TUSCALOOSA | Bowl season is the time for college football coaches to unveil so many new plays and tricks, it's as if they weren't even in the playbook until Santa put them under the tree.
Having weeks instead of days to prepare allows for some new wrinkles in the postseason. And coaches, knowing their bowl counterparts have the same excess of time to break down film and exploit tendencies, often feel compelled to counter that with a new look.
That temptation can be dangerous, however, according to University of Alabama coach Nick Saban.
"Why do you have to come up with something new? Lots of people do. They think they have a lot of time to practice, so we can come up with a lot of tricks and different things like that. I don't necessarily think that's the way we've done it in the past," Saban said.
With two days off before the new year, the Crimson Tide completed the second of three practice phases Saturday in preparation for the BCS National Championship Game in Miami against Notre Dame. The Jan. 7 kickoff provides Alabama and Notre Dame with even more time than most bowl eligible teams, especially Notre Dame, whose season ended a week before Alabama's did. For many of those teams, bowl season is a frontier for change, everything from trick plays to altering the lineup. Saban believes trying new things, however, may not be the best use of all that time.
"I think you technically do what you think you need to do to be able to attack the other team, doing things your players know how to do. If you try to do too many things they don't know how to do, they have a better chance of messing them up," he added. "So is the extra practice time allowing you to put a few new wrinkles in? Absolutely. That's something everybody likes to do, but I think you can overdo it as well."
Saban on Pettway
Freshman defender D.J. Pettway moved from the defensive line to the Jack linebacker position about a week ago, and has been practicing under outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson. But when asked Saturday about the move, Saban made more reference to Pettway's maturity as a player than about his new position.
"I think what D.J. Pettway has to do is, no matter how well he can pass rush, he has to prove that he can be depended on. That's he's going to do the right thing. That he's going to be in the right place at the right time, whether it's on or off the field, so that everybody can trust in him that he's going to do the things that he's supposed to do," Saban said. "(I'm) talking about responsibility for your own self-determination, I think that's important for everybody in the organization."
Pettway made seven tackles with 1.5 sacks for Alabama this year in limited playing time.
"I think one to watch is Marvin Shinn. He's done a great job this week and last week practicing and preparing for the game." - Receiver Christion Jones on who might make a surprise impact on the BCS title game.
Alabama will resume practice on New Year's Day for what Saban said would be like "a normal (game week) Monday" practice. The Crimson Tide will fly to Miami the following day. ... Center Barrett Jones continued to ride a stationary bike at practice while recovering from a foot injury. ... Like Jones, wide receiver Kenny Bell (leg) and linebacker Denzel Devall (knee) also are being withheld from contact. Saban has described their status as "day to day".
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.