Head Coach Nick Saban Signing Day Press Conference Transcript

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM
ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

Feb. 2, 2011

Head Coach Nick Saban

Opening Statement:
“First of all, everybody here should be able to write this story. I shouldn’t even have to give it. If Coach Bryant was up here 40 years ago, he would be saying the same thing, ‘I’m pleased with this year’s recruiting class; filled a lot of needs; got a lot of character; quality guys in this class. So did anybody need me to say that, or could you have just written it on your own. Doesn’t every coach say that after recruiting? Just like you never have a bad spring practice, you ever hear any coach say you had a bad spring ball.

There’s a lot that goes into a recruiting class, there’s a lot of people here at the University who do a fantastic job of helping us recruit. First of all, our assistant coaches do an unbelievable job. It’s a lot of hard work, it’s a lot of travel, a lot of missed family time – they certainly did an outstanding job this year. The people in the University community here from President Dr. Witt right on down to the University community, our deans, the administrative staff in our office here who set up the weekends. They do a great job in terms of academics, Jon Dever and his staff in academic support. We could just go on and on and on of how many people contribute to the success of having a good recruiting class. Our players do a good job of hosting and engaging with the players when they come here, making them feel part of our team, our family, when they come here. There are a lot of people responsible for all this. Our fans, who do a fantastic job of creating a lot of positive energy and attitude relative to their passion in terms of why players would want to come and play here because of the atmosphere and environment they create in terms of our games as well as the support throughout the state on the street as well as their positive attitude about the kind of program that we have here. I think all those things contribute to the success here at the University of Alabama.

The challenge for us as coaches is to help these players mature and develop in to all they can be. I’ve commented on this before, just because you pick the best puppy dog with the biggest feet that doesn’t mean he’s going to grow up to be the best hunting dog. A lot of these young players are very good. They are very talented. They’ve had great success as high school players but they are going to make a tremendous amount of improvement, almost as much as the time they were freshmen in high school to the time they are a senior in high school, they’re going to do the same thing in college. I think the challenge for us is to help these players develop so that they can have success not only on the field but in the classroom and to continue to develop personally, academically and athletically. We want to be able to shape these guys into people who can be more successful in life because they were involved in the program and they have a tremendous amount of success here personally, academically and athletically. That’s really the challenge, for us, as coaches and for these players to have the right attitude about what it takes for them to be successful as players, to be a complete player, to do the things they need to do at their position to be a complete player will obviously enhance how rapidly they do improve and develop into very good college football players."

On this year being more unique signing four players from outside the SEC footprint:
“We look all over for players and try to get the best possible players on our board. I think recruiting to a larger degree is a little bit of a numbers game. We have an evaluation system. The more players we can get on our board that past our evaluation system, that meet the criteria for what we want for a position and have the athletic ability to meet those criteria, with the size and speed to meet the criteria, as well as the character and attitude we’re looking for in our players here, the more guys we get on the board the better we’ll do. Like in baseball if we’re going to bat .333 – 1-for-3 – so if we have 90 guys on the board then we’ll get 30 good players. If we have ten good players on the board, then we’re going to get three. That is kind of our approach. Sometimes we have really good players in our state. Sometimes there are a lot of really good players in a five hour radius, so we’ll obviously have less players from further away that we’ll have to look at in recruiting. Recruiting is so global now and I think we have a very recognizable program, so for us not to take advantage of players who live outside our five hour radius would not be in our best interest and I think that we got some very good players this year from far away.”

On how the numbers will work out with the incoming players:
“I think that there has been quite a bit written about over-signing so to speak, but we have never gotten rid of a player because of his physical ability. Any player that has left this program prematurely has created his own exit route. He’s created his own conditions for leaving, if that makes sense. Whether they are academic in terms of not doing what he needed to do academically, whether it is some violation of team or school policy, some of those things we are not allowed to talk about. We have so many seniors; we have some guys going out for the draft. Nobody really knows how many guys we had on scholarship last year, but it wasn’t 85. I can tell you that. We have some people that could not finish the season that will probably not be able to continue to play, that will be replaced and we have several players that can graduate and may not come back for their fifth year, who have been redshirted. When you add all those things up, plus guys we have that may not qualify, it is not fair to criticize the numbers. When you look at the numbers without knowing all the facts and internal information, I think that is a little premature and unfair. Then for people to go out and use that against you in recruiting is even more unfair. This is the number of players that we could take and we could add one or so to that if the opportunity presents itself in the future and we do have some guys that may greyshirt.

