April 17, 2010
Recap | Notes
Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban
"It's a fantastic weekend for the University of Alabama. First of all, we had all the players that came back for the golf outing, the basketball tournament yesterday, the flag football game today and the big dance and party we had last night. They've been great ambassadors for this university so that was a fantastic start to it.
"I thought the way our players competed out there today, the effort was good. I thought there was a lot of toughness. I don't think the execution was always what you like for it to be in terms of crispness. I was pleased with the overall performance with a limited offense and a limited defense, how our players competed in the game and how they played in the game. I think the most important thing now is that we're not an offense, we're not a defense, we've come together as a team. I think that all the choices and decisions this team makes between now and next year, in terms of what they're commitment to a standard of excellence is, is how we continue to improve, how we develop as a team. Whether it's the work ethic that we have, the accountability, the responsibility to do the things that we need to do for everyone to do their job, the positive energy we do it with, and the togetherness and leadership, we have to get everybody to do it on the same page. All those things are things, when you develop a good team, you have those elements.
"I was really pleased with the overall outcome of today. We didn't get anybody injured, which is always the most important thing. You really can't lose a spring game unless you lose players.
"I think it's fantastic, the atmosphere that's created by our fans. To have over 90,000 people at the spring game, I think this is the second most, the first one was in 2007, and it sends a positive message about passion, enthusiasm, tradition, and that this is a great place to play in terms of interest and enthusiasm and we're excited about it. I know a lot of recruits said `We're here today, we're excited about it' as well as our players that we just finished recruiting. There's nobody that appreciates it more than the players on our team. I've been places where you really work hard to get players to finish one practice. We have to work on getting our players to focus on the last practice or two because the A-Day Game is such a big deal. They're looking forward to the game, they want to play in the game, and I think it's a good thing. I think it's a good thing for college football, and for our players, and it's all due to the fan support and the interest and everybody coming out to support the team. We're pleased.
"We were really pleased to have ESPN here. It slows the game down a little bit with commercials and the organization of it, but the exposure is great for our program and players so we're certainly happy that they were here and hope they were pleased with the hospitality while they were here."
On his overtime rules for the game:
"We were just going to keep playing. There wasn't going to be any overtime. It was going to be sudden death. Everybody was going to go for it on fourth down. It was getting implemented there with two seconds to go, and the teams were going to take their shots because somebody is going to eat steaks and somebody is going to eat beans on Monday. Other than that, it didn't matter. As the commissioner I have to represent the winning club so, therefore, I have to eat steak."
On the questions that have been answered this spring and what questions still remain:
"I think the big question is individual in nature in terms of personality. We lost a lot of good players on defense and you're always looking to try to get your best players on the field in spring practice, get them in the right places and hope that the young players on the team that have an opportunity now will have a greater role on the team and develop and improve. In a lot of cases we had that happen but we still have some questions and we still have some issues. Michael Williams had a really good spring at tight end and that was a question that we had. We're really pleased with the progress that the quarterbacks have made so we feel really comfortable about the strength and depth we have there. On the offensive line we feel like we probably have seven or eight guys that could play for us right now, which we really haven't had that kind of depth at this point in the season, but we still feel like we need to make progress at right tackle regardless of who we play at that position.
"Defensively we lost three out of four starters at linebacker, and we lost five or six guys that played a large role in the secondary. A lot of those questions have been answered. Dont'a (Hightower) came back to play a good spring, and his leadership has affected everyone else. We've made a lot of progress as a defensive unit. I'm pleased with the progress of the first two corners and having the two freshman guys here (John Fulton and DeMarcus Milliner), I thought they made some progress. We're not totally settled at safety, but we still have questions.
"The kicking game - I think we have two good enough kickers between their accuracy, the leg strength of one guy and the accuracy of the other - we can come up with a pretty good kicking game from that stand point. Taylor Pharr was probably the best punter but he had a concussion the other day in practice so he didn't get cleared for the day or he would have been punting today. We're going to have two young guys in that position (punter) next year and one of those guys is going to have to come through.
"There are still questions, but there has been a tremendous amount of progress made. We're not satisfied with where we are, but we're certainly not disappointed with the progress we've made up to this point. I really look forward to working between now and the first game so that we can make progress in other areas. I'm sure there are going to be some young guys that come in this fall that are going to contribute some answers to these questions."
On the quarterback play:
"I thought they all did pretty well. A.J. McCarron did a nice job. I thought Phillip Simms did a nice job. Star Jackson did a good job. The thing that probably concerned me most out there was that we didn't do a lot of multiples of pass rushes. I would like to have seen the quarterbacks have a more solid pocket on a more consistent basis. We need to work improving the pass protection. That has not been an issue in the last two scrimmages, but we need to make improvements in that area."
