Feb. 3, 2010
Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban
“I think you guys get it just like everybody else. Is there anybody ever in college football that didn’t have a good recruiting class that they didn’t satisfy their needs and they didn’t get somebody that’s going to make an impact on the team next year? I don’t want you to think I’m being glib in the way that I manage this. We are pleased with the kind of football players that we were able to attract to come to our school this year.
"There’s a lot that goes into having a successful recruiting class. I think first of all it starts with your assistant coaches and the job that they do, and this was a long process now, at least probably a year or more, in recruiting guys and getting started on recruiting younger and younger players, which makes it even more difficult on the coaches because you’re trying always to find the younger guy and get started on them earlier, earlier and earlier. It makes it more difficult to probably evaluate players and develop the kind of relationships relative to the rules. I thought our coaches did a tremendous job of identifying players, identifying talent and satisfying some needs that we had relative to some areas where we had a significant amount of graduation, establishing relationships with these guys and their families, but also our players do a fantastic job of hosting these players, developing relationships with them and helping us in recruiting, as our administration does.
"Dr. Witt has always participated in our recruiting. Mal Moore always participates in our recruiting. The University community here does as fine a job as any place I’ve ever been or ever coached, in terms of John Dever and the academic people here contributing from an academic standpoint, as well as providing informative academic information about majors and spending their time on weekends to visit with players. That’s always a significant part of what we need to do. I think the whole family and whole team here, including our fans and their support and passion that they show whether it’s in support of the A-Day game, the great support that we get when we’re playing on the road as well as when we play here in Bryant-Denny Stadium – all things that have a significant impact on being able to attract quality people in your organization.
"There are two things I always talk about: how you bring players to your team and how you develop the players once they get to your team. I think we have a pretty good team of people to do that and I’m pleased with the way were able to bring players to our team this particular year.
"You guys know that I’m not really much into the ratings and really don’t even know how we are rated, and really don’t much care how we’re rated. Every year I try to come up with some analogy to sort of put in perspective how you should rate recruiting classes. If we went out to buy a hunting dog and it was a puppy, we would buy it based on its potential, its lineage or whatever you want to call it in terms of breeding, and we would know probably when that dog grew up whether it was a good hunting dog or not. We’d never know until we put him out in the field and saw him actually go hunting, but we would buy it without knowing for sure what that result would be.
"I think recruiting is not an exact science and it takes about two years to really evaluate whether you had a good recruiting class or not. If we really want to figure it out, we should be talking about the 2008 recruiting class right now. How good was the 2008 class? Whether it was Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Marcell Dareus, Mark Barron, or whoever you want, Dont’a Hightower, whoever you want to talk about in that class now has been out on the field and proven to some degree that they’re good players, and there are many other players in that class that are good players. There are some other players that haven’t had an opportunity to contribute but will contribute in the future as well. There is one thing that I always say to players when we recruit them, and a lot of these players make decisions based on whether they can play next year. The fact of the matter is not a whole lot of players actually play when they’re freshmen. Only a few start and some contribute. We certainly had our share contribute here. I think two years ago we had four newcomers starting and 14 players play. Last year we had a significant number of guys that played as well and made an impact on our team, and we always want to give these players and opportunity to play when they’re freshmen. But, are you going to be a better player when you’re a senior in high school than when you were a freshman? I think if you ask that question to any player they would say they’re a much better player than I was when I was a freshman. I think the same thing can happen when they get to college. They’re going to improve each year. They’re going to get bigger, stronger, they’re going to have better knowledge and experience, and they’re going to be able to participate. That’s why I think that the true rating of recruiting class comes somewhere down the road when you look at how many people in that particular class turned out to be the kind of players that we think they might be.
"We’re very pleased because we have a unique circumstance in this class where we have 11 players – seven new players, one junior college transfer, three holdovers from a year ago and a transfer from another school – that are all here at mid-semester who are going to be a part of our team. They’re going to be here for spring practice. They’re going to be here for the off-season program, and that’s going to enhance their development. We feel very fortunate that we have quality players here that may impact our team and have given themselves a better chance to impact our team because they’re going to be here a semester early. I think that’s going to enhance their development. Kareem Jackson did that when he was a freshman and he actually started as a freshman. We think that’s a real advantage to this class, one of things that maybe gets overlooked a little bit. I think it’s something that could help our team quite a bit next year.”
