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Alabama Football Media Day Transcript



Aug. 8, 2010

Head Coach Nick Saban

Opening comments:

“It’s nice at the beginning of Fall Camp with the program that we have right now to go two days in just shorts and helmets then put shoulder pads on for a couple of days. I really think, especially in our circumstance here, this is the best way to do it in terms of player safety and what is in the best interest of the players.

"We had a good practice yesterday (Saturday) for the first time that the players had shoulder pads on. Obviously you can do a little more fundamental teaching when the players do have pads on, relative to block protection, blocking techniques, even to form tackle or to teach those types of things. It helps our teaching that we have the shoulder pads on, but I think it’s really helpful to the players not to have to go out there sort of cold turkey and just try to deal with the circumstances in full pads. I was really pleased with the way our players handled that. They worked through it yesterday in some difficult circumstances, and I think we improved and made some progress.

"We’ve tried to have a program here that I would say is of substance. It’s about making good choices and decisions about what you do and what you don’t do. Every choice that you make has a consequence. That consequence can be positive or it could be negative if you make poor choices. I think we made progress in the program because our players have made better choices and have done things, not only on the field but off the field, to help themselves be more successful and give themselves a chance to be more successful. I think that all comes from how you think because how you think affects what you do and it has a tremendous affect and impact on the result that you get. There are endless temptations there for everyone everyday to get in a bad situation. It takes a lot of self-discipline on the players’ part to continue to make good choices and decisions so that we can improve as a team and they can improve on their personal chances to be successful as people. You have to challenge yourself every day. I think especially in times like these that each player has to challenge themselves to win each day. When I say win each day I’m talking about handling the circumstances, having enough mental toughness whether it’s to deal with the heat, having the focus necessary to pay attention to detail, to go out and get something out of every repetition every opportunity that they have.

"It’s so easy at this time when you’re practicing every day when you get into camp to endure the practice and not really focus on what you need to do to improve every time you get an opportunity but just try to get through it. Let me get my four reps and get a drink of water and sort of endure the practice. That’s what we want to challenge our players to do, to win every day. Winning every day right now is everybody making personal improvement, everybody making individual improvement that’s going to help us continue to get better as a team. We’ve got a very young team. We probably don’t have more than 10 or 12 guys that have been here more than three years out of high school on our entire team. That doesn’t mean that they’re not capable of doing it, but it does challenge their maturing to be able to make the right decisions and do the right things in circumstances like these. I think this is a good time for them to sort of mature into what they have to do to be the kind of relentless competitors they’re going to need to be with the competition in our league.

"We only have really one issue: Kendall Kelly is probably going to be out for several days. Actually in our first practice at night he had some sort of heat issues, a little dizziness. Until we make sure we can identify what the issue is we’re probably not going to let him practice again for a while. That’s one that you don’t need to be asking me about on a daily basis. He’s here. He’s allowed to get medical attention, but he just can’t go to practice and meetings. He’s not in the hospital or anything; we just want to monitor him for right now.”

On how continuity in the coaching staff contributes to the program:
“There is really two sides of this. I think continuity is really important in terms of having a good program. It helps the players, and I think the players feel a comfort zone when they’re with the same people. They know what to expect. But also when you have new people come into the program you get new energy, enthusiasm and ideas. Jeremy Pruitt is the one addition to our staff. He’s done a very good job in the player development area for several years. I like to be able to promote people within the organization because they kind of understand what the program is all about, what we’re trying to get done here and how we’re trying to do it. Sometimes when you bring people in from the outside they’re a little slow to buy in when they have a different way of doing things. This has worked out extremely well for us and we feel really good about the staff we have and the continuity that we have. We’re excited about trying to help. The coaches are here to help the players. We want to coach the players for the next play so that they have an opportunity to improve. I think our coaching staff does a very good job of that, and we’re glad to have all but one back from last year. That particular person who left (James Willis) had an opportunity, professionally, to better himself. I think it was a really good opportunity for him, and I think he’s ready for it. We hope and wish him well.”

