trying to disguise things is important, but I also think not allowing him to extend plays, which is where -- they made some big plays on us a year ago where the defense breaks down because of his athleticism and then he takes advantage of it.

Q. When you have a guy like Sark, what kind of advice do you give him?
NICK SABAN: Sark has done this for a long time, and he's called plays for a long time. He's got a lot of experience, he's got a lot of knowledge. I think he's very well organized in his approach, and I'd tell him what I tell any coach; we've prepared to do certain things in certain situations; let's stick with the plan. Until we have to adjust the plan, that's what the players know, that's what we've practiced, that's what we need to go out and try to do, and that's going to give us the best chance to be able to execute and be successful. I think he'll do that.

Q. What's the difference in preparation in bringing Bo along?
NICK SABAN: Well, Bo, we've always had high expectations for Bo. We've always had high aspirations for what he can contribute to the program, and I think it's been a little bit more -- his history as a player relative to whether it's injury or some circumstance that has sort of created a little bit of an up and down for him to get to where he is right now, but certainly he's performed well enough to be a starter, and we certainly consider him a starter, and we think he's playing as well at his position as anybody, especially on our team right now.

Q. Talk about separating the atmosphere from the business at hand.
NICK SABAN: Well, I think any time that anything of significance gets accomplished, you know, it usually can start with the words "I decided." I decided to stay focused, I decided to not have regrets about how I prepared, how I bought in, you know, how I trusted and believed in what I was supposed to do, the confidence that I had, the confidence in my teammates.

You know, so all the players have to decide that, and you have to be able to separate what you hear me talk about a lot is the external sort of distractions that go along with something like this. I use the term clutter sometimes.

So you have to make the right choices, and you can't do what you feel like doing, you have to choose to do the things that you decided to do that are important that are going to help you be successful, and that's what we try to emphasize with our players, and I think the more maturity a player has, probably the better opportunity you have to get that done with them.

Q. You've experienced all of this in several different settings. What do you think about the way the College Football Playoff organization has done?
NICK SABAN: Well, I've only been here for a day, but I think it's a marvelous environment, and the people here have been very hospitable and accommodating. Very positive feeling about the welcome that we got when we came here.

I think the College Football Playoff is a great venue for fans. I think sometimes it's a little difficult for players, especially with the time between the last game of the season and the first playoff game and then the turnaround for the next game. But I think in the system that we have right now, everybody is doing a fantastic job of -- in terms of how we're presenting this and how it's being done.

Q. Here in the state of Florida (inaudible) cream of the crop. Has that enabled you to be as successful as you have?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think, first of all, we have a lot of players from all over. We have a lot of players from Alabama, and I think that it's important for us to do a great job of recruiting our own state and to try to do the best job we can, I always say, in a five-hour radius of Tuscaloosa, which includes several other states. But I think now in recruiting because of all the national recruiting services, it's a little easier to gain access to who the players are all over the country, so that's probably expanded national recruiting a little bit.

I think it's all relative to the number of players in your state. You know, Florida is a great state for talent. There are three teams here that all have had success winning National Championships or whatever. But there's quite a bit of talent here, too.

So maybe we don't have quite the numbers in Alabama and we have two schools that both have good programs, so it's always very, very competitive in your own state with the competition, and some of those battles we win and some of them we don't, but we've had a lot of really, really good players from Alabama who have certainly contributed to our success, especially when we first went there. Julio Jones, Mark Barron, DJ Fluker, a lot of players in our state that were really, really good football players for us that came to Alabama when we really weren't any good. Players come now because we are good, which is a good thing, and we have a good program, but all those players came when we were 7-6.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, Clemson's defense, A, they're very athletic. They've got a really good front. Very active linebackers. They're very well-coached. They have a good scheme. They create a lot of negative plays with their pressure, their scheme, the disguise, the things that they do. Their secondary does a nice job of executing. So all around this is a really, really good defensive team that the statistical information that they've been able to sort of accumulate through the course of 14 games sort of dictates that, as well.

It's going to be a real challenge for us up front as well as trying to beat them in the back end.

