Saban was asked about Kouandjio’s struggles and didn’t take the question lightly.
“I think Cyrus has played very well overall, if you look overall,” Saban said. “I think that a lot of expectations get created with these guys. I hate it that (ESPN analyst) Mel Kiper and all these guys say this is the No. 1 guy at his position. I mean they don’t even have an idea.
“Most of the teams haven’t even evaluated them yet when they are underclassmen.”
Saban said the expectation becomes that Kouandjio is the “best left tackle that ever played the game.” Saban said the team is happy with Kouandjio’s performance and wants him to continue to improve.
“So every time he gets beat he’s not playing very well,” Saban said. “But the fact of the matter is he still plays pretty well. Has he got beat a few times? Yeah. Is that that unusual for any player? Probably not. I’m sure if you ask him he would tell you things he wants to improve and do better.
“I think there are things we would like him to improve on and get better, but nobody here is disappointed in how he has performed and you know we'll keep on trying to help him be as consistent performer as we can.”
NUMBER CHANGES: A few of Alabama’s younger players have changed jersey numbers as of Wednesday’s practice for special teams purposes.
Linebacker Rueben Foster changed from No. 2 to No. 9, while running backs Derrick Henry is going from No. 21 to No. 27 and Altee Tenpenny switched from No. 23 to No. 28.
The NCAA allows players to have duplicate numbers, but they can't be on the field at the same time. Saban said at times, the duplicate numbers have been a problem with determining who plays on what special team.
Saban said it “must be en vogue to not have a number above 29” and that if the team had 42 single-digit numbers, the Tide “would have 84 people who had them because all the guys would want them.”
“Now the problem with that is, when you get on special teams — we already got called for having two 21s in the game at the same time,” Saban said. “We can’t take people out of the game and put other guys in because of number issues. This is a special teams issue. It’s not anything other that.”
SACKS: On the season, Alabama has just five sacks. Denzel Devall and true freshman A’Shawn Robinson each have two sacks apiece. The only SEC team with fewer sacks is Texas A&M (four).
Saban said he still feels the pass rush has affected the quarterback.
“If you look at the number of times we flushed the quarterback in the pocket or don’t really finish on the quarterback, we’ve probably done that 10 times,” Saban said. “We should have, could have, whatever you want to call it had a sack, affected the play, affected the quarterback but didn’t really get a sack. Sacks are not necessarily the most important. Affecting the quarterback is.”
Junior defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan said getting to the quarterback and not bringing him down is frustrating.
“Oh, yeah, most definitely,” Pagan said. “But we still are trying to get better at that. Each week we're trying to take more steps to get more sacks and affect the quarterback as much as possible.”