Proud Croatian American Nick Saban investigating his heritage
Published Thursday, June 23, 2005
Saban pleased with progress made _ so far
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Sports Writer
Nick Saban went back in time last weekend, investigating his heritage during a quick vacation in Croatia. The proud Catholic attended Mass in an impoverished community, learned about the nation's history and relaxed along the pristine, clear-water splendor of the Dalmatian Coast.
Yet he found no athletes who could help his Miami Dolphins.
"Don't think I wasn't looking," the Dolphins' first-year coach said, grinning.
He's scheduled to leave Friday night for another family vacation, this one in Georgia, a few thousand miles closer than the republic that was once part of the former Yugoslavia. But once again, his mind probably won't be far from football and his first Dolphins training camp, now looming just one month away.
Over the last few months, during their allotment of "organized team activities" days, the Dolphins tried players at various positions, installed new offensive and defensive schemes, and began meshing several dozen players and a couple dozen new coaches and staff into some sort of cohesive unit.
Are the new-look Dolphins ready for the season? No.
Have they satisfied Saban so far? Apparently, yes.
"We have some guys that have made better progress than others in terms of their understanding and ability to execute with consistency and confidence and understanding so they can turn it loose and go get it," Saban said Thursday. "But if we had that accomplished right now, we wouldn't need 35-ought practices or whatever we have in training camp to get ready for the first game."
Saban is leery to identify who any probable starters are at this point, insisting that tipping his hand now would be counterproductive; he wants people battling for jobs and trying to overachieve in camp, not pouting over being demoted to the second team.
And he would not reveal if he's had any new conversations with the apparently soon-to-be-unretired running back Ricky Williams, who is reportedly back in South Florida and still planning to be with the Dolphins for training camp late next month. But indications are that Saban and Williams have had some sort of dialogue; Saban said he was aware of Williams' travel schedule from California last week.
"I knew exactly what he was doing, and he did exactly what he said he was going to do," Saban said, without elaborating.
The Williams situation and the pending battle between A.J. Feeley and Gus Frerotte for the starting quarterback job remain two of the most interesting issues hovering over the Dolphins these days.
Feeley and Frerotte are both incumbents of sorts; Feeley started half the games during Miami's 4-12 season a year ago, Frerotte knows the offense better, having played two years in Minnesota in the same system currently being installed here by offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
"I would bet - if anybody wants to bet, not that I'm a gambling man - that at some point in time, we're going to need both of those guys to play well during the season," Saban said. "So our focus is on them both developing to be the best possible players they can be ... even ongoing after we name a starter."
Notes:@ The Dolphins have scheduled visits with free-agent safety Lance Schulters, who was recently released by Tennessee in a salary-cap move, and Southern California defensive tackle Manuel Wright, who'll be at the Dolphins facility on Friday. Wright played behind All-American Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson, the Philadelphia Eagles' first-round pick. Wright has entered the league's supplemental draft, and the Dolphins want "to find out if he has the right stuff to be a consistent performer," Saban said.