On his experience in the offseason following the 2003 National Championship at LSU:
“I can’t really remember the offseason after that. My mind does not work that way. I can’t remember what happened five years ago. I have a tough time. In this business you’re kind of in a routine of what you do on a yearly basis as well as a daily basis. There’s a time that you recruit. There’s a time that you can just make phone calls. There’s a time when you coach and teach. There’s a time when you’re not allowed to be around your players. There’s a time when you really try to motivate, counsel and influence people to do the right things. So there are all these things going on on a yearly basis, and that routine probably helps me stay focused on what we need to do to continue to be successful. That’s kind of what I think about. I think I was probably a little bit more guarded this year relative to things that I allowed myself to do. I remember after the 2003 season I was totally almost burnt out in the offseason by all the things that I did, whether it was speaking or whatever it was, because of the demands and the requests. This year, even though the demands and requests were there, I sort of said, ‘Look, I’m standing pat. This is the hand. This is how many times I speak. This is how many Crimson Caravans I do, and that’s not changing. We’re not going beyond that. We’re going to do what we need to do to stay focused on what happens the next time.’ I do remember that. I feel that this offseason was not any different relative to how this team is being approached for the next season as any other season.”

On how things have change since his arrival from a football operations standpoint:
“I think we have really good people here. That’s in no way to discredit anyone who was here before that and is no longer here. I feel like we have a really good coaching staff. I feel like we have a really good support staff. We have really good strength and conditioning coaches. We have a great medical staff. I think that every opportunity we’ve had to try and hire a quality person in any of those areas has been through everyone’s input because a lot of the people that are recommended to me now I don’t really know. They get recommended by other people who have relationships and you trust and believe in those people. It has worked out extremely well in terms of us building a quality group of people. I think the athletic department is the same way. Dr. Witt has done the same thing institutionally here. I think all those things help you be successful. I really feel good about the team of people we have in place to help our players be successful as people, as students and as football players. We continually work to organize legal ways that we can help our players launch their careers when they leave here so they get great opportunities in life. John Dever does a great job academically and he has a great group of people there. The quality of people helps determine the standard of excellence our program tries to achieve. It’s not just winning the football games. I understand how important that is, but there are a lot of other facets of having a good college football program that go with that. We have a lot of good people here who contribute to that in a very positive way.”

On offensive coordinator Jim McElwain and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart:
“I think we have a really good coaching staff and a really good chain of command. That starts with leadership, and there are varying levels of leadership throughout the organization where people are in charge of something. Obviously when you have really good people that are in charge of something and they go carry out the principles and values of the organization in a really positive way it doesn’t create any conflicts in the organization, and everybody is on the same page with the same goal in mind and everybody is working through the same challenges. Kirby (Smart) and Jim McElwain both have done a fantastic job, but part of that fantastic job is getting the people they work with to contribute in a positive way so that they are most effective and efficient in what they do. Getting good information from the offensive line coach, Joe Pendry, about how we’re going to run it, the best protections or whatever, everybody contributes in a positive way. It’s the same thing on defense – how we’re going to cover certain things. All of that input in is helpful. Those two guys (Smart and McElwain) have a done a great job in their leadership role, but I think all the people working with them have done a fantastic job providing them input to help them be successful as well. They both have done an extraordinarily good job of carrying out the principles and values of the organization that we try to put forward, and everybody works together as a team. I think that’s really important that everybody buys in to that.”

