July 31, 2008
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
Head Coach Nick Saban Press Conference Transcript
Thursday, July 31, 2008
"We are really excited about getting started. The players report today. There are lots of challenges and opportunities in this season. There are lots of challenges and opportunities for our team. The focus on camp, however, should be about getting the details right. Pay attention to details. Focus on what you need to do to be a complete player at your position to create the right kind of habits. The design of camp is to create winnable games with the habits we create by the kind of practice fundamentals that we try to incorporate in our practice design.
"So to be able to sustain that performance for 60 minutes in a game is a part of conditioning; it's a part of mental toughness. We want to create the kind of habits that are going to allow our players to perform at high levels of consistency to be able to sustain that and play winning football. Obviously, the more players we can get to that level, the better opportunity we are going to have to be successful, in terms of depth on our team, as well as positive performances by the starters.
"We have some personnel issues I wanted to cover with you today. First of all, Prince Hall has worked with the team throughout the summer. He will start practicing. He will face some suspension and not play in the first three games. He will be in camp. He will practice with the team and he will be part of the team.
"Will Oakley has a stress fracture in his foot that was sustained in the summer conditioning program several weeks ago. He is not going to be able to practice for three weeks, so because we are limited to 105 guys in camp who can perform and play, Will is not going to be here for injury reasons. He can be here and receive treatment and rehab, but since he's not going to be able to practice anyway, we're going to bring in another player, who can go out and practice everyday. The way we try and figure this, and I think this is something you guys should understand as well when we are talking about personnel. Two things, is we try and have so many players at every position. So in doing that if we have fewer scholarship players, for example on our team in the offensive line, then we need to bring more walk-on players who support that group so that we have the correct number so that we can practice effectively. Otherwise, you wear down the group. In a case like this, Will would be out there and be a 105 counter, but we'd rather bring a guy to help the receivers, who are going to practice, to be more efficient and effective. Will knows the offense. He had a good spring and we are talking about him joining the team when school starts and that will not be an issue or a factor, it's an injury situation.
Patrick Crump has left the team for personal reasons. We have three freshmen, who did not qualify. Two who definitely did not qualify, Devonta Bolton and Brandon Lewis have enrolled in junior college. These are not surprises. We knew these guys had significant academic work to do. They both worked hard at trying to get that done and they both came up a little short. That is the path they chose. Kerry Murphy, who went to prep school, is still short, but we do have an appeal in, but we feel like with a little more academic work this fall, he should be eligible in January. Jermaine Preyear, who reported with an injured shoulder in high school, had some issues with that this summer. So we are actually going to medical him this fall and he will be eligible to come back to the team in January. So, it's in effect a gray shirt for an injury situation. We have two players that you obviously know about that we recruited that signed professional baseball contracts in Destin Hood and Melvin Ray. We wish those players well in their endeavors and they know that opportunity here still exists if they ever want to come and play college football.
"We're anxious to get started. Our practice tomorrow will be our first practice and we do have a split squad practice. I know much was made last year about the fact that this guy practiced with the first group and this guy practiced with the second group. Again, guys, a lot of this stuff needs to be done for administrative reasons. We need to have three tight ends out there at practice and we have to split our squad accordingly. There is no one that is being punished or reprimanded in any way because they are practicing with the young group or the old group. In most cases we try to do it by seniority, but in some cases because of numbers, it doesn't always work out that way. Obviously, it's not just the freshmen at night and the older guys in the day because we split the squad 52-53 or whatever, because we split the squad in half to have two-deep in both practices. The reason for doing it that way is we have always tried to do it a day or two, so that the new players and the coaches actually have an opportunity to spend a few days teaching them the basics and giving them more individual attention without taking anything away from the older players. If you practice all 105 guys at once, you have four deep, in most cases, from a repetition standpoint and our attention to detail and our even being able to evaluate, because you are doing multiple drills, sometimes two-spot drills, where the coach is here and half his players are some place else at another drill. It's much more difficult, especially the first day, to establish the fundamentals and get some kind of start with these guys so they understand what's expected of them and it's an opportunity for us to give them more individual attention. That's why we do it.
"We are certainly looking forward to Sunday's Fan Day. Our fans have been very supportive here and been very positive in terms of their support of our team, whether it's been the spring game or whatever. I think that has certainly enhanced our ability to recruit and project a positive image about our institution and our program. We appreciate that and we are pleased and happy to give our fans the opportunity to watch practice on Sunday, even though it's our third practice and we will have minimal amount of stuff in."
Did you learn anything last year, with this team in particular, how you conducted preseason, or when to hit, or how hard to work. Is there anything you learned last year that you will use to apply to this year?
"I don't know that there is anything specific that I can say we didn't do last year that we'd like to do this year. I think our team got off to a fairly good start last year. We were pretty well conditioned. So, a lot of the same things we did last year to establish the details of what we feel is important to playing winning football we'll try to do again this year. I think our team is in a little better condition right now, relative to the summer conditioning program. We've had a very good off-season. We had a good spring practice. The players have worked very hard this summer. We feel a little bit better off where we're at right now, in terms of starting out, at least from a conditioning standpoint. Obviously, the players have been in the system for a year, therefore, they have a little more knowledge about what's expected of them and the system in general, whether it's offense, defense or special teams."
