Alabama head football coach Nick Saban addressed the media on Wednesday at SEC Media Days. Look inside for a complete transcript of his “Big Room” comments and video of his electronic media room comments.
Video of electronic media room comments
Transcript of “big room” comments
NICK SABAN: Happy to be here. I hope everybody’s
saying that. Glad to be here. That’s what we should all
But I hope everyone here had a great summer. This is
my 17th SEC Media Day, 12th at Alabama. Always
something that I look forward to, and it always signals
the start, to me, of the college football season, which is
always very exciting.
You know, it means that practice is right around the
corner. August 2nd reporting date for us, August 3rd
starts practice. And the home opener is not far away,
and this year, our home opener is to play Louisville in
the Camping World Kickoff classic in Orlando.
We’ve had a very productive offseason as a team. We
continue to try to create value for our players, not only
on the football field, but in personal development, to
help players make better choices and decisions so they
have a better chance to be successful in life, in our
Academic Support Program, which has a history of
success in terms of being one of the nationally ranked
graduation rate APR also in the SEC, and also trying to
develop careers for our players on and off the field,
which on the field we’ve been very successful. Off the
field we’ve been very successful.
But to have 12 players drafted this year, 77 players
drafted in the last ten years, 26 first round draft picks I
think is something that we’re very proud of in terms of
the quality of player that we’re able to attract in
recruiting, the value that we create for them there in
terms of their development, and the success that they
have when they leave.
I think you all know that we’ve had a tremendous
amount of staff change this year. We’ve had a lot of
great coaches who have gone on and done a very
good job with the opportunities that they’ve created by
helping us have success at Alabama. I’m very proud of
what they’re all doing in the programs that they have.
And with six new coaches this year, a new offensive
coordinator, new defensive coordinator, new special
teams coordinator, I am really pleased with the
transition, how the players have sort of responded from
relationship standpoint with all of those coaches, how
those coaches have done a very good job of buying
into the things that we want to do and how we want to
do them. The new energy and enthusiasm and ideas
that they brought to the organization I think are going to
be a long-term positive.
I think this is also one of the better recruiting staffs that
we’ve had, and I think that’s going to be beneficial for
us in the future as well.
This year’s team, we lost a lot of really good football
players, especially on defense. We had ten guys sign
NFL contracts. So there’s going to be a lot of
opportunity for a lot of young players at every position.
We’ve got a few guys coming back up front, we’ve got a
few linebackers coming back, but we still have a lot of
opportunity for a lot of young players, especially in the
secondary, where we lost the most players.
So a lot of the questions that you’re going to ask me
about these young players and how they develop, they
are all things that are yet to be determined. They’re
still going to be determined in the future in terms of
how they develop over the rest of the summer, how
they do in fall camp, and when they develop the
maturity to go out and play winning football for us.
Offense, we have more experience returning, more
experienced players returning, four, five starters in the
offensive line, both tight ends. We lost some receivers.
Calvin Ridley was one of our great receivers in the
history of our program. But we have some very
talented guys at that position. We’ve got a nice group
of running backs.
And I think the number one thing that you will want to
talk about is the quarterback controversy that you’d
love to create, that you’ve already created, that you will
continue to create, and I will tell you the same thing
exists there. It’s still to be determined as to who is
going to play quarterback for Alabama. So you can
ask all of the questions about it, but it’s still to be
Tua basically missed spring practice due to an injury.
Jalen had a good spring. Both guys had great
summers, and we’ll just have to see who wins the team
in fall camp. So, we’ll see.
So, some of your questions, when you ask me about
that, I’m going to say: We’ll see. So don’t get mad at
All right. On special teams, we’re going have a new
punter, a new kicker, a new coach. So, we have a lot of
guys that are very capable of being good special teams
players, but this will be a work in progress and we’ll see
how all of that develops as well.
So the personality of our team. The players are going
to be committed to creating the kind of identity we need
for this team. Forget about what happened last year.
