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January 5, 2019
Santa Clara, California
NICK SABAN: Well, I'd just like to say how pleased and happy our players, our team, our coaches, our entire family is to have an opportunity to play in a National Championship Game. I'd like to welcome all of you here, our fans, all the people who have supported our program throughout the course of the year, you know, to the National Championship Game. I guess when you play in a championship game, you expect to play a really good team, and Clemson certainly is a really good team. This is the kind of thing that -- kind of games that players look forward to playing in if they're great competitors, and we obviously have a lot of great competitors, and so do they. This should be an outstanding football game.
Q. Do you have an update on Christian Miller's status?
NICK SABAN: Christian Miller is questionable for the game. He hasn't been able to do a lot in practice. We'll sort of see what he can do today and sort of further evaluate his circumstance and see if he can be effective enough to contribute in a game.
Q. It doesn't seem to matter who steps in in a situation if Christian is not able to go, then a player is going to be able to step up and do the job?
NICK SABAN: Well, obviously it's an opportunity for someone else. We've lost a significant number of players at that position, starting with Terrell Lewis, Chris Allen, now Christian Miller, which was a position that we thought was somewhere we had a significant amount of depth. But this will create an opportunity for someone else who may not have the same experience, but we're confident that they can get ready to play and hopefully do a really good job for us.
Q. Can you talk about the challenge of playing a team you guys have played four years in a row and have so much familiarity with?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think this sort of has become a little bit like someone you play in your league because we have played several years in a row now. I'm sure they know a little more about us, we know a little more about them. I think that players still look at each game as a new challenge, and certainly I think that's going to be important, because they're a really good team that you're playing against, which is what you should expect in a game like this, and I think the players are going to have to focus on what's in front of them in terms of trying to get the kind of execution that will help them be successful in the game and certainly play with the kind of discipline that's not going to give the other team opportunities because of whether it's mental errors, penalties, things like that, that are even unforced at times that can be an advantage to the other team.
Q. When you started this whole being in the process here for Alabama, I know you had a vision, but is this what you expected when you started it all?
NICK SABAN: I think the expectation as a coach is you always want to try to bring the best players that you can into the program, and then the challenge is always how do we make them the best version of themselves in terms of how can we help them be more successful in life relative to personal choices and decisions that they make, developing a career off the field, developing a career on the field by how they progress as football players, and so I guess the goal was always to get everybody to be at their full potential, bring the best players to the team, do the best job that you can to develop those players to be as good as they can be.
Did we think that we would be able to get the kind of results that we've had the opportunity over the last few years? Never really thought of it that way, never really had some -- we always talk about focusing on the process, so we were -- and the process is very simply, what do you have to do to find what you have to do to be successful, which is what we tried to stay focused on, and that's certainly worked well for us.
But did I have some vision of we're going to win a National Championship some day or whatever? No, not really.
NICK SABAN: Well, I think it's really important. I know that sometimes the media thinks that I'm not especially fond of what you do, but I really do appreciate what you do in more ways than you know, because you do bring a lot of attention to our sport, you create a lot of interest in our sport. You bring a lot of self-gratification to a lot of players by reinforcing their hard work and the things that they do to have success, and Josh does an outstanding job of organizing that for our entire organization, not just for me but for all the players.
We also do a significant amount of training for our players so that they can create value for themselves when they do have the opportunity to sort of brand themselves in front of the media, in front of the public. I think his role is critical, and I think he's done an outstanding job.
Q. What keeps you motivated year in and year out to be able to do what you've been able to do?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think I'm always looking ahead. I think I'm always sort of focused on the next challenge. Don't really look back much. Always have the goal to try to get the team that we have now, the players that we have now to play -- be the best people they can be, the students they can be, the players they can be, to try to help them be successful.
We want to try to get the best coaches and the best people in our organization to support them in every way so they can do that. I'm just not one that ever looks back. You know, you're always looking on -- we talk about the road to success is always under construction. Success is not something that's a continuum. It's something that's momentary, and if you don't continue to focus on the things that helped you be successful and how you improve those things for the future, you become the target for a lot of other people to try to take your place.
