Aug. 3, 2008
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
Opening Comments: “I think the first thing I’d like to do is give our condolences, as an organization and as a group and as a family, to Coach (Gene) Stallings and his family for their loss. It is certainly felt by all of us. John Mark was certainly someone I grew to love in a very short period of time, in terms of his passion and spirit for the University of Alabama, as well for life and how he affected so many people in this community. The Stallings family will always be a great part of the tradition of the The University of Alabama. Our thoughts and prayers are with them on this Sunday morning.
“From a football standpoint, we are very pleased with the two days we have been able to accomplish in camp so far, just in helmets. We have had a lot of good work. The focus still needs to be on paying attention to detail, what the process every player needs to go through to play winning football on a consistent basis and be able to sustain that effort for 60 minutes in a game. That’s why we have camp to accomplish those details. We have to create those habits to sustain this performance so you can get the consistency and execution that you need. Obviously, we have varying levels of experience out there in our players right now. How those players develop and how those players who have more experience continue to improve will certainly contribute to a large degree of the kind of success this team can have. I think that is something everyone controls. We all control that. We can control how hard we work. We control how much we focus. We control the metal toughness that we have to overcome the circumstances of the weather, or whatever the situation is. I think that kind of maturity, to be able to maintain a tempo that is going to give us the repetitions that we need in practice to make the kind of improvement that we make, is certainly a personality and identity that this team needs to continue to try and work and develop.
“We don’t have any significant injuries to report. (wide receiver Darius) Hanks is in a black shirt because he had a shoulder injury in the spring. He had surgery right after spring practice and at least the first week, he is cleared to practice, no one had any contact, but he would not have had contact if we were in shoulder pads, shells or whatever. We will go in shoulder pads and shells today. The focus of what we try to do in terms of installation will not change, so we will continue to work and try to improve. There is a lot to learn, there is a lot of teaching going on and I think the players attitude toward it has been excellent and the coaches are doing a great job.”
On the decision making process of where multi-position players will play: “Well first of all, we always ask the player what they want to play. A lot of players have specific wants and needs about what they’d like to try and be, what their goals and aspirations are and what they have the passion to play. I think that’s important that you give them an opportunity to play that. I also think there is a part of a business decision that goes into every guy’s future, as to where he can contribute to the team best and where he can best develop his career as a football player. I think at some point and time, you sit down and talk to a player about that, if it’s necessary. That’s basically how we do it. We have a pretty good idea in recruiting. Most guys will indicate to you, I’ll do whatever you want me to do to help the team. Some guys say that want to play a certain position and you make a commitment to allowing them to do that. As a rule of thumb, if it doesn’t matter, and the guys has the ability to play both sides of the ball, my rule of thumb is, I’d rather start front seven players on defense, if they have an opportunity to do that, and move them to offense later, and skill guys start them all on offense and move them to defense later, if that makes any sense.”
On Alfred McCullough: “Alfred has done a really good job. He did an outstanding job in the spring and he continues to work on developing as a football player. We have been pleased with his progress. He is out there competing and has an opportunity to contribute in the front seven. He had a good spring and he improved in the spring and that has put him in position to have an opportunity to help the team, but what he does now is going to be the most important thing, in terms of how he contributes to the team this year.”
On Jim McElwain: “Jim has a very good background, in terms of knowledge and experience and the people he has been with. That’s always something we take into consideration when we hire anyone. He did a fantastic job as Fresno State. (Fresno State head coach) Pat Hill and I used to coach together with the Cleveland Browns, so we have a pretty good relationship. Sometimes, those kinds of guys that you have relationships with that you coached with before are the guys that you get the kind of recommendation from that you have faith, trust and confidence in. I think Jim has done a fantastic job since he has been here. He has an excellent personality. The players like him. I think we have more diversity on what we do offensively, without changing the whole ball of wax to make it difficult for the players. His positive energy and enthusiasm as been a real asset to the organization as well as his knowledge and experience, I think, is going to be helpful, in not only utilizing our personnel, but in how we plan and prepare for games.”
On change in titles of Kevin Steele and Kirby Smart: “I think we have a really good defensive staff. I don’t think any of the changes that we made are affecting anything that we do. The implementation of what we do is similar, so everybody accepted those roles, being team players, so that we could keep the best possible coaching staff here. We certainly appreciate that. We have some outstanding coaches. Kevin Steele is an outstanding coach, as good a coach as I’ve ever been around. He is probably as ready to be a head coach anyway in the country that anybody we’ve ever had, because is mature. He has been a head coach before. He does a great job, not only as a football coach, but in the overall administration of what any program needs to do to be successful. Kirby has been with us and knows the system and adds a lot of experience to that. He is mature enough at this point in his career to take on a little more responsibility. Those two guys work extremely well together.”
On John Parker Wilson: “John Parker is doing really well. He had an excellent spring. I think that having a good bowl game last year probably helped his confidence. Certainly, he did a great job in the off season. He and Coach Mac (offensive coordinator Jim McIElwain) seemed to have worked well together. I think technically he has improved, and I think his decision-making and his judgment have improved. Hopefully we can continue to make the big plays and minimize that not-so-good plays that we have, especially when turning the ball over, which still is one of the most critical statistics to winning of any. He seemed to be a little more business-like in his approach. He is a great competitor and very emotional guy and sometimes playing quarterback, you want a guy to make business decisions and not get caught up emotionally in trying to hard and forcing things. He seems to have developed a real maturity in that area which I think could affect his play in a positive way.”