Four days of waiting remain.
For the second-to-last time before Monday's national championship game, Alabama head coach Nick Saban addressed the media on Thursday morning. He talked about Ryan Day, Jaylen Waddle and more.
Alabama defensive coordinator Pete Golding and Crimson Tide players are also meeting with the media this morning, while Day, Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, Justin Fields and several other Ohio State players are scheduled to speak on Thursday afternoon. Check back with Eleven Warriors for full coverage as the day progresses.
A bullet-point rundown of what Saban said.
- "I think in a game like this, preparation is really, really important. Practices have been good."
- Saban on Jaylen Waddle: "He has been able to practice some. His status for the game is still relatively up in the air, and it'll probably be a game-day decision."
- Given the circumstances of the year... "We're pleased with the way this season has gone and the number of games we've been able to play."
- Says linebacker Dylan Moses has shown perseverance and leadership this season coming back from injury. "Certainly he's made a positive contribution to our team." He says Moses "enhances the confidence of the rest of the group" when he plays due to his leadership and knowledge of the defense.
- On preparing for Ohio State: "We do the best job we can preparing internally." He says they watch all of Ohio State's games and talk to coaches who have faced the Buckeyes annually who might have some insight on them.
- On Ryan Day: "He does a great job of coaching. He's a very good offensive play-caller. He's got a great scheme on offense." He says Ohio State "plays with great intangibles," noting discipline, toughness and effort. Also says Day has taken advantage of a "great opportunity."
- On the Buckeyes: "They've got one of the best teams in the country. No doubt about that."
- Saban says he doesn't have a crystal ball to know whether Waddle will play on Monday. "This is something we're trying to evaluate but not something we're trying to make any prediction on at this point."
- He says the No. 1 goal in the program is for players to "create value for themselves." Saban says the guys who returned to Alabama for this season all significantly improved their value as football players before they'll leave for the NFL. "The money in the draft goes down dramatically, so if you're a second- or third-round pick, you can almost double or triple your value" by improving to become a first-rounder.
- Saban says he never really wanted to be a coach, but he gives credit to his college coach for bringing him on as a graduate assistant. "When I did it, I absolutely loved it." He liked the preparation and competitive nature, along with the relationships developed with the players.
- “I think Ohio's one of the great states in the country when it comes to football, football tradition.” ... "There's still a lot of places in Ohio where the school is the center of the community." He notes Ohio has produced a "tremendous number of very, very good players."
- Saban's full answer when asked about the importance of not pushing the national championship game back: "Well, look, I think everybody respects the disruptions that we've had to endure throughout the season. We have total respect for the safety of players. If there were, and I think there were, some issues relative to COVID, there were discussions as to whether it was fair to continue or to move the game back and all that. I think there would have been some, probably, I don't know, difficult management issues if we would've moved the game back. Our school's starting this next week. We would've had 35,000 students coming back here. We played 12 games this year, so we have a lot of guys that have ground through the season, a lot of guys that are nicked up little bit. Another week of practice would've been much more difficult for those guys, probably. January 18 is the date people got to decide whether they're going to go out for the draft or not. So just the whole timing of the whole thing would have been a tough management, but I would have put player safety on either team as the most important factor in this decision."
- Saban thinks the current style of play makes college football "exciting for fans" with the amount of points scored per game.
- He credits his offensive coaches from developing Alabama's offense through the years. But... "I still think our No. 1 goal is to feature our players on our team and adapt to the style that would allow them to have the most success."
- Why the defense has improved as the week has gone along. "I think we're pretty young, especially in the secondary." He mentions three freshmen play significant snaps. Early in the season, he says, the younger players made mental mistakes. The group has been able to develop confidence.