Nick Saban stepped up to the podium Wednesday and told writers and broadcasters that he was proud to say this was his 16th SEC Media Days – 11 at Alabama and five at LSU.
“I’ve been a lot of places and coached in a lot of different leagues, including the NFL, but the SEC is one of the best,” he said, in terms of competitive balance on the field and programs to help student-athletes be successful off the field.
“This is one of the youngest teams we’ve ever had,” he said, with three seniors and among 12 returning starters.
“You know, offensively, this is the first time we’ve had a returning starter at quarterback since 2013.”
Jalen Hurts started as a freshman last year and has worked in the offseason to become a better passer and to have an increased understanding of the passing game.
Saban hired a new offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll from the NFL’s New England Patriots, to install a pro-style attack.
Daboll, Saban said, “has been exactly what we were looking for.”
Running backs Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough and Josh Jacobs return along with receiver Calvin Ridley.
The defense will be young and could struggle, but Saban said he has confidence in defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, now in his second year after replacing Kirby Smart.
“We lost a ton of really, really good players. I think seven guys were drafted off the defense, all in the first four rounds,” Saban said. “So it’s going to be a challenge to replace those guys.”
Defensive strength shows in the secondary, where Minkah Fitzpatrick, Anthony Averett and Tony Brown roam.
Fitzpatrick is a junior and likely first-round pick if he decides to declare for the NFL draft. He shook his head no when asked if he would leave after this season, but that’s at least six months away.
With time running out, Saban fielded this question from a media member: “What was it like losing the College Football Playoff championship on the last play of the game?”
Saban shot back, “Wasn’t the last play, it was what led to last play.”
He was, presumably, talking about his defense being on the field for 99 Clemson offensive plays to 66 for Bama. The Tide defense was apparently just too tired to stop the Clemson offense.
Then there was this question: “You’ve reiterated that Jalen Hurts is your starting quarterback, but people want to keep saying there’s a quarterback controversy.”
Saban: “Who’s saying that? You’re saying that. I’m not saying that. I understand and respect that that’s your job. But we’re going to play the best players.”
And then Saban let the questioner off the hook by saying, “I was waiting for that one, man. That was a hanging curve ball.”