Q. Jalen, what have you noticed about his preparation and speak to the fact that he never seems to get rattled.
NICK SABAN: Well, I think Jalen has, for a freshman, really good poise, and probably the most redeeming quality that has helped him throughout the year is that he doesn't get frustrated easily, and when he does have a bad play or make a mistake, it doesn't affect him for the next three or four plays. You know, he can move on. He can focus on the next play and try to execute the next play. There hasn't been many times this year when he actually gets a little rattled, and I think that's the thing that's been very helpful to his consistency as a player regardless of where we've played or what the stage has been.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: You know, I've said this before, but this team has shown a resiliency to sort of -- whether they put themselves in bad situations or I guess the Ole Miss game would sort of define this a little bit when we got behind 24-7 on the road in a tough place to play with a freshman quarterback and then go on like a -- I don't know exactly what the numbers were -- like 45-3 run for the next 30 minutes of the game. I think that probably defines this team the best is they've always shown a competitive resiliency that has benefitted them in whatever situation they've created for themselves.

Q. What are the changes you defense needs to make from last year to this year?
NICK SABAN: Well, you know, Clemson is a very good offensive team. They present a lot of challenges. I think you have to give them a lot of credit for what they were able to accomplish last year. We didn't really always execute as well as we'd like against them. We made some mental errors and things that they took advantage of that I think it's going to be very important that we don't do things like that. But there's a lot of challenges there. I mean, they've got really good receivers. They've got a really good quarterback. They've got a good running game. They've got a good scheme, run and pass. It's tied together very well. So it's going to be really important for us to do a really good job of executing together as a unit, and we're going to have to play extremely well in all areas: Up front, linebacker, secondary, and trying to execute against the quality of people that we're going to play against.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think a lot of our players last year came out of this game, even though we won, not feeling like we played really well on defense. You know, hopefully that's a bit of a motivating factor for our guys to try to do a better job this year.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think that early on in sort of our philosophy of quarterbacks, we were a little bit more in the beginning at Alabama and other places that we've been sort of a pro-style approach in offense, so we look for a pro-style quarterback, and maybe didn't put the emphasis on athleticism, and then when we played with Blake Sims, who was a very good athlete, we sort of said, look, the way college football has changed, the way offense has changed, the spread, the RPOs, the issues that it creates defensively when you have an athletic quarterback who still has to be able to throw the ball effectively and we still have our elements of pro-style in our system, we actually are probably looking for, if we can find, the kind of guy that can be a pro-style quarterback but is athletic enough to challenge a defense, as well.

I think we philosophically changed a bit, and Jalen certainly fit that, but I think we would have recruited Jalen 10 years ago because we were impressed with him as a passer, as well.

Q. Have you stopped to think about (inaudible)?
NICK SABAN: Well, when you're in a leadership position, I think that you would like to think that you're being somebody that somebody wants to emulate, that maybe you affect other people because you care in a positive way. If that's true, then we would be pleased that we were able to accomplish that.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I hope it doesn't matter. You know, I've played in a lot of games where it was less than zero, so to me, that's not a bad weather game, but I guess to our players, it would be. But I don't really think that it should be a factor in the game. I think when it's less than 32 degrees that -- this is me in the old days coaching at the Cleveland Browns or Michigan State or Syracuse or someplace that it really got cold, that when it got less than that, I think it really physically can affect players in terms of the energy that you use to stay warm versus the energy that you use to try to play and execute. I think if it's 50 degrees, I think it may be a little uncomfortable, but I don't think it really should affect anyone's ability to play the game.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: I don't really have a choice. I mean, I think the field is going to be 53 yards wide and 100 yards deep wherever you play, and the numbers are going to be the numbers, the hash mark is going to be the hash mark. I don't think it matters. I don't. And I don't think it should matter to the players.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, we don't ever talk about winning a National Championship, we don't ever talk about winning the SEC Championship. You know, we basically talk about what do we need to do with every individual in our organization to help them be as good as they can be. That's how we start. And that's how we stay. You know, we talk about what do you have to do as a player to dominate your box, whether it's technical execution, physical development, attitude development, whatever it might be, to try to help you be the best player.