On what has separated the SEC in recent years from other conferences:
“I think that you could write a book about that. There are probably a lot of things that contribute to it, but probably the most important thing is that there are great schools that have great traditions, and in recent years that there have been a lot of outstanding coaches who have done a really good job of developing strong programs. I think that all sort of contributes to the parity and the quality that we have from top to bottom in the league, which in turn comes from the kind of football players that you can recruit and the athletes overall in the SEC. It comes from the great leadership that we have at the SEC, who has had the foresight to do things to progress and develop the league so the success kind of gets manifested in a positive way throughout the United States. I think all those things contribute to it. I think right now we probably have more good programs, more good coaches, lots of good schools that a lot of people are very interested in becoming a part of. That helps the overall success. The exposure created by the league with the TV contract and media exposure is probably something that sort of inspires some of that interest on a national level.”

Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart

Opening statement:

“We’re really excited about this year defensively. We have a lot of new faces, a lot of guys with some inexperience, and we’re really excited about the work that they’ve done so far. They are really energetic out there and hungry to learn. It is kind of different for me. From my perspective, I’m looking from the linebackers now, and I look back and see all those young guys in the secondary and it reminds me a lot of when we first got here. That first spring and first fall so many guys were learning our system. They have to grow up, but they’re up to the challenge. They have accepted it for at least these first three days. It is still a little early, but we’re excited about it.

“Up front it seems like we have a lot of depth, but we’re not as talented right now from an experience perspective with the inside three. As you can tell, we lost a lot of guys, but we’re excited about the challenge in front of us. They’re working every day and are excited about it, and so am I.”

On the difference between his style of coaching at linebacker from former coach James Willis:
“I think any time you’re coaching a group for the first time, there are going to be differences in the way you coach and how the last guy coached. Coach Willis and I are good friends. My perspective comes more from a back-end perspective. I think it is really important, especially in this defense, Coach Saban’s defense; it really helps to know what is going on behind you. For them to get that perspective, I know it has helped Dont’a (Hightower) some, and it has helped some other guys to understand why they were doing what they were doing and they feel more comfortable that way.”

On his self gratification of preparing student-athletes to go on to be NFL first round draft picks:
“It only makes you feel good if you play well. You can certainly do too much (prep for the NFL) and not be successful. Fortunately we had some smart kids that accepted the challenge and did well with it, and Kareem (Jackson) was one of those guys. You’re talking about a guy who when he first got here was much like the young guys we have now. He had never really played corner, was a high school running back and he accepted the challenge and was a great kid. He calls me now all the time and even (Houston Texans) secondary coach David Gibbs told me that we do a lot on defense, and he can evaluate Kareem and know that he can play every technique that they ask him to play, plus some that he would like to use that maybe some of our other guys don’t use.”

On whether there will be any difference in the complexity of the defense this year with so many defensive newcomers:
“We certainly have to take that into consideration. Looking at last year’s implementation we could do things a lot faster because we had more experience, but we are not going to not challenge these guys. We have to challenge them mentally and let them understand it and teach them, and that is always the approach we have taken. I’ve been with Coach (Saban) now going on six years and we always take the approach of throw it up there and see what sticks and if they don’t get it, we’re going to throw it up there again and see what sticks. We did it this spring. Fortunately we had two of these young guys in the spring to work with and they’re a little further along than the other freshmen. We can’t change what we do because of the youth, but we can certainly take that into consideration when we get ready to game plan.”

On safety Mark Barron:
“Mark Barron is an exciting kid, and he is almost like a changed man this year. It is funny because I can remember the first couple of times we were out there with Mark Barron as a freshman we knew he was going to be a talented player. It was pretty obvious early on that he was going to be a talented player, but he did not understand the intricacies of the defense. He was learning and there were days out there that he was frustrated, and the older guys would get on him about getting into the playbook and wanting him to do well. Now two years later, he’s that guy. He knows pretty much all the defense, and he’s coaching the other guys and it is fun to see him grow up and become the player that he is. He is such a mature kid. He’s not a silly guy. He’s all about business, and he does a good job of leading the other guys. He makes me feel real comfortable about being back there.”