There’s no looking back at that. It’s what we’re going
to do moving forward. Are we going to have the
leadership that we need to have a very good team, and
are we going to have the personnel developed to fill
some of the holes that were created by players moving
to the next level, players’ graduation, and a lot of these
things have not taken shape yet. So it’s a work in
progress. It’s not been determined how that’s all going
to work out for us.
So we have a lot of young players who have the
opportunity to step up. Some of them very talented.
But how well we do that, how the older players on the
team assume their new role of leadership, all of these
things will determine how fast we get to where we need
to be and where we can be as a team.
So you can describe our team as we have a uniform in
Alabama, it doesn’t change much, it doesn’t reveal
anything, and it’s kind of who we are. So that’s a lot
about where our team is right now. And we’re going to
work hard as coaches to help develop that so that we
may be able to have the kind of team that I think we
might be capable of if we can get people to buy into the
roles that they have and develop as we need them to.
So we have some very talented players here today who
have had very productive careers for us. Ross
Pierschbacher, a fifth-year senior, is actually going to
have a master’s degree in December, has been a four-
and five-year starter for us. This will be the fifth year
he starts in the offensive line — or fourth year he starts
in the offensive line.
Anfernee Jennings has been an outstanding outside
linebacker, good pass rusher, really good play maker
for us, actually got injured at the end of the Clemson
game and missed the National Championship game
Damien Harris, who we’re excited about having back,
who returns after two back-to-back thousand-yard
seasons and probably could have gone out for the
draft, but I think sort of sent a message that: I’m a guy
that wants to graduate. I like college. The NFL is not
going to go anyplace, and I’m going to try to have
another great year and see what happens.
So, you know, basically we’re excited to have those
players back. Their leadership has been instrumental
in our success, and we’re very pleased with the new
coaches that we have. But there’s a lot of things to be
determined between now and the first game and now
into the season progressing as to where this team can
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody
in the media who I think does a great job of creating a
lot of positive self-gratification by the attention you give,
a lot of our student-athletes as well as our program,
and I think that interest that you create with fans is
essential, you know, to the continued success of
college football. So thank you very much.
Q. Steve Spurrier is the only coach in SEC history
to coach at age 70. Do you think you might
become the next one, or do you ever think about
the length of your career? Is that something you
leave up to Ms. Terry and let her think about it?
NICK SABAN: I’m sorry, I heard the Steve Spurrier part
Q. Steve Spurrier is the only coach who coached in
the SEC at age 70. Do you think you can be the
next one? Is that something you ever think about,
or is that something you leave up to your wife, Ms.
NICK SABAN: Well, let me say this: Mrs. Terry does
not want me at home. I can tell you that. She doesn’t
care if I’m 60, 70, or 80. So she’s looking for
something for me to do.
Now, I really enjoy what I’m doing right now, and as
long as I’m healthy and I can do it, I’m going to
continue to do it and not worry about any numbers or
what my age is or anything like that. But I would not
want to be in the position where I ever rode the
program down because I wasn’t capable of making a
contribution that would be positive to the success of the
So I’m going to continue to do this for as long as I feel
like I can make a positive contribution and as long as I
feel healthy enough to do it. And, you know, our
Noontime basketball team was undefeated again this
year, so that’s always an indicator to me that I can
make it through another season.
Q. Coach, what do you think of the new NCAA
redshirt rule, and how do you plan to utilize it?
NICK SABAN: I think it’s a great rule. I think this is a
rule that really benefits players and player
development. It was very difficult for us as coaches to
make decisions as to whether we should play a player,
and when you decided to play a player, you had to
make sure he was going to play enough that that would
enhance his development so that you wouldn’t really
waste a year of his eligibility. All right. So now you’re
going to be able to play the player and enhance his
development and he won’t lose that year maybe
because he didn’t get to play enough to enhance his
So I think this is a very, very good rule. I don’t really
think that — other than the fact that we’ll get to play
more young players, I don’t think this is something that
we’re going to try to strategically implement to players
to try to get players to stay longer, because, in our
case, I don’t know how much it would benefit us. We
have very few fifth-year players in this day in age of
You know, we’ve had 126 players in the last five years
play their last game in Alabama with a degree, which
means we’ve had a significant number of guys
graduate in three and a half years. That’s over 25 guys
a year playing — we had 25 guys this year playing in
the National Championship game that had their
So it’s going to be more and more difficult to just
redshirt people for strategic reasons because they’re
going to want to either go launch their career or go try
to have an opportunity to play in the NFL.