Our pyramid for success is we've got to be a team, so everybody has got to respect and trust the principles and values of the organization and each other, and everybody has got to have a positive attitude about what we're trying to accomplish as a group, which is for you to be all you can be as a person, as a student, and as a football player. And then everybody has got to be responsible for their own self-determination. I mean, you've got to make the choices and decisions to do the things that you need to do to have a chance to be all you can be, and that takes a lot of hard work, takes a lot of perseverance, takes an ability to overcome adversity because things are not going to always go exactly like you planned, and we talk about you've got to be a champion before you can win a championship, and that's really what we're trying to develop with our players.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, sometimes you have things that seem like you're taking a chance, but those are calculated risk. I think that you take based on whether it's the other team's assignment or something that you can take advantage of, whether it's offense, defense or special teams, and we had worked on that and thought by the way they were lined up we had an opportunity to be able to execute it, and players did a really good job of executing it. I felt like the way the game was going at the time and the respect that we had for them and their offense that was a little bit like a basketball game. When the basketball game comes down to the last two minutes, you'd rather be tied with the ball than tied with the other team having the ball. We wanted to try to create something, and we were able to score on the next drive, so I think that helped us gain momentum in the game, and I think it helped us finish the game.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Sark came in during fall camp just to visit and stayed with us for a week. We spent some time together during that time. He watched practice. I asked for his observations. Before he left, he said he was supposed to do some TV work or something, but he would really like to get involved in a program someplace, and if there was any opportunity for him to do it here -- and I liked him in the week that he spent with us. I told him, I said, there may be some opportunity for you to do that here, but since we play USC first, I'd rather wait until after that game until we sort of do it because I wouldn't want people to think that we're trying to bring you in to create some advantage or whatever.

And that's basically what we did. I think he was helpful all year long, helping in the planning and assisting in some of the things that we did all year long. I think it worked out well.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think it's all about this team and what they've created for themselves and the opportunity that they have. I think all those things that you just said are probably true. But we control how we think, what we do, what's meaningful to us. You know, I mean, I think our players have to understand that we played in a lot of games this year where we always see those signs that say we want Bama, so this is not unique for us.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think all the things that I talked about before I said be a champion, that's what we try to do.

Q. What kind of relationship do you have with Coach Swinney? I think it was reported that last year after the championship game you guys had dinner and you told him that Clemson was going to be back here this year. Is that true, and what kind of off-the-field relationship do you guys have?
NICK SABAN: I think good. You know, we both have Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande, whatever people call it, we both go there some, and he's had a place there for a long time, we've had a place there for four or five years now, and because of our schedules, we end up there sometimes at the same time. Dabo is an Alabama guy, coached at Alabama, he's from Alabama, so I've known him for a long time. But this situation sort of offers us the opportunity to get together sometimes and talk about things. And we do that a lot.

I did tell him last year, because of the respect I have for his team and the players they had coming back, that I thought especially with his quarterback coming back and the continuity that that would give him, that they would have a great opportunity to be here again next year, or this year now.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, it helped us a lot because he's athletic and especially on the quarterback run part of it because I think sometimes it's hard to find a guy that can execute and do the things that a quarterback like Deshaun Watson can do. Jalen was very helpful in that. It's been a little bit more difficult for us this year. We had John Parker do it for a day at home, and we had Blake do it for a day at home. But they obviously couldn't come here on the trip, so we have to use the quarterbacks that we have on the squad, which Cooper does it sometimes for us, as well.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, the thing I try to do in the game is focus on the next play and try to get the players to focus on the next play, and whether things went well or poorly on the last play, make sure that the people in the organization that have the responsibilities to make sure that we get that corrected so it doesn't happen again, whether we don't block punt protection correctly or whether we don't cover a kick correctly, whether we mis-block a play on offense, pass protection, make a mental error on defense in coverage or gap control up front, whether they do something different that we weren't prepared for. So it's sort of a constant focus on the task, next play, next situation, sort of anticipate what that may be, like if we're on offense and there's two minutes to go in the gap I might flip over to the defense and say, Jeremy, go through what we're going to do two minutes before the half. Review that.