It's a lot like climbing a mountain; you push a rock up a mountain, but when next year starts, it's a new mountain, and you'd better be focused on that, and that's the way we try to approach it with the individuals in our organization as well as our players.
Q. How do you feel about facing Clemson once again? I'm sure you get this question a lot, but normally thinking Auburn has been your big rival, but do you feel Clemson has become your next biggest rival?
NICK SABAN: Well, we don't really sort of look at it like that, like who's the biggest rival. We have a tremendous amount of respect for Clemson. I mean, they should be congratulated on what they've been able to accomplish. I think Dabo has done a really good job there for a number of years to create the kind of consistency that he has in the program and the success that they've had, and it's no surprise to me that we do have the opportunity to play them again, and we have a tremendous amount of respect for their team and what they've done.
I think because -- rivalries sort of get promoted by really good teams, really good programs playing each other, because those games have a tremendous amount of significance. I don't think this one is going to be any different.
NICK SABAN: Well, my first exposure to the run and shoot was when I was a secondary coach at the Houston Oilers, and we ran the run and shoot on offense, which is a four wideout scheme, but really much different than what people run now in a lot of ways. Probably was the start, the advent of maybe the spread in general. But it's developed so much through the years that there's not even a lot of similarities left in how you have to defend, what you have to do, and the kind of patterns that people run, what they do from it, the multiples that they have, the rules have changed relative to RPOs, blocking downfield on passes behind the line of scrimmage. I think those things have really made a huge impact on how people play offense, so it's created a lot of adjustments and adaptability on defense.
That was my first experience in it, so I guess that was the starting point. But how much it carries over in this day and age, I can't really tell you because it's changed a lot.
NICK SABAN: Well, that really didn't come from just the run and shoot. That's something that when I went to the NFL, there was basically three ways that you can play. You can play man-to-man, you can play zone, or you can play sort of pattern match, and all of them have strengths and weaknesses. We try to implement a little bit of each of those things in what we do right now. Sometimes you're successful, and sometimes not so much. Sometimes if you've got the right thing called in the right situation, it's very helpful.
I think how you sort of disguise those things probably helps as much as anything.
NICK SABAN: Well, I can't speak for other programs. You know, we want to create a standard at Alabama in terms of how we do things, but I think not just in terms of how we play on the field but how we create value for our players in terms of helping them be successful in the future as people, career development off the field by graduating from school, which we've done a pretty good job of, career development, football development.
I think being successful is really the same formula, whether it's as a football player or being an executive at Apple. So we try to teach our players that, and hopefully some of the experiences that they sort of have competitively as football players can carry over and help them be more successful in life.
So there's a bigger standard than just what happens on the football field in terms of what we try to accomplish with our players. But I really can't speak for the other programs. I know since we started the playoff-type system, whether it was two teams, four teams, it became everybody's goal to try to get in the playoffs and minimize the importance of bowl games and some other things, so there's some good and bad in all of that, but it's certainly been a wonderful experience and great opportunity for our team and our players to have these opportunities to be in the playoffs.
Q. You've talked about this team's ability to focus, going in and out. What are the things you see during the week that tell you, give you a measure of how well they're focusing?
NICK SABAN: Well, you know, it's something that you're always trying to get players to focus so they can pay attention to detail, play with discipline, and I think those things are very, very important, especially when you play against really good opponents, because when you play against good opponents, you can get exposed if you don't do things fundamentally correctly, which takes a certain amount of focus and attention to detail to be able to do that, whether it's taking the proper steps to block somebody, whether it's taking the proper steps to play the right technique in coverage or play your gap up front on defense. I don't think any position is immune from that, and then you have the whole collection of, okay, we have 11 guys out there, whether it's on offense, defense or special teams, and everybody has an assignment and a job to do, which takes a bit of communication and teamwork and togetherness, which takes a lot of focus and attention to detail, as well.
