A week after missing his team’s 42-13 win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl, Alabama head football coach Nick Saban indicated Wednesday that he’s planning to coach his top-ranked team in Saturday’s Southeastern Conference matchup at LSU at 7 p.m.
Saban, 69, tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 25 and reported mild symptoms that included a runny nose. He wasn’t able to coach the Crimson Tide in their biggest rivalry game, instead quarantining from home where he watched offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian handle the on-field head coaching duties.
The earliest Saban could possibly return, according to SEC coronavirus protocols, would be Dec. 5 or the day before the team would depart for Baton Rouge.
“I’m feeling great and I’ll be evaluated by the medical staff on a daily basis,” Saban said during the SEC Coaches Teleconference. “I still fully expect to be able to coach this game on Saturday.”
Saban earlier tested positive on Oct. 14 in advance of Alabama’s home game with Georgia.
Saban immediately isolated at home and was tested three times – all of which brought about negative results and confirmed his first test as a false positive. That enabled him to return to the field where he coached the Crimson Tide to a 41-24 victory.
Here’s what else Saban had to say:
“This has obviously become a big game for both programs. We have a lot of respect for LSU, their team, their players, their program. They’ve played extremely well in the last few weeks. Their defense just gave up 13 points to a very good A&M team. They had been scoring over 30 points a game. They have a lot of good players. Our players have been really good about the practice and the preparation and doing what we need to do to prepare for the game. Obviously, this is always a difficult place to play. We’re also looking forward to the challenge.”
On CDC’s recommendation to shorten length of quarantines for contact tracing from 10-14 days to 7-10
“I think it’s a pretty significant difference. Everybody’s felt from the beginning that when you get quarantined and you may not get sick, 14 days is a pretty long time to be quarantined. We always respected the science. I think now that there’s more testing, maybe they have more evidence of what really is safe for the players relative to the quarantine time and the testing and how it affects the science. I’m no doctor so I’m not trying to say it’s right, wrong or indifferent. But we do have a lot of respect for whatever the science is and the people at the CDC have all of the information they need to make a good decision about what’s safe.”
On the core special teams players and what makes a player a fit to be special teams
“We try to get all of our players to buy into how important it is to learn how to play well on special teams. I always emphasize to the players that if you’re on an NFL roster, which a lot of you want to be some day, unless you’re the star player, you’ve got to play on special teams, especially if you’re a linebacker, a DB or tight end, a running back, receiver. We try and teach our players to be on (special) teams. We have some guys (Jaylen) Moody, (Ale) Kaho, Brian Branch, Demaro Hellams. Those guys are on a lot of core special teams and do really well. We have a lot of our starters who contribute. We like for them not to be one more than two that are really good teams player. Josh Jobe’s a really good teams player. Jordan Bankston’s a really good teams player. Christian Harris, Patrick Surtain is a really good teams player but we try to limit how many teams they’re on. I think it’s a really important part of having a good team and that’s to be good on special teams and our teams have been pretty good. You always have to have good execution from the specialists to have really good teams.”
On whether the progress of quarterback Mac Jones epitomize the program’s process
“He does. Mac has always been a guy that’s taken coaching really well. I think he’s a guy that looked at his career more, ‘I need to develop physically, emotionally and mentally’ in terms of how to execute at that position on a consistent basis. His expectation was never about result or outcome. It was, ‘what do I have to do to get better every day’ and that’s what his focus always. He really sat behind some really good players like Jaylen Hurts and Tua (Tagovailoa) . He had a chance to see their example so he could see it done correctly in a lot of ways try and emulate that. That’s one thing Mac was really special when it came to, “I’m going to focus on what I can control and I’m going to work to try and improve.’ That’s where his mindset’s sort of been and I think it’s paid tremendous dividends for him.”
On whether you’re surprised at level Jones has been able to elevate his game
“We have a lot of confidence in Mac. We want him to be able to focus on what he needs to do to execute each week. Go through and process one play at a time, each read where to go with the ball so that he can continue to have success. I’m not an outcome-oriented guy, and when you talk about awards you’re talking about outcomes. I think the best thing you can do is to focus on what you’ve got to do every day to get the outcome that you want. Mac would probably tell you that winning is probably the most important thing to him and that’s what we’re going to stay focused on and the challenges we have with the games we have left.”