So I don’t see a strategic advantage. I just think it’s a
really good advantage for young players to be able to
play some and not be able to lose their year, which will
enhance their development.
Q. We obviously noticed the omission on the roster
this week of Keith Holcombe. Can you talk about
his decision to concentrate on baseball and what
led to that?
NICK SABAN: Well, obviously Keith Holcombe has
done an outstanding job for us. He’s been a great
contributor in the program, not only on the field but a
great human being, outstanding student, been a really,
really good leader for us, and I would love to have him
come back and be a part of our team.
But I understand that he wanted to play baseball. He’s
always wanted to play baseball. He’s had an
opportunity to play baseball, and we decided to give
him the opportunity to go full time in baseball this year
and then him make a decision about whether he
wanted to continue that year of eligibility in football and
baseball or just do it in baseball.
And he has made that decision and — to play baseball
and not be a part of the team. I think he would add a
tremendous amount of experience, knowledge, and
diversity to our defense because he’s very smart, if he
decided to come back, but that doesn’t seem to be the
case right now.
Q. Nick, could you talk about the things you look
for when hiring assistant coaches?
NICK SABAN: Well, first of all, I want people who are
knowledgeable and good teachers, but I also think they
have to be really good fit on your staff. And I think
those are probably the critical factors.
I think it’s one of the reasons that I think a lot of people
misjudge my reason for having staff size and having
lots of interns, is I like to help develop those coaches
so when they go someplace else and coach, I can hire
them back someday. Because I’d rather hire
somebody that I know as a person in terms of who they
are, kind of character they have, kind of leadership they
demonstrate, the kind of teacher they can be, rather
than having to go on somebody else’s
So those are the things that we try to do. We also have
somebody in our organization who is always on top of
who is the best people developing at every position out
there regardless of what level they are coaching at in
terms of their ability to coach players, teach players,
have success in leadership roles, whether it’s offensive
coordinator, defensive coordinator, whatever it might
be, and who are the best recruiters.
So there’s quite a bit that goes into it. I do think that it
hampers us a little as head coaches. I don’t know if
the other guys would agree, that when we got taken off
the road four, five years ago when we couldn’t go out in
the spring, that’s when I kept track of assistant
coaches. That’s when you see assistant coaches. It
was an evaluation period. You went to practice. There
would be five, six guys there. You talk to them all. You
have relationships with other people. I think that has
really minimized the relationship that you have with a
lot of assistant coaches. When you’re a head coach for
a long time, you kind of lose track of who the best guys
are. So you have to depend on some other forms of
resources to help you know who they are.
Q. Nick, I think it’s 47 days until the opener, kind of
late in the offseason. Do you expect Jalen to be on
the roster on opening day or with the team?
NICK SABAN: I don’t know if — can you repeat that
THE MODERATOR: He’s asking 47 days to the
opening game. Do you expect Jalen to be on the
NICK SABAN: Well, I have no idea. I expect him to be
there. I think it’s our job to give both players a very fair
opportunity to have a chance to win the team at their
position. I think that one of the two guys — obviously,
both are capable. We’ll create a role for one or both of
those guys on our team, and they’ll all have to make a
decision based on what that outcome is as to what
their future is, you know, at Alabama.
We certainly would love for every player on our team to
stay at the University of Alabama and graduate. Jalen
has a great opportunity to do that in December. So, we
are hopeful that he will stay there and be a graduate
regardless of what his circumstance is as a player.
But that’s not to minimize his chances of being a
starter and making a great contribution to our team in
some way, even if he isn’t a starter.
Q. You mentioned the offensive and defensive
coordinator, Michael Locksley and Tosh Lupoi.