So I think it's a critical factor. I think it's more difficult sometimes when you have a lot of distractions that can take you away from your focus, so I think it's really important for players to be able to stay focused on thinking about what do we have to do to win, what do we have to do to win, but focused on what's in front of them, one play at a time in the game, rather than looking at the scoreboard and letting that affect how you perform, how you play, how you focus. And I think last week's game was a great example of for the first 20 minutes of the game, we were very focused. We executed well. We played well. And then the rest of the game we didn't have the same focus, attention to detail, more penalties, more undisciplined type play that actually helped the other team. And I think players need to learn from all those experiences and do it better the next time.
But when it comes to practice, we're always trying to get that in practice because I think the way you practice develops the kind of habits that you go play with in a game. But I also think that's very challenging for players to maintain this, and for college players, 15 games in a season is challenging, as well.
Q. You told us in December that with some of these transfer rules that were on the table then, it could lead to free agency in college football. Has it played out like you thought it would this year, and what do you see moving forward now with the NCAA portal and some of the new rules we're seeing?
NICK SABAN: Well, I'm really not certain, and I can't really speak about this year, because I think those things are sort of in the future, you know for this year is to what happens with players, whether they decide to go out early for the draft or whether they think that they're -- they would enhance their career by going someplace else, whether it's a graduate transfer or wherever it might be. But I don't have a lot of evidence right now based on we're still playing, we're still focusing on this season, haven't really paid a lot of attention to what's happening other places, to be honest, so I don't really feel like I can answer that effectively.
NICK SABAN: Well, I'm one of those guys that likes secrets. I don't like for people to know what we do, how we do it, what the best way to improve it. But I think it's more and more difficult because of social media to not have some of that stuff get out there in terms of what you do, how you do it. Does it make it more difficult to sort of control internally what you're doing and how you're doing it when it becomes public knowledge and information because it's out there in social media? It's the way of the world right now, so you do the best you can to control it, but I don't really ever get upset about it if we can't control it.
NICK SABAN: Well, I think we try to do that internally with the people in our organization, but I give a lot of speeches on motivation, success, not specific or technical football things. I don't feel like it's my responsibility to help other people beat us, if that's what you're asking.
Q. You've obviously opened up a lot of careers for other coaches. How have you and Kirby Smart maintained such a positive relationship, even while you've been competing for the SEC Championship the past couple years against Georgia?
NICK SABAN: Well, first of all, I'm pleased and happy that a lot of guys that have been in our organization with us and done a phenomenal job -- but they did a phenomenal job and they were motivated because they had personal goals and aspirations for things they wanted to accomplish, whether it was go from an assistant to being a coordinator to being a head coach some day. I appreciate what they did to help our program be successful, and I'll always appreciate that. And to me, it's only helpful if they can go be successful at what they're doing. And Kirby certainly has done a really good job of that.
I think one of the things that -- I mean, Bill Belichick is a good example; he and I worked together for four years in Cleveland. We've been good friends for years and years and years, all the way from when I was back at the Naval Academy in 1981 and worked with his father. So we've coached in the same division, when I was at the Dolphins and he was at the Patriots. We played two times a year.
But it's not personal. I think that's where some people -- when you compete against somebody, you definitely want to do the best you can in order to try to help your team be successful, and you respect them because they're going to do the same thing for their team, but it's really not personal. It's not personal. You still have a certain amount of respect and admiration for them as people, kind of person that they are, the kind of values that they have. You appreciate what they've done to help you be successful, and you understand what they're trying to do to be successful, and you have a respect for that. And I don't think that's unhealthy in any way, shape or form.
We certainly have a lot of respect for Kirby and what he's done at Georgia and the very, very difficult games we've had in playing them the last couple years.
Q. What you said a minute ago and not wanting that to get out, when all your assistants become successful does that make it hard, considering they've studied under you?
NICK SABAN: No doubt. They get to pick and choose which parts of what we do they'll utilize, which is -- and what they want to do themselves to try to maybe make it better. I did the same thing when I was coming up. I learned a tremendous amount from whether it was George Perles at Michigan State or Bill Belichick at the Cleveland Browns. I don't think I ever worked for anybody where I didn't learn something that was either a good way to do it or maybe this isn't such a good way to do it, but that's what knowledge and experience -- that's how you kind of gain it and decide what you feel is best for your program, and then when you get the opportunity to be a head coach, you can try to implement it the way you feel that you can put the mark on having the best chance to be successful in your organization.
