Even without film work, Steve Sarkisian has some familiarity with how the University of Alabama defense operates. Will that be an advantage for the University of Texas head coach when the Crimson Tide visits the Longhorns on Saturday?

“We’ve seemed to play several teams now that kind of know us,” Saban said when asked that question during his Monday press conference. “You act like we don’t know them. Just because somebody knows you when they play you, it doesn’t mean they’re going to beat you. Just because you know them when you play them, doesn’t mean you’re going to beat them either. It kind of comes down to how you execute.”

Sarkisian was the offensive mastermind for the Crimson Tide in 2019 and 2020 when Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones were shredding defenses. He took over the Texas program in 2021.

“To think we’re going to go change a lot of things that we do, that our players know how to do, that they do well, that they have confidence in doing," Saban said, “I don’t think that’s the answer when it comes to having confidence in how you have to adjust and what you need to do.”

More important is how the Alabama defense is going to attack a Texas offense directed by Quinn Ewers, who is considered one of the top young quarterbacks in college football, at least by reputation, and featuring running back Bijan Robinson.

“He can do everything,” Saban said of the 6-foot, 210-pound Robinson. “He’s got speed, he’s got power, very instinctive runner, sets up his blockers well, has a burst, great hands, good receiver, they use him a lot in the passing game. This guy is as good of an all-around back as there probably is in the country. His production really sort of shows that.”

Robinson had 71 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown and three catches for 40 yards with another touchdown in a 52-10 mismatch over Louisiana-Monroe in the opener. Last season, he accounted for 1,422 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Ewers needs to keep the Crimson Tide defense honest to create some space for Robinson to operate. The 6-foot-2, 206-pound Texas native was supposed to be a high school senior last year but reclassified to graduate early. He spent his first college season at Ohio State with his only game action the final two snaps against Michigan State. He came back to Texas, won the job in the spring and fall camp and completed 16 passes in 24 attempts for 225 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Obviously, when his college career is basically 24 passes old, he’s seen nothing like he will on Saturday.

“For me, I try to approach every quarterback the same,” said Alabama’s Will Anderson, Jr. “For a young quarterback like that, it’s going to be fun. This is his first game going against a defense like this. We’re just going out there and do our thing. We’re not going to try and do nothing more, just go out there and play the game plan that our coach gives us.”

It will be Sarkisian’s job to come up with a plan to attack the Alabama defense. Saban was asked on Monday what makes Sarkisian such an effective play caller.

“I think he’s a very bright guy,” Saban said. “He’s well organized, did an outstanding job while he was here. He’s got a good system, he understands defense. He likes to see what you’re in, if he can, so that he can run a play that’s going to be an effective play against that particular look.”

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young was asked the same question.

“I think it’s a lot just having an eye for that stuff,” Young said. “Coach Sark, in my time with him being OC here, he kind of was always one step ahead as far as knowing what he had. I was able to learn a lot while he was here. Obviously, great play caller, great coach.”

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819news.com.

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