With a new offensive coordinator, is the installation still going on, or is that pretty much done? Do you do anything different because these guys have had three different coordinators in three years? Does that have any bearing at all?
"I don't really think so. I think just because we have a new coordinator, we have a new play caller. It doesn't mean we have a different offensive system. There are some differences in the offense, probably in the quality control-type things we were able to improve on. Certainly, the new enthusiasm and the new knowledge that Jim McIlwain brought as the offensive coordinator has certainly helped us grow and develop as an offensive team and do some things that I think may feature our personnel a little bit better. But we are going to have to learn that about our team as well, especially the new faces that will contribute on this year's team. And as I said at SEC Media Day, their maturity, relative to how they can learn their responsibility and sustain that with some kind of consistency and performance, certainly will determine how many of those guys can contribute to the team and when."
Since the spring, there has been a lot of speculation or consternation about the 85 scholarships, but it looks likes you may end up with one or two under that. Is that just a natural order of the way things go in college football and what happens in an off-season?
"We'll we really want to try and develop good habits with our players so that we don't have attrition on our squad. I think that if you look across the board, you will see a certain amount of attrition in most programs. Sometimes because of player choice and sometimes because principles and values of the program not being met to the standard of excellence that somebody in the organization has to determine how the organization is going to get represented and the standard of excellence that everybody is going to do their jobs. So, sometimes that creates situations where player don't sustain in a program. But, we want to try and continue to develop the players and the program now and compliment them with the best talent that we can recruit."
Speaking mostly about linebacker here, the new guys who come in, do they already know what position they area going to be or is that something you are going to figure out as to what slot they will play?
"The biggest difference would be inside-outside, because I think the two inside linebacker positions have a lot of carry-over, relative to assignment, and you almost can't play one without understanding what to do at the other. The two outside linebacker position would probably be 70 percent same kinds of similarities. We are going to start most of the young players, except Jerrell Harris, who has always played outside linebacker, at inside `backer. Hopefully, we will be able to leave one or two of those guys at inside `backer, but because all of these guys have played some kind of defensive end or outside `backer in their high school career, maybe move them back where they might be a little more natural early in their career. I think from our team standpoint, we need to determine who can be an inside `backer of our freshman to add depth and competition to what we have."
How is Rolando (McClain) recovering from the accident? Is he back to full strength now?
"Absolutely. He has taken all the conditioning tests and done extremely well."
During the off-season, have you tinkered at all with thoughts on position changes for some players or moving guys anywhere?
"I think that is something that we always do. We are always evaluating how we can get the best players on the field and if position changes are something that we experiment with sometimes, to see if a guy can do certain things. We like to do those things in the spring, maybe there will be some opportunity to do that and move some guys around this fall, but we do have a starting point. We will have to evaluate it from there."
Just to be clear, other than Prince Hall, are there any other disciplinary issues or guys suspended?
"Not at this time. We will let you know if there are."
You mentioned the linebacker spot, are there any other position battles you are looking forward to seeing how they pan out?
"I think the more depth you have on your team the more competition you have, and I think that's very healthy. We're looking forward to hopefully a lot of the backup players and younger players on our team creating this competition, that will create some battles that will determine who will become the eventual starters as well as improve the quality of depth on our team."
Coach, you have discussed this in the past, but if would not mind going over when you shift out into practice into game preparation for Clemson and is there any change when it's a quality opponent like Clemson in the first game?
"I think one of things we always try to do is we determine from all of our opponents that we play, whether its offense, defense or special teams, here are the things we are going to see. We want to invest some time in camp and some time in spring practice and exposing our players to some of those things. So it may not be specific preparation for a particular team, but it may be like the quarterback zone-option spread offense. We have three or four teams that run some variation of that when we play against it. So we are going to spend some days in fall camp practicing against that. That doesn't mean we're practicing against that team, we're practicing against that concept of offense, for example. The double-synch defense or bear defense, that's something that we don't play much, but some of the people that we play, play a lot that creates significant adjustment on offense. We may not practice against a particular team, but a particular front on defense. I think there will be more of that done. I think you can practice too much for a game. The players get stale after awhile, especially with the game plan. Probably two additional practices with some exposure to some of the things a team does that's different from what they normally see would be the max that we would want to try and practice."
Has a final determination been made on the eligibility status of Colin Peek at this point and if it has, will he be a part of the 105-man roster?
"He is a part of the 105. As it stands right now, his appeal was denied, so he is not eligible to play. What his family decides to do, relative to that and pursuing it further with the NCAA is strictly up to them."
Not totally about football, but I was wondering if you knew Dave Hart at all and what you thought of his hire.
"I think Dave Hart is certainly an outstanding administrator. He has done a fantastic job at several places where he has been athletic director and I am sure he will be a very positive strong addition to our already strong athletic department that we have right now. We are very pleased and happy to have somebody with his knowledge and experience coming in to join our athletic administration and I am sure he'll benefit it in a very positive way and compliment the people we have now."