University of Alabama Football Coach Mike Shula
Transcript of Opening Comments & 1st Five Questions Asked
Preseason Press Conference
August 7, 2006
“Good afternoon. Hope everybody’s having a good day; hope everybody had a good summer. As we speak right now, our players are checking into our new dorm which opens today. Next week we’ll have our new dining area for the players right there next to Bryant Hall Academic Center. So we’re in the process of doing those all things. I think you’ll see the players after this.
“It seems like a long time since we talked football in here. I guess the last time was really the post A-Day game. It seems like forever. I think the biggest thing we try to do each and every year for training camp (is) we’ll talk to our players about our goals. A couple of things that we want to do, obviously, is create that competition with every position and just keep guys competing as hard as they can to earn playing time, earn starting time, earn practice time. As coaches we also want to identify our most dependable players--each and every year you do that. That’s what training camp is going to be about. We also want to look and see if there are going to be any newcomers that have the ability to come in and contribute whether or not it’s on offense or defense or on special teams. Those are all the things that as coaches will be our goals over the course of the next few weeks.
“Our playersour focus with them and with the football team will be to try to pick up where we left off at the end of spring practice. We felt like we made some strides over the course of spring practice and now we’ve added some young student-athletes and hopefully everyone is feeling more comfortable with what they’re being asked to do of the guys that are going to be on the field for us. We’ve talked enough over the course of the offseason about identifying starters. Those guys will have to earn that over the course of the fall practice. Just as importantly, and I think I’ve said throughout the summer to several various groups and it’s probably been out there, is we need to identify some guys that will come in and play quality snaps for us, especially on the defensive side of the ball where we spend more time and we rotate, we play more guys. And the last couple of years we’ve all known who the starters have been and we’ve all kind of known who those substitutes have been. Well, right now those substitutes are becoming starters and we’ve got to find new substitutes there.
“So those will be some keys for us.
“Special teams-wise, identifying a punt returner, kickoff returnerwe’ve got some guys lined up in those areas and we’ve just got to go out there and find out who they are.
“I think to go along with the theme in spring ball where we tried to spend as much time as we could just putting the ball down and scrimmaging, I think we’ll continue to do that as much as we can. Obviously we’ve got to get the young guys schooled up and understand fundamentally with all those individual periods how important it is to do all those little things right. With a young quarterback and some other young players still on offense as well as some new starters on defenseeven though they might be seniorswe’re not going to be able to get enough of that. We’ve got three scrimmages set up but we’ll also do some other things during the course of practice to simulate the game as much as we can.
“A couple of other things: offensively, on the offensive line, we’re going to look at combinations with B.J. Stabler possibly moving to the other (guard)--he’s been at right guard--maybe looking at him at left guard and seeing Justin Britt, who was not available during the course of the spring practice until the latter part, playing him (Britt) at the right guard position. Those will be things that you’ll see over the course of the next week or so. Other than that, as far as the older guys, there’s not much. The guys that we talked about in the spring, you’ll probably see those same guys and hopefully we’ve got other guys that are going to compete for those spots.
“So with that, you guys can fire away.”
In looking at the 105 man roster, you had three players who signed in February who are not part of it (non qualifiers). Can you discuss any of that other than that they are not here?
“We’re excited about the group that we’ve got in. We feel like some of the guys that we looked at that are not on the 105they’re at positions where we feel like we’ve got a lot of depth. This is a group that we think is going to give us the best opportunity to go win games and that’s why they are on our 105. As far as other guys that are still in question, whether or not their eligibility is (in) question to get into school, those are things that, like I said, we have had a plan for those guys just like we do each and every year for when we sign them and for their future.”
Are they still a possibility to show up?
“There’s always a possibility. It’s probably not very high though.”
When you talk about looking for depth on the defense, how big of a concern (is it)? Does that appear to be more like the situation you had when you first got here maybe rather than the past two years when you guys have been pretty solid?
“Well, it’s the first time we’ve really had that defensively. Last year offensively we had some unknowns, guys like Marlon Davis and some guys that were just going to have to playwe didn’t know a whole lot about. Two years ago it was two freshman receivers with D.J. Hall and Keith Brown. Now we’re starting to see some of that on defense a little bit, not necessarily at the starting position. But we’ve got to find out about Lorenzo Washington, about Brandon Fanney, about Brandon Deaderick. Those are all redshirt freshmen that are going to have to come in and contribute. Now they’re going to have to earn that right to contribute, but we need that to happen so we’re going to push them hard. We want those guys pushing the Dominic Lee’s and the Jeremy Clark’s as well.”
Coach, I know you touched on the offensive line there just briefly: the way it was at the end of last season, how much different is it as you guys head into two-a-days here? How much work went into rebuilding that or trying to fix the problem that was at the end of last year?
“Last year we all know we had problems at the end of the year. We were a young offensive line that became younger as the season got older. We feel like one of the best things we’ve done was right before the bowl game we moved Antoine Caldwell to center. He will continue to be at that spot. We think Antoine could probably play at any spot, really. We feel like he’s got a good grasp of our offense. He’s a very good communicator and a leaderas we all (might say), the clichés the quarterback of the offensive line.’ We think that’s going to help. We think with bringing Justin Britt over to the offensive side, who was a quality player, the offense had to fight and scratch and to get him over and to keep him over there because our defensive guys really want to keep him. And he’s been a quality player. We think with him, even though he hasn’t played on offense, he’s a mature guy. He’s physically mature and he’s one of our tougher players. (We think) that he’s going to add to making our offensive line better. Obviously with the competition we think with B.J. Stabler now and, again, going back to Antoine, more experience should be better players. Chris Capps, Kyle Tatum, (all have) more experience, should be better. Plus the offseason program (should help). We’re getting older there which helps but we’re still not as old as we’d like to be with just one senior right now.”
Do you expect Andre Smith to contribute immediately?
“We haven’t seen him practice yet so-- we think he may have an opportunity to. We think he’s got that kind of talent. It’s such a tough position for a young guy to play. We’re not going to force the issue as far as where if he’s not ready, he’s not ready. But we’re going to give him an opportunity, just like all those other guys. Based on what we all have seen in high school and some of the all-star games and things like that it looks like he may be one of those guys that could do that.”
Coach, two part question: with all the experience and depth you have at fullback and running back and an inexperienced quarterback, will you rely on the run game even more this year? And, second part, with a work horse like (Kenneth) Darby what’s the plan to get (Roy) Upchurch and (Jimmy) Johns more carries?
“It’s a good problem to have, number one. And in answer to the second part with a workhorse like Darby I don’t know if K.D. will have 40 carries a game or 35 carries. He may. He did a couple of years ago because he was the only one left standing. This year we’ve got some other guys with the Jimmy Johns, with an Upchurch, with a Glen Coffee, and we’ve got a couple of other guys, too, that we’re going to look at. I think that’s a good problem to have with our running game where we’ve got some depth, like you said to answer the first part of your question, with our halfbacks and our fullbacks, will we run the ball more than we did last year and to take pressure off of John Parker (Wilson) we want to be balanced as much as we can. I think we’ve said that since we’ve been here. I think it’s important for those guys to realize they’ve got to carry their load. Darby is a leader and is a leader because he’s been productive. He’s going to have to be productive again this year for us. And that will help John Parker Wilson. But I think John Parker Wilson is going to help our running game. I truly believe that. I think he’s going to help our receivers. For sure the guys that have got the experience have got to do their part and make things easier just like every year we ask those guys for the guys that are the newcomers.”