University of Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban
Partial Transcript of Press Conference
August 5, 2007
“We’re certainly excited about the opportunity that we have in this fall camp. I’ve really been impressed with the players’ attitude toward improvement. I think there was a big improvement between what we talked about yesterday in terms of the difficulty that some of the players endured in the first day trying to acclimate to the heat and the type of practice that we needed to try to have relative to player development and then what we were able to get done yesterday. I think the players are really committed to trying to accomplish some of the camp objectives that we’ve sort of set out to achieve this fall. I think that’s a good thing. They have a positive attitude about it. It is going to be a little difficult, but I think these circumstances, as I’ve said before, allow us an opportunity to overcome adversity and probably get better as a competitive character and a competitive team.
“I think there are some camp objectives that are very important for us that are fundamental things that we’d like to get across in this camp. The first thing is we’d like to establish the hardcore foundation of discipline; the details, the attention to detail, the discipline, the focus on what we need to do so that we can play with consistency. And I think that’s extremely important for us to continue to establish and build on. Mental and physical toughness go a long way in allowing you to do that under difficult circumstances. Hard work is part of that. I think you can’t allow, especially in fall camp---two-a-days, whatever you call itmental fatigue to precede physical fatigue because you are really challenging people to play at a high standard in difficult circumstances and probably practice more with a little less recovery than would be typically done in a season or for them to perform. But it’s all done for them to establish some of these types of things and I think to establish mental toughness, things have to be difficult. It’s difficult to do if things are all easy, and basically the players learn that the price for success has to be paid up front.
“The third thing we want to try to accomplish is improve on the fundamentals. There are two things that you really try to do when we talk about learning systems and you’re implementing systems. Yes, you learn what to do, but you’ve got to learn how to do it, which is the fundamental part of it. And then the concept understanding part of it is why it’s important to do it that way. And I think the further along you get in that learning curve with your players, not only understanding the system, but also improving the fundamentals, the technique, the fundamentals that are going to help them be successful because sometimes technical mistakes are fundamental mistakes even though you know what to do. They get you beat just as fast as anything else. So both are very important in execution, so both of them are an important part of what we want to accomplish in fall camp. Improve fundamentals and good understanding of systems: offense, defense, special teams and what we need to do to execute together as a team.
“The other part of that then comes into team chemistry. And I think if you build some of these fundamental things that we’re talking about on top, you have a better chance to get the kind of respect that everybody is doing these things, and these things are all important to having a good team and a trust that, if we all do this, we have a better chance of being successful. I think that helps in developing the togetherness that you need to have and good team chemistry. Because it really doesn’t allow a lot for individual egos. Everybody is going to be self-absorbed to some degree and want to know how everything is going to affect them. But all these things affect them. It affects their ability to perform better, to play better, to have more success as an individual player, and as long as we do it relative to inputting what is important to team execution, I think it improves the team chemistry.
“And, finally you want a pride and a winning attitude toward what your team is trying to accomplish together as a group. Those are the kind of things that, when you ask me about things in camp. Now, I know there’s a lot of personnel issues, a lot of things that people would like to know and speculate on, who’s going to start here, but at this point in camp, as I said the other day, the depth chart is not really the most important thing. Player development and player improvement in these things are what we’re really trying to accomplish at this point in our camp. As I’ve said before, when we take a player out of the game, it could be for a number of reasons. It could be because he’s hurt. It could be because he’s tired. It could be because he’s not performing very well. It could be because the other guy in his position is performing extremely well and deserves an opportunity to play. So it could be for any number of reasons. And I’m not going to explain every one of those reasons every time we do it. Just like when you go out there and take roll every day when you come to practice, I’m not going to explain who’s where, why and all that because we do it for player development reasons. Not because this guy is better than that guy and we set up this caste system on our team that the only thing that’s important is where you are on the depth chart when there really isn’t even a depth chart. The depth chart is there for organizational purposes right now. Organizational purposes and not to create speculation. And sometimes when you do that it affects people. I’m talking about players. So we will continue to emphasize with them that that’s not the major concern right now.
“Demetrius Goode does have MRI confirmed, an ACL injury and he will have surgery. I think it’s scheduled for Tuesday. These types of injuries are usually anywhere from five to seven to nine months depending on the rehab, how quickly you can start the rehab after the surgery and that type of thing. So not something typically that can’t be overcome, and it’s certainly something that we’re going to do everything we can to help this young man overcome because we think he has a bright future.”
You spent a lot of time in the offseason at speaking engagements and at media days trying to bring down expectations among the fan base. What was the reason for that and has it been successful?
“I’m not trying to bring down expectations.”
Make them more realistic?
“Very well put. Thank you. I don’t know. I’ve also said that I want to coach places where you have high expectations for what can be accomplished. But I think that, as I’ve said before, expectations can create a little bit of a negative attitude when things don’t work out like you think they should be. And all the things that we’ve talked about here that are camp objectives are all hard, difficult things to accomplish. Things like hard work, pride in performance, learning, executing, team chemistry. We have a 6-7 team and we’re trying to improve that team. And we are very pleased with the attitude that the team has in doing that. But what I’ve tried to do is create positive energy in the organization and with our fans. And I think when your expectation is that things are going to be difficult, then you’re more willing to overcome the adversities that are definitely going to be necessary for us to build the kind of program that we expect to have here. So when we don’t get immediate self-gratification for that, we don’t want people to be negative because their positive energy and their role in having a positive attitude toward what we do in the Crimson Tide family is going to be really important. And I want that energy to stay positive. I want them to compete like we expect the players to compete. It has never been my intention to bring down the expectations of what we’d like to accomplish here. It’s only been to be realistic about what we accomplish now and to stay positive to what we can build on in the future and let that be an asset to the organization.”
