Saban trying to rein in newfound expectations

Published 7:49 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2008

With an 11-spot jump in the Associated Press poll and a Sports Illustrated cover after its 34-10 shellacking of then top-10 Clemson to open its season, it will be difficult for Nick Saban to control the hype surrounding his Alabama team.

Saban at least hopes to keep his players from buying in.

“We have to continue to focus on the future,” Saban said at the Southeastern Conference coaches weekly teleconference Wednesday. “It’s like [Jamaican Olympian Usain] Bolt said, ‘I don’t compete against the other runners, I compete against myself.’ I think if we could look at it that way we would make a lot of progress.

“That should be the focus.”

Excitement from the Crimson Tide players could be understood after such a monumental win – it was Alabama’s first over a top-10 opponent since Florida in 2005 – but not everyone was in on the fun. Terry Grant, for example, was a crucial element of Alabama’s running game last season but was nonexistent against the Tigers. Grant rushed four times for minus-three yards.

Saban said he spoke with Grant and that the game plan for Clemson called for inside running more suited for the larger Glen Coffee (6’1”, 198 pounds) and Mark Ingram (5’10”, 215) than for Grant (5’9”, 190).

Saban said Grant understands he needs to prepared for opportunities when they arrive, and they will.

“It’s not just about them,” Saban said about players. “It’s about the team.”

That team, ranked No. 13 by the Associated Press, this week takes on a Tulane team that will be playing its first game of the season. Practices have been eventful, though, as the Green Wave was forced to leave its campus and prepare at Samford University because of the threat posed by Hurricane Gustav.

Tulane’s trouble puts Alabama’s, a suddenly lofty ranking, in perspective. Saban sure isn’t moved.

“I don’t really think that means anything,” he said. “I haven’t even looked at the polls.”