Bill O'Brien, Doug Marrone to coach Alabama virtually for Cotton Bowl prep
Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and offensive line coach Doug Marrone will carry out their roles virtually for the time being after testing positive for COVID-19 last week. The two assistants did not travel with the team to Dallas on Sunday but are expected to rejoin the staff in person in time for Alabama’s matchup against Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 31.
During a teleconference Sunday, Nick Saban said both O’Brien and Marron are “doing well” and that neither was so sick that they could not execute their daily duties virtually. Alabama assistant Joe Pendry has temporarily been promoted to an on-field role and will oversee the offensive line in Marrone's absence. Pendry served as Alabama's offensive line coach from 2007-10.
“We’re using the same protocols that we’ve used in the past for COVID situations,” Saban said Sunday. “They will do all their work coaching virtually with all the players, similarly to the way I did it when I tested positive before the Auburn game a year ago.”
During the teleconference, Saban said there has not been a spread of the virus among his players. According to the head coach, the team is fully vaccinated and 92% of the players have received their booster shots.
Alabama took the last three days off for Christmas, allowing players to return home to spend the holidays with their families. Last week, Saban explained the decision, stating the team is implementing the same protocols it did during last season when players were also allowed to visit their families over the holidays.
“We give them a care package with everything they need to stay safe,” Saban said last week, “and we have implemented all the protocols here since we’ve been back that we had last year in terms of wearing masks and meetings, washing hands, social distancing in meetings.”
During Sunday’s teleconference, Saban said that there are still some players who have not joined the team from various spots across the country. The team is set to gather together at 1 p.m. CT later in the day.
“I think everyone has to be able to adapt and manage circumstances that come up that are a little different on a day-to-day basis, whether it's a player missing practice because he has a stomach virus or a coach testing positive for COVID,” Saban said. “I think everybody’s ability to stay focused on the task and manage their business the right way and do everything they can from a protocol standpoint to not put themselves at risk so they can safe, but we don’t have any other issues that we know about.”
When asked Sunday, Saban said the team has not had to update its protocols due to the different variants of COVID-19. Alabama players are currently wearing masks and practicing social distancing during meetings in addition to masking up outside of the facility.
"If there were some new protocols that would help us be safer, we’d definitely implement them," Saban said, "but I think we tried to implement all that we know that has worked in the past.”
No. 1 Alabama (12-1) will play No. 4 Cincinnati (13-0) on Dec. 31 at 2:30 p.m. inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The game will serve as one of two semifinal matchups for the College Football Playoff with the winner advancing to play the winner of the Orange Bowl matchup between No. 2 Michigan (12-1) and No. 3 Georgia (12-1) which will also take place on Dec. 31.
The national championship game will be played on Jan. 10 inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.