[Excerpts from Nick Saban's transcript at the SEC media days. Thanks to deaux of CoachHuey for the pointer.]
On Tim Tebow at the next level . . .
Q. As somebody who has coached in the NFL, I was wondering what your take is on Tebow’s NFL prospects? Do you think he’s talented enough to warrant a top 10 pick?
COACH SABAN: Well, you know, I don’t think it’s fair for me to judge that because I can’t really judge who the other guys in the top 10 are. Being involved in the draft before, if you’re not involved in the total body of work, it’s very difficult to make those kind of predictions.
But I will say this: I think Tim Tebow is an outstanding quarterback, an outstanding leader. I have no questions about his ability to throw the ball. He made some outstanding throws in good coverage in critical times in our game last year in the SEC championship game. So I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a quarterback, as a leader, as an athlete, in every regard. I think he is a winner. I think he will be a winner in the NFL.
But I think everybody needs to understand that the NFL struggles to evaluate people who don’t do in college what they look for guys to do in the pros. And I don’t think they should be criticized for that. It’s a difficult evaluation when you play a little different kind of offense. I think Florida has a great offense. I think it’s very difficult to defend. I think they do a great job of executing it and coaching it. So I’m not being critical.
But it is different. And that makes it more difficult. You know, a general manager sent me a letter saying, How are you learning all the spread quarterbacks, how the dynamics of the critical factors of the quarterback position have changed because this offense has changed, what are you doing differently to evaluate quarterbacks, because we’re having a more difficult time evaluating players that play in that offense?
It affects everyone. The quarterback, as well as the left tackle. If somebody told me we don’t know how to evaluate this guy because he’s never played in a three point stance because he always plays in a two point stance because they’re no huddle, and they’re always in a spread. So it’s every position that is different from what they would like to see because they have a defined prototype they would like to evaluate toward. When you play in a different type of offense, it makes it more difficult to evaluate.
I don’t think anybody is disrespecting him, I guess is what I’m trying to say. I think it’s just a little more difficult to try to evaluate.
On the "Spread" offense . . .
Q. Talk about the impact of the spread offense on defenses in college football.
COACH SABAN: Well, I just think that it’s very difficult to defend. I think when the quarterback’s a runner, you create another blocker, or a receiver that you have to cover. So that kind of creates another gap on defense. And I think that that’s very difficult to defend.
But I think it’s like anything else: the multiples of what you have to defend are what make it more difficult to defensive players. Just like in the old days when they used to run the wishbone. When you had to play against the wishbone, that was really different. So it was difficult to get the picture and look of what you needed to do to get your team prepared to be able to play against it.
I think to some degree the spread offense is the same way. A no huddle offense is the same way. How do you get a scout team in practice to be a no huddle team to get any kind of execution so that the defensive players start to develop the mentality they need to be able to change their routine and play without a huddle?
So I think the concept of the spread offense is outstanding because it makes the quarterback an 11th gap on defense, I always say. If you only had to defend that all the time, I think we could all get a little better at it. It’s the multiple of the different things you see throughout the season that make it more difficult.
On the disruption of an inexperienced QB . . .
Q. From a defensive point of view, when you’re facing a quarterback that doesn’t have much experience, how do you try to take advantage of that? At the same time with an inexperienced quarterback this year, how do you try to guide him through games until he gets that experience?
COACH SABAN: Well, you know, I think that everyone develops at a little different pace and rate, depending on their ability to learn the knowledge and experience, how they learn from their lessons. And I think specifically in our case Greg McElroy learns very quickly and has had some experience. But I also understand that until he makes plays in the game, he’s not gonna fully have, you know, the trust and respect of all of his teammates, even though they really, really like him and they really like him as a leader.
I think the biggest mistake you can make in development of any new player, young player, inexperienced player, is give him too many things to do, and increase the multiples of the kind of mental errors that they can make.
I think that it depends, from a defensive perspective, who the guy is that you’re trying to defend. If he’s a smart guy, if you try to pressure him, you may enhance his chances of making plays because he understands it, he sees it, and his reads actually become a little easier.
If you try to play all coverage against him and don’t pressure him and he’s a good runner, he may hurt you with his feet.
So I think to really answer that question effectively, you’d have to know the specifics of who you were trying to defend.
On the Bluegrass Miracle, I missed out on the relevance of this question . . . (Video below)
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about the 2001 game between you and Kentucky and talk about the last play specifically.
COACH SABAN: Well, what I remember, most people don’t remember the little things and the details of why things happen sometimes, but there was about a 30 mile an hour wind that day, and we were fortunate to be able to game manage to get the wind in the fourth quarter by the way the coin toss went and all that stuff. We practice these two plays every Thursday at the end of practice. I forget the exact seconds, but we ran the first play because we could stop the clock and gained about 15 or 20 yards. Hit Michael Clayton on an in route, then had to go up top.
But the ball sailed and almost went 70 yards in the air because we had a big wind. The Kentucky players actually misjudged the ball. That’s what created the tip. Devery Henderson was the key running guy that’s supposed to play the tip. And it just worked out that way.
But what I remember the most from it was not that play. I’ve always been told by mentors, that the worst thing your team can do is play poorly and win. And we played poorly that day and won. And we got our rear ends kicked in the worst defeat in all the time I was at LSU the next week because of that. That’s what I remember the most.
So you didn’t expect that answer, did you (smiling)?