Q. When the team got off the plane yesterday and (indiscernible) none of the players shook hands with the youth football league. Was that something that was told to them by higher ups?
NICK SABAN: First of all, I don't think anybody in our organization knew that they were going to be there, so we never -- our players weren't instructed one way or the other. I think they just thought they were fans that were there. I just noticed that the kids had jerseys on, so I played Pop Warner football, my dad was a Pop Warner football coach. Idamay Black Diamonds, you can look it up, back in West Virginia, so I just have a tremendous amount of respect for guys that want to be and participate in our sport, and I was just trying to encourage those guys by being positive and shaking hands with them. But I don't think our players even knew that they were going to be there. But I think our players have done a really, really good job of community -- supporting the community, supporting athletics, supporting young people playing athletics. We have a lot of young people come to our practices, and our players are always engaged with them. But I don't think anybody really knew that team was going to be there, and I didn't know, either.
NICK SABAN: Well, Najee has played really, really well for us all year long. He's a very talented guy. He's a hard worker. And I always like to have -- we always like to have two or three guys at that position that can play. I think it keeps everybody fresh. It keeps everybody healthy rather than having one guy that's carrying the ball maybe a lot of turns every game and they get wore down as the season goes on. We've been fortunate to have three guys that have made a real impact at that position, different guys in different games, and Najee certainly has had his share of that. I'm sure as any competitor would like, he would love to play more and get more opportunities, but I think his time will come. He has improved each year, and we try to get him to stay focused on what he needs to do to continue to improve as a player, and when he gets his opportunities, he'll take advantage of them.
I think one thing that players don't always get, and I tell them all the time, is when I was an NFL coach, they made a reel of the plays that you played, so I sometimes didn't know if a guy was a starter. I didn't know if he played 20 plays in a game or 70 plays in a game. I was just evaluating the plays that he played.
So the key to the drill is to go be the best player every time you get an opportunity to play, because if you were going to evaluate that season, you would only look at that guy when he was playing. You wouldn't necessarily say, how many plays did he play? You would evaluate him on how he played in the plays that he played, and that's really what we try to emphasize with our players because that's how they're going to get eventually evaluated, and that's how they create a brand for themselves.
So if they're frustrated about how many plays they're playing and they don't play very well when they're playing, they're not creating any value for themselves.
Q. How much more prepared (indiscernible) have you seen a difference in the quarterbacks?
NICK SABAN: Absolutely. I think the way offense has changed, there are more athletes that develop at the quarterback position from, whether it's Pop Warner, junior high, whatever, through high school, because systematically there's a lot more carryover than there once was, I think, in what it takes to play at the position. You see a lot of guys that played similar type offenses in high school that have a pretty good knowledge systematically when they come out. And everything in college is not based on the drop-back pass, which is like maybe it used to be, run the ball, have drop-back passes and play-action passes where reading coverages and things were very important.
Now you have an offense where a lot of plays are made in the passing game and the running game based on one singular read, which is pretty simple for the quarterback. And I think there's a lot more carryover from high school to college in those sort of systems, which people refer to as a spread. There's different versions of it, obviously.
So I do think -- but I do think there's a lot more emphasis on development of players when they're younger, camps, good coaches at that position, that sort of help guys develop. And everybody wants to be a quarterback. We have a little kids' camp where we have between a thousand and 1,200 kids between 8 and 11 years old, and of the thousand kids, 500 of them are at the quarterback position.
Q. It seems like you and Dabo generally like each other in addition to the professional respect. How difficult or unusual is that when you're playing these kind of high-stakes games against each other?
NICK SABAN: For me, I don't think it's that unusual. We have history together. He has history at Alabama. We have history together personally. You know, we spend time sometimes in the off-season, we have homes at the same place in Florida. I know his family well. He knows my family well. We have a lot of mutual friends.