“Let me address that too, because I think there is a lot of criticism in greyshirting that is unfair. First of all, we have never greyshirted a guy here who when he decided to come here didn’t know the circumstances that we were going to take him at The University of Alabama. The reason is sometimes academic, the reason is sometimes physical development and maturity, but never has a player not known (they might be greyshirted.) We have never not done it upfront, so the player comes here with the idea that I’m going to start school in January. Now I don’t think that is a bad thing. If we were not able to do that, those players would never have the opportunity to come here. So we are actually creating an opportunity for a guy to come here, not taking one away. That is why I think there is some disconnect out there and understanding about what greyshirting is all about.”

On the signing of Brent Calloway after a brief commitment to Auburn University:
“He was committed to us for a year and he dismissed it for a while. That is all I can say about that. Then he came back and visited and decided he wanted to come back here. It is tough on these guys. It really is. I actually wish, if we want to make a commitment worth something, then when a guy commits people should stop recruiting them. In the Southeastern Conference when a guy commits, that just makes them a target. It isn’t like that everywhere in the country. It’s really not, but it is that way here, so we expect it. We are not really upset about it when it happens. We just try to manage it. We got a couple of guys too, so I’m not saying we’re squeaky clean because there are a couple of guys that we got that were committed to someone else, but they decommitted from those places and they were interested in Alabama. That is just the way people do business here in the Southeastern Conference. When I was in the Big Ten, we all had a gentleman’s agreement that if a player made a commitment we stopped recruiting them. If there was a guy committed somewhere and he called you, then we contacted the other school and told them, so they knew. That way everybody could manage their business better. It is hard to manage your numbers when all of the sudden they aren’t there anymore. You didn’t recruit anyone else because you thought they were coming. But we’re pleased to have Brent. We believe he is one of the best players in the state. He could certainly play on either side of the ball. He is going to start out at running back here. He had a tremendous amount of success there in high school. We’re excited to have him on our team.”

On what it took to get Jesse Williams:
“I’ll tell you what, I wanted to go on a home visit to see Jesse Williams’ family more than any player that we have ever recruited. When we looked at the logistics of getting there, it was a three day trip and I could never figure how to fit that in there. That was one where if I went, I think Miss Terry would have had to go with me because there was no way I was going on a recruiting trip for three days to see one family and he would not have even been there. I think it all started just because we had a good relationship with the family. They were in Australia. Great people, absolutely outstanding people. Jesse was in junior college here and a very good player that passed our evaluation, so we spent a lot of time getting to know them. Jesse is here in school now and he is doing very well and we’re very pleased and happy to have him. We think he is a guy with the possibility of helping us immediately and certainly looking forward to his development this spring. That was certainly one of the most interesting recruiting situations we’ve had. It is amazing though how many Australians are here in Alabama. I go out to do my radio show and on at least two occasions people said after he committed to us ‘I’m glad we got Jesse, because I’m from Australia too.’ So there are a few people down under in Tuscaloosa.”

On how a guy with good character such as Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix can positively affect the entire signing class:
“I think Ha Ha is a guy that was the top guy at his position. He committed early and never ever once wavered. I would be worried and call him and say ‘are you sure you’re ok?’ because people are hammering him for the last six months. It never fazed him. He always knew what he wanted to do and was anxious to try to help us recruit the best players that we could get and he was anxious to get here and get started and do everything he could do as a player. Their team went to the finals this year, so he got to play a lot of football. We actually practiced on their (Dr. Phillips High School) field for the bowl game, so he did watch us practice a few times even though we couldn’t have contact with him. I watched him practice when I was out recruiting and just his presence on the field and how he affected other players was something that really impressed me. The fact that you expect a guy like that to get a lot of attention in recruiting and he never got fazed by it speaks a lot to me about not really caring about the attention, just wanting to accomplish what he wants to accomplish. I think that is a special kind of person.”

