UPDATE FROM PASADENA: Saban’s values guide all aspects of the Tide

Spencer White

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.| Three years and three days ago, Nick Saban stepped off a private jet onto the tarmac at Tuscaloosa Regional Airport, the newest of a series of heirs to the throne of legendary former coach Paul William “Bear” Bryant.

At his introductory press conference, the former LSU Tigers and Miami Dolphins coach stressed the importance of “the process”, a method of work and dedication designed to return a once proud Alabama program to the height of former glories.

Two undefeated regular seasons, an SEC title and a No. 1 ranking later, the Fairmount, W. Va., native has the Tide at the doorstep of greatness, set to take on the No. 2 Texas Longhorns in the BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl, the site of one quarter of the Crimson Tide’s national titles.

The location is unfamiliar in modern times, and the stakes have never been higher.

The press conference, however, remains the same.

“I know somebody is going to ask me what do you do different to get ready for this game,” Saban said early Wednesday morning. “So before you ask me, I’m going to ask you, what do you do different to cover the game?”

When a media member answered one day at a time, Saban simply stated, “That’s what we’re doing.”

In three seasons of success in Tuscaloosa, Saban has always been a man who stresses core values, a coach who expects simple tenets to define the progress and advancement of his football team. His website, coachsaban.net, includes a mission statement that stresses five concepts. They are pride, discipline, commitment, toughness and effort.

In teaching these virtues to the Tide, Saban has led a group of seniors from a losing freshman season to a 25-2 record in the last two years.

“I think that intangibles are probably really important to being a good competitor,” Saban said. “Once you have the passion and the commitment, at least you’re going to be moving in the right direction…I think those are sort of part of your character and who you are, and I think the same ingredients would be necessary to be successful in anything.”

Naming the next guy

With the well-known situation at Texas regarding Longhorn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s title as the “Coach-in-waiting”, Saban was asked about his own opinion regarding the move that has been taken up by several schools around the country in the last several years.

“I don’t really have an opinion about that,” Saban said. “I think that’s something that administrators need to decide, if that’s the best thing that they want to have to try to create continuity in a program, and I think that’s probably the purpose…But I think if the chemistry was not correct, it may not work very well. So, I think it would all be time and circumstance, relative to the chemistry involved.”

McClain on his way to full strength

Saban stated in response to a question that junior linebacker Rolando McClain practiced Tuesday in a limited capacity and that the All-American would play in the game as long as team doctors medically clear him.

“I’m not going to put a player at risk regardless of what the circumstance relative to the game is,” Saban said. “But I think he’s capable of recovering and being able to play in the game if he’s medically cleared to play in the game.”

Saban also told the media in his opening statement that every player would participate in Wednesday’s final walk-through.

McCarron officially No. 2 quarterback

When asked who would play were some injury to befall starting quarterback Greg McElroy, Saban confirmed the suspicions of many Alabama fans by stating that true freshman A.J. McCarron would likely be given the reins to the Tide offense, and that in fact McCarron had earned the backup role following the bye week after the Tide’s 12-10 victory over Tennessee.

“It’s been our plan that if we had to play him that we’ll play the guy that gives us the best opportunity to win the game, and that’s what we would do,” Saban said. “And if the person who has sort of been the backup quarterback needs to do that because he’s performed the best, practiced the best and put himself in that position, I’m pretty certain that that’s the direction that we would go in.”