Again, I go back to when you play these games, it's not personal. I mean, I want to do the best for our team, and I'm sure he wants to do the best for his team, and I certainly respect that. But it's not personal. You know, you don't necessarily have to dislike the other guy to play against him.
Q. When you're hanging out in Florida and you're not talking about the game, you're just --
NICK SABAN: We don't usually talk about our game. Sometimes we talk about things that are significant in our profession, whether it's the game itself, rules, early signing dates, just a myriad of things, recruiting rules. But we really don't talk about the games that we play against each other.
Q. You said that you are happy with where the College Football Playoff is right now, four teams. There are some others, Brian Kelly among them, who says there's an appetite for this to grow beyond four. Why do you believe four is the good number, and if it goes to eight or more, how does that affect you and the University of Alabama?
NICK SABAN: Well, you know, my view is from a thousand feet. How does it affect college football, not how it affects Alabama or not really even whether four is the right number. I think when we had two, there was a lot of speculation all the time about was there another team that should have been one of those teams. I think since we have gotten to four, I think in most cases, the best teams have always been in the playoffs. They may not have been ranked exactly one, two, three, four, but the committee has gotten the best teams in the playoffs.
There's always been speculation as to somebody else should have gotten in, but there's speculation in the basketball tournament and they have 68 teams, and then they have a two-hour show on the teams that got in or didn't get in or whatever. So I don't care if we have 68 teams in a playoff, you're going to have that.
So as long as you get the best teams in the playoff, I think that's fine. I think my issue and concern is there's been a unique -- bowl games have made college experiences unique for a lot of student athletes, programs, teams over the years. And I think the bigger the playoffs become, the less significance bowl games have. I said that when we started the playoffs. I said it when we expanded the playoff last time, and it's true. There's players that aren't playing in bowl games. I mean, playing in the Sugar Bowl used to be a big thing. It used to be a really big thing. Playing in the Cotton Bowl, that was a big thing. Playing in the Orange Bowl, that was a big thing. Playing in the Rose Bowl, because I coached in the Big Ten for a long time, it was huge. Now we have players that choose not to play in those games because they're not in the playoffs.
All right, so is that good for college football? I don't know. I mean, it's for everybody to answer for themselves.
From a media standpoint, because there's so much attention on the playoffs, I can see why a lot of people in the media would like to see the playoffs expand. But there is an expense to that, and that's you minimize the importance of bowl games for a lot of players who had successful seasons. That used to be the unique thing about college football is a lot of people got a lot of positive self-gratification for having a good season by going to a bowl game and getting rewarded to play another game against another good team.
Q. Obviously you're nationally ranked, but Jonah Williams from California, how difficult or easy was it to get him and how did he pop on your radar?
NICK SABAN: Well, we do nationally recruit, so there's a lot of guys that come up that we evaluate that are good players, and Jonah was certainly one of those guys. Some guys are interested in leaving home, and some guys want to stay close to home, and I think that has a lot to do with the family. I think there were some connections back to the east with his family, and I think they live in Jacksonville now. We thought Jonah was going to be an outstanding player, and he certainly hasn't disappointed us. He's really played very, very well for us. He's smart, he's a great student, he's graduated, and he's probably one of the best players at his position in the country.
But we have guys from all over, quarterback's from Hawai'i, we've got guys from Florida, and --
Q. How much does his high school team having so much success, how much did that help the evaluation process for you?
NICK SABAN: When we look at a player, we really evaluate the player almost like we did for the draft from our standpoint. I think players that play in successful programs probably get a little more attention, not from us but from media circles that maybe make us aware of certain players. But we evaluate everybody like it's the draft, so we have critical factors for what we're looking for at every position, and when we evaluate the player, I really don't know how many stars a guy has or anything else. We're just kind of -- does he fit what we want at that position, is he the kind of person, does he have the kind of character, intelligence, size, speed, and does he meet the critical factors that we look for at that position, and then we decide whether we're going to recruit him or not.