On signees who have stood out in terms of leadership qualities:
“I think we have a lot of good players in this class. I think Trey (DePriest) and Vinnie (Sunseri) both, and maybe because they’re been here so they were involved on a couple of recruiting weekends, you’re talking about guys who are everything you could wish for if your children grew up to be like them. They have a lot of ability, they are hard workers, they are very committed but they’re very personable and caring for other people and can put somebody else ahead of themselves in terms of what they’re doing and what their commitment is. Those two guys have been very impressive to me as well.” On the advantages of enrolling early: “I think there are a couple of advantages even though I think there are probably some disadvantages too for them personally. No disadvantages for us as a team, but out of compassion for the player we never really encourage guys to come in mid-semester unless that’s what they choose to do. I think they have to be committed to that to make it work. They miss their senior year, if they play another sport they don’t get to play that, they don’t get to go the senior prom, there are a lot of things you never get to go back and do. When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to get to high school, I couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license, I couldn’t wait to get to college, I couldn’t wait to graduate, I couldn’t wait to get a job and now I wish I could go back in any kind of way and go back and experience some of those things again. We believe everybody should enjoy what’s happening now in their life, and they’ll have all these stations of life that they’ll have the opportunity to enjoy when the time comes. Saying all that, there are some advantages in terms of their academic and athletic career here at Alabama. First of all, it’s an easier transition for a guy to start in the winter and winter semester. You don’t have football season coming up for a long time, not until August. They can make a better social and academic adjustment because there is less happening right now for them. I think the idea they can learn systematically, in football, what’s expected of them through the off-season program as well as spring practice, puts them a half of a season ahead of the guys that come in the fall in terms of maybe having an opportunity to play. I think those are probably some of the big advantages and the disadvantages are only personal in terms of what they give up to do it.”

On finishing this year’s recruiting class:
“It’s quiet so we can’t travel, we can’t go on the road, we can’t continue to recruit, they can come and visit us and we can call so those are kind of the rules.”

On looking ahead to the 2012 recruiting class:
“We’ve been pretty much 90% full for two or three weeks. So probably as much of my time in January on recruiting was spent on junior recruiting, and I think we all try to do that more now because of the rule that you’re not allowed to go out in the spring. So really the time ahead a coach has is really condensed. You have a couple of weeks in December, a couple of weeks in January and that’s it. There’s no other time you can go out on the road and go to high schools and see high school coaches. I don’t think that’s a good thing and I disagree with it, and I’ll always disagree with it, but it is what it is. I don’t think there’s a - well here’s where we start on next year - I think there’s a constant transition and you’re recruiting guys for 2012, you’re recruiting guys for 2013 and you’re recruiting guys for 2011 all at the same time. The rules are a little bit different for each of those classes in terms of what you can and can’t do. But you’re involved in that process 365 days a year. To me, today is always the day where I jump into next year with both feet. I’ve probably talked to 20 guys on the phone for next year and spent a lot of time getting things going for next year today. Really everybody says you’re busy on signing day, you’re just sitting there shaking your leg all day waiting for those papers to come in, there’s nothing else you can really do about it. It’s like waiting to go out and warm up before a game; everybody thinks you’re really busy but you’re just sitting there nervous about what’s going to happen in the next hour.”

On how this year’s returning starters affected recruiting in terms of playing time:
“One of the things that mislead and misguide players more than anything else is what we use as coaches to try to get a guy to come to our school because we tell him he can start next year. I hear that a lot in recruiting. Statistically, there are very few freshmen who start anywhere. Some play and we’ve had a few start here and we’ve had a few more play. That is a very short-term and short-sighted decision for a guy making a decision about where he wants to develop a career academically and athletically with all the other factors that go into him developing as a person, student and a player. It’s more realistic to say, where am I going to be the best in three years. In three years where will I develop the best opportunity to get the best education, the best opportunity to develop as a person, the best opportunity to be the best football player? That’s how we approach it. Does that hurt us on some guys? I think maybe some guys who are a bit immature, a bit entitled and maybe have been told a lot by a lot of people around them that they should go start wherever they go. But I always feel like I’m being a little bit disloyal to the players we have here if I sell some guy in high school he can come start at tailback next year. I think that Trent Richardson deserves a little more respect than that based on the football he’s played here and what he’s done to be successful and so have our other players. Now will he be given every opportunity to play? Absolutely. We usually pick our squad as to how we’re going to coach our players a little more like a pro team. Because a pro team you have to cut down to 47 guys or 53 guys or whatever it is, then you can put eight more guys on the practice squad, but you can’t always keep the guys that are the absolute best players when you have to cut the team. If that were the case then you would almost get rid of all the rookies. We try to decide these are the guys we’re going to coach, these are the guys we’re going to develop, and these are the guys we’re going to play based on what they do in camp. And that’s why we play a few more freshman than most people even though that’s not what we try to sell in recruiting. But does it hurt you sometimes? Only on the guy who is too immature to understand. But what about the issue where you tell a guy he is going to start or he’s going to play when he’s a freshman and then he doesn’t, that creates a tremendous issue. That guy is very frustrated, feels betrayed, and probably is not going to develop like he should because his attitude is not going to be what it needs to be.”

