Alabama players Jalen Hurts, Bo Scarbrough, Tua Tagovailoa, Nick Saban, Robert Foster, Mack Wilson and Shaun Dion Hamilton at Saturday’s open practice and fan day at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Duane Rankin/Montgomery Advertiser
TUSCALOOSA — In the midst of the dog days of summer, as Alabama nears the midpoint of its annual preseason camp, even Nick Saban can get a little hot under the collar.
After coming off of the sizzling Thomas-Drew Practice Fields, where temperatures were in the mid-90s but felt in the triple digits during the Crimson Tide’s 12th preseason practice, Alabama’s head football coach was in rare form during his postpractice news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Over 15 minutes, a fired-up but good-natured Saban railed against preseason predictions — such as those that have reigning national runner-up Alabama as the nation’s No. 1 team — the media, and even his own players, all with the occasional smile and lighthearted laugh.
“I’ve complained on many occasions about people who make (preseason) predictions, that there’s no basis at all for,” Saban said. “There’s no basis at all for any predictions. I appreciate the fact that people acknowledge the team, but at the same time this team has a lot to prove. And until you do it, you basically haven’t proved much of anything.”
During a nearly 3 ½-minute opening statement, Saban began to get himself partially worked up as he discussed Tuesday’s speaking engagement from legendary Auburn and NBA player Charles Barkley, a noted fan of Saban.
After extolling how successfulness over success — Barkley’s main talking point — is often found in “consistency in performance,” the 65-year-old Saban appeared to criticize his team’s consistency and dedication to proper execution during the hot August practices of late. But not before taking an apparent shot at the media, his own wife, his mother, and “Aunt Fran” in the process.
“Even though, most of you all — including Miss Terry, my mom, Aunt Fran — they want to call the plays and think whomever is calling the plays is messing up. But basically, when a play gets messed up, it’s because somebody didn’t execute it right,” Saban said.
“We’re going to play games in weather like today. I think we’ll play probably three or four. How many people were at Ole Miss last year? It was 100 degrees and we played 100 plays,” he said. “Well, you better be a full-grown man if you’re going to do that — right here in your head, to be able to sustain and play and finish. Are we there yet? Probably not. Are we making progress? I think so. But we have to continue to work.”
Following a question about freshman receiver DeVonta Smith and his play during a recent short practice videos the team regularly posts on social media, Saban responded with a sharp: “Whose videos?”
After a short explanation, Saban sarcastically noted Smith has looked “really good” during the team’s individual period, which takes place during the brief portion of practice open to media viewing.
“Well, for what we do in the individual period, I’d say he looks really good,” Saban said, as media members laughed. “That’s (against) air, right? Some really good catches on routes on air. That’s all (of practice the media is) supposed to see, so that’s all I can comment on.”
A few minutes later, when answering a question about junior defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, Saban became critical of players that don’t practice with the same work ethic and consistency as Fitzpatrick, a preseason first-team All-American.
“A lot of players that are good players I’ve heard them say ‘I’m saving it for the game,’ (and) every one of those players, and all those teams that I’ve been on that the players say that, none of them are worth a (expletive),” Saban said. “(Fitzpatrick) doesn’t do that. He works every day to get better. I hope we have more and more players who work like him, because when you have players that do that, you usually have a pretty good team.”
It was at this point, fresh off the occasional expletive, that Saban unleashed a directed — albeit somewhat lighthearted — diatribe on the media and preseason predictions, all in response to a harmless question about redshirt junior linebacker Christian Miller and his progress this offseason.
“I don’t really know. You guys make all these predictions about everything, about guys who are going to be great players who have been here for two years, who’s going to win all the games — I don’t even know why we play,” Saban said, his hands flailing as his tone elevates with every word. “Why do we even play? Why do we even have practice? Why do we compete? Why do we coach guys? Why do we even need to improve? You guys have all the answers to how guys are going to be, what they’re going to do. I mean, …
“Sometimes I wonder why do we play? Why do we even have practice? Because you guys already have all these conclusions already drawn about who’s what, how good they are, what they can do, so why would you ask me?” he continued, brushing his hair back as he cracks a wry smile. “I read stuff all the time like ‘Whoa, that’s nice to know.’ Where’d that come from? And then you ask me?”
At that point, a still-smiling Saban pivoted to an actual answer.
“But Christian Miller has done a nice job,” Saban said as laughter erupted through the media room. “He’s doing a good job and had a lot of production points in the scrimmage (Saturday). So we’re really happy with his progress.”
Upon gathering his notes from the podium to leave, Saban took a step to his right before leaning back to the microphone with: “And, you know, thanks for asking.”