Q. It is incredibly difficult to win at the rate that both you and Clemson have. What kind of a toll does it take? This is your fourth straight National Championship. What kind of a toll does that take to get to this part of the season every single year?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think it's a little bit like climbing a mountain. Obviously gets a little more treacherous when you get to the top. Mistakes probably have a greater significance. But I think the way we approach it, and I mentioned this earlier, we start at the bottom, you're pushing the boulder up the mountain, and every year you've got to start over. But I do think, whether it's Clemson or us, that sometimes when you do it consistently, you become the mountain a little bit because everybody is always playing their best game against you and looking forward to playing you.
I think that's what takes a lot of consistency and focus and discipline and preparation, which makes -- that makes it a little tougher for the players, I think, just like if you look at -- we played LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn, Georgia and Oklahoma in the last five or six games. Now we're going to play Clemson. And I think 15 games are a lot for college players. So one thing I didn't mention about expanding the playoffs, does that mean we're going to play more games? Better put more guys on scholarship, because like right now, we have significant injuries that are affecting certain positions on our team. And I'm sure both teams at this point would have the same.
Q. What point do you want to get across to your kids when you bring people in to speak to your team?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think that it's a part of what we call our personal development program, and we want to take people who have had real-life experiences, sometimes they're athletes, sometimes they're not, and they share their experiences with our players, and hopefully those experiences are going to help them make better choices and decisions in the future so that they have a better chance to be successful. It's something that we continue to try to do for our players, and it's all about your life choices and decisions have tremendous consequences, and we want our players to understand the consequences of good and bad behavior and how that can affect their future.
So we want positive examples for choices and decisions that they can make and role models that they can use, and we also want to take other people's life experiences that maybe their choices and decisions had an impact, maybe not in a positive way so that maybe they can avoid some of those traps.
Q. Do you feel like playing in this game multiple years, some of the guys who have played in it before, you've utilized them for the younger guys who haven't played in it before?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think that we do have some players that have played in this game before, and I think that young players, no matter what you try to do, maybe will have a little more difficult time understanding the significance of a game like this. But I still think what we try to get our players to focus on is not the game itself and the significance of the game or the importance of the game, but what do you have to do to be successful in the game. And you've got to focus on what's in front of you, which is the next play, regardless of what happened on the last play, and how can I fundamentally execute and just do my job at my position so it's going to help us offensively, defensively, on special teams, to be able to have the best chance to be successful against other really good players.
So that's what we try to get our players to focus on, and it's about execution, it's not about the scoreboard, it's not about external factors. It's about here's the field, here's how big it is. It's 100 yards long and 53 yards wide, and we have to go out there and take the right steps and do the right things and make the right reads at quarterback and play the right gaps on defense and do it with good fundamental technique because you're going to get exposed when you play against good players and you don't do that.
Q. What can you say about Tua?
NICK SABAN: Well, Tua is a special guy in terms of his work ethic, the kind of person he is, the drive that he has to try to be really a good player, and he was a good player last year. He has made progress. I think his experience and knowledge that he's gained through the course of this season has helped that. He's got good players around him, and he's certainly done an outstanding job of distributing the ball and taking what the defense gives so that all those players have chances to be successful, as well.
He's done a really, really good job for us. He's one of the best players in college football, and hopefully the players around him will help him continue to do that.
Q. You were talking about quarterbacks earlier. Quarterbacks that can play at the level they're playing at now, (indiscernible)?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think both these quarterbacks have NFL potential, no doubt, and the offenses that they run certainly have sort of some elements of drop-back, NFL passing-type game, and both players execute it extremely well. Therefore playing against them is a little bit that way, yes.
Q. How much has Trevor Lawrence changed their offense?
NICK SABAN: Well, I think -- I don't know if their offensive system has changed. I think how they utilize the players is a little bit more like when Deshaun Watson was playing. They have ability to throw the ball vertically down the field. They've got some really good skill guys outside that have done a really good job of making explosive plays. Trevor Lawrence does a good job of throwing the ball down the field, so that was an element of their game last year that maybe wasn't quite as significant as it was before. They had a lot more quarterback runs and things like that that were difficult to defend, which utilized the quarterback's talents that they had.
Systematically not different. How they utilize the people in the system is different.
