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Reporters who have covered the Crimson Tide for more than four months on its way to the title game were thrilled to finally hear from defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, one of the nation’s hottest head coaching prospects, and freshman stars T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper.

Not that anyone went off script.

“We just go out there and play and have fun,” said Yeldon, guarding every word like it was a matter of national security.

That’s just the way Saban likes it. Before each season, he brings in public speaking experts to meet with the players. The football media relations staff, headed by Jeff Purinton, carries on the training even after the games begin.

“It’s more of a style of answering questions and how to effectively answer questions,” said All-American center Barrett Jones, “without saying anything you don’t want to say.”

Saban takes no chances with his first-year players, still mindful of an episode from his long-ago tenure at Michigan State. In 1998, receiver Plaxico Burress made some inflammatory comments before a game against rival Michigan, and the coach has no doubt that contributed to the Spartans losing.

The freshmen are now muzzled, at least until they can be trained to deal with the media.

“How to get interviewed. Things to say. How to have messages that you want to get out and how to bridge to those messages. Where to look when you talk. Things like that,” Saban said. “Things that actually makes them look better and certainly are a better reflection on them, their family and the entire organization.”

While clichés, per se, aren’t part of the training, they are certainly a go-to weapon (pardon the cliche) when there’s a camera or recorder right in front of your face.

In fact, experts such as Abbie S. Fink, vice president and general manager of HMA Public Relations in Phoenix, rely on the classic baseball movie “Bull Durham” as part of their training seminars. She will start out showing clients how a hot young pitching prospect, played by Tim Robbins, conducts himself in his first interview (not good), followed by a scene where his aging catcher (Kevin Costner) explains the power of saying nothing.

“You’re going to have to learn your clichés,” Costner says on a bus ride between towns. “You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends.”

He hands Robbins a pen and tells him to write down what he says.

“We’ve got to play `em one day at a time,” Costner drones.

Robbins objects.

“That’s pretty boring, ain’t it?” he says.

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