Those two words best describe Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s plans at the quarterback position. Following the Crimson Tide’s 52-6 win against Southern California on Saturday night, Saban failed to name a starter going forward, stating his decision to start redshirt freshman Blake Barnett and substitute true freshman Jalen Hurts was made “for now.”
Hurts was 6 of 11 passing for 118 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, while adding 32 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground Saturday. Barnett finished the night 5 of 6 for 100 yards and a touchdown.
After the game, Saban said he might switch things up for Saturday’s home opener against Western Kentucky. However, for now, Alabama has yet to name a starter.
"Well, I guess I might,” Saban said when asked if he would start Hurts on Saturday. “If I said I might do it in a different order, that means I might do it in a different order. So that's what it means. I think that's what might means. Does anybody have a dictionary on them?"
Saban did confirm that whomever Alabama marches out for the first series will most likely not be the only quarterback the Tide uses for the game.
“I think we'll probably still play two guys in the game,” Saban said. “Jalen did a nice job in some of the things he did, turned the ball over a couple of times. When Blake went back in the game, he actually played with a lot more confidence and a lot more poise. I think we need to continue to develop both of those players. It was encouraging that both players played better as they played in the game, which should be expected of freshmen. Hopefully we'll see big improvement in this game.”
Sarkisian spotted at practice
According to several reports, former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian was spotted at Alabama’s practice Monday. Saban hinted that Sarkisian will take a role as an offensive analyst on the Tide’s staff during his press conference.
“I told him that we’d love to have him as a part of the organization,” Saban said. “He’s going through some personal things himself to get himself in a very positive position and wants to continue to do those things in the future. Professionally, he loves coaching.
“So we thought it would be a good thing for our organization to have somebody – look, I’ve known him for a long time and he’s a very, very good coach – to make a contribution to being an analyst here and having some input into some things that we could do better, I think, would be a real positive for our organization.”
Sarkisian spent five season as Washington’s head coach from 2009-13, coaching the Huskies to a 34-29 record. He then took over as Lane Kiffin’s replacement at USC in 2014, leading the Trojans to a 9-4 record and a win over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
He was fired by the Trojans in the middle of the 2015 season after dealing with the effects of alcoholism.
“We’re going to continue to help him in his program as an organization and we’ll support him and he has an opportunity,” Saban said. “But I think he understands the consequences that he deals with professionally if he has an issues or problems. We’re glad to have him as part of the organization. Hopefully he’ll be able to get back on his feet professionally and this will be beneficial to him.”
Prior to serving as a head coach, Sarkisian and Kiffin worked together as co-offensive coordinators under ex-USC coach Pete Carroll in the mid-2000s.
Keeping it consistent
Saban continued to stress consistency during his news conference with the media Monday. He also highlighted discipline and an ability to come out to a better start as things he’d like to see his team work on this week.
Saban urged his players to analyze and work on their weaknesses rather than focusing on their strengths.
“The best example I can give is one of my own,” Saban said. “I was one of these outstanding high school baseball hitters. When I went to college, I thought I would be an outstanding college hitter. Because they never did a book when I was in high school, they never knew what pitches I couldn't hit.
“When they started doing the book in college and figured out that low outside slider, I'd hit a weak ground ball to second base. Then the next thing you know, if you don't want to hit that pitch, that's all you see. I'm talking about the kind you don't even want to run to first base on.”
Saban talks ’Toppers
While Alabama heads into Saturday’s game as a 27-point favorite, Saban warned his players of taking the Hilltoppers lightly.
WKU finished last season with a 12-2 record, winning the Conference USA title before beating South Florida in the Miami Beach Bowl. The Hilltoppers took down Rice 46-14 in their opener this past Thursday. Quarterback Mike White led the way with 517 passing yards and three touchdowns.
“They've got one of the most prolific passing attacks that we're going to see and some very good players to implement,” Saban said. “And they play really tough, physical defensive football. This is a good team... We had two teams in our league that actually lost to teams that were nowhere near this good. Nowhere near what they accomplished a year ago. Nowhere near the number of players coming back.
“These are not things that we can take at all for granted. We need to get ready to play this game as if we're playing a really good football team, because we are.”
Shank will have to earn start
After Saturday’s game, Saban announced senior offensive lineman Alphonse “Shank” Taylor sat out due to suspension.
Taylor started all 15 games at right guard for the Tide last season, but was suspended this offseason after being arrested for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. He registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.00 within 30 minutes after the arrest, according to arrest reports. Last week, he was found not guilty of the DUI charge.
During Monday’s news conference, Saban left the door open for Taylor’s possible return to the starting unit but noted the senior would have to earn back his spot.
“He’s got to kind of earn his way back, and that may take some time,” Saban said. “I think our two tackles played, really, pretty well in the game. I think that inside – the inside three – we need to continue to improve and work. There was a little inconsistency there in hand placement, steps, playing with power on a consistent basis... Now, Shank coming back at right guard where he played before, he’s powerful guy, he’s a big guy. That might be helpful to us. He’s got to play his way back into it. He’s got to beat somebody out now.”
Monday pick me up
Alabama players have been reluctant to talk to the media in the past. However, Monday Tide players were lining up to get inside of Alabama’s media room.
That had more to do with fried chicken chain Zaxby’s catering than the players’ desire to talk to the media. While receiver Gehrig Dieter, linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton, running back Damien Harris and corner back Marlon Humphrey were the scheduled players for interviews, that didn’t stop linebacker Reuben Foster and defensive end Jonathan Allen from sneaking up for some free chicken.
Saban provided an update on a couple of injuries from Saturday. During the game against USC, senior defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson and junior Cam Sims were both forced to the sidelines with injuries.
While Tomlinson returned to action later in the game, Saban listed Sims as day-to-day for this week’s home opener against Western Kentucky.
“Cam has got a bruised shoulder,” Saban said. “He’ll probably miss a few days and could be questionable for this game, just depending on how he responds throughout the week. But I think everybody else will be OK.”
Tomlinson recorded one tackle against the Trojans, while Sims had one reception for 12 yards before leaving the game.