Two seasons ago Nick Saban led Alabama to the national championship game but the Crimson Tide came up short. Last year they were back in the BCS title game and capped off their season with a national championship. As this college football season nears, Alabama is once again the favorite of many to get back to that title game again.
To get there, however, the Crimson Tide will have to overcome obstacles from off-field issues and possible suspensions to on-field lack of experience at a few key areas.
Some say another undefeated season in the Southeastern Conference is too much to fathom. But, if anyone can do it, it appears to be Saban, who has led his group to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons as they look for national championship number 14.
Nick Saban joined The Scott Van Pelt Show on ESPN Radio to discuss whether he could have imagined being in a better spot after three years at Alabama, the motivating factors heading into a season after back-to-back title game appearances, a walk-on who does a spot-on impersonation of the coach, whether that walk-on gets in trouble for doing said impersonation, how the Crimson Tide can overcome lack of experience in their secondary and what he expects will happen with defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, who could be suspended by the NCAA.
On whether anything could be going any better for him and Alabama at this time:
“Well I think that this is an ongoing process. This year’s team has nothing to do with what’s been done in the past. I think they have to sort of define an identity of their own in terms of who they want to be and what they want to be and what the commitment to doing that is. That’s always the test. We have a young team in a lot of ways … and leadership and maturity is going to be a real key. … I’m not displeased in any way with what’s happened with the past, but our focus is really on the process of what we’ve had to do to maintain that in the future.”
On the motivating factors coming back from back-to-back title games:
“I think that you always want to be someone who achieves something that you can be proud of. That’s always part of the goal is what you want to achieve. I asked the players to stand up who were on the Sugar Bowl team that got beat two years ago that was the last game that we lost around here. It was a bit surprising how few of the guys who were on that team [stood up].”
On whether the secondary, with little experience, is the biggest area of concern:
“I don’t think there’s any question about that. Sometimes you get a group that gets hit hard by graduation and we’ve had a couple of other issues, too, with a suspension and things like that. So we’re going to end up with a lot of guys who don’t have a lot of experience or maturity as to what it takes to being successful at this level. How fast that they mature is going to be a real key to our team’s success.”
On a walk-on that does a spot-on impersonation of Saban:
“I’ve seen him perform at my house. Every now and then we have the players over for Thanksgiving … and I caught him doing the impersonation and I thought it was actually pretty good. You never think you’re coming across quite like you might be. … But he does a really good job and has a great sense of humor and our players really love him. Those kind of guys that offer those kind of spirit-building things on a team is what makes a team a lot like a family.”
On whether the impersonator was scared that he was in trouble when he got caught:
“He knew he ought to be in trouble but I was a good sport about it and we just laughed about it.”
On what he expects to happen with Marcell Dareus:
“I think that’s out of our control now. I think that that’s something that the NCAA has to make a decision on based on all the information. We encouraged Marcell to cooperate and give them all the information and the truth and that was the right thing to do. If he made a poor decision about something … there’ll be consequences for it and that’s something that everybody needs to understand in their life.”
Listen to the interview with Nick Saban on ESPN Radio here (Interview begins just past the 20-minute mark)