University of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban
Reporting Day Press Conference Partial Transcript
August 2, 2007
“We’re obviously excited about opening fall camp. We’re excited about the season. We’re excited about the opportunities that we have to work with the players. We have to try to focus on improving and finding out more about our team and answering questions about our team. I think the two things that are really most important that we want to try to figure out about our players or continue to figure out about our players is, A), What is your competitive character? How important is it for you to be good and sustain what you do? And (B), how smart can you play? Those are probably the two things that are most important. And you can talk about a lot of things that are important, but those two things are probably most important when it comes to players because those two things are both critical in a guy being able to play winning football.
“From a team standpoint, we want to continue to develop our opportunity to be a team, have togetherness, develop the kind of trust and respect you need to play together as a team, and that obviously takes a lot of positive energy and willingness that guys enjoy being around each other and support each other and can be responsible for their own self-determination in terms of their ability to do their job, to work hard to get in great condition so they can sustain and dominate in the fourth quarter and finish games. Those are the kind of things that we want to continue to try to build but those are also the kind of questions that our team has to prove that we can do.
“Now for the younger players, the freshmen, I think the same thing. Heart, competitive character, whatever you want to call it, is still something that we’re trying to evaluate in them but we want to see what their learning curve is. How fast? What kind of maturity do they have in terms of how fast they can learn and show a capacity to improve because the important thing is that we pick the guys that can help us somewhere this season, not whether they can help us today. We haven’t even coached them yet. Not even if they could help us in two weeks. But sometimes those guys can make progress and improve because of the kind of people they are and their ability to stay positive, show maturity, not get frustrated, and they’ll continue to improve and those kind of guys can help you long term on your team.
“So that’s basically in a nutshell what’s probably important to us right now. All 105 players reported. We have two guys that did not make it academically. Kerry Murphy will go to a prep school and Michael Ricks did not make the grades, quality points, whatever you want to call it, to this point at least, out of junior college, that he’s eligible to be here. We have one player who is injured and will be in rehab to start camp and will continue to rehab so to speak, and that’s Nick Gentry. He came here. When he reported here, he had a shoulder (injury), an old injury; it’s not something he did while he was working out here or anything. It’s a high school injury that, for his position relative to our medical staff, they felt like it would be very difficult for him to be able to sustain his performance with this type of injury and it not be a reoccurring problem. So it was our choice to get it fixed. This is something that he’s not going to miss the whole season with, but he’s just not ready to go right now, so, rather than have him here and take somebody who could be out there practicing every day, he’s already here in summer school, he can do his rehab work with the trainers. He’s going to be a guy that at least starts out as an injured guy. One guy that we will add to the scholarship list is Darren Mustin who had an outstanding spring, and that doesn’t mean that he’s the only one. However, we have four guys, because of injury, who will be put on medicals at this time. That’s Jake Jones, Byron Waltonand I’m not going to get specific with the medical issuesbut they were medical issues. These medical issues were confirmed by our doctors and it was decided that they should not continue to play football at this time. (The other two are) Aaron McDaniel and Tyrone Prothro who is not medically ready to play this season. He was not medically ready to play last season. We do have a plan to try to further continue his rehabilitation and (are) hopeful that he can come back and play football someday. But when we put guys in these situations, the medical staff is 99.9 percent sure that this is a long-term issue that we are dealing with and it would be unusual that a guy could ever come back. But you can appeal these down the road if a guy can come back, so those are medical issues that we had to confront. Those players will continue to be a part of our program. Those players will continue to receive academic support. We want them to be a part of the team, but in no way can they participate because of their medical condition.
“One other thing that I wanted to add is, you know, we do this a little different all the time and it depends really kind of on when we report and how the days lineup, but, because our first day of practice is going to be on Friday, we’re going to do this for one day. I’ve done it for two days before, I’ve done it for one day before, but when you have 105 guys out there practicing and you have probably, I don’t know exactly how many, 22 freshmen plus we have some walkon freshmen, guys that have not been here beforethe first couple of days of practice can be really trying for these guys. They don’t know much about anything. They don’t know where their position goes to work out. They don’t know what the drills are when they get there. They don’t know really a whole lot about the mental part of what we’re trying to teach them. So it’s always been my disposition to take the younger playersbut split the squad equally 50/50but have split practices. So you have a two-deep that practices at one point in time and then you have a two-deep that practices later on, so the coaches can actually focus on those particular players. And I always like to do it at least one practice so you can take all the young guys and teach them the drills and take a little more time with them. Rather thanthey’re going to be in the back of the line; they’re going to get a lesser amount of attention, and their anxiety level is probably going to dissipate a little bit if they have a chance to get their feet on the ground by getting a little more individual attention, especially in the first practice. So we will do that for one practice and one practice only on Friday. We could have done that on Saturday, too, but then we’re right up against Sunday, and that’s the first time that we would practice as a full squad and we really didn’t want to do that. So it’s a little more difficult on the coaching staff. It’s not any more difficult on the players. They still get their NCAA rest time because it’s not the same players practicing twice. It’s a totally different group each time. So we will do that.”
