Saban keeps team focused

Saban talks to a reporter after the Ole Miss game. Saban has never lost to Tennessee while at Alabama. / UA Athletics

Head coach Nick Saban is known for his tenacity in many areas, but especially in preparations. In his press conference Wednesday, he wasted no time making this known, addressing it in his opening comments.

“I’m focused on one thing, one game that we play on Saturday,” Saban said. “Not what’s going to happen next week, or two weeks from now, or two years from now, or twenty years from now. That’s all speculation.”

That statement likely stems from when Saban made national headlines after getting frustrated at the lack of media questions pertaining to the upcoming game against Tennessee, many of which were dealing with off-the-field issues.

“On Monday, I was in here [the Naylor Stone Media Suite] all day, and I have yet to be asked a question about the game,” Saban said. “So, if you have a question that’s not about the game, do me a favor and don’t ask, because I don’t want to get on national television and embarrass myself anymore.”

These are the measures that Saban is willing to take to keep his and his team’s focus on such an important game, not only for this season, but also for the legacy of this team.

“I think it’s really important to our players, how they do in games against their rivals,” Saban said. “People will ask you that for the rest of your life. How many times did you beat this team? How many times did you beat that team? Those are important accomplishments to our players.”

The players know how important rivalry games are, especially the Tennessee game.

“Tennessee is a really important game because of the history behind it,” offensive lineman Barrett Jones said. “It’s the third Saturday in October. It’s a really important game to a lot of people. Being from Tennessee, it’s a big game for me.”

That especially holds true for the third Saturday in October. There is a tradition dating back to the 1950s when then-head-trainer Jim Goostree would hand out victory cigars after a win against Tennessee.

“Anything that we do like that, I think it’s something that’s internal to the team,” Saban said. “I don’t think that should be a public thing.”

As for this year’s game, the Crimson Tide is focused and ready to play the Volunteers.

“Last time [the Volunteers came to Tuscaloosa], we had the same record, and the game was pretty tight,” wide receiver Darius Hanks said. “Saban has been preaching that we can’t let them get up on us; we have to come out strong.”

Saban added, “I think this is one of the most well-coached teams in the passing game that we play all year long,” Saban said. “They ran the ball effectively last week, and they ran the ball on us last year. I have a lot of respect for this football team. They do a lot of things that are difficult on defense.”