Smart Football has moved!

Please check out the new site, All future updates will be made there.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Saban on Tebow, the Gators' O

[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)?


Jim said...

Ok, this Tebow love affair is going to far now, top 10 pick? I thought my buddy was trying to get me going saying first round pick the other day but this is seriously getting ridiculous now. Am I watching a completely different player than everyone else? The Tebow I have seen is a QB that really only has a couple of throws in his repertoire with out the needed NFL passes like the outs. He has always had pretty bad footwork. Even his noted positives are vastly different than what is seen in the NFL from the QB position, his style of running for example where he is more fullback than burner, can this style even work when the line men and backers and faster, bigger and stronger?

Great college QB no doubt but I really just can not see the pro potential let alone top 10 ability.

Townes said...


Will the linemen and linebackers really be that much faster, bigger and stronger? Look at SEC defenses. They're full of NFL players.

I think that you're underrating Tebow's throws. He isn't asked to throw deep outs, because it's not necessary in Meyer's system. It's not like Tebow can't sling the ball.

Deaux said...

I used to have the same thinking as Jim (above), Mel Kiper, and others.....

Until I witnessed the SEC Championship Game and the National Championship Game.

He made throws in both of those games that made me change my mind.

I think it's just something with about the way he looks back there. He doesn't always look comfortable. His throwing style doesn't look smooth. His feet are borderline terrible at times.

Regardless, the kid is one of the greatest competitors ever and I place him at worst among the top 10 players in college football history.

I predict he'll get put thru the strainer at the combine and workouts. He'll be rundown by "experts" and then he'll go to the NFL and be what he only knows to be....

A winner.

Anonymous said...

Tebow is one of the most outstanding college QBs I've ever seen. But he's not an NFL QB. Just like pretty much all running QBs in truly "college" systems are never NFL QBs. (And if you don't qualify Tebow as a run-first QB, then we are at fundamental disagreement.)

There's a long list of incredibly high-profile running college QBs who, frankly, do not have the requisite skill sets to win a championship in the NFL, from Turner Gill to Kordell Stewart to Eric Crouch to Pat White and all points in between. And while we can cite dual-threat college guys who turned out to be very good NFL QBs, they were all very talented passers at the college level and ultimately cast themselves as pass-first players in the NFL (e.g., Steve Young, Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb).

Two questions persist about Tebow and the draft. First, the reasonable one: can Tebow be a significant contributor on an NFL team? I think the answer there is yes. He's a great athlete, a winner, and possibly the best short-yardage runner in college football. Is there a FB with more upside? If you wanted to take a risk on a project TE, isn't he your guy? (This assumes that Tebow's willing to switch posiitons, unlike, say, Eric Crouch).

Second, the unreasonable one: will an NFL team's brass fall in love with Tebow at QB and pick him high? This is obviously dependent on the combine, but, again, the answer's probably yes. What does Vince Young the NFL prospect have that Tim Tebow the NFL prospect doesn't? Isn't Pat White (second round) the same kind of "we can definitely get this guy 6 plays/game under center and maybe find another way to use him" prospect? Plus, like most exciting athletic types, Tebow is a fan favorite who's going to put butts in seats if he's starting under center. And he's a "face of the team" kind of guy. Those things won't be lost on GMs. Someone will draft him high. I just wonder if he'll bust before he's given a shot at another position.

Jim said...

Townes- "Will the linemen and linebackers really be that much faster, bigger and stronger? Look at SEC defenses. They're full of NFL players."

Oh god yes the NFL players are vastly superior, Les Miles aside, the SEC is not the magical 9th NFL division. The SEC has not even constantly been the best conference in college over the last decade or even the last few years. Last year I would argue that the Big 12 and the south division specifically was the best football in college. There have also been years this decade when the Big 10 and Pac 10 where much more top heavy and better than the SEC. The SEC is just a very good conference year in and year out nothing more.

"I think that you're underrating Tebow's throws. He isn't asked to throw deep outs, because it's not necessary in Meyer's system. It's not like Tebow can't sling the ball."

I have not seen him make a good 7 yard out pass that would not be picked off or defended in the NFL either. He relies on jump passes more than any other recent big name college QB that I can think of. And the underrated slam, he is left handed.

Deaux - "Regardless, the kid is one of the greatest competitors ever and I place him at worst among the top 10 players in college football history."

This is when the arguments just fall down for me and feel the Florida/SEC hype machine kicks in. I will grant he is a great CF player but I can think of several college QBs alone from just the past 20 years that have been as good if not better, Matt Leniert and Vince Young both instantly come about, Matt Leniert came with in seconds of winning 3 national titles and his winning percentage will be higher much higher than Tebows. Vince Young also will have a higher winning percentage than Tebow and gave 2 of the greatest bowl performances ever seen including one in possibly the greatest game in football history. Than you have such great college QB as White, Palmer, Wenkie, Ward, and Tommie Frazier many of whom already are locks to have better winning percentages than Tebow. Personally, I think that Ward in 93 was the best single season I have ever seen from a college QB the way he mastered the fast break and Leniert the best college career and as much as I hate to say but Vince Young the best big game performer. Maybe Tim puts together a perfect season and vaults himself there but at this point he is only among the best.

Anonymous said...

Tebow has an absolute rag for an arm. And his mechanics are God-awful. Could he eventually be a decent QB in the NFL? Maybe. Is it worth the effort and money to build him into one? No way.