Can you speak to what have you seen in them
growth-wise? When you talk about leadership,
mentorship, their ability to be hands on with
players, what growth have you seen from those
NICK SABAN: Well, I think Michael Locksley has a
wealth of experience. He’s been a coordinator for a
long time. He’s been in our system. He’s made great
contribution in our program recruiting as well as how he
impacts players, and he has experience being a head
coach and a coordinator at other places where he’s
had a tremendous amount of success.
So, we’re very, very confident that he will do a great
job, and the players have responded extremely well to
Mike. And I have a lot of confidence in Mike.
Tosh, because he has not done it, he has not called
defenses before, we have tried to be very helpful to him
in his development as a player, but we do have Pete
Golding who has been a coordinator and called
defenses as a co-coordinator.
So the two of them working together I feel, as well as
me looking over their shoulder, might be something
that we can grow and develop into something that’s not
going to affect our chances to be successful on that
side of the ball.
Q. Earlier today, Jeremy Pruitt was asked whether
or not you imparted any advice to him for being a
head coach, and he jokingly said: Do you think
Coach Saban is going to give me any advice? I do
wonder, there’s a growing number of your proteges
out there in the league, what do you say to those
guys, and do they seek advice from you about head
NICK SABAN: Well, there’s been many occasions
where the guys that are coaching other places, even in
our league, call on occasion and ask questions about
things that may be a management problem for them,
whether it’s their quarterback situation, whether it’s
what I think of a certain rule or something that’s going
to happen in the future. Sometimes I call them and ask
for their advice and their opinion on things.
So — and what I tell every guy that when they leave,
whether it was Jim McElwain or Kirby or whoever, I
said the most important thing for you, when you go to
be your own head coach, is you have to be who you
are. You have to be yourself. You guys have been that
way here, and you made a tremendous impact on the
group that you were in control over.
So to think you have to be any different just because
you’re in charge of the whole team instead of one side
of the ball is not something you need to overthink. And
I think Jeremy’s very capable. He’s one of the best
coaches we’ve had on our staff, and I think he’ll do
Q. Jimbo Fisher told us you all went at it pretty
good in those offensive and defensive battles at
LSU. What are your memories on those and your
thoughts on his addition to the SEC West?
THE MODERATOR: Jimbo Fisher and previous
matchups with him, what do you remember about that?
NICK SABAN: You talking about matchups in practice
or you talking about matchups in games?
Q. At LSU.
NICK SABAN: There was no matchup. We were on
the same team. We were both trying to win. He was a
great offensive coordinator. Great play caller. But also
a guy that always bought into exactly how we had to do
things to help development our team, whether it was
personnel decisions that we had to make to move guys
from one side of the ball to the other or how we had to
install things so that one side could catch up to the
Had a great working relationship with Jimbo. Have a
tremendous amount of respect for him. I think he did a
fantastic job at Florida State, won a National
Championship there. And I think he’ll do a really good
job, you know, at Texas A&M. So Jimbo’s a really good
quarterback coach and he’s a really good play caller.
Q. I’m just curious as to what the impact of the
addition of Josh Gattis has been on the recruiting
trail and in the locker room and player
NICK SABAN: Josh is an outstanding recruiter. He
does a great job of developing relationships with
players. He’s got great leadership qualities. I think he
sets a great example for his players that he coaches.
They respond extremely well to him. He’s very
knowledgeable. And I think the players have a
tremendous amount of respect for that.
And, you know, one thing he does is he really treats the
players very fairly. He’s fair and honest with them.
Treats them as men.
I really like Josh. I think he’s got a bright future. He’s a
very bright guy. We’re certainly pleased to have him on
Q. Two-part question. One, considering Jalen and
Tua have both proven themselves, how much will
their past play play into the competition? And two,
Tua obviously was hurt in spring ball. What did
you feel like he gained from that despite being
NICK SABAN: I think it all will be determined.
Everything you just asked me will be determined by
what the players do, the rest of the summer, how they
win the team, what they do in fall camp. And I’m not
making any predetermined decisions about that. So,
they need to continue to compete, like every other
person at every other position on our team is
And I love both guys. They’re both really good
competitors. They are really good people. They are
good leaders. They both make great contribution to
our team. They are very well liked.