On linebacker Dont’a Hightower:
“Dont’a has already taken on a leadership role. He had already kind of started to do that last year with Rolando (McClain), and obviously the injury ended that. He certainly looks better this fall, I’ll say that, but he still has a ways to go. He looks better than he did this spring. Dont’a is really challenging younger players to learn the defense. He is challenging younger players to compete out at practice. As long as he continues that he can take on that role that we need him to.”

Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain

Opening statement:

“This is going to be one of those years where our guys really need to make a new identity for ourselves. One of the things that we’re really stressing with our offensive unit is that all the things we did last year, that’s last year and this year’s team is 0-0. The creation of what we need to do as a team and development through competition and through some attrition at some spots, we really need some guys to step up and do a good job for us.

"We’re excited about having some returning skill players. We’re excited about our left tackle, our center and guys like that who have obviously done a good job and got their feet wet last year and are now taking the next step up with a leadership role and communication along the front is something that we’re really excited about and something that we’re really stressing.”

On how he plans on utilizing multiple tight ends with different skill sets:
“Tight ends are obviously very important in this offense. The ‘H’ position is one that has to be able to both play on the line and move off the line. They have to be able to handle things out in space and I think a guy who is kind of an unsung hero in that regard from last year is Preston Dial. I think he has done an outstanding job for us and has done a lot of the dirty work that Travis McCall did the year before. He’s really accepted that role and done a good job. Brad Smelley has done a great job in the last two years recreating his body a little bit and becoming a more physical player, which we can use him out of the backfield as well as in the passing game. On the line with our blocking tight ends both (Dial and Smelley) have to be able to do that, but Michael Williams has really jumped up and had a great summer and did some things for us last year that we’re excited about. Underwood is another guy who has had a great offseason; he did a really good job in the spring. We look forward to good things from him as an on-the-line guy too. We feel we have developed some depth at that spot and we’re excited about what those guys have done, especially the versatility that they bring being able to not only be on the line, but be able to get out in empty.”

On his working relationship with defensive coordinator Kirby Smart:
“I think the one great thing we’ve had here is some continuity (as a staff). On the offensive side this is the third year with this group and what that does is a lot of times we can kind of feel the unspoken a little bit. We kind of know what to expect. The working relationship with Kirby is outstanding. He is a fantastic coach. He’s been with Coach (Saban) longer, so he can kind of head off some things that may be coming for me and that is huge. I think one of the things we have done here as a staff is we’ve ripped egos out. There aren’t any. We’re in it together. We all are in the trenches together; we’re in the staff meetings together. The guys really try to cover each others’ back when things aren’t going well and that is something in staff cohesiveness that I think is really kind of a lost art sometimes. There are a lot of guys in this profession that are kind of out for themselves and not quite out for the team.”

On the difference of this offense’s personality compared to last year’s:
"The big thing for us is understanding there are different parts every year. We do know some of the parts that are back and obviously what they can do. We need to exploit some of the other things that hopefully those guys will be able to accept and do. As far as being different, I look at it and realize that you guys (the media) have been around as long as I’ve been around and whatever we can do to win and exploit the other team, to get a win at the end of the day – that‘s where it’s at. We obviously have some returning talent. There’s no doubt about that and its unselfish talent it. That’s the great thing about this football team. The guys are going to do whatever it takes of them to help us be successful. Whatever the defense’s deal is, we’ll pick them up, and they’ll pick us up. Are we different? You know we set a school record on offense for total yards in Alabama history last year. So, I don’t know. We’ll figure it out from there.”

On offensive lineman D.J. Fluker’s progress and what his ability allows the offense to do:
“We lost a guy who started a whole bunch of games for us (at right tackle). Drew Davis was a great guy and did a lot of things and really solidified that position. I think the thing that is going to help D.J. most is the experience that we have coming back at right guard (Barrett Jones). What I mean by that is that offensive football is about communication. Offensive football is making sure all 11 are on the same page – guys making calls together, making sure everybody understands where they’re at. I think having Barrett Jones next to that position is huge for us, because he is a guy that played all the games, is a very smart guy and will be able to help and communicate the different things we need to do to be successful at that position. The other thing we need to do is just make sure that the right tackle position develops. There is no need to expose when we don’t need to expose. In other words, let’s make sure we’re doing the things that he does well or that position does well and not try to ask them to do things that he’s not ready for yet.”