On the advantages of early enrollees:
"We have not had that many (11). I think there is a trend right now that more and more players are interested in doing that. It used to be sort of the exception that someone would do that or be in the circumstance academically to do that. I think you see more and more players that are interested in doing that. I think from our perspective, the advantage is that the guy can make an academic, social and athletic transition in a semester that’s not starting right in front of the season. These guys have been here since school started and haven’t had to do much but lift weights, go to school, academically and socially adjust and adapt, learn how to use the academic support center and the services that are available to them. We’re going to start the offseason program in a couple of weeks and we’re going to have spring practice, so they have a much better opportunity to learn and grow at a little slower pace than when they start in the fall. It takes us almost a week to go through three practices in spring practice and we do that in two days in fall camp. It’s a little easier transition for them I think academically, socially and athletically. It is an advantage to their development because they’ll be here in the summer, and when they go through it in fall camp next year it’s not the first time the go through it, it’s the second time they go through it. They do enhance their development.”
On Wilson and Tyler Love having a chance to play together and his relationship with their family:
“My first comment would be that I got to go eat Mrs. Karen (Love’s) cooking twice, not once. She’s a real good cook. The pecan pie was great. I think it’s always a good situation to at least make the offer to, or opportunity for, the family to decide whether he wants to go to school at the same place or not, if that’s the best place for their opportunity. I think that’s the number one thing. In this case these guys don’t play the same position, they won’t be competing against each other, not that matters because more than one can play the same position as long as you’re a lineman and you’re not a quarterback. They’re both fine young men. Tyler’s been a real asset to our organization and is going to be a good player in the future. Even though Wilson is coming off of an injury, we’re hopeful that he’ll rehab and recover and be a good player for us as well.”
On getting players that fill needs on the offensive line:
“We’ve sort of recruiting numbers. When we first came here we were really short on our numbers of offensive linemen, and now I think our numbers are better on the offensive line. I think tackles are more difficult to find. Getting Arie (Kouandjio), who is a real tackle type and a real good player, was probably a real key in making us feel like we satisfied our needs. I think everyone has to look at numbers. Because of the situation we had to recruit more by need in this recruiting class than ever before. Offensive line was not one of the significant needs in this class, relative to numbers required to get players that we have in the program that we recruited in the past. Losing six defensive backs and a seventh going out for the draft made us recruit a whole bunch of defensive backs. We really only recruited 20 guys and I think seven of them were defensive backs. That only left 13 guys for all the other positions and we recruited a kicker and a punter, that’s why I say we only had 20 guys that were position players. We feel well about the way things worked out for us and the guys that we got. Austin Shepherd can play tackle or guard. Chad (Lindsay) is probably just a guard or a center. Arie is probably just a tackle. I think next year we will make a big emphasis to get a tackle type or two in that class.”
On signing a quarterback in every signing class:
“Phillip (Sims) was one of the top guys for us at his position. We were very pleased and happy to get him. I think what he has accomplished as a quarterback is very impressive and hopefully he can develop and improve and have that same kind of career here in terms of his performance and production. We did look at some other quarterbacks. We have four on scholarship now and hopefully all four of them will continue to grow and develop and be in the program. And we will definitely be looking to recruit other outstanding players in the future, but I didn’t feel a need to take another guy, just to take another guy. If we could have gotten the right guy we may have considered it, but we didn’t feel the need to do that.”
On taking junior college transfer DeQuan Menzie:
“We’ve been pretty fortunate in that we don’t recruit a lot of junior college guys. If we place them, then we’re interested in taking them back as long as they’ve done what they need to do personally and academically. With Cody two years ago, he served a need with us and worked out very well. James Carpenter worked out very well for us last year. We needed a left tackle with Andre (Smith) going out early for the draft, and he certainly did a great job for us all year long. DeQuan is a guy that we feel like has a lot of ability. We looked at him in high school and we knew him. We feel like he has a real maturity to him and he has played some good football where he is right now. It’s a little bit of a disadvantage that he won’t get here until June and I think it’s imperative that he get here in June so he can use the summer to learn and grow and sort of get in the groove. I do feel that he will have a very good opportunity to contribute to our team next year, if he can learn and develop.”
On the early enrollee process:
“I think it is up to every guy. It is my opinion that if players ask me, I tell them ‘It’s your choice, you have to make a decision. You only have one senior year. Are you playing another sport? Do you want to be involved the rest of your senior year? Or are you in a position to where you’re looking ahead to sort of taking the next step of developing your career, in terms of graduating from school and developing a career off the field. Doing the same thing with your athletic career in college and it is strictly up to you and your family.' I don’t encourage it or discourage it. It is an advantage to us if they do it, but I really don’t encourage them to do it. I feel like each guy should make that decision, make a commitment to it and be happy with it. I wouldn’t want to talk somebody into doing it and then getting here and then regret not finishing their senior year and playing basketball or some other sport that they were involved in like baseball. We don’t encourage it or discourage it. We manage it if guys want to do it, the best we can. There are advantages to it, if guys want to do it.”
