Five quick hits from Nick Saban’s interview session on today’s SEC Coaches Teleconference:
1. Despite the Iron Bowl being a bitter rivalry, Alabama head coach Nick Saban said that doesn’t translate to how he and Auburn coach Gene Chizik feel about each other.
“We don’t have any kind of adversarial relationship,” Saban said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for the job he does, the job he has done, their program, their team, how they play, how they’re coached. I have mutual respect for the way they try and go about and professionally do the things that they do as a program.
“There’s no personal animosity here from my standpoint and I’ve never felt any from his.”
2. Saban was asked his thoughts on Auburn’s true freshman quarterback Jonthan Wallace, who has started the last three games for the Tigers.
“He’s athletic and he can run some of their quarterback runs and he’s certainly a threat,” he said. “I think he’s been a very efficient, effective passer. Completed over 60 percent of his passes or whatever. I think offensively, they’ve played better these last few games. Some of it has to be due to his play and his contribution as a quarterback.”
3. With six SEC teams making up the top 12 spots in the BCS standings right now, Saban was asked how the conference will continue to leave its footprint once the new playoff format is installed.
“I don’t really have an opinion on that and I haven’t thought about it that much,” he said. “Regardless of the format, the quality of teams determine who gets in the [national championship] game. Right now, however many [SEC] teams are in the top 10—a bunch—and in the new format, all those teams would have the opportunity to get in depending on how they finish the season. It comes down to the quality of teams.”
4. Saban was asked to reflect upon his 2008 recruiting class, his first true group at Alabama, which included guys like Mark Barron, Terrence Cody, Marcell Dareus, Dont’a Hightower, Mark Ingram, Barrett Jones, Julio Jones and Courtney Upshaw. The coach said it was “probably the best class I’ve ever been associated with, ever been part of assembling.”
“There were a lot of good people in that class,” Saban said. “Obviously the amount of success they’ve had certainly indicates the kind of competitive character they have, the kind of people they are as well as their ability.”
That class came to Tuscaloosa after Auburn had gotten the best of Alabama in the 2007 Iron Bowl.
“I think a lot of the players saw an opportunity for themselves here,” Saban said of why some of those players committed to Alabama over maybe Auburn. “New program, new start, have a chance to play maybe, see themselves playing, believe in the program we were trying to develop and what we were trying to do.
“That whole class was probably the key to getting things turned around here.”
5. The final question Saban answered in today’s teleconference was about what makes the Iron Bowl rivalry unique.
“We have some pretty passionate fans on both sides,” he said. “I think because it’s a state rivalry game, those always have a special edge to them. Traditionally, both programs have been very good. There have been a lot of legendary games in this series that people remember for a long time. No pro sports in Alabama, so you’re either an Alabama or Auburn fan, and I think that probably adds to it as well.”
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