On the possibility of seeing Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson in the backfield together:
“They actually were last year. If it dictates it (they will be). The one thing I do know, the last time I checked we do only get go play with one football out there. There is something pretty nice about having a fresh Trent Richardson or a fresh Mark Ingram in the game, rather than running them ragged. I think one of the things we did a very good job of – the first year I was here was we had an opportunity to finish in the 4th quarter a couple of times and didn’t – I think as the season wore on, those two guys being fresh and, not to talk too much about last year, but Roy Upchurch gave us a huge lift at times. We also need to develop that position. Who’s going to be that third down guy? The third and fourth backs. With those two guys kind of feeding off each other and keeping them fresh throughout the season, not beating the heck out of them, I think that really helps us in the long run, especially in a long season like this. As I have found out in the last couple of years, this is a pretty decent conference we play in.”

On the depth at the quarterback position:
“I think last year with our backup (quarterback) we got him in a situation early in the season where he actually got some valuable time. I think we ran a two-minute drill a couple of times in some games when we were able to. I think at that position, one thing to note, I’ve been very fortunate in the couple of years I’ve been here. We not only have A.J. (McCarron), but we also have a very talented guy by the name of Phillip Sims. Those two guys were two of the highly recruited guys in the country, and rightfully so. I know sitting in that meeting room everyday that I sit in there with those guys, it is very comforting to know that I feel we have a lot of talent at that position. It’s great for those two guys to have Greg (McElroy) in that room because he is the consummate guy that studies everything that we do. They’re learning how to be a successful quarterback from a guy that’s won a few games in his career. From a preparation standpoint, I feel very comfortable with both of those guys and where we’re heading at the quarterback position."

On the difference in D.J. Fluker since he arrived on campus last year:
“I think you guys will see that he’s totally reshaped his body. It’s unbelievable what he’s done to help himself from that standpoint. Obviously he is a big guy. I think he has a size 22 and one half shoe. It always amazes me when I see those shoes and think how many cows just got hurt when puts those Nikes on. What he has done is really work hard. I think all our guys respect that. That’s a little bit of a product of the system. We’ve gotten to the point now, from a standpoint that everybody pushes each other. That’s an invaluable lesson right there, to have your team not only recognize a good performance, but strive to see how he did that and this is what I need to do. Legacies passed on from guys that are in the program now to the younger guys are what builds the continuity, and those are the things that make you successful as a program. It’s just that part when all those guys feed in together that’s great.”

On what they emphasize to help minimize fumbles:
“We’ve done a good job of taking care of the ball both in the air and on the ground. I would say that the turnover part has more to do with what our defense does in a daily practice to try to create turnovers, and it forces us to maybe, because of their intensity and how they approach the turnover game, it actually helps us in practice. I think that has been a big thing for us offensively, because going against our guys and Coach Saban’s and Kirby (Smart’s) defense on a daily basis actually helps our guys understand ball security a little bit.”



On Julio Jones:
“I will say one thing about Julio Jones: This guy is an unbelievable talent, but the things he does, not only just with catches, but the things he does as a complete player – I’m talking about practice, blocking down field, knowing the different things about the defense – that’s what makes a great player. You’ve heard me say it before; statistics are great as long as they create wins. The one thing that these guys have done is figure out what it is to be a team player and what it is to understand what it takes to win the game. He had a great last half of the season. He was nicked up in the early part of the season. I think what he did in one of those games toward the end of the year, you can see when a guy has an opportunity to take over a game when needed. That shows you what kind of person he is. I can’t say enough good things about the guy.”

