ALABAMA NOTEBOOK: Saban says coaches can only do so much to prevent off-field issues
by Marq Burnett
mburnett@annistonstar.com
Jul 18, 2013 | 3917 views |  0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama head coach Nick Saban signs autographs for Crimson Tide fans as he leaves the Hyatt Regency in Birmingham after the conclusion of SEC Media Days on Thursday. (Photo by Trent Penny)
Alabama head coach Nick Saban signs autographs for Crimson Tide fans as he leaves the Hyatt Regency in Birmingham after the conclusion of SEC Media Days on Thursday. (Photo by Trent Penny)
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HOOVER -- With a high number of players with off-the-field issues at both the collegiate and professional level popping up, player conduct was a hot topic at SEC Media Days this week.

Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked about former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who faces first-degree murder charges in the death of a friend.

“I think we have a responsibility to create the best atmosphere for the player to have a chance to be successful in, which means we have to educate our players on the consequences of good and bad behavior,” Saban said.

Saban continued to tout helping players make the right choices and mentioned peer intervention as a way to remedy the problem, but he wouldn’t put all of the blame on coaches and programs.

“We can be the moral compass for our young people, but we cannot always drive the ship,” he said.

Nearly complete

Alabama’s 2013 is just one player away from being whole. Wide receiver Robert Foster is the lone recruit that hasn’t enrolled, but he is working toward becoming eligible in the fall.

Saban confirmed Foster is retaking a class that wasn’t accepted by the NCAA Clearinghouse. Saban said if Foster passes he will join the team for the 2013 season.

“They gave him an opportunity to repeat the class. That’s what he’s in the process of doing,” Saban said. “If he repeats the class successfully, he’ll be there in the fall.”

During his senior season at Central Valley High in Monaca, Pa., Foster totaled 756 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns on 45 receptions. He also rushed for 549 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning a spot in the Under Armour All-America game.

Sharing the load

Arguably, the best asset going for Alabama’s 2012 offensive line was that the core had spent so much time together. This season, however, only two starters remain, and how the unit will mesh continues to be a looming question.

Senior right guard Anthony Steen feels this offensive line can pick up where last year’s left off.

“We have the talent there. We just have to go out every day and practice hard,” Steen said.

Nothing is set in stone, but the line projects to feature Steen and tackle Austin Shepherd on the right side and the Kouandjio brothers -- tackle Cyrus and guard Arie -- on the left side, with center Ryan Kelly.

Steen and Cyrus Kouandjio, the younger brother, will split the leadership duties.

“I told Cyrus the other day that whatever he wanted to say, I’d be there, and I got his back,” Steen said. “He told me the same thing.

“Cyrus is more of the guy who’ll talk in front of everybody, and I’m more of the guy who’ll get the freshman that just messed up and take him to the side to show him what he did wrong and make sure he knows how to do it right the next time.”

Tough early schedule

It seems the college football world is focusing on the Sept. 14 rematch between Alabama and Texas A&M in College Station, Texas.

The Aggies placed the only blemish on the Tide’s 2012 record, and Alabama is hungry for revenge.

However, the team isn’t overlooking Virginia Tech, and the bye week before the match up with A&M may not be as big a bonus as some believed.

In fact, both Steen and linebacker C.J. Mosley expressed displeasure with the off week.

“I think I’d rather not even have the bye week,” Steen said. “I think that bye week is just going to make me get nervous about it ‘cause I know it’s going to be a nail-biter. I’ve heard that Aggie Stadium (Kyle Field) is a tough place to play.”

Mosley added, “Having a bye week kind of slows teams down. When the season starts, you just want to keep it going. Usually, a bye week is good towards the end of the season. If players are hurt or have knicks and knacks, they can have a chance to rest up, but we’ll take it. That’s just an extra week to prepare for our opponent.”

Local guy

When Tyler Siskey decided to become a part of Alabama’s staff, it was a sort of coming home for him. The Anniston native, who was an integral part in building Ole Miss’ top 2013 recruiting class, joined the Tide as an associate director of player personnel.

Siskey, who played for the Donoho School, now has the chance to be closer to his roots.

He’s also closer to Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. Siskey was McCarron’s offensive coordinator and position coach when the two-time, national-championship quarterback attended St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile.

While Siskey no longer coaches on the field, Saban praised his accomplishments and value to the team.

“Tyler is very good at what he does,” Saban said. “He’s in the recruiting part of our organization. I’m sure he’d be a fine coach, if he ever chose and had an opportunity to do that.”

Marq Burnett covers University of Alabama sports for The Star. On Twitter, follow @Marq_Burnett.
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