Do the medical moves get him to 85 or will there be any other shifting he needs to do?
“No, we don’t need to shift anything and we didn’t need to make all these moves to do it. The moves were made because they were medical decisions. Each player was talked to and also agreed that this was the best thing relative to their future that they could do as well. So this was a medical decision. It has nothing to do with anything else. We’re below 85. We added a guy to scholarship and we may even be more than that below it. So that’s not an issue. (William) Vlachos and (Patrick) Crump, who, your terminology around here that I’ve never been familiar with about gray-shirtingwe’re not gray-shirting them. They are coming and reporting now as well. So that’s the only other bit of information that I didn’t know. But if you have any more terminology out there that I’m not familiar with, I’d appreciate it if you all would bring me up to date on that.”
What do you call it?
“Never done it. We had guys start at mid-year before and we had guys who we recruited in the fall that we started at mid-year but we just never had a name for it. And it wasn’t pre-meditated. It was always if we happen to be over, we’d like for you to start in January, so you had a little flexibility. But this is like you’re starting in January and that’s it. Basically, everyone that we recruit, we’d like to have here in the fall. But there are some strategic management issues to have flexibility if you would have guys that would rather or see some benefit in starting in January.”
Just to clarify: the players that are on medical scholarships now, they are essentially out for the season with their injuries? Is it a permanent situation?
“Yes. They’re out. It’s a permanent situation. There is an appeal situation that a player could go through. But our medical staff would not put a guy on this if they thought that they were going to be able to come back and play. Now we could not put them on so everybody’s got false hope and think the guy’s going to come back when he really doesn’t have a chance to come back or you can be realistic like I always say.”
Could you kind of give us a general “body part” or whatever, the injuries for the four players who are on the medical list?
“Well, I’m really not an expert on this.”
Leg? Shoulder? Knee?
“I think you guys know more about this than I do. These guys all got injured when I wasn’t here except for Byron Waltonhe actually had a heat problem in the summer. This is the one that I really don’t want to get involved with because I don’t know the technical names of this. I think you should ask the medical staff about that one. But this was a heat-related issue that has been reoccurring for him since high school. When he exerted himself at the level that he would have to to condition and do the things that you need to do here, he put himself at tremendous risk. And he actually had issues in the summer conditioning program, went through some tremendous lab work and there is a name for this. It’s not an unusual thing but he would have been in danger of having a heat-related problem or a physical exertion related problem moving forward. And it has something to do with how your muscles break down and how your body dissipates that and how it affects your kidneys and liver with serious issue. ..You know what Prothro’s injury is, right? McDaniel’s is a knee. Jones had reoccurring leg injuries. He was basically out the entire spring. Didn’t finish last season. Wasn’t able to go through the off-season program.”
Is there a plan now for Michael Ricks? You mentioned that Kerry Murphy is going to a prep school. Is there a plan for Ricks now or is he still on the radar for you next year?
“He’s going to miss this season so you’ve got five years to play four. So his clock keeps running. We basically don’t have a plan for him, no, but that doesn’t mean that something couldn’t happen that he might get back on the radar screen, but that’s for him to prove that he’s willing to do and wants to do. He had an opportunity to go to junior college and he knew what he needed to do. I think he’s in summer school. I don’t know if he finished it. And he was also taking some kind of correspondence course. I don’t know much about that. But, basically, when you go to junior college and you don’t get out of junior college, what are the alternatives? Do you know any? Well, I don’t either. So you can research it if you like, if you come up with anything, let me know.”
What were the strength and conditioning tests that players had to go through and were there any repercussions for not making it?
“That’s something that we have tests that they have to go through. In nature there’s some kind of strength test involved. There’s some kind of endurance test involved and there’s some kind of a sprint test involved. And the players are given points for how they do on each one of these and then we evaluate the guys that did the best in each one and the guy that did overall the best. But they understand what it is and that’s the most important thing. So, maybe one of these days I’ll feel like going through the whole thing but I don’t today.”
D.J. Hall: What have you seen of the guy? His competitive nature? His skills set? He didn’t make any of the All-SEC teams, and for us, that might have been a bit of a surprise, so I wanted to get your thoughts.
“D.J. Hall had an excellent spring. We were pleased with the progress that he made. He showed some ability to make big plays. I think as a group we’d like see our receiver corps-- catching the football is always important. Being consistent in catching the football is always important. Making explosive plays is one of the important factors in winning and losing games, and D.J. Hall is certainly a guy that can do all those things and has done all those things and certainly did all those things in the spring. So we’re pleased with the progress that he made, we’re pleased with what he did in the spring. But unfortunately he cannot make All-SEC based on what he did in the spring because nobody looks at that or votes on it? Isn’t that correct? So I don’t know how the two correlate.”