Was it your idea to have the Fan Day today, and, if it was, where did that come from?
“We’ve always done it, which doesn’t mean it’s something good to do. But I think that, and it may disagree with some people in this room’s opinion not to create any kind of controversy, that our fans are important. They are important to this organization. The people who support this program are the most important thing to this organization. So to create opportunities for them to see that, I think is something they deserve. To create opportunities for them to have some direct contact with me, is also something that they deserve. And I know that there are those that think they are the most important thing when it comes to having access. But I think the fans are important. And I think it’s a great opportunity for our players. It’s something that’s exciting for them to be able to do. This may be a little earlier than we do it as we really only practice one Sunday throughout the whole cam; the first Sunday to really get things going. We’ve only practiced for two days so far. So that’s the time that we usually do it.”
You talked about the expectation question earlier (regarding) your players. How do you walk the line with being realistic and positive?
“I’m extremely positive with the players. The players have to believe if we execute and do things together as a group, we’re going to have success. And they have to be process-oriented and not result-oriented. This whole thing that I talk about is typically what the whole world talks about in having success in anything that you chose to do. So this is nothing that’s enlightening. It’s just what it takes to be successful at whatever you chose to do. I hope I present it in a way that it can be understood but the principles and values of being successful, commitment to things, knowing what you want to accomplish; it’s important to you; you have a passion for it; you work hard at it; you have the character and attitude, the thoughts, habits, priorities to continue to make the choices and decisions you need to make to be successful so you reach your full potential. What gives our team the best chance to win? Everybody on the team playing as well as they can play, right? Reaching their full potential. So that’s what we focus on every day, so that gives us the best chance to get results. And that’s what we promote with our players. And that’s what everybody who tries to be successful tries to do. It’s nothing new. It’s been going on for years. Every book I read about it, that’s what it says. So this is nothing that’s like some revelation. You guys love to get me going, right? There are a couple of you that have knack for doing it.”
The objectives that you talk about, through spring and now, have you found that the players are picking up on the methods that you are choosing to try and achieve that or has it been a difficult process?
“No, we’ve been pleased with the way the players have tried to buy into what we want to do. Everybody does it a little differently. The team is made up of individual players, and some players do it more quickly than others. Some players improve more quickly than others, some players learn more quickly than others. So it’s not like everybody does it at the same pace. But what’s important is that the critical mass of players are doing that and we have a significant number of players who have made a lot of improvement and we’re pleased with the progress that we’ve made. We’re not necessarily where we need to be and we’re continuing to work to try to get there.”
You’ve coached with some of these guys before. When you have a new coaching staff, how long does it take them to really get comfortable with each other and get to where they’re on the same page?
“I really like the staff that we have. We have a nice blend of some people who haven’t worked with me before that bring in fresh new ideas and enthusiasm. We have guys who have worked with me before so that gives you a little bit of, this is how we do it,’ type of experience. And we can input the new ideas with the way we’ve done it and improve what we do. And I think it’s important that everybody knows that we are all responsible to make things better. That’s one of the things that we always talk about with the staff, whether it’s personnel decisions, how we go about what we do, how we practice. Everybody is responsible for a better way. I like the staff that we have. We have some very experienced guys and we have some young guys. And I think that’s positive, too, in that the younger guys are learning, enthusiastic. That’s important. And I think that we have some experienced guys who help those guys develop. I think that there’s also a team chemistry that needs to work between the players and the coaches: that we relate well. That they trust and believe in the things that we are teaching and telling them is really going to help them be more successful. And I think that’s important in this overall organization. But I’ve been pleased with the staff. I think the staff has worked together. But I think like anything, the longer you work together, the more times you go throughthis is the first time through for us. Everything was new. The offseason program was new. Spring practice was new. Spring recruiting was new. Summer conditioning program was new. Fall camp is new for everybody. And this football season and the first time we play is going to be new for this staff as a group. So this is a work in progress in terms of how we grow and develop. But I’ve been really pleased with the way that part has worked and I think that contributes to developing team chemistry and all these camp objective things that I spoke about before.”
ALABAMA OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR MAJOR APPLEWHITE
“First off, we’re all glad to be back at camp. We’re glad to have the guys back and be back around them, see the improvements that they’ve made during the offseason whether it be through mental preparation or through physical preparation with Coach (Scott) Cochran. All the offensive guys reported back with a positive attitude and are ready to work, and we’re excited as a staff to be with them, to have these opportunities during two-a-days or fall camp. And they’ve responded well to everything that we’ve asked them to do thus far, and we’re just looking forward to making improvements where we left off in the spring.”
ALABAMA DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR KEVIN STEELE
“To start off and give you a little overview, it’s probably going to sound like a broken record to you but we’re in the beginning phases, in the teaching process, trying to get the guys in the right place, teach them things as simple as, say, get off the field on third down.’ The takeaways. The emphasis to eliminate the big plays. All the intangibles that go along with all the scheme work. So we’re trying to develop a personality as well as get the players in the right place at the right time within the scheme and teach all the little nuances that go with this defensive package, which is a pretty extensive package. So there’s a lot of learning taking place on both sides of the fence, both from the scheme part for the players and for us learning what they can do and where they best fit in the scheme. I think the process is going well. We’ve made tremendous improvement from spring. There was a good bit of carryover and we’re pleased with that. We’ve got a lot of young guys out there now and to evaluate them individually in any way would be unfair because they’ve been here basically for three practices, and their heads are swimming pretty good. Although we are pleased with their intensity, and their effort and their focus. We’re going to proceed with the process where we, each day get better at something; eliminate mistakes and then move on to the next phase.”