So it's sort of just a constant trying to manage the game to make sure that you're doing all the things you can for the players to make the adjustments that you need to make so they can continue to be successful.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think he was really good last year, and I think he's really good now. It would be pretty difficult when you're talking about a guy that is very efficient, very effective, has played with tremendous consistency all year long, to say one thing that makes him better now than what he was then, because I thought he played phenomenally well in our game a year ago.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, we always evaluate the game that we just played regardless of the circumstance, having another game or whatever, because I think you always want to do sort of a quality control on that game. Here's what we did well, here's what we did poorly, here's things you need to improve on. So if you do have an opportunity to play somebody again, it's the first thing you look at.

So you know, we did that after last year's game, but we also worked very hard this week on trying to get our players to understand the things that they need to do to be able to contain their offense and his ability to execute that offense very effectively.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, there's not one thing. I think there's a lot of things. You've got to fit their running plays really well. You've got to adjust to their formations really well. You've got to be able to cover in the back end, because they can take advantage of what you do on defense in a lot of different ways. I think there's a lot of things you have to do well defensively and you have to play together as a group and everybody has got to do their job well.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Oh, I didn't read up on anything. I think you have a little knowledge of history, you have a knowledge of tradition, you have some knowledge of opportunity to be successful, commitment that the people have from an administrative standpoint to be successful, and see if you think you would be a good fit in a situation like that. I guess that's pretty much what we did.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: No, and I don't think of that and I don't listen to that, because really in this business it's what did you do on the last play, what did you do in the last game. That's what people evaluate you on. I mean, someday is someday. I'm worried about today and I'm worried about tomorrow and I'm worried about the game that's going to happen the day after that. I'm not really concerned about that. I'm concerned about our players, our team, our organization, giving them the best opportunity to be successful, and that's what we're trying to focus on.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think systematically they're a little different. LSU's defense is a very, very good defensive team. They're more of a 3-4 team. Clemson is more of a four-man front, even though they do have odd packages that they run. But I think if you want to make a -- I don't like to compare people, but I think from a talent standpoint, there's a lot of similarities. Clemson has probably got bigger, more physical guys up front, very active linebackers, very similar to LSU, and very athletic in the secondary, very similar to LSU.

Q. What is it about Jonathan Allen --
NICK SABAN: Well, you know, Jonathan is a hard-working guy that's very bright when it comes to football knowledge and instincts. He's very talented athletically in terms of initial quickness, can run, is very athletic, and he's a good football player, run and pass, relative to the techniques that he plays. So I think all of the above makes him a very, very effective player.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: I'm happy for the Dolphins to be in the playoffs. I don't necessarily follow the NFL. Sunday is a really big workday when you're in college football. It's the day after you played on Saturday. You're grading the film. You're starting to get ready for the next game. I don't know that I've watched an NFL game all season long, so other than checking the scores on Monday for five minutes, I couldn't tell you much about who's doing what. I always like to kind of check on our players and some of our coaches, Jason Garrett or somebody like that or people that have coached for you in the past. You like to see them do well. Adam was on our staff, so I'm happy to see him doing well.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think the first thing you said is we have good players. I've never -- I don't know how many years I've been coaching now, but I've never remembered coaching a bad player to play good. It's just trying to take the good players that you have and trying to develop them to be the best players that they can be and understand the scheme and understand the system, understand the importance of playing with togetherness and everybody doing their job. I think those things would probably all contribute significantly to having consistency in success on defense.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think, first of all, the basic fundamental things that make good football players, being physical, playing with toughness, good tackling, good fundamental execution in the secondary, being able to cover, play the ball, attack the ball, you know, you've got basic goals. You've got to be able to stop the run. Can't give up big plays. Got to play well on third down and the red zone, got to be consistent in the kind of pass defense that you play, get a lot of turnovers, affect the quarterback. If you do those things, you become hard to score on, and that's the number one goal when you play defense is are you hard to score on, how many points did you give up.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: You know, I talk to our players quite a bit, all players, including the quarterback. But what I talk to the players about is not necessarily something that I would share publicly. You know, we do communicate. We do have messages of things that we want to try to get across to our players that are important. But you know, I mean, it's kind of internal.

