- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama head coach Nick Saban made waves on Wednesday morning when he asked whether college football was moving in the right direction with so many up-tempo spread offenses putting up video game numbers.
He said the prevention of substitutions on defense was a player safety concern that the league should look into, possibly reining in the pace of games.
"If a team gets in the same formation group you can't substitute players," he said on the SEC coaches teleconference. "For a 14, 16, 18-play drive, and they're snapping the ball as fast as you can go and you look out there and all your players are walking around and can't get lined up. Guys have a much greater chance of getting hurt when they're not ready to play.
"It's obviously created a tremendous advantage for the offense when teams are scoring 70 points and we're averaging 49.5 points per game with people who do those kinds of things, so more and more people are going to do it. I just think there has to be some sense of fairness, in terms of asking is this what we want football to be?"
Saban's reaction comes on the heels of facing an up-tempo, no-huddle offense in Ole Miss on Saturday night. The Rebels were the first team to lead Alabama all season after scoring on a drive that took 13 plays and lasted less than 5 minutes. Ole Miss' second touchdown took 16 plays and lasted just 5:01. In both instances, UA's defense couldn't substitute or get the play call in every time like its become accustomed to.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who ran a similar spread offense at Florida, responded to Saban's comments to a group of reporters later in the day, voicing his fondness for the different offenses.
"I think it's great for college football," he said.
UA senior defensive end Damion Square understandably isn't in the same camp as Meyer. Facing offenses that go without huddling and force the tempo is something he deals with but isn't a fan of.
"It's football. Guys are going to come and try to get an advantage to win," Square said. "This game has changed a lot. That's what you're seeing nowadays. Everybody wants to come and run the no-huddle so that the defense can't get the perfect play in.
"But as a football player, you have to be out there and you have to play. You have to get around the ball and realize you're not going to get to play that play, put your hand on the ground and play football the way it's supposed to be play."
Square continued: "You can't really worry about the tempo. If they makes rules and regulations to that, then that would be a plus to the defense."
The Alabama defense did a good job getting into the Ole Miss backfield and disrupting the flow of the offense on Saturday night, coming away with five sacks and eight tackles for loss. But to Square, it wasn't enough.
"We want more," he said. "You want to get to the quarterback, especially when the other team is running an up-tempo offense.
"Maybe they may blow a blocking assignment and maybe our guys on the backend will blow a coverage assignment on that same play. You want to exploit them up front and get to the quarterback because that could have saved us from having a touchdown."
During Alabama's run of two championships in three years, the team hasn't been forced to deal with significant injuries on offense.
This year, the Tide have lost three players for the season on offense -- DeAndrew White, Dee Hart and Jalston Fowler -- and have dealt with nagging injuries to a number of others, notably wide receiver Kevin Norwood and running back Eddie Lacy.
To tight end Michael Williams, he'd rather not dwell on the bad, and instead is focused on what comes next.
"In my past four years that we've been able to get through the season without people getting hurt," he said. "Now we're facing a little adversity and it's going to test us.
"We're just building confidence with the younger players. We're going to see how they react."
Said center Barrett Jones: "When you're a backup around here, you know you're only a play away. That's how we prepare our twos around here. We prepare them to step up and be ready to play."
"It is different with the players that we have and the experience that we have," said Williams of having the open date fall a few weeks earlier than normal. "Last year, we had a lot more experience. This year, we're still learning right now. We're pushing towards just the next game and not looking forward to the LSU game or anything like that."