Saban, Riley Highlight Coaches Conference at CFP Awards
ATLANTA — The College Football Head Coaches News Conference took place just before the awards ceremony Thursday, as Nick Saban, Lincoln Riley, Dabo Swinney, and Brian Kelly engaged in a press conference with members of the media at the College Football Hall Fame in Atlanta, Ga., albeit it appeared to be the Saban and Riley show. That comes as no surprise, given Saban continues his pure dominance of reaching the College Football Playoffs and boasts a remarkable 231-62-1 coaching record. Not to mention, his offensive coordinator, Mike Locksley, is taking a head coaching position at Maryland.
While Riley and Swinney made an appearance in the playoffs last year, Kelly leads The Fighting Irish to their first-ever playoff appearance. It’s also worth mentioning that Kelly was the recipient of the Associated Press College Football Coach of the Year Award, his second in his 27th season as a collegiate head coach.
As for Riley, the youngest head coach in college football, he handled the conference with poise, answering his share of questions as many anticipate what should be a classic showdown between Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa. Furthermore, many believe Murray will win the Heisman Trophy this year, which would be the second consecutive year a player has won the award under the tutelage of Riley.
Here are the most intriguing questions and answers by each coach during the press conference:
How significant was the role offensive coordinator Mike Locksley played in helping develop an offensive scheme for Tua [Tagovailoa] to thrive in?
“I think the thing our offensive staff did, and Mike made a great contribution to that was we always try to adapt to what our players can do. I think that always starts with the quarterback, but we said it at the beginning of the season that we’re going to have a different kind of team on offense because we have really good skill players, we have good runners, we got a couple of quarterbacks who can operate the way our guys have in the system that we have. So, I think all of our coaches have contributed o it, but I think Mike did a really good job of organizing that, and the players responded well to it, and we made a lot of explosive plays.”
What is the X Factor you’ve seen in your opponent [Clemson]?
“When you talk about playing an opponent, it’s the ability to close games out, the ability to know how to win — and that’s Clemson. They know how to win football games, they’ve been winning….”
What has been like to coach a guy like Kyler Murray?
It’s been a joy; it’s been a challenge. I think we were fortunate in the way that it unfolded. First, getting Kyler in his transfer year as he sat and got the chance just to get to know him, his makeup and start to develop the relationship you got to have between player and coach to be elite and then balancing the baseball and football. The biggest challenge was on him of course just to do it. It’s hard enough just to play college football at this level, and to balance that and academics is just remarkably hard by itself, and you add in a whole other sport I don’t think people realize the challenge….”
How has the new redshirt rule affected your team?
We did not change our approach, we’ve always said the same thing: We’re going to play this guy, this guy is on the bubble, and this guy is definitely going to redshirt, as we get towards the end of camp because we want to give everyone the same opportunity. I don’t ever go in with any preconceived notions, but it was great (the new rule change), and I loved it. We were able to play every freshman…”
Alabama and Oklahoma will face off in the Orange Bowl, while Clemson and Notre Dame will compete in the Cotton Bowl Classic on Dec. 29.
D’Mitri Chin @1DMitriChin