Q. We've been talking to the players about what impact (inaudible)?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think it's all about the players. I think coaching this game is all about the players. I think you really appreciate all the hard work that the players did all year long to create this opportunity for themselves, and you want to do everything you can as a coach to put them in the best position to have success when they play in a game like this because you know this is their goal, this is what they wanted to accomplish, and this is one of the things that define the legacy of a team when you have a chance to win a championship. I'd love to have that happen for the players.

Q. What about personally for them after they move on?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think coaching players is a lot like being a parent. Sometimes your children disappoint you with things that they do, and sometimes they make you very proud. But I think as parents, we always feel good when we see them grow and develop in a way that's going to help them be more successful in life, and that's probably all of our goals as a parent and certainly our goal as a coach with our players, and when they go on and they feel like the experience that they had at Alabama actually contributed to them having a chance to be more successful personally and in their future, whether it's as football players or in some career, that has a certain amount of positive self-gratification.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: I think fans are always important. I think they create a spirit that can be uplifting emotionally and very helpful to know that what you're doing, what you're working for is important to a lot of people. But I also think that being able to stay focused on what you need to do is really important, as well, even though I think fans do a lot to make the game what it is.

Q. Do you take great pride in developing (inaudible)?
NICK SABAN: Well, those guys were all really, really good coaches. Hopefully they learned something that has been helpful to them. But those guys all did a fabulous job for us, and they were really good coaches. I mean, I learned from every guy that I ever coached for, and I learned from our assistant coaches. They developed me, and hopefully there's something that we do that we share that helps them have a better chance to be successful.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, Jeremy has done a really good job. I think with the players, I think the players respond well to him. I think he does a really good job of preparing them for the games, and I think he's done a good job of adjusting during the games to help us. I think Karl has done a good job -- these guys all have worked for us before, so that's all helpful, I think.

Q. How much does Bear Bryant still (inaudible) at Alabama?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think Bear Bryant is probably the greatest coach that ever coached college football, and that would be my vote, and it would stay that way for a long time, because he had success over a long, long period of time. The environment of college football changed dramatically during his time, and he won championships running the wishbone, he won championships passing the ball. He effectively changed with whatever his players could do and whatever was required at the time. He had a great impact on integration of college football in the South, which may be his most significant accomplishment, and I think a lot of those things that he accomplished, I don't know that anyone else could provide the leadership that could match that.

Now, if you want to talk about the success that he had, that's rivaled by no one, as well. And he does loom large, and we're happy for that because the things that he did created our opportunity to be successful because of the tradition he established at the University of Alabama.

Q. How are you a better coach now than when you won your first national title at LSU?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think it is really difficult to have players deal with success. Everyone is more willing to change, improve when bad things happen. When good things happen, it's very difficult to keep people focused on what they need to do to continue to improve and not get complacent about what they need to do to be better, and I probably have gotten a little better at that.

You can recall this, I think the worst thing that can happen is if you play bad and win, because now the players don't want to respond to what they need to do to improve, but you know as a coach you didn't execute very well, and everybody remembers the Bluegrass Miracle, where they dumped the Gatorade on the other coach before the game was over, and then we hit the pass and win. We played horrible in that game. We played horrible. But nobody ever remembers what happened next. We got beat as bad the next week as we ever got beat in all the time I was at LSU and it was by Alabama, and because nobody responded to -- we didn't play very well, but we won. So what's the big deal here?

I think we've gotten a little better at managing those situations, because if you don't, you can't be consistent.

Q. What sets Tampa apart from other areas of the country?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think Tampa is a beautiful city, first of all. I think there's wonderful people here that have been very warm and welcoming us here. The hospitality has been very, very good, and we think this is one of the real unique, beautiful places in the country.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I coached with Bill's dad at the Naval Academy in 1991, and I was, I don't know, 27, 28. I have to figure it out. Maybe 29 or 30. I can't remember.

