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Nick Saban talks Alabama draftees, Tua Tagovailoa on NFL Network

Alabama head coach Nick Saban appeared on NFL Network on Thursday to recap the 2019 NFL Draft and discuss his current Crimson Tide team. Below is everything Saban said during an interview with Andrew Siciliano, including an update on his return from hip replacement surgery.

Does it ever get old seeing the young men that are in your building, that go to class, that work so hard every day -- both on and off the field -- hearing their name called and having that journey take them to the NFL?

“No, not at all. A lot of the guys that we recruit here and a lot of guys when they’re in high school and they play, a lot of them have dreams, regardless of what they play -- football, basketball, baseball. They all want to be professional athletes some day. And these guys put a lot into it. They work hard. They really mature and contribute a lot to our program. I know it’s their dream, and I’m always happy to see them have success at the next level. I mean, that’s one of the goals of our program here.”

Let’s talk about Quinnen Williams, if we could, who went third overall to the Jets. Coach, what makes him so special?

“His initial quickness and his ability to play with his hands, play with leverage, get off blocks quickly. He’s athletic, so he’s a really good pass rusher. He’s not a huge, gigantic, overpowering guy, but the rest of it is perfect for this day and age in football. And I go back to the initial quickness, the use of his hands. And this guy is a really smart, instinctive player, and I think sometimes people overlook how that impacts someone’s production -- and his production here was fabulous.” 

imageAlabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (Photo: Andy Lyons, Getty)

And Josh Jacobs deserved it and earned it, as well, considering his story, which we’ve documented here for a while. Living in a car with his dad, not being a 5-star, putting his tape out there on Twitter. How proud are you to see him hear his name called last Thursday?

“I’m really proud of what he’s had to overcome, but Josh was always everything we wanted him to be as a student-athlete here at the University of Alabama. I mean, he was a great person, he was a good student, he did everything you’d ever ask a guy to do work ethic-wise, as a football player, practiced hard, prepared hard every day was a great team guy and was very, very productive. And he always played his role. And we have had a couple No. 8s here -- one of them Julio Jones and this guy, Josh Jacobs -- that they played on special teams and wouldn’t come off. And I mean, here’s guys that are very, very productive players at their positions, and those kind of guys usually say, ‘Hey, I’ve kind of earned my way to get away from having to be a special teams contributor.’ And Josh wouldn’t take himself out if we were 51-0. We had to take him out.”

Want to turn the page, if we could, to this year. You just had your spring game, and you spoke recently about complacency last year. How do you prevent that with this group from happening this season?

“I think that people sort of learn their lesson. I don’t know exactly why it is, but as human beings, we always seem to respond a little bit better when things don’t go well than when they go well. Sometimes when things go well, people lose their humility a little bit. They start thinking they don’t have to do the little things that got them where they were to the same degree, with the same mental intensity, with the same preparation, the same energy, and therefore, you start to develop some habits that maybe get exposed somewhere down the line. But I think when something bad happens, and certainly losing the way we lost in the championship game was something that every guy that’s a great competitor hates to lose that way. They’re a lot more ready to respond to do the things they need to do to not allow that to happen again. So, this group has responded extremely well, and I’ve been pleased with the attitude that we’ve had throughout the offseason and spring practice.” 

After the spring game, what do you now specifically from your quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to do differently or better this year?

“Well, I think Tua played, for the first seven or eight games last year, if it’s possible to play perfectly -- take care of the ball, no interceptions, really high completion percentage, take what the defense gives -- I think he did that flawlessly in our first 7-8 games. Then you start thinking about, ‘Well, I’m going to try to make some plays here, and I’m going to throw the ball down the field.’ And I think when you get out of that and you start to be a little more outcome-oriented, worrying about the result rather than staying with the process and taking what they give you, I think you put yourself at risk to make mistakes, and I think Tua did that a little bit down the stretch. I think he learned from that, and I think we want him to be the guy that just makes the decisions that he needs to make to make good plays down in and down out and not try to force plays downfield and make big plays.” 

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (Photo: Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire, Getty)

Freddie Kitchens was down there recently. He was speaking to high school coaches in Tuscaloosa, and he said that everything that is at the core of his coaching philosophy comes from you. Have you talked to him at all or what would you say to him about the challenge that he has this with the Browns? A first-year head coach, all those personalities. You’ve coached in that town, you know the expectations.

“Yeah, but I think Freddie’s got a tremendous psychological disposition about what it takes to be successful as a coach. Now, he knows how important it is to be knowledgable because that knowledge is what helps you create good relationships and trust with your players, and he’s been around some great people -- Bill Parcells and some really, really good people that he’s learned from. And he’s got great common sense. He’s very bright, he’s very intelligent and he understands human behavior extremely well. And I think the relationships that he’s going to build on that team and the trust and respect that they have in their organization because of that is going to help him be successful. They’ve got some good young players, and I think Freddie will do an outstanding job with those guys.”

You had hip surgery Monday. ... How are you feeling?

“I’m doing great. The docs did a great job. The rehab has been really, really good. In two days I could walk. That’s the big part. Now, I’ve got to be careful about what I do. I don’t want to have a setback. But it’s gone really, really well. I do appreciate you asking, so thank you.” 

Contact Charlie Potter by 247Sports' personal messaging or on Twitter (@Charlie_Potter).

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