On recruiting process moving up earlier and earlier each year:
“I think that guys start their recruiting process themselves. They are looking at schools and coming to junior days when they are sophomores. We use to use camp to get most of the juniors to come to camp and then make decisions on them after that. Now they don’t want to come to camp anymore. They want to know before they go to camp whether you want them or not. Everything has gotten accelerated.”
On student-athletes committing early in their recruitment and making sure they stay true to their commitment:
“When a guy commits early to us, to me, then we just become the target. Every other school keeps recruiting them and they know the kid wants to come to Alabama, so now they’re bashing Alabama every day. Whether it is taking our depth chart out and saying we have too many players at that position. I don’t know how all these other schools know about our team, because I know nothing about third team and they know more about our team than I know about our team. They get the depth chart out and they know how good players are that haven’t even played before, haven’t even been on the field, haven’t lettered, haven’t done anything. It’s amazing to me. I’m talking about convincing, being an expert. We don’t do that. We do not negatively recruit in what we do. We have a good product to sell and we try to sell it in a positive way. I feel like you just become the target for other schools when guys early commit to you. You have to keep recruiting them and sort of manage them. I’m old fashioned. I think a commitment is a commitment. We tell guys when they commit that we want the recruiting to be over or we really don’t want them to commit. If you’re not really ready to stop recruiting then you aren’t really ready to commit, because committing means that you are coming to that school. I would rather you go visit other schools until you’re sure that this is what you want to do rather than making a commitment and then not feeling comfortable and wanting to go explore other opportunities. There is an old saying ‘If you’re shopping, then we should shop.’ It shouldn’t be that way, but when guys make commitments and don’t stick up for them, then you kind of get stuck a little bit, because there may be other guys that you didn’t recruit, that you could have recruited, that could have actually taken their place. I wish there was a better way, but there is not. We’ll just have to manage it and keep recruiting guys and do the best we can with them.”
Quarterback Phillip Sims
First impressions of college life:
“It has been great. This situation is as good as you could imagine. You come out here and get to live on your own and do your own thing, but at the same time you remember all the things you were taught at home. Getting to meet new people and be in a new environment has been fun.”
The impression of this signing class:
“It’s great. We have put together some great talent at different positions. We got into the trenches this year and got some talent everywhere. We have specialists like Cade Foster, defensive linemen, offensive linemen, receivers, backs, linebackers and safeties so we did it all this year. This is a class to be proud of.”
On finding out about being an early enrollee:
“I found out over the summer. Coach asked me if I wanted to do it and if they would allow it in the state of Virginia. You have to get it passed by the school board, principles, teachers and everybody else, so I figured out over the summer that I could do it and I made it happen.”
On getting a leg up on enrolling early:
“You get a chance to get accustomed to life before football season rolls around, before things get really hectic for you. I think that is the biggest thing about it. To be able to come in with great guys that have dominated on the high school level everywhere and now they are dominating at the college level, so you get to play with the best, learn from the best and learn a new offense, so this can really help you in the long run.”
On his leadership qualities:
“I am a leader more so because of the position I play, but I am more of a quiet leader. I am a guy that likes to go around and have a lot of fun, but I guess because of my position guys are more accustomed to following you, so it doesn’t bother me but I am not one of those guys that is going to go around and jump in everyone’s face.”
On his time already on campus:
“I have been here watching film, getting accustomed to calls and formations along with the terminology. I want to be the best that I can be. It may not be the best thing to jump on out there with all the pressure on you but I feel like I can handle it. I want to get out there and go full speed – 100 miles per hour on play number one. I want to know everything. That is the kind of guy I am.”
Defensive Back DeMarcus Milliner
On the feeling of today:
“We came in and got a workout in and did a little running. It was a relief to get in the workout and be able to do what the rest of the team was doing.”
On making the jump early from high school:
“I thought it would be difficult to come from high school to college because it’s different, but once you get around and spend some time you get acquainted pretty quickly.”
On choosing Alabama:
“Coach Saban is my position coach and he is a great coach and then you have Kirby Smart who is a great coach also and you throw in the surroundings and the tradition along with the academics here, it’s just one of a kind.”
On coming in with the current state of the defensive backs:
“We lost a lot of great players and for me to come in is a dream come true. I hope I can play and be great.”
On his thoughts of the recruiting class and competition and defensive back:
“This is a great class. We have a lot of great players coming in. It is great that we got the players that we got. It will be a great thing to be part of with all the players out there. We are just going to try and play within each other and do what we do best and that is play football.”