Alabama coach Nick Saban is a football guy. The first man on the microphone Friday at SEC Media Days in Birmingham, Saban deflected many of the "policy" questions of the week and instead kept his focus on the game itself.
The Crimson Tide were announced today as the overwhelming favorite to win the SEC, and some have speculated they could even start the season as the top-ranked team nationally.
Want to know why?
Just take a look at the nine Preseason All-SEC First Team selections, a conference record. But Saban acknowledges there are question marks, and one of the biggest ones is at the quarterback position. Sophomore A.J. McCarron and freshman Phillip Sims have been competing for the position, which still does not have a clear-cut starter.
"We're gonna continue to manage those guys through fall camp," Saban said. "Neither guy has a tremendous amount of experience, we have a lot of trust and confidence in both of their abilities. It will be interesting to see who plays better in a game, because we feel like both guys have done a really good job and both guys are talented enough to be very, very successful quarterbacks for our team."
Other highlights from Saban's time on the podium:
-- Saban used the word "consistency" or "consistent" 11 times during the press conference. Alabama identified two major issues from its 2010's campaign: play better fundamentally and eliminate mental errors. There is no doubt the Crimson Tide are going to be good this fall, but you get the feeling that Saban believes they have the possibility to really be great. They were picked to win the SEC West again last year, but in the opinion of the coaching staff, the aforementioned issues kept them from that goal.
-- There was a good amount of dialogue on the affairs in the state of Alabama. First, it was many thanks to those who have assisted the state with tornado relief efforts, then it turned to Auburn-Alabama relations. Toomer's Corner was never expressly mentioned, but Saban went out of his way to address the intensifying rivalry between the two schools:
"I think we have a lot of wonderful people, a lot of wonderful people who support those institutions in a very positive way, Saban said. "I think our state is very, very important. I think the respect that we have for each other is very, very important, and in no way should affect the competitive rivalry we have with each other.
"But I also think that some of the things that have been negatives are not really good. And I think there's just a small number of people who probably create this - on both sides. This is not a criticism of one or the other. I would like to see our fans show class in terms of how we represent our institution and our state and our athletic programs. That would be really, really appreciated."
-- Listening to Saban talk X's and O's is just. so. cool. More than any other coach this week, Saban dove into the intricacies of his 3-4 defense. In case you missed it, here's a recap of Saban's answer for the clipboard junkies.
I think philosophically you have to be able to manage circumstances and understand what you're getting into because you need bigger guys to play nose and defensive end. So you have to have outside backer types who can pass-rush when you get into all the spread stuff and nickel stuff that you have to play.
But it's probably a little bit overstated because we actually played a 3-4 last year about 20% of the time. That's dictated and determined by the offense that we play. Because when we play nickel and dime, we're playing more 40-type defense. I know Will will be the same way, most of the people in the league are the same way, because you're going to get in the best pass-rush front you can have.
I think the greatest advantage philosophically of playing a 3-4 is it gives you the best opportunity to play a seven-man front and play split-safety coverages rather than having to be in an eight-man front to stop the run. You have to have the right kind of players to do it. But philosophically I think that's why you see more and more of that defense.
After months of violations, allegations, and lots of other -tions, we have football talk!
-- Basically, every coach has been asked to give an opinion on the proposed changes from SEC commissioner Mike Slive. Saban has no interest in making comments on the issue, but instead expressed his desire for there to be "dialogue and discussion" with the rest of the coaches and commissioners before changes are made to the game. As a self-appointed "proponent for college football," Saban believes the game does a lot of good for people, and seemed to wonder why there was so much negativity and call for change.
"I'm sort of proud of our profession and I'm proud of what we do to help young people have a better chance to be successful in life," Saban said. "So I'm not necessarily ready to jump out there and support or not support whatever changes we make."
Keep it here at the Eye On College Football for more updates from media days from all conferences in the upcoming weeks.