Steele Has Seen Saban Evolve
eele is a Nick Saban guy. You'd have to be to work for the same boss three different times. Steele talked about watching Saban evolve with the game as well as the challenges presented by Michigan during his Friday Rose Bowl press conference. Here's a look:
On the evolution of Saban
"I've actually known him since 1985, and we have talked football and visited talking football all the way back when he was the coordinator at Michigan State. So it's been a while. He's evolved in terms of football. He's adapted, obviously, in recruiting in terms of NIL and the transfer portal and all those kind of things, the technical things.
"But in terms of the core of who he is and how he goes about 'the Process,' there's really not any difference. I can't tell any difference in the first day we worked at Alabama in 2007 and now. You say that, and people either believe it or they don't want to believe it so they don't believe it. I lived it. There's no difference.
On the challenges presented by Michigan QB JJ McCarthy
"He's an accurate thrower. He obviously understands their offense very well, and he has the ability -- although he's not, quote-unquote, a running quarterback, he has running skills so he can call runs and run them very effectively, but he can also keep plays alive in the passing game with scrambles, scrambles to throw. Very talented young man, and you can tell he's very comfortable in the offense, which is key for a quarterback."
On the Alabama mystique
"I think that's game by game, obviously. I think it's more about the Process and that --this is not coach-speak, it's factual. The game really comes down to us, not the opponent. Do we know our job? Do we do our job? Do we execute our job? That's what it comes down to.
"That is such a focus in the process from winter conditioning to spring practice to summer workouts to fall camp to the way practices are set up in the fall that it just gets ingrained in your system. I buy into it a lot because I live it, and it's unique what coaches put together, obviously, the record speaks for itself.
"To do what [Saban's] done for as long as he's done it, it's hard to do. I think it may be unmatched in this profession. Obviously there's some key ingredients in that process that I won't call it mystique. I don't think it's that. I think it's the Process. Yeah, I buy into the Process.
"When you know what you're up against [coaching against Alabama], it can be a daunting task because there's just not -- you're not going to coach against a team that is not prepared to the fullest extent, and you know that. They've got really, really good players."
On how the UA secondary benefits from the pass rush of Dallas Turner
"Real beneficial. It makes the ball come out quicker. Sometimes it makes it come out to the wrong folks. But it's that clock. The passing game is all about the clock in the quarterback's head, and if that clock is not ticking, you can't cover anybody.
"The best players in the world can't cover them if the clock is not ticking. Dallas has the ability and [Chris Braswell] as well as our front to make the clock tick, and that makes it easier to play in the back end.
"[Turner] is a grown man. I'm sure y'all have seen him today. Very, very mature. Very serious about what he does. He commands double teams, and that's hard in this business. He's very technically sound.
"Moving parts are always good because -- and for different reasons. Run games are designed different. Who they're doubling, are they a zone team, are they a gap team, so defending that and being able to get the bigger guy where you need him, but then in the passing game, protections are different. You're always trying to say, okay, where can we create the one-on-ones, and where can we get our best big pass rusher against your worst pass protector.
"Because you can move him around just like the outside backers, everybody knows that. We can get them to get their protection this way and now here's Dallas on this side. Obviously everybody talks about that kind of stuff, but it also is a chess match in the core, too."
On defending tight ends
"I think direct throws will kill you, and a lot of times tight ends get in the seams on direct throws just like the SEC Championship game. They had a guy [Bowers] that was very capable of doing that. It goes back to what I said before. Coach Saban is the best that's ever been that I've been around at being able to take what you do best and take it away with just one pitch.
"We're going to throw a fast ball at this. He's got a curve ball for it, a knuckle ball for it, a slider for it, and so he's taking away because he's changing leverages. He's got a gift for that."
On why he's still coaching rather than be retired
"It's a lot of fun, particularly this group. Very, very, very easy to coach. Extremely coachable group of guys. Fun to be around. Very competitive. I'm enjoying it. I feel like I've got something to give. If that ever goes away or it's dissipating or hurting the program, then I've got a boat. (Laughter.) "
On OC Tommy Rees
"Well, he's a tough guy. That's the thing that -- obviously I kid him about it. This is being funny. A quarterback from Notre Dame being tough? I'm being funny. He's a tough guy, really tough guy, really smart guy. He's submitted to running the ball, which is SEC style, and so obviously when you've had -- he grew up in a coaching family. He was the quarterback at Notre Dame. That's a pretty hard job. It's not like he's had jobs where people didn't pay any attention to it. He's been around pressure before, and he never flinched. Never flinched."
On Lane Kiffin saying Travaris Robinson, not Steele, calls the defense
"I didn't pay any attention to it. I really didn't. At all."
On Malachi Moore
"I like Malachi Moore. You could not ask for a more coachable person. He's like coaching a coach. He's very smart. He's just, 'give it to me, make me better, how can I be better every day.'
"Championships come not because of what happens on the field. It comes by how many champions you've got sitting in the seat in the meeting room. And so that's where it comes from."
On Caleb Downs quickly fitting in to the Process
"That's just the way he's made. That's just maturity. That's just his DNA. That's just the way he's put together."
On having coached both sides in the Iron Bowl
"Seen a few (rivalries). Even as a kid. I grew up going to it, so I've seen a few of them. I know I've been at Nebraska, Oklahoma; coached there. I've been at Florida, Florida State, coached there, Clemson, South Carolina, coached there, LSU and Alabama, I've coached that game. So I've been in some rivalries.
"I grew up watching UCLA and USC, Michigan, Ohio State, those -- Notre Dame, Southern Cal. I understand that. But that game for me is uniquely different, uniquely different. It's just got a spirit about it that won't ever die, even on 4th and 31."
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Gallery Credit: J.R. Moore