Everything Nick Saban said following Alabama’s first bowl practice


Alabama fans received some exciting news on Friday afternoon with the shocking discovery that both Bryce Young and Will Anderson Jr. would not be opting out of the Allstate Sugar Bowl but would indeed be practicing with their teammates as they prepare for Kansas State.

Friday also happened to be the day that Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide would hit the practice field for the first time leading up to the bowl game on Dec. 31.

Following Alabama’s practice, coach Saban would address the media and along with other things, discussed the importance of the Tide not having any opt-outs this year.

Here is everything coach Saban had to say on Friday:

Opening statement

“Well, I was really impressed with the attitude that the players came back with today. Everybody seems to be taking a serious approach to what they have to do to be positive, prepare for the game, have fun, creating value for their future. This is not something that is not important to us. We have a lot that we can prove in this game. We’re going to play a really good team that plays short of old-fashioned, tough, very disciplined, well-coached — so there’s not any way to make it easy to prepare for a team like that. So for us to have the right mindset and have a good respect for what it takes to have success against a good team like this — I think it’s imperative and how we go about trying to prepare for this game.

“We want to take these first few practices and just work on fundamentals — try to get back into football. The players had four simulated trainings and four lifts in the time that we were off, but still no matter what it’s still been awhile since we’ve played, so we really gotta work hard to try to get people back fundamentally — get ‘em into condition so they can sustain — and get other guys that will have opportunities to play in this game ready to play in the game.

“We’re really proud of the fact that we had 13 graduates this last weekend. That brings I think 27 total that’ll be on the roster for this particular game. Congratulated all the players who got awards today in the team meeting. The players were really excited and proud of the guys that got honored by whether it was the SEC, made All-American, won individual awards like Will [Anderson]

“And I think that Will and Bryce [Young] coming back to play in the game speaks volumes of the kind of culture that we have in the program and guys like that wanting to try to improve themselves and have respect for their teammates to come back. They’re the leaders on the team, they’re the most inspirational players so that’s something that I think that is very special as well.

“These guys earned the right to play in the Sugar Bowl which is very prestigious in its own right, so hopefully we’re going to be able to get the guys that we have on our team focus on what we have to do to coach them to get them better and go out and try to play the best we can against a very good team.”

On if Young or Anderson gave a reason for deciding to play

“You know, it’s kind of interesting that people opt out of playing for their team, and the way you create value for yourself is to play football. That is the best way you can create value for your future. And when you do that against good competition I think that creates value for your future. You know, I hear guys all the time say, ‘I’m going to get ready for the NFL.’ Well, what do you mean? Getting ready for the Combine? A lot of the things that you do at the Combine are not even relevant to what you do on the football field. So every time you have the opportunity to compete if you’re a great competitor — and I think these two guys are great competitors and that’s why they wanted to play — that they want to try to continue to create value for themselves, be good teammates, help their teammates play well in the game and that may sound old-fashioned in a lot of ways but I sort of respect that.”

On if Young and Anderson consulted with him before making a decision

“I told them both that is was their choice in terms of what they wanted to do and we discussed the pros and cons of it and they made their decisions.”

On how it’s been trying to plan around opt-outs and players entering the transfer portal

“Look, it is what it is. I have no control over it. I have a lot of respect for the guys that sort of want to be at Alabama, want to play for Alabama, want to compete for Alabama, want to be a part of the team, have respect for their teammates in terms of what they can do to help their team, but it’s the culture of college football and people have the choice to do whatever they choose to do and my choice is to coach the guys that we have here that want to play for us.”

On the benefit of the early enrollees being able to practice

“I think that they have to go through acclimation. These guys came off of playing 15 games. Some of them 12, 13, 14, 15 games of high school that just ended a week or two ago, so it’s not summertime, it’s not hot outside. So that part of it — like, they have to go out in helmets for two days and all that, so it’s beneficial and that they’re in the meetings, they have a chance to learn, they get on the field, they learn something every day. They may not get the reps because at some point in time we have to rep the guys that are going to be able to play in the game, but just the experience of seeing what college football practice is like and what meetings are like, how you gotta focus, how you gotta learn — I think to help their development, I think this is really a huge advantage for them.”

On his early thoughts on Kansas State

“These guys have got a really good team. They beat TCU in the [Big 12] Championship game. They were ahead 28-10 in the first game they played against them. This is a really good team. They can run the ball. They’re physical. They’ve got a good offensive line. They’ve got a good runner. The quarterback’s played well. They’ve got good skill guys on offense. Their defense plays physical, tough, come out of the top and strike you. This is a good old-fashioned, well-coached, disinclined, tough, good football team. They could make an argument since they beat one of the teams that’s in the playoffs that also maybe they should be in the playoffs. I think this is a really good team.”

On building depth and sustaining it when players want instant playing time

“Look. Players leave. You have the opportunity to recruit other players, so you have two sources of getting players. You can get players out of the portal if you find somebody that you think is going to be a positive addition to your team. Or you recruit young players that you think are going to develop and be a positive addition to your team. I think being able to do this now, you can’t replace anybody now, so you’ve just got to play with what you’ve got. There are quite a few teams that are playing bowl games that have a significant number of guys that have gotten in the portal. We’re working hard to help these guys that are here with us to develop the future and create value for their future regardless of what their circumstance is.

“But the portal is the portal. So you can’t get somebody out of the portal to come play in this game. So how do you create depth out of the portal right now? You can’t do it. You do it later, and you can replace whoever leaves. And that’s the numbers you have to work with, and you’ve got to make good choices and decisions with who you recruit and how they’re going to fit on the team.”

On the impact of Young and Anderson Jr. playing has on college football

“Well, I think it sets a great example for guys that respect their teammates, want to be a part of their team, know the impact they can make, the value they can create for themselves by playing well against good competition. I’m extremely proud of these guys. We’re going to support them in every way we can. As an institution, we’ve minimized the risk of them playing in the game by ensuring them the best we possibly can so that they’re not taking a big risk by playing— as much as you can, taking the risk out of it for them. I can’t tell you how much I respect them as competitors, guys that have been great leaders on this team, the leadership they have given and shown, and I think the leadership they continue to show by playing in this game.”

On how bowl practice differs from the regular season

“Well, I think football is football. But I think because you have a significant amount of time off, you have to go back to square one and try to start out almost like you’re starting camp. And then once you get through three or four of those practices, then you can start practicing more like you’re getting ready for a game. That’s the only significant difference.

“To me, you’ve got to approach it like a one-game season, really. So you’ve got to start from scratch and build up and then do game prep. It’s hard, so much time to carry the end of the season to the next game. You’ve got to sort of switch gears. I think the players did a pretty good job in the time off to maintain the conditioning level, so they were pretty prepared to start practice today.”

On the current state of the offensive line

“I think you guys know who’s on the team. I mean, we don’t have any secret admirers that snuck in like in the middle of the night. It is what it is.  We’re going to coach the guys that we have. It’ll be an opportunity for some other players to get a lot of playing time, certainly get a lot of practice time, a lot of repetitions, and hopefully, that enhances their chances of being successful in the future.”

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