On staying at Alabama as offensive coordinator rather than taking a head coaching position:
“I think probably the biggest thing is nobody wanted me anywhere else. There are a lot of places, and I said this when I came, to be at The University of Alabama and to be in this conference, to work for a guy like Coach Saban, to work with the staff that we have and the continuity, I’m not sure where is any better or what is any better. I can’t tell you how happy I am and our family is. I have a daughter that is in college here, another that will be a senior in high school that I’m kind of pushing her that way too. My son is starting football as a freshman at Northridge and from a family standpoint, you guys that have spent any time in Tuscaloosa in general, it is an outstanding place for family, an outstanding place to raise a family and be happy about it. And to be coaching at the top level of where we’re at, I count my lucky stars. As a kid from Montana, you never thought you would be up here speaking at a press conference like this. All those parts are good. Hopefully someday we’ll get the opportunity to captain our own ship and see if I can screw that up.”


Senior Quarterback Greg McElroy

On coming into year two as the starting quarterback:
“I think I have come a long way in my development and understanding of defenses and I feel real confident now. I feel extremely confident in my preparation over the last 12 months to get ready for this moment.”

On what was learned from last season:
“Having experienced everything we did last year and being in a lot of different situations I feel I have a better understanding of what it takes to be successful here. Last year I was asking myself a lot of questions but this year I know what to expect a lot more than last year.”

On the identity of the offense this season:
“I don’t necessarily think what we do will be different but we may carry a different identity to a certain extent but for the most part we are going to try and do what we have always done. We are going to continue to try and be balanced and protect the football and make big plays when available. Obviously we are going to try and stretch the field and score as many points as possible so if that’s done on the ground or in the passing game it doesn’t really matter. As far as changing our identity, I can’t see that we will have that much of a change.”

Senior Tackle James Carpenter

On being more comfortable in his second year in the program:
“I am very comfortable this year. Coach Pendry has done an excellent job preparing me for this season and making me a better player. Across the board on the offensive line we have gotten a lot quicker and faster from Coach Cochran so I feel it is going pretty well so far this camp.”

On what is getting worked on thus far during training camp:
“We are just working hard to try and gel together as a unit. We have been working hard on our conditioning and technique as well. I have just been trying to help our younger guys and show them how we do things here.”

Junior Safety Mark Barron

On helping the younger secondary get acclimated:
“I am just trying to show them the way we do things and the way we practice. I try my best to show them the tempo that we do things and the amount of work it takes to be successful.”

On being one of the leaders on the defensive unit:
“I don’t feel that it is too much pressure to the point of effecting how I play. I was comfortable with the defense last year and now instead of just knowing the plays in my head I have to be vocal as well this year.”

Junior Defensive Lineman Josh Chapman

On drawing from last year’s national championship:
“That was last year and now we have a whole new routine. This team this year needs to come together so we can work towards another one. We can take away from the positives from last year on how we all bought into Coach Saban’s system and we just have to do the same this year.”

On how camp is progressing with the defense:
“Camp is going pretty well. No one especially likes camp but it was one of the key factors that started us on the right path towards our success last season. This opportunity not only helps us on the field but bonds us as a unit off of it as well.”

Sophomore Linebacker Dont’a Hightower

On being the leader of the defense and making the calls:

“I was looking forward to this opportunity. Rolando (McClain) was a key part of our defense last year and we are going to miss his leadership. I look forward to stepping in and being the quarterback of the defense and making the calls and the checks. I want to be the guy the younger guys look up to so I am really looking forward to this season.”

On the development of the secondary:
“They are looking great. They may not have that much experience yet but I am very confident in those guys. They are ready to go, eager, talented athletes so we are going to try and use them to the best of our ability.”

On looking forward to returning healthy this season:
“It has almost been a full year so I am ready to go. You can see it on the film that I am looking better. My technique and pass rush are coming along so I am really looking forward to getting out there.”