Steve Sarkisian talks title game, being handed play-calling duties vs. Clemson
Early Saturday morning kicked off the official countdown to the National Championship Game, as Alabama players and coaches spoke to the media to discuss Monday night’s contest.
Without a doubt, the coach to draw the largest audience Saturday morning was the Crimson Tide’s new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
The Sarkisian Sea: cameras & mics surround Bama's new OC. Not often is Saban's podium outnumbered. He didn't mind. pic.twitter.com/0ugoCt1dkL
— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) January 7, 2017
With reporters surrounding the Tide’s new play-caller, Sarkisian revealed that he would be calling plays from the field against Clemson: “I need to have the one-on-one contract with Jalen (Hurts).”
The former USC and Washington head coach was also asked about how he learned of his promotion to coordinator following Lane Kiffin’s abrupt exit. Sarkisian says the news came the day after Alabama’s 24-7 Peach Bowl win over Washington.
“It came from Coach Saban directly a week ago,” Sarkisian said. “and my reaction was, it’s time to get to work. Quite honestly, in this profession, nothing really surprises me, especially with my career and the way it has all gone down, nothing surprises me at this point. So when the news came, I shifted right into coach mode; which is probably where I’m the most comfortable. It was just time to go to work. My focus from the moment I was told, what are we doing from that moment until that ball is kicked off Monday night to be successful.”
It will be fascinating to see how Sarkisian manages his quarterback against Clemson, as true freshman signal caller Jalen Hurts has struggled a bit over his last three starts. While Sarkisian admits the two did not have much of a relationship prior to his promotion – offensive analysts are not permitted to coach players during practice or in games – he sounds confident in their relationship moving forward.
“I bet he knows me now,” Sarkisian joked.
Sarkisian pointed out that Hurts performed well several times this season while playing in hostile environments (at Ole Miss, at Arkansas, at Tennessee, at LSU) while noting his immediate recovery from his lost fumble against USC in the season opener during his first college action as examples of the freshman’s uncanny resiliency on the field.
With all eyes set to be on Alabama’s new offensive coordinator come Monday night, we’ll know soon enough if Nick Saban made the right call leading up to the title game. However, at this point in his career, it seems very unwise to doubt Saban’s decision making. With everything on the line against Clemson, it seems unfathomable that Saban would leave anything to chance after a year’s worth of hard work marching toward another national championship trophy.