Q. Obviously a lot of (indiscernible) this time of year. Is there any time to relax before a game like this?
NICK SABAN: Not really. I'd be open to suggestions if you have any. You're trying to do the best you can for your team, and it takes a lot of time to prepare for these games, to prepare for practice, and try to keep people in the organization focused on doing what they need to do to continue to try to improve and there's not a lot of time for other things.
I can't think of anything I've done recently that -- I mean, maybe sitting in my chair watching TV for a half hour when I get home at 10:00 or 11:00 at night, but other than that, watching The Weather Channel in the morning, having a cup of coffee and two Debbie cookies with Terry for 15 minutes, that's about the extent of it.
Q. Have you had a chance to watch Bird Box then?
NICK SABAN: No, I haven't.
NICK SABAN: Well, I talked about Jonah before, and he's I think one of the best linemen at his position, one of the best tackles at his position in the country. He's smart. He's very athletic, great person, has really good work ethic, and prepares for every game like any coach would like every player to prepare, and he's performed extremely well and with lots of consistency throughout his career, and we're extremely proud of the way he's developed and the kind of person that he is and the kind of leadership that he shows to other players on our team. I think he'll be outstanding. I really do. I think Jonah is one of those kind of guys, even though he's played tackle for us all the time, he could be a world-class center or guard, and I think he can play left tackle, probably could play right tackle, could probably play all five positions because of how smart he is and the kind of athlete that he is.
NICK SABAN: Well, I do probably spend more time with the defense than other parts of our team, and I do try to help coach the secondary. I think now when you're playing five and six defensive backs, sometimes the secondary coach needs a little help, so I kind of always classify myself as his GA in terms of maybe taking guys at a certain time in practice and trying to help their development.
I do, but I played quarterback before I played defensive back. But -- and I got a really good interception on him, one of the better ones. I'm pretty good at throwing interceptions. I've been throwing them for about 40 years.
Q. (Inaudible question about Mark Richt.)
NICK SABAN: Well, I think Mark is -- I think one of the great coaches in our profession. He did a wonderful job at Georgia for a lot of years, left there after winning 10 games. I think his last team -- certainly did a good job at Miami. I know they had their struggles this year, but certainly in one year, you can lose players at a certain position, and I don't know all the issues. I don't follow it that closely. But I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a person, professionally as a coach, and his contributions to our profession over a pretty significant period of time.
NICK SABAN: Well, I think Clemson has always had a pretty good program. They were a little bit like Alabama through the years. They've had some really good years, and I think since Dabo has been there, they have been consistently successful and done a great job of recruiting. They've done a really good job of developing players. They've had really good continuity in terms of what they're doing and what they're trying to accomplish. I think their success really reflects that.
And I think that the programs that you mentioned did the same things.
Q. When you elevated Mike to the offensive coordinator position, what were those conversations regarding expectations?
NICK SABAN: You know, Mike was with us as an intern for a year, then he was a receiver coach for a year. He had been a coordinator on several occasions in the past and done a really good job. I really liked Mike's demeanor with the players and how the players responded to him. He's got really good leadership qualities about him, really well-liked by the players. They respond well to him. And I knew that the kind of team that we had coming back, there were certain things that were in his background and his past that he had done that would be very effective for our team, and that was part of the decision and part of the expectation and what we talked about.
Q. How do you think he'll do as a head coach?
NICK SABAN: I think he'll do really well. I think every head coaching position is a little bit different in terms of who you can recruit, how you can recruit, what kind of support do you have in the program, and I think he's got a challenging job ahead of him. But I think if anybody has a chance to be successful in that position, I think Mike is the guy that could do it.
NICK SABAN: Well, we have a tremendous amount of respect for their program, and we're always looking at successful programs to see if there's something that would improve our program, and I can't think of anything specifically that we've done with Clemson, but we do that to try to evaluate how we can improve, quality control of what we do in all areas, academics, nutrition, medical staff, strength and conditioning program, academic support. We're always evaluating all those things, and any successful program obviously is successful for a reason, so we're always going to look into some of the things that they do.
