TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban isn’t afraid to play one of his star running backs or wide receivers on special teams.
And he said he doesn’t know why that would be an issue.
The Alabama coach appeared to be done with his Saturday news conference when he continued an answer about running backs and receivers playing on kick return teams.
“You know, everybody says in college football, offensive guys can’t play on special teams because they might get hurt,” Saban said.
He went on to call Michael Clayton “one of the best special-teamers we ever had at LSU,” and compared him to Julio Jones,. Both were starting wide receivers as freshmen. Now in his sixth NFL season, Clayton refused to come off the field when playing on the kickoff team.
Several special-team players for Alabama were true freshmen last season who have moved onto starting jobs on offense and defense, opening the door for some of the fresh faces to step in.
Saban listed freshman defensive back Rod Woodson and running backs Trent Richardson and Demetrius Goode as young players embracing their role on special teams.
Richardson could be a good returner, the coach said, but he is also valuable on kickoff coverage.
Running back rotation
Health has been an issue at times for Alabama’s running backs this preseason.
Still, Saban would like to bring four running backs to Atlanta for Saturday’s game with Virginia Tech.
Richardson and Roy Upchurch sustained minor preseason injuries while Terry Grant and Mark Ingram have avoided the training room.
How many backs will be used in rotation against Virginia Tech has yet to be determined, the coach said.
“It would probably benefit us that, if all those players were healthy, each one of those guys have some role,” Saban said. “So if that adds up to two. If that adds up to four, it doesn’t really matter. If these guys can play winning football for us, they all should have some role in the game.”
Sunday was the Tide’s final day of rest before hitting game-preparation at full speed. With the countdown to kickoff at five days, the team will practice today on the Thomas-Drew Practice Fields.
Saban is expected to release the first depth chart of the season during a news conference this afternoon.