Alabama Coach Nick Saban dropped the name as easily as most would have mentioned his auto mechanic. “I was just talking to Zach Johnson out there...,” Saban said, pointing in the general direction to his office from the media center in the Mal Moore Athletics Building during Saban’s Monday press briefing.
Zach Johnson? The 2007 Masters Champion, ranked among the top professional golfers in the world? That Zach Johnson?
“Yeah,” said the Alabama coach, as if “Who else would I be talking about?”
And then Nick Saban, who plays golf during the off-season, explained that Johnson was in town to see The University of Alabama golf facilities and to tour the football complex. Johnson, who is said to have friends in Tuscaloosa, was to speak to the Young Business Leaders in Birmingham Monday night.
Saban said that Johnson said, “’There are three parts to this: the mental part, the physical part, and the technical part.’ And that’s so right in our game, too.”
So Saban wasn’t getting a little help with his golf game.
“I’m not working on anything but Ole Miss, not that my short game doesn’t need it,” Saban said, smiling. “But I don’t have to worry about that until March.”
Alabama faces the Mississippi Rebels at 5:30 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Both teams are 3-0, i-0 in Southeastern Conference games. ESPN will televise the game. Bama won 33-14 last year.
Saban said a review of Bama’s 31-6 win over Colorado State last weekend showed that “almost every player that plays on our team has shown at some point in time that they can play really good football. I think that we're certainly capable of that. But I think to get more consistency as a team, we have to do a better job of not making mental errors, playing better fundamental technique, and then being able to take that to the game by having very good preparation by the way we practice and the way we mentally prepare for the game.
“We need to improve the way we prepare to gain more consistency in performance when we play the game. That's a lot to do with us as coaches. We're responsible for that. Players have to be responsible for that. Everybody's got to be responsible for their part. It's not only just getting the assignments, it's having the repetition to do it correctly and then be able to carry it to the game so that you can execute it properly.
“There're a lot of good things that we did in the game but we also shot ourselves in the foot quite a bit with mental mistakes and technique errors. So those are the things that are correctable that need to get corrected so that we can play with more consistency in the games.”
He said that most of the players who missed last week’s game with injury, including starters offensive guard Anthony Steen, wide receivers Kevin Norwood and Amari Cooper, and cornerback Deion Belue should all be able to go this week. He said that safety Nick Perry, who is out with a shoulder injury, would not be practicing and indicated Perry’s career could be in jeopardy. “We’ll get a call on what they (doctors) want to do with him long-term very shortly,” Saban said, adding that he expected to hear that decision today.
The Tide coach complimented Ole Miss, saying the Rebels have 19 starters back from last year’s team that went 7-6 (3-5 in SEC games) last year. “They’ve won five games in a row,” Saban said, “the last two games of last year and the first three games this year. They’re a very, very good football team.”
He complimented Rebs quarterback Bo Wallace on running the hurry-up offense, said Ole Miss had good receivers and a good tight end, and said that tailback Jeff Scott “is outstanding as a running back as well as returner.
“And they’ve got just about everybopdy back on defense and some new additions are certainly helping their defense.”