One of the unique things about Clemson is they have a lot of Alabama folks there. Some have worked for us, some not. So there is a little bit of a different kind of relationship, I think, in a positive way.
NICK SABAN: Look, they've always had great venues everywhere we've gone and played in these games, and certainly we think this is a great venue. We have some really, really qualified people who make the decisions about where we play, and to me as a coach, I don't worry about those kinds of things. We knew this was where the game was going to be, and that's where we've got to get ready to go play. We're happy to be here, and we think the people here have been very helpful and supportive in helping our team feel welcome and having the hospitality that we need to have to be able to continue to prepare for this game.
NICK SABAN: Dan has done a really good job. I think he's very knowledgeable. I think the players have a lot of respect for him. Really good quarterback coach in terms of technique and fundamentals, which I think has helped the development of our players, and I think it's really helped both of our players play well in terms of what he's done. I know the players have the utmost respect for him in terms of how he prepares them to get ready to play the game, and they've had success because of it.
Q. How would you feel about seeing college football (indiscernible)?
NICK SABAN: Well, you know, I've talked about this a lot before, to no avail. Nobody is supportive of what I believe. I think that we should play -- all Power Five conference schools should play all Power Five conferences. Now, maybe that becomes Power Six conferences. I don't know about that part of it. And I think we should play more games in our league and that when we play other games, they should be against Power Five conference schools so that you can actually lose a game or two and still have a chance to get in the playoffs, and it would be more based on strength of schedule and things that you've done, more like in basketball, than it really is in football. Then I think you would be able to evaluate who has the best teams a little bit better because we all wouldn't have three or four games a year that were sort of not significant in terms of how you would evaluate.
It's hard to qualify is this league better than that league, how many good teams do they have in that league. Those things are difficult. But if we all played each other more, I think it would help that.
NICK SABAN: I don't honestly know all the things the Selection Committee does to make the decision. I just assumed that they -- from several different resources, look at the total body of work that a particular team does relative to strength of schedule and those types of things.
But we're not on a level playing field now, all right. I mean, if you play a championship game -- I mean, we played a top-4 team in the championship game, so we actually played an eight-team playoff this year for our team. Some teams didn't have to do that.
And the other thing that I would recommend to you all is why do we have eight weeks of rankings leading up to who gets in the playoffs? Why don't you do it like basketball when you take the whole body of work that a team has done, including the championship game and who they played in the championship game. That might affect the seeding and the rating of who goes where.
You're on TV all the time, you've got the voice, man. I'm just trying to give you some food for thought, so please don't kill me over this.
Q. (Indiscernible) why do you like them so much?
NICK SABAN: Absolutely I brought them with me. I don't know why I them him so much, but I've been eating them for as long as I can remember, two, small kind, not the big ones with the gooey stuff, and one cup of coffee, 6:15 every morning watching The Weather Channel. That's how we do it.
NICK SABAN: I don't think there's any question about it. I know that every guy in our program, it's our goal to help them be more successful in life because of their involvement in the program. We believe in personal development. We do a lot of personal development programs. We have mental conditioning for success. We have peer intervention for behavioral issues, drugs, alcohol, agents gambling, domestic violence, how to treat the opposite sex, not macho man stuff - fights, guns, all these types of things -- to try to get the players to understand the consequences of good and bad behavior. We have leadership seminars to get them to understand how they impact and affect other people. We have branding seminars, whether it starts with communications, how you get interviewed, how do you brand yourself publicly in so many ways.
We are trying, and it works with certain players. Certain players respond very well to it and actually make significant changes, and other players not so much.
NICK SABAN: No question. I had a lot of great mentors when I was growing up. My high school coach, other than my parents, probably had as much impact on me and my future and direction and certainly my college coach Don James, and whether it was Miss Turkovich in high school, plane geometry, I remember them all, and they all had some kind of -- Rose Matthews was my English teacher in high school, and I didn't like English and I didn't have very good grammar, and I probably still don't, and she helped me realize the importance of communication.
What we try to emphasize with our players, probably the two most important things in developing a successful future is your character and your ability to communicate, and we're always trying to get guys to make the right choices and decisions to develop those things.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports