The University of Alabama's football practice on Saturday was attended by many high school coaches from around the Southeast who were in town for the Tide's annual coaching clinic. The group heard Bill Parcells speak Friday night and heard Lou Holtz speak Saturday.
The media got a chance to talk with Holtz, who watched practice while wearing a Crimson Tide pullover. The legendary coach turned ESPN analyst talked about what he saw from practice and how good Alabama’s defense was last year.
Q: How are you doing coach?
A: I’m doing real well. I don’t have to play Alabama. They really have some fine athletes, and you have to be impressed with the coaching and the way they do things. I think it’s good that he doesn’t allow the opponent to come in and watch them practice or they would really intimidate you. You just see, they do little things the right way and they get better and fundamentally, very sound.
Q: How good was Alabama’s defense last year?
A: Let me put it this way. In 13 games, they gave up nine touchdowns against the best opponents in the country. In one game, Clemson gave up 10 touchdowns to West Virginia, so it was unbelievable. I was at the national championship game and I felt that Alabama would win because teams are seven-for-seven, I think, in return games. In no way did I expect them to dominate the game the way they did defensively. It was a complete mismatch just watching them.
I’ve coached against coach (Nick) Saban, and I’ll say this: I have the utmost respect for him as a person, as a coach, love being around him, but he’s a greedy sucker. Some people get you first-and-10, second-and-12, third-and-9, and they’re content to have fourth-and-5. Not Nick. He wants first-and-10, second-and-12, third-and-14, fourth-and-19. He wants to move you back. He doesn’t want to give you a yard and you can see the way they practice out there that they just don’t want you to make a yard.
Q: What’s going to be your message on Saturday night to everyone?
A: I’m an old coach and I’m still old-fashioned and Nick and I spent some time yesterday talking about that, but my main message is going to be, they can name you the head coach. They give you that title. Titles come from above. They can’t name you the leader of the team and the leader of the team is somebody who has to have a vision where you want to go and you have to have a plan how you’re going to get there. I want to share with them the plan of how we win. I want to share with them the 10 actions that I think you should understand and follow when play-calling on offense. And then, how to teach your athletes to make good choices because life’s nothing more than making good choices. If you get them to make good choices on the field and off the field, if you make good choices in recruiting, you’re going to have a good program.
Q: Do you talk at clinics often?
A: No, I don’t do this very often. I try to make a point to only speak at clinics when I’m invited. Usually, I don’t say, ‘Hey, I’m here to speak’ when I’m not on the schedule. No, seriously, I used to get a lot of requests earlier. Now I don’t because my schedule is difficult, but when a guy like Nick Saban calls you, plus I have the opportunity to come up and watch them practice, look at how they do things. I’ll share them with my son, the differences I see here, etc.
I’m looking forward to it. I really am. I love talking to high school coaches, in particular. I would always give our players a questionnaire and one of the questions was who influenced you the most and why. So many times, it was a coach, a high school coach, not necessarily the head coach, maybe the freshman coach, maybe the position coach. The biggest difference at Notre Dame when I gave them a questionnaire, I had to get a dictionary to read it. Other places, I could handle that.