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Nick Saban, Bryce Young talk Alabama’s preparation for Texas Longhorns

Nick Saban coaching Alabama in first practice for Texas prep
Photo by Kent Gidley of Alabama Athletics

Utah State tested Alabama mentally, but the Crimson Tide has a physical and mental battle Saturday against the Texas Longhorns.

For the first time since the 2010 BCS National Championship Game, Alabama and Texas face each other in a highly anticipated matchup. Texas, under Steve Sarkisian, wants to show the nation it has returned as a marquee program.

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Alabama is looking for another national championship and the seventh under Saban. ESPN’s College GameDay will be at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium for the action. The game will be at 11:00 a.m. CT in the middle of the heat. Tide fans will see what type of team it has under these circumstances. Coach Nick Saban and quarterback Bryce Young are ready for the challenge.

Both spoke Monday about Steve Sarkisian and the challenge Texas presents.

Sarkisian was an offensive analyst at Alabama in 2016. He got an opportunity to call plays during the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. It was not a fruitful experience for the California native, but it prepared him to become an offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. Sarkisian returned to Tuscaloosa after two seasons in the National Football League and was ready to run an offense. During his second season, he pushed the Crimson Tide to an undefeated CFP National Championship with an unbelievable system. Sarkisian produced a high-flying offense that averaged 48.5 points a game.

He mentored three Heisman finalists — including the Heisman winner, DeVonta Smith. Sarkisian gets his first chance to match wits with someone who took a chance on him. Saban said Sarkisian is very good at reading defenses and getting the look he wants.

“He is a very bright guy,” Saban said. “He’s well organized, he did an outstanding job when he was here. He’s got a good system. He understands defense. He likes to see what you are in if he can so he can run a play that will be effective against it. All of those things make you a good play caller.”

RELATED: WATCH: Alabama football goes through first practice in preparation for Texas

Saban stated that Sarkisian likes using motions, adjustments, and movements to create opportunities for his players. Young, a junior quarterback, said his former offensive coordinator ‘has an eye for details.’ He learned a lot from Sarkisian as a freshman.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) celebrates a touchdown against Utah State at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL on Saturday, Sep 3, 2022

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) celebrates a touchdown against Utah State at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL on Saturday, Sep 3, 2022.

“Coach Sark, just from my time of him coaching me here, he’s always one step ahead,” Young said. “He knows what he has. He has a process, and there are things he fills out. He is natural off instinct.”

Alabama’s defense stifled Utah State’s rushing attack, but it faces arguably the most talented running back in Bijon Robinson.

The junior from Arizona recorded his first 1,000+ yard season last year. He totaled 1,127 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns on 195 carries. Robinson averaged 5.8 yards per attempt and 112.7 yards per game. He caught 26 passes for 295 receiving yards and four more scores. The Crimson Tide has to limit Robinson’s big plays to ignite Texas’ offense.

“He can do everything,” Coach Saban said of Robinson. “He’s got speed, power, very instinctive runner, sets up blockers well, has a burst, and has great hands. They use him a lot in the passing game, so this guy is probably as good of an all-around back in the country or one of the best.”

Texas brings an improved defense and a staff that knows Alabama, but it provides no fear for Saban.

“We seem to play several teams that know us, but you act like we don’t know them,” he said Monday to reporters. “Just because somebody knows you when they play you doesn’t mean they are going to beat you.”

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Alabama is preparing for the heat, but it’s also working on defending quarterback Quinn Ewers. As a transfer from Ohio State, Ewers tallied 225 yards and two touchdowns in Texas’ victory over Louisiana-Monroe. Saban said the Crimson Tide has to disguise what it does on defense and force him to read coverages.

“He’s a very talented passer,” Saban said of Ewers. “He’s got a good feel for the game. He’s got a strong arm; I think he threw a ball 55 yards on the money in the last game. I think it was his first game, but I thought he played extremely well. He’s going to continue to make progress because he has a tremendous amount of talent. The guy has the talent to make plays.”

We will find out more about where Alabama is toward its national championship push this weekend.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith. 

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