Someone — probably me, since I was the media guest at “The Nick Saban Show” on Thursday night — probably should have asked the Alabama head coach how his new hip was feeling after a grueling August camp. The question, though, would have been superfluous. Saban was clearly in a mood to kick posteriors and take names with two days remaining before the UA season opener against Duke.
Just about everything that might be bothering Saban came out during his 50-minute appearance, ranging from the 2013 loss to Auburn to the behavior of key players. There was also a profane reference to trash talking, clearly a pet peeve.
“I watch football on TV sometimes and there’s a lot of things I see,” Saban said. “Self-indulgent behavior. Players bringing attention to themselves. A lack of discipline. When you don’t have respect for discipline a lot of bad things happen.
"You get a lot of penalties. You get a lot of late hits. You get a lot of bad decisions. You don’t really play smart in critical situations. That’s never been the trademark of our team and that’s something we really want to reestablish with our players. We’ve always had a rule where the players don’t talk to the opposing team.
“If you want to talk (expletive 1) to the other team, join the (expletive 2) debate team.”
Saban quickly apologized for violating the Third Commandment (he is not expected to be held out of the first half of Saturday’s game for the violation) but didn’t let go of the theme of discipline, giving a pretty clear view of what’s likely to happen on that front Saturday.
“When we have older guys that know what they're supposed to do and they don't do it, everybody is watching how that gets handled,” Saban said. I have a lot more patience with freshmen. But when older players start thinking they are entitled … it's important that you stick to your guns and you make sure if you have to set an example, you set an example.
“The ultimate example (is) when you take playing time away from them. That changes their behavior. Because everybody wants to play. And discipline is not punishment, discipline is changing someone's behavior to do the right thing."
Clearly, Saban was talking to an audience other than the one listening to him at a wings restaurant. He was talking to his team, apparently more concerned with correcting attitudes than with the physical replacements required for injured linebackers Dylan Moses and Josh McMillon.
There were some football nuggets as well, especially about a freshman, the kicker Will Reichard.
“Will’s a very talented guy and he’s done extremely well in fall camp, and we think that he can do a good job,” Saban said “Like any other guy, he’s got the talent and ability to do it, but what’s he going to do in a game? And we’re confident in him. He gets the ball off quickly, he’s got a really strong leg. His accuracy in scrimmages and practice has been very good.
“He’s also a very good punter. And Skyler (DeLong) has really improved a lot in his punting, and those two guys are probably pretty close as to who would do that. We haven’t had a guy for a long time that actually punted, kicked off and kicked field goals, and the issue is not having the talent to do all those things but how do you manage a guy through the season where he doesn’t kick himself out because he’s doing so many different things.”
The one thing Reichard doesn’t need to do, clearly: talk trash to the other team. Because his head coach is fired up.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt