Coach and player interviews from media day leaned toward a well-fought game with season experience on their side, that same essence continued into Sundays presser.
“I think we’re in as good as a shape as you can be,” Swinney told reporters at the presser. “I think the schedule has set up well for us. We finished the season playing ten in a row, and the last stretch of that was a challenge because this is obviously a physical game, and it’s mentally taxing, and the balance of school and all those things, you know, mount up.”
Defensive end Shaq Lawson will make an appearance in Monday’s game, according to Swinney. Lawson sustained a knee injury in the Orange Bowl semi-final in Miami against Oklahoma. Doubts were cast on whether Lawson would be in a condition to play but both the defensive end and the head coach suggested a successful recovery.
“Yeah. Yeah, we expect [Lawson] to play,” Swinney said at a head coaches conference. “Hopefully he’ll be able to perform and play to the level that we all know he can, but you know, if not, I don’t think Coach Saban is going to cancel the game over there. We’re going to have to keep playing, so we’ll put the next guy in there […] but we expect him to play, and he looked good yesterday.”
Alabama head coach Nick Saban noted the result in having new recruits and seasoned players focused on their position and their performance in the future. High graduation rates became an academic standpoint for Alabama, who holds one of the nation’s highest graduation rates, with 29 players who have degrees playing on the field. Attributions to the team’s success point to those rates and commitment both on and off the field for players.
A distraction that Swinney introduced and Saban echoed at the close of the conference were the NFL draft deadlines and commitment status given to players. The head coaches made a point that NFL prospects and teams that continue in the post-season face deadlines and receive updates on their draft status, causing the attention of those involved to split between college post-season and NFL Draft status.
“Yeah, I pretty much know what everybody is going to do already. It’s one of the things that I don’t like the timing of all of the stuff, but it is what it is, so no sense in acting like it’s not there. They’re focused on the game. All these guys understand that they have a tremendous opportunity, and they’ve done a nice job of focusing on getting themselves ready.”
Saban added to Dabo’s response.
“Could I comment about that? Because I’m going to call Dabo after the game, and last year after our game against Ohio State, I tried to develop a little energy from college coaches who had players that are in this situation that you just asked him about, and the NFL moved the draft back. I wish they’d make a rule that says you can’t even give a player what his draft status is from the NFL playoff committee until they’ve finished their competition as a college player, so that you don’t put them and their family in this situation where there’s a big timing issue relative to competition.”
Monday will see the Tigers and Crimson Tide go head