On the signing of Jeoffrey Pagan as well as other defensive lineman recruits:
“One of the things that was a goal and objective in this year’s recruits for defensive linemen is we were extremely athletic up front two years ago. And I don’t know how many sacks we had for sure but it was pushing 50. Even though we had some good players last year and I was pleased with the progress our defense made throughout the course of the year, so I’m not in any way trying to be critical, we weren’t quite as athletic, we didn’t have as many good pass rushers. Marcell (Dareus) is athletic, Courtney (Upshaw) is athletic but we didn’t have as many guys and we were forced to play guys the year before on third down we could put fresh guys in that were athletic because they didn’t have to play all the time and this year the guys that were playing all the time started to play on third down. I’m saying all that to make this point. One of the goals in recruiting is to get more athletic up front on defense, more guys who can pass rush, more guys that could move and push the pocket in the middle and affect the quarterback. Jeoffrey Pagan can do that, he’s a very good athlete, he can run, he’s got good athleticism and I’m sure like all the freshman we recruited, he’s going to go through some developing personally and athletically like all the freshman are. I do think we have several guys who fit that profile and I think that will help us. When will these guys be able to contribute, I’m not sure. And we’ve exited a lot of good defensive front guys. We had three guys from two years ago all make a pro team, Marcell is probably going to be a top-10 guy and Luther Davis is a senior. We’ve had five guys that played with their hand in the dirt that have graduated in the last couple of years so we needed to replace those guys and the quality of those guys and I think this year we were able to get several of those guys who have that type of athleticism.”

On having true freshman as starters:
“Woody Hayes made the statement, and this was years ago, for every sophomore that starts, when freshmen were ineligible, we will lose one game. If a sophomore is playing now it’s like he’s a veteran. It’s all about expectation of the players and of us as coaches. When the numbers got limited, when they made freshmen eligible, there was more opportunity and I think there are more guys that sort of develop better physically, there are more good programs. The big thing is the guys who can play as freshman, it’s usually not about their physical ability, it is more about their emotional maturity. The focus that it takes, the attention to detail, a lot of things they’re not really used to being better than everyone else, they haven’t had to maybe pay as much attention to. I think those are the critical factors that help guys develop quickly. Some positions are easier to play as a freshman in terms of what you learn; you don’t have to learn the complete position like at running back or receiver. You can give a guy a part of what he’s going to do and play him in those parts. If you’re an offensive lineman, if you can’t block every play, every front, every blitz somebody’s going to get killed so you have to know it all. It’s all or nothing. But you can play a running back who only knows certain plays. You can’t really play a guy on defense who doesn’t know the whole system and the whole scheme unless you just make him a pass rusher. There are some roles you can fit guys into when they have special abilities but some positions are a little bit easier than others. But I don’t believe in that, I think that we’ve had some freshman who’ve played extremely well here and contributed to us being very successful and if they’re the best players I have absolutely no problem playing them. And we have done that. Most of these guys are capable. Do they have the maturity to do it, will they develop quickly enough to do it, that’s what makes it a little bit of a crapshoot in terms of how their development is going to be. But that’s the challenge for us is to be able to give them the direction and the guidance to maybe enhance that development so more of these guys could play and contribute to the team in some kind of way.”

Signee Quotes

Jesse Williams, DL

On his impressions of Alabama so far:
“It’s been good so far. I’ve really enjoyed all of the support from the student body, that’s been really nice.”

On the Alabama Coaching Staff:
“They are great. Starting with recruiting and then all the way through helping me get adjusted here and getting me through the drills, they have been great every step of the way.”

