ARLINGTON, Texas — Top-ranked Alabama arrived Sunday in North Texas without offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien or offensive line coach Doug Marrone, but coach Nick Saban expected both assistants to make it for the playoff semifinal game at the Cotton Bowl. He said there were no known COVID-19 issues among players.
The Crimson Tide said last Wednesday that O’Brien and Marrone had tested positive for the coronavirus and were isolating with mild symptoms.
Saban said Sunday that both coaches were doing well back in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and would participate in meetings and practice via Zoom until they could join the team before Friday’s game against Cincinnati.
“They will do all their work and coaching virtually with players, very similarly to the way I did it when I tested positive before the Auburn game a year ago,” Saban said. “They’ll be here for the game. … No one is, you know, really that bad sick that they can’t function and do things that they need to do with our players.”
The Bearcats (13-0), the first team from outside a Power Five conference to make the College Football Playoff, were scheduled to arrive in North Texas later Sunday.
Saban said Alabama’s entire team is vaccinated and that more than 90% of the players also have had booster shots. The coach said players are wearing masks and social distancing in meetings.
“We have encouraged them to use the same practices that we had to use a year ago, whether it’s wearing a mask in meetings, wearing a mask when you’re not in the building, social distancing when we’re in meetings,” Saban said. “So, if there were some new protocols that would help us be safer, we would certainly implement them. But I think we tried to implement all that we know that has worked in the past.”
This is the second year in a row that the Crimson Tide are set for a playoff semifinal game at AT&T Stadium. The Rose Bowl was moved from California to the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys last New Year’s Day because of the pandemic, and Alabama beat Notre Dame 31-14.