” I’m telling you. It’s not like that anymore. ”
And how is it with Saban, one of the game’s greatest defensive minds and the architect of some of college football’s most dominant defenses over the past two decades?
“I don’t like it,” he said with a wry smile. “But we just have to make sure that we have an offense that’s that way and that explosive we have. ”
The No.2-ranked Crimson Tide, who will face Tennessee on Saturday at Neyland Stadium, have scored 35 or more points in each of their last 17 games since the start of the 2019 season. They have scored over 40 points in 13 of those 17 games. Saban noted that teams winning last week in the SEC averaged 33.2 points.
“It’s hard to coach the defense now because there are so many sleight of hand concepts in what everyone is doing,” Saban said. “I mean, it’s really, really hard to coach high school… because there’s so much mismatch there. ”
While Alabama ranks second nationally in offensive scoring (48.5 points per game) and fifth in total defense (561.3 yards per game), Tide is 37th in scoring defense (28.8 points per game). per game) and tied for 61st in total defense (458.3 yards per game) Game).
“We’re not very good in defense, average at best, but I think we’ll be better,” said Saban, adding that to be top-flight in defense you have to be particularly good in secondary.
“We will get there, but this group [in the secondary] does not have enough experience. You must be going through growing pains with these guys because they see so much in college football now. We see something different every week. ”
Saban said part of the difficulty in developing elite defensive backs and preparing them for the start of their careers is that most of the best athletes and skilled players now play offense in high school and very few play. in defense. In fact, Saban said he works head receiver DeVonta Smith at the cornerback in preseason camp to prepare him for an emergency.
“None of these talented guys grew up playing defense, junior high school, high school or whatever,” Saban said. “So all the best athletes end up going on the offensive. One of the best turns our team has is [Smith]. This year at camp, I trained him around the corner. He can cover anyone and he’s never played defense in his life because he was on the attacking side. Don’t you think Jaylen Waddle would be a good defensive back? ”
Saban, who turns 69 this month, said the fear of last week when he initially tested positive for COVID-19 only reinforced how much he enjoyed coaching and being on the pitch with the players.
But anyone who thinks he got a taste of retirement while secluding himself at home for those three days might want to think again.
“I did exactly everything I would have done if I was in the office every day,” Saban said. “I was in a meeting with the players on Zoom, I zoomed in on the special teams meeting just like I was in my usual seat. I was at the defensive back meeting, the defensive meeting and on the phone with the coaches during practices. And when practice was over, we would watch the tape on defense, offense and special teams. ”
Saban joked that his wife, Terry, had asked, “Is that what you do every day for 14 hours?” ”
Later that evening, she asked Saban if he wanted to walk to the lake.
“I said, ‘No, I have a meeting in 15 minutes,’ Saban said.
Saban said the hardest part was waiting for the test results before the game against Georgia. He needed three consecutive negative PCR tests, per SEC guidelines, to consider the first test a false positive, which Saban said was a rapid antigen test.
“I was just praying that I could make it happen,” Saban said. “I would have felt horrible if the team hadn’t played well or if we had lost the game because I wasn’t there, not that we would have lost because I wasn’t there, but I ‘would have felt. the players and coaches did an amazing job not letting it affect them during the week. ”
Saban had warned players that this season would be full of disruptions and preparing for them. But he had never imagined that he would be part of these disturbances.
“I told them, ‘This is going to be the norm, that something is going to happen every week. Someone is going to test positive, ”Saban said. “So when we had the team meeting on Wednesday after I tested positive for the first time, I said, ‘You know, there has to be something really sure that I’m not the.’ But I said, “This is one of those disturbances I was talking about, and just because it’s me, we’re still going to deal with it.” ”
“Everyone in the building did a great job. “