ATLANTA — Alabama coach Nick Saban was as gracious as could be on Tuesday, which is typically the kiss of death for opponents.

The Crimson Tide returns Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young and Defensive Player of the Year candidate Will Anderson for the 2022 season, two of the most impactful players Saban said he has ever coached.

“To have two players that make such a significant impaction our team as those two guys, I don’t recall ever having a circumstance like that,” Saban said. “But I think probably bigger than that is the impact that they have on the players around them.”

And to think, Georgia played a role in Young and Anderson ended up at Alabama — the program the Bulldogs need to get past if they are repeat as national champions this season.

Georgia recruited current UGA linebacker MJ Sherman over Anderson, as Sherman was higher rated early in both players’ careers.

As for Young, his father confided that Bryce Y — once a USC commit — wasn’t seriously looking at Alabama until Georgia back-up quarterback Carson Beck decommitted and chose the Bulldogs.

But that was then, and this is now, and Kirby Smart finally has bragging rights over his old boss.

Nine years Smart served under Saban at Alabama, four national championships worth — in addition to a year at LSU and with the Miami Dolphins.

Saban had owned Smart and all of his former assistants — to the tune of a 24-0 record against them — before Jimbo Fisher snapped the streak with a 41-38 win over the Tide in College Station.

But Saban, with his seven national championships and three SEC titles in the past four years, didn’t bat an eye when asked about losing his edge over former assistants.

Instead, Saban gave a meandering answer about being proud of all of his former assistant coaches, casually commenting that it was bound to happen at some point.

“Sooner or later these people that get these opportunities would get in situations where they had a chance to have nationally recognized, nationally powerful, whatever you want to call it, top-ranked teams like Georgia was last year,” Saban said, conveniently overlooking that Smart’s 2017 and 2018 Bulldogs’ teams were nationally recognized and on par with Alabama.

So, Saban concluded, finally losing to former assistants was “not something that is surprising to me,” and “they’ve used their own personal imprint to maybe take a few things that they learned that we do that helped us be successful along with their imprint of what they want to do so they can have successful programs.”

When you’re holding a winning hand, it’s easier to dish out praise, and Saban continued to lay it on thicker than necessary.

“It was sort of expected actually,” Saban said of finally losing to former assistants in his 20th season as an SEC head coach last year. “I’m happy to see each and every one of those guys do extremely well.”

Saban’s 2022 Alabama team will surely be the pick to win the SEC this season, but the Tide’s head coach to concede there are a three of areas of concern:


“I think it’s more difficult than ever to predict how your team is going to develop in all these areas because we have more turnover on rosters,” Saban said, “in terms of how do you create a sense of object constancy, which we all strive for in our lives, sense of consistency in what’s coming next, what the challenges are, where I’m going, how I’m going to get there.”

Offensive supporting cast

Alabama lost its top two receivers from last season, third-down, go-to man John Metchie, and speedster Jameson Williams, along with reliable power back Brian Robinson.

“It will be a challenge for us to replace the skill players lost, two great receivers on our team last year,” Saban said. “We’ve got some significant challenges in replacing some offensive line people.

“The challenge for us is to make sure we do an outstanding job of developing the players around (Young) so that we can continue to be a very productive offensive team.”


“Defensively I think we’ve got seven starters back, again, the biggest challenge is how do we replace the corners we lost,” Saban said. “Cornerback is probably the one position that puts the greatest restriction on what you can do on defense.

“That’s going to be a significant challenge for us, as well.”

That will particularly be the case against Georgia, which will use two- and three- tight ends on the field at a time, likely putting pressure on defenses to leave their cornerbacks matched up one-on-one with receivers with little or no safety help.

Saban didn’t point out Alabama brings back both of its coordinators, providing more staff continuity than the Tide has seen in years.

Finally, Saban thanked the media profusely for “creating a circumstance that is very positive for our sport …. And all our players and the self-gratification you provide for them.”

Saban’s generosity was positively overflowing on the verge of a season he knows his team will be doing all the taking.