On the biggest challenge in adjusting for him:
I think transferring from a junior college to a division-I school is always going to be hard with technique, but I think it made it just a little bit harder coming from Australia as well. So far I am just getting my mind around the concepts of how they play football around here is the hardest thing. I’ll get there, slowly but surely.”

On the recruiting visits the coaches made to his family:
“I actually wasn’t there when he (Coach Saban) was there; I think he went to see my family. I was probably in Arizona, but I hope that he enjoyed the weather and the scenery as much as I do.”

On whether football has been beneficial in his international transition:
“I think it has. It drew a little bit more attention to me, but I’ve tried to stay open minded and try some new things here and I’ve really enjoyed it so far.”

On his favorite thing about the Alabama Community:
“Like I said earlier, I love the support that the football team has. Not just the football team, but the whole athletic department has here. It’s a little bit different than what I’m used to. It’s going to take a while to get used to everyone saying hello to me and knowing who I am. On the other hand it’s a nice gesture, I like it.”

On his knowledge of Alabama before he was recruited by them:
“The first time I found out about Alabama was when they were playing Florida and I heard everybody saying “Roll Tide”, and I had no idea what that meant at all. That was really the first time I found out about Alabama specifically. I knew that there was good football down here, and I knew that the SEC was a powerhouse. All of my junior college teammates when they found out that I was getting recruited by Alabama tried to feed me information, not all of it accurate, obviously, but that’s how I learned about it.”

Trey DePriest, LB

On Coach Saban’s praise of his character:
“That Coach Saban said that is pretty big to me. Character is just being yourself in whatever you do. Don’t try to do anything out of the ordinary and just play football like you live your life.”

On picking Alabama and what made it special:
“I get asked that a lot, but I couldn’t tell you what it was specifically. What I can tell you is that my comfort level here is better than it was everywhere else. I felt more comfortable here.”

On whether Saban’s coaching style and track record of producing NFL talent affected his decision:
“It ran through my mind and everything. That and the kind of defense they run were both important to me. If you can run the 3-4, it’s so complex that you are always one leg up on everybody else if you can get to the combine and everything down the road.”

On the benefit of enrolling early:
“It’s going to help a whole lot because everybody else is coming four months after you, and you’ve spent that time in the film room, and watching the plays and the calls. You definitely are ahead.”

On whether he’s going to use that head start to help his fellow signees:
“I’m definitely going to do that. If they need help why not help them? They are going to be playing with me, so they need to know it just as much as I do.”

Vinnie Sunseri, LB

On Coach Saban’s praise of his character:
“Anything positive Coach Saban says about you is super special because if you think of a guy that has your respect in every single way, that’s Coach Saban. If you walk into his office you make sure that you do everything right. If you see him in the halls you make sure you introduce yourself and say “yes sir” and “no sir” to him. Everything positive he says about you is something you need to take to heart and make sure you remember because you don’t meet a guy like that very often.”

On what character in a football player looks like:
“You need to go to class everyday and make sure you are doing things right. Not just the big things like scoring touchdowns, but you need to do the little things right too. Whether it’s getting an A on a test or pushing those other guys to get to class, you just want to make sure everybody is doing everything right. I think that is what he means by that. There are so many leaders on a football team, in the aspect that there isn’t just one leader on the team. There is a leader on the field, the quarterback, and a leader in the classroom. Here at Alabama everyone looks up to each other and that is what makes it such a good program.”


 

 

On what he gained from getting to know Coach Saban when he was younger:
“I actually met Coach Saban at LSU and he was still intimidating when he was there. He’s a good guy and he is somebody who earns your respect right away. I’m excited to play for him and that I’ll be able to say that I played for Nick Saban.”

On how excited he is to play for his dad:
“That is something that I am going to cherish for the rest of my life. Growing up I didn’t get to see him too often because he was always out recruiting, always talking to other kids and stuff and I grew up envious of that. Actually being able to be with him 24/7 is something that I’ll remember the rest of my life. He is my hero. Everything he does I look up to.”

On whether his dad jokes about the pressure of filling his shoes:
“He always says that kind of stuff, but then I always remind him that I got the scholarship and that he had to walk on. Then, of course he pulls the All-American card on me so I’ve got to try to prove myself, and I’m excited about the opportunity to do that. I expect that he is going to be harder on me than the other linebackers, but I’m excited about that because the harder he is on me the better person and the better player I am going to become. That is something that will be very influential in my life.”