Saban Ready to Lead Tigers on the Field
by Chris Macaluso
That was the word repeatedly uttered by a LSU Football Coach Nick Saban as he addressed the media in his inaugural game-week press conference Monday, just five days in advance of the 2000 season opener in Tiger Stadium against Western Carolina.
“We’re excited that it’s game week,” Saban said. “The players are very excited about the opportunity to prepare for an opponent. We’re excited about the fact that we have a new Tiger Stadium.”
But, mixed in with Saban’s talk of excitement were the unanswered questions every coach tries to answer before the first game of the year, especially a first-year coach who has yet to see his team play when it counts.
“What I’d like to focus on is our team and how we perform on the field,” he said. “What our execution is, how we play together as a team, how we compete as a team, how we respond to adversity.”
One of the questions Saban is still trying to answer is who, if any, of the Tiger quarterbacks will take the full-time starting position. Battling for the job are juniors Josh Booty, Rohan Davey who are listed as No.1 and No.1-A on the depth chart respectively. Though Booty has been named the starter for Saturday’s game, Saban said that is not an indication of how well or how poorly Davey has played or who will start the second game of the year.
He said there will be a plan going into Saturday’s game concerning who will play quarterback at different points during the game, but added that that plan does not include alternating Booty and Davey at the position every series.
“We’re going to play players, both of whom deserve the opportunity to play, both of whom I think have the support of the offensive football team,” he said. “Josh(Booty) is going to be the starter and Rohan’s (Davey) going to get an opportunity to play because he needs to play. He’s been hurt. He’s going to help our football team down the road if he plays regardless of what the situation is at quarterback.”
Booty played in 10 of the Tigers 11 games last season, starting eight of those games. Davey played in seven games last year starting the second and third games and leading the Tigers to their only Southeastern Conference victory as a second quarter substitute for Booty in a 35-10 pounding of Arkansas to end the year.
A torn knee ligament in the post-season has slowed Davey, sidelining him during spring practice. But, Saban said what happened last season and what happened in the spring may have no effect on what happens this season.
“This is not an evaluation process, this is a process of how our players can get better,” he said. “If both quarterbacks can play well, I don’t see that as being a problem. If the players respond to both guys and both guys play well and in their own way contribute to us having a successful season, we’re better off with two good ones than one.”
Perhaps an even tougher question to answer than who the quarterback will be is who the team traveling to Tiger Stadium Saturday is. Division I-AA Western Carolina does not appear to present much of a challenge to LSU on paper. The Catamounts are 0-6 all-time against SEC opponents and finished last season with a 3-8 overall record.
But Saban said his team is not looking at what happened last season. He warned that the Catamounts have a potent offense and a transfer quarterback from the University of Virginia in David Rivers who can score on any team in the country.
“We have everything to lose, but nothing to gain,” Saban said. “Every team is dangerous that you will face in college football. If we play hard for 60 minutes, can we play with a tremendous amount of toughness, can we make the team that we’re playing say that this is the toughest hardest playing, toughest hitting team that they’ve had to play all year long for the sixty minutes in the game. That will be our objective. That is what we want to do.”