So somebody’s got to win the team, and however these
guys can help the team, I hope they are both
committed to staying and doing that.
Q. You touched on the redshirt rule earlier, but do
you think that could affect the quarterback
position, and do you see that role having an effect
on how you handle the quarterback position?
NICK SABAN: No. No, I don’t. I think I should handle
the quarterback situation not based on a rule but based
on what’s best for our team. I think I owe that to the
other 125 guys on our team. Would you agree or
disagree? I think that’s my responsibility and obligation
to the players on our team, to help provide them the
best opportunity to be successful and every player to
So if the redshirt rule is a part of all of that, then we’ll
certainly consider it in any decision that we make. But
otherwise we’re going to make it based on the people
on our team and how we can help them be successful.
Q. You mentioned earlier that you were going to
bring Ross Pierschbacher with you today. What
are your expectations for him coming into this
season as a senior leader and the anchor for
NICK SABAN: Ross has been an outstanding leader
for us in the past. We moved him to center. I think he’s
made really good progress at that position. I think the
nature of the position itself is something that requires
leadership, making a lot of calls. It helps other players
on the offensive line play better.
And Ross has done a really good job of developing the
ability to do that and still play comfortably and
So we’re going to try to put the best five guys on the
field on the offensive line in whatever positions, and
having guys like Ross, who have diversity to play guard
or center, I think is something that really helps you be
able to do that.
Q. Two Orlando questions. First one, opening the
season in Orlando, what do you like about the
neutral-site kickoff classic games? Second one,
do you ever feel for a school like UCF that can run
the table and not get a snip of the National Playoff,
and what do you think it would take for a Group of
Five team to get into the National Playoff?
NICK SABAN: Well, first of all, we’re excited about
playing the game in Orlando. Neutral-site games really
launched our program in Alabama when we first came
there years ago. But I think philosophically we’re sort
of changing our thoughts on that and our future
scheduling and trying to get more home and homes,
which leads me to talk about what we need to do
scheduling-wise. I know nobody really asked this, but
I’ve always been an advocate of playing all Power Five
schools. I think we need to get — have more really,
really good games on TV for the players. We can’t
have fans who pay a lot of money for tickets and boxes
and loges who support our programs to pay for games
that no one is interested in watching.
So that’s — now, I’ve heard Greg talk about the fact that
we don’t want to play nine SEC games, but I’ve always
been an advocate of playing nine or ten SEC games
and a couple other games against some other good
opponents that everybody would be happy to watch.
I think it would help us determine, to your next
question, who should be in the playoffs. And you might
not have to go undefeated to get into the playoffs,
because there would be more games against high-
quality opponents, which would help determine who
the best teams are.
And, look, I have tremendous amount of compassion
for UCF and what they accomplished this year and
going undefeated. We’ve only had one team that’s
gone undefeated and won the National Championship,
and that was in 2009, and that is very, very, very
difficult to do, for anyone. And I have a tremendous
amount of respect for the players.
I’m not responsible for the system that determines who
gets in the playoffs. But I think they did a good job of
determining who got in the playoffs, and we can have
another discussion about the future of the playoffs and
how many teams should get in the playoffs, but you’re
going to minimize the effect of bowl games, which I
stood up here ten years ago and said, as soon as we
do this, it’s going to diminish bowl games, the
importance of bowl games. Everybody would just be
interested in the playoffs.
Well, that’s where we are right now. I mean, we have
players choosing not to play in bowl games because it’s
not important because they’re going to save
themselves for the draft. All of these things are not
good for college football.
So there’s a lot of philosophical questions that
everybody needs to sort of take into consideration as
what the best way to do this whole thing is, and I don’t
think I have the answer to that. That’s not what I get
paid to do.
So — but — and I can’t tell you how or why or if they
should have gotten in the playoffs relative to UCF.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you, Coach
Saban, for your time.
NICK SABAN: Is that it? Thank you, all. Appreciate it.
It was easy today.