Photo by Butch Dill
Oregon Football

5 Takeaways from the Natty

January 9, 2018


I don't like him any more than the rest of you, but by golly if you don't respect what Nick Saban has built and is doing at Alabama, you are just being a 'hater.' It doesn't mean I like him or want him to coach this Oregon team, but by golly that fricking guy is one heck of a football coach.

He took a good Alabama team and made them into a national powerhouse. They are the benchmark for what any program should aspire to be. 

Nick Saban is the best coach in all of college football and Alabama is the best team.

Perhaps they didn't deserve to be in the playoff, but that's not really their fault. Perhaps they sadly schedule a patty-cake out of conference schedule each year but it's obvious they aren't punished for it. So if you are keeping score at home, he gets into the playoffs most years. Just because he plays the game to win doesn't mean he's cheating.

Kirby Smart got his team to the college football championship using all of the same principles he learned at Alabama from Nick Saban. Mario Cristobal aims to do the same at Oregon.

I've watched Saban win championship after championship, but I feel last night's over Georgia was most impressive. He faced injuries, made a QB switch at halftime and honestly, probably wasn't the better team. And that play call in overtime calling four seams on 2nd and 26 against a poorly called cover-2 was genius. 

That was a result of planning, scouting, execution and a little bit of luck. But luck seems to find its way to those who happen to work a little harder. 

I'm done gushing about Nick Saban, a guy I can't really stand but sure as heck can admire for what he's accomplished at Alabama.

Here are my five takeaways from the game and how Oregon needs to apply them moving forward.

Recruit, Recruit, Recruit

This has to be No. 1. Much has been made about the spectacle of Georgia making a huge investment into recruiting with the arrival of Kirby Smart. Of course he learned that from Nick Saban who recruits with the best of them. 

I've made mention of how Mario Cristobal hopes to get Oregon to that level but it takes a commitment from the administration to accomplish this. 

It's the little things that the casual fan don't notice. Personnel, technology, assistants for assistants. So many little things these programs are doing.

Recruiting is cut-throat. It is so competitive it comes down to more than just having 'recruiters' on your staff. 

Look, Nick Saban is a good coach which we'll get into later on, but the No. 1 building block to his success is the fact he has elite athletes filling his roster, makig his odds of winning these kind of games a lot better.

If Oregon wants to win, top 5 classes year after year is a must.

Top-Notch Coaching Staff

That's what Nick Saban has regardless of who is there or gone. He sees more turnover than any other program in the country and yet his desk is filled with resumes within minutes.

Who wouldn't want to learn from the best?

Success breeds this type of environment. And Nick Saban is at the top right now. It's a perpetual cycle of incredible coaches.

But the coaching is one aspect. In order to be as successful as he is, you have to have knowledgeable coaches that handle every detail without you watching over their shoulder. The chemistry, preparation and more is critical to the gameday success. 

Nick Saban doesn't have time to watch over his coaches shoulder every day or practice. Which is probably why you see him get so upset on the sidelines in games. He expects his coaches to be ready and prepared. It's not an unrealistic expectation. That's what they are paid to do.

Once again, as I've pointed out, Cristobal is taking his time with his assistant hires. A lot longer than most other programs. If you continue to wonder why, watch to see how long Nick Saban takes to make his next assistant hire even though he'll have a deskful of resumes within minutes.

Bigger, Stronger, Faster

It starts with the recruiting which is No. 1 on this list for good reason. I have emphasized the importance of this strength coach hire to Mario. I know some of you are hearing me but you aren't really taking it to heart.

Those teams, Alabama and Georgia, have a slew of the best strength coaches in the country. Not just a guy, several guys that everyone is going to try and poach.

Why is Alabama paying Scott Cochrane over half a million dollars a year to teach kids how to pick up weights and run? BECAUSE HE'S WORTH IT.

Both of these teams wear you down. They come at you, they come at you and they beat you into submission. Both of those teams would have pushed Oregon into submission which is what happened to the Chip Kelly teams against Auburn and LSU.

Alabama wore down Georgia surprisingly in the fourth quarter. You could see it. They had better depth and were able to keep that push up front late in the game. 

If you want to win, you have to be bigger, stronger and faster than the other guys. That starts in January, it doesn't start in August. If you wait til then to get started, you have already lost.

Own the LOS

LOS = Line of Scrimmage.

Own it. 

We saw a transition this year on Oregon's offensive line. They were bigger, they were physical and they imposed their will on several teams. It's still a work in progress, but that was a 1-year transition that will continue under Mario Cristobal.

This is why a player like Penei Sewell is such an important piece to this class even though Oregon has four offensive line commits already.

More importantly Cristobal takes over and offers a number of new defensive lineman and landed a couple. (Sione Vea Kava, Andrew Faoliu) The defensive line of both of these teams were incredible last night. The linebackers were every bit as good. 

These were elite level recruits which circles back to No. 1. But a Nick Saban-led team has a hallmark staple to it. He owns the line of scrimmage, specifically on defense. 

If Oregon wants to get to this level of succeess, they need to model after this. Go get the big boys in the trenches and make them stronger with your strength coach and make them better with your offensive line coach.

Preparation and Culture

Not only on gamedays. Every day. 

These kids are being prepared for football both at the college and NFL levels. Nick Saban also prepares his guys for life after football and life in the NFL.

What do you mean Jhop?

These guys just aren't given a 'Guide to the NFL for Dummies' book. They are groomed for this succcess then prepared for it once it comes. 

And all of this is sold to recruits and parents under rule No. 1. When you go to Alabama, you are wowed with trophies and weight rooms and so many other elements. But Nick Saban also has detailed ways they will prepare you at Alabama in your 3 or 4 years and then prepared for that success they are going to help you achieve. 

This also falls under that commitment from the administration of giving Mario Cristobal and his coaches the tools and backing to put these practices into place at Oregon.

It's a way of the every day operation at Alabama. It's an expectation. It's a culture.

No moment is too big for the players at Alabama because they are prepared. 


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