On how deserving this team is of a preseason No. 1 ranking:
"I really don't want to comment on that. If this team is No.1, it's because of what they did last year because they haven't done anything. We have some good players back and we have a lot of issues and questions, especially on defense and our specialists in the kicking game. How those problems get solved and what kind of commitment and attention to detail this team has to improve and focus on the process of what they need to do to be successful is going to determine how good this team is. That can't be determined in a poll and it doesn't make any difference what anybody thinks, it's not where you start, it's where you finish. That's what our players need to understand as well. If I was voting, I would think there is somebody who has more players coming back that had a successful team last year that is going to be more ready to compete. Do I like our team? I love our team. Do I like our players? I love our players. Do I think we can develop into a good team? Absolutely, but I'm not a big poll guy."
Junior Quarterback Greg McElroy
On the different offensive weapons Alabama has:
“We got a bunch of (offensive weapons). We have a bunch of players who are willing to step up and make plays at any given time. That’s what’s encouraging. I trust one of our other receivers as much as I trust Julio (Jones) to make a big play in a third down and long situation. I can’t say that’s always been the case, but I think that’s the unity we have as a group after the time spent together both in the offseason and throughout last season. We really have made some good strides.”
On getting the ball to the running backs through the passing game:
“Our checkdowns have always been a staple of our offense. Trent (Richardson), Mark (Ingram) or Eddie (Lacy), Demetruis (Goode), any of those guys, if you get the ball in their hands they will make plays for you. We did that a couple of times last year. I remember one vividly versus North Texas where it was a quick checkdown because everyone dropped out and Mark turned it into a big touchdown run. Everyone ooh’s and aah’s at the long passes, but if you average four yards per carry everyone says you have a great running game but if you throw a four-yard completion to the running back – which is essentially a segmentation of the running game – it can add up pretty quick.”
On seeing former backups take a more prominent role:
“I’m excited. I think they’re obviously in the same situation this year as we were last year as an offense. It’s not because they haven’t been talented enough or they haven’t been ready to play, they were just younger than the great players in front of them. They are just waiting for their opportunity to step up and make plays. They have done a good job all spring making plays in the passing game and the running game. I think with our abilities as an offense we have the ability to be very potent, so when they are able to shut us down as much as they do, that obviously speaks highly for them. I know they will continue to improve because of who coaches them and I look forward to continuing to see them develop.”
On what Mark Ingram has done to improve:
“I think he has just committed himself to being more of a leader and being vocal. Obviously, physically there are very few people out there as gifted as Mark, so when it comes to physical improvement, he can make it but how much improvement can you make at this level? As opposed to that, he has just done a great job stepping up and being vocal and getting other guys to feel positively about what we do and feel strongly about what we do. Mark’s an extremely hardworking guy; he worked really hard in the offseason.”
Junior Defensive Lineman Marcell Dareus
“It was OK. I think the defense as a whole did pretty good. We held the offense pretty well. All the weapons we have on offense, as a defense we did pretty good. We came together and played pretty well.”
On whether or not the game was going to end in a tie:
“No. Coach was not fixing to let that happen. Somebody is going to eat beans. That’s why he did a mini-overtime thing, the first team that scored wins.”
On being able to start after having a big spring:
“After working so hard and having to sit behind the starters and learning from them and putting it together for this spring and working my butt off, it is pretty exciting.”
On the cohesiveness of the defense:
“We still have a long way to go but as a defense we are gelling together, we are really coming together as a whole. Hightower is getting our defense together and rallying us up, Courtney Upshaw, we all sit and talk and try to get our defense going.”
On Dont’a Hightower’s performance:
“Of course I watched him play. I watch him every day to make sure he is OK. He’s a teammate and a team leader. I don’t want him to be timid behind me. We talk about that a lot. Dont'a is a player, he plays hard every down, play in and play out, he’s just that type of person.”
On being a leader:
“It feels good. It is kind of prestigious when they look up to me like that. I’m pretty overwhelmed.”
Sophomore Running Back Mark Ingram
On other players being in the spotlight:
“I don’t mind that at all. I’m glad other players are getting their chance to shine. Marcell (Dareus) and Trent (Richardson) and Greg (McElroy) and A.J. (McCarron), everybody deserves their time. My main focus is getting better as a player and helping this team win games.”
On what he has learned about this team:
“We’re young and we’re hungry. We have lots of players all over the field that can make plays, offensively, defensively, special teams. We have lots of athletes. Last year we were good but I think this year we can be better. We have a lot of talent all over the field, young guys that are hungry trying to prove themselves, and older players that know what they are doing and what it takes to win. I think once we mesh all that together we should be alright.”
Thoughts about the game:
“Yeah, I think everybody should be happy with where we’re at, but they shouldn’t be satisfied with where we’re at because there are lots of improvements that we can make as players. We have a real good team this year.”
On the overtime decision:
“We were just going to play until somebody won, so that was kind of unfortunate. Whatever I can do to help the team win. I am not selfish."