And Bill used to come home in the summertime to visit his parents, and we would spend time talking about football, and we got to know each other, and then we sort of continued to have this sort of personal relationship.

I remember when I was at the Houston Oilers and Jerry Glanville had a rule that you couldn't meet with any other coaches in the NFL because nobody wanted to share anybody's secrets, and Bill was with Parcells at the Giants, and he had the same rule. We would go to West Point and stay in a hotel and talk ball.

It's just been a long time, and then when we coached together for four years in Cleveland, which is difficult, you know, it was not a good team, a lot of changes needed to be made, and we sort of rebuilt that and worked together on that, I think obviously professionally and personally made the relationship even stronger, and we stay in touch and talk personnel, football, all those types of things, and we've had a lot of people on our staff that have tie-in, too.

I think there's a lot of reasons for it. But the relationship is something that we really appreciate.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I answered this question before, so I'll try to do the best I can. We would never add anybody to our organization that we didn't think would create value in terms of how they could affect the players in a positive way. And I think if you look at the track record of anybody that we've brought to our organization, they've had a lot of success in what they've done in the past relative to that, and there may have been some issue or something that sidetracked them, and then it just becomes a matter of can we manage that issue, and do we think this person can be a positive -- in terms of affecting our organization in a positive way relative to somebody else.

So I think that's more of how I view it. Maybe some other people sort of condemn things that happen more harshly. I look at it like no one is perfect. We all have flaws. So it just depends on what that is and how it can be managed, and can that person actually create value in your organization and help your players be successful.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, he was with us all season long, and we saw -- we didn't see any problems or anything in terms of -- and his contribution was very positive. His personality is very positive. His organizational skills are very positive. He's a very good teacher, so there was a lot of positive things that he contributed over the course of the season that made us feel comfortable making him a part of the organization.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I really wasn't coaching back then, so I can't really speak from any experience. I think it would be better to ask that question to somebody who coached then and coached now, but I would say when you say it's harder to win, it may be a little harder to win a championship now because of the format of how you do it. I mean, there was a time where we didn't even have an SEC Championship Game. It was strictly just play the games and go to a bowl game and everybody voted and decided who had the best team, and sometimes they probably got it right and sometimes maybe they didn't.

But now you have to win a conference championship game. You have to win a playoff game, and you have to win a title game, and even when we just had the National Championship Game, every year that we played in the SEC Championship Game, we played somebody who went either on to the Championship Game if we lost, or we went on to the Championship Game. So we were playing -- we played Florida twice, and we were 1-2, so that was a playoff game. We played Georgia, they were three, all right, so that was a playoff game in essence.

Even when that was the format, it was harder to win a championship because you had to go beat another team.

When you say it's harder to win, I think it's always harder to win, but if you say it's harder to win a championship, it may be harder to win a championship now because of the format and the teams you have to play.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think there are a lot of good teams now, and I think there are a lot of good programs, but -- and I think as the years have gone on, the rules have been sort of created in college football to create parity.

Q. (No microphone.)
NICK SABAN: Well, Tom Herman is -- I mean, I've only known Tom for the last three or four years, but we visited -- he's visited us. We've visited staffs. We've played against him. I think he's one of the finest coaches in college football right now. Very good mind and great personality.

Send Feedback to Tony Crumpton: Email | Comment
    |
Loading...
Post your comments!

Bowl Projections for Clemson

Wilkins: 'Don't score if you don't want to get me too excited'

WATCH: O'Daniel on his transition into playmaker role

WATCH: Hyatt seeing good things from O-line

WATCH: Renfrow on Etienne, Clemson offense

WATCH: Feaster taking bigger role in stride

WATCH: Venables says defense still working to 'standard'

Swinney making sure Tigers "appreciate each one" as winning continues

Playing time breakdown: Clemson-Louisville edition
Sign Up for E-Mail News Alerts
Features
Updates
Daily Digest