Saban discusses Alabama’s mindset headed into Sugar Bowl

‘Bama coach praises Young, Anderson for choosing to play
Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman shake hands ahead of...
Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman shake hands ahead of Saturday's Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.(WBRC)
Published: Dec. 30, 2022 at 5:52 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WBRC) - For only the second time since the advent of the College Football Playoff, Alabama is getting ready to play in a bowl game that doesn’t have championship implications.

Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban said on Friday that, even though his team didn’t make the Playoff, they have approached the game well.

“Your circumstance doesn’t really define who you are,” Saban said. “It kind of reveals who you are in terms of how do you respond to the challenge that we have and the circumstance that we’re in.

“So it’s always a little more challenging, but I think that our players have had the right disposition and the right mindset about how they’ve approached it.”

Alabama entered the season as the unanimous top-ranked team in the country, but losses to Tennessee and LSU knocked the Tide from Playoff contention. Saban said he is hoping the players enjoy the reward of playing in the Sugar Bowl on Saturday, adding that playing in a bowl game is “a great experience for the players.”

Earlier this month, projected first-round draft picks Bryce Young and Will Anderson made the decision to play in Saturday’s game against Kansas State after speculation that they may opt-out.

Neither Alabama nor Kansas State had any players opt out of the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Combine.

“Well, I think it speaks volumes of the character of the players on your team who choose to play, because they’ve been great leaders of the team,” Saban said Friday. “They’ve been great contributors. They’ve set a good example for their teammates. They care about their teammates.”

For Young and Anderson, it was another chance to take the field in the Crimson Tide uniform.

“How I looked at it was it was just another opportunity to play with my brothers,” Young said Wednesday. “And I love the guys on my team. I love this team. I love this program.”

Anderson said he wanted to set an example for the younger players on the team.

“They knew what type of person I was. I told them I wasn’t going to leave them stranded,” he said. “I’ve been preaching all season long: We’re the Alabama standard. This is how you do certain things. And just for me to uphold that standard and show them like, ‘Hey, this is how you’re supposed to do it.’”

Saban praised both players on Friday, saying it sent a message to the team about their commitment to the program.

“I do think it sends a very positive message to teammates when the leaders of the team – both guys are captains,” he said. “One guy is the most inspirational player voted by his teammates. One is the most valuable player voted by his teammates.”

Despite not have any opt-outs, Alabama did have ten players enter the transfer portal since the regular season finale against Auburn. Saban said he gave them all the chance to play in the game if they wanted, but they didn’t.

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