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Personal approach has helped Alabama OC Brian Daboll adjust to college game

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NEW ORLEANS — To be fair, Brian Daboll’s had some practice.

Sure, there’s an adjustment taking over the offensive coordinator position at Alabama after spending the past three seasons coaching tight ends for the New England Patriots. The talent level is different in college. More so, the personalities of young men in their late teens and early 20s don’t usually match those of professionals.

Well, for the most part.

“You know I had Gronk,” Daboll said with a laugh, referencing the free-spirited attitude of New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

All jokes aside, this year was always going to be somewhat of a transition process for Daboll, who spent the past 17 seasons in the NFL. Of course, some things are the same. Daboll said there isn’t much of a difference between Patriots head coach Belichick and Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

“I think Nick dresses a little better,” Daboll said, again flashing his light-hearted sense of humor.

There are also things the offensive coordinator isn’t used to handling. Daboll, a father of six, has a couple of children near or at college age. That has come in handy this season as coaching at the college level often goes beyond the field.

“It’s not just all football,” Daboll said. “You’re there for them if they are having a personal issue, you’re there for them with studies. You are trying to help them develop to be as good of a man as they can be. They soak everything in. There’s so much other stuff going on for these guys. In the National Football League it’s football, that’s it. But there are a lot of other things outside of it here that you really have to hone in on and be there for these guys.”

That dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed by his players.

“I think our relationship has kind of grown by the day,” Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts said. “Just kind of building that togetherness that we have. We have a great relationship, being on the same page. We’re able to talk to each other all the time. Whether it be it through a FaceTime call or me stopping by the office it’s always open and we are always on the same page.”

Sometimes the help goes both ways. This year is the first time Daboll has had to deal with the recruiting process, and while he’s got it figured out for the most part, it helps to get a little coaching from his players.

“I help him out from time to time,” Hurts said. “Just how to talk to a young guy, relate to him, see how he’s doing.”

The announcement of Daboll as the next offensive coordinator brought about a lot of excitement from Alabama players. After all, it's not every day you have a coach who can FaceTime Tom Brady or Gronkowski for extra advice and instruction. While the chats with NFL stars are impressive, oftentimes it’s Daboll’s own knowledge which leaves his players in awe.

“He breaks it down,” Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley said. “I had a talk with him before we got in here and what he told me, I was just like ‘Wow.’ He just broke it all down for me.”

So far, that knowledge has helped Alabama put together an offense that is tied for No. 9 in the country averaging 39.1 points per game. The Crimson Tide also ranks No. 17 in total offense, averaging 465.4 yards per game.

However, lately Alabama’s offense has sputtered. The Crimson Tide is coming off an ugly 26-14 loss to Auburn which saw the offense gain just 314 yards and go 3 of 11 on third down. Third downs have been especially concerning given that Alabama is just 11 of 34 on third downs in its past three games against Division-I opponents.

While Daboll is well aware that improvements need to be made, he maintains that now is not the time to wallow in past mistakes, especially considering Alabama is going up against a stout Clemson defense during Monday’s Sugar Bowl. Clemson ranks No. 2 in the nation, allowing opponents 12.8 points per game. The Tigers also lead the nation in sacks with 44 through 13 games.

“I’m really focused on this week,” Daboll said. “I don’t go back in terms of numbers or anything like that. We’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we weren’t concentrating fully on the task at hand with the team we’re about to play. Personnel-wise, scheme-wise you try to put together a good plan every week, execute that plan and give your players a good chance to be successful. That’s really where our focus is right now.”

No. 4 Alabama will face No. 1 Clemson at 7:45 p.m. Monday inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in one of two College Football Playoff semifinals. Daboll has until then to put together the necessary adjustments to come away with the game plan needed to beat the Tigers.

Fortunately for Alabama, adjusting is something he’s used to doing.