Monday, August 09, 2004
University of Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula held his first press conference of the 2004 season today on the day players reported for fall practice. Quotes from the press conference are below.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Transcript of Opening Comments & Five Questions
"Today is an exciting day for us to get back at it. I think back to all the things that we went through last year. At this time last year, and I said this a couple of weeks ago, I was still trying to learn everybody's names, my own players, my own coaches. Just the time that we've spent together really from the last day of the regular season last year to when we started our off season workouts, I feel like this is a different football team already and we haven't even started practice yet. Just the way things have unfolded over the course of the off season, with our signees, our off season program, our spring practice. We're getting to find out more about our younger guys and then the way things have gone since then. A lot of our players have been in summer school and are in summer school right now finishing up the second summer session. You see them out there today and it just looks like these guys have done a great job over the course of the summer just getting themselves ready to have their best season. And that's what it's about. Day in and day out we're going to ask these guys to give it their best and just to give ourselves a chance each week. That's all it does. What we do between now and our first game is just going to give us a chance. We've got to find out a lot of things over the course of the next 29 practices about our football team. It's going to be a little bit like last year mentality wise as far as coaching wise. We're going to be working with some young guys that we have to get ready for the opener who have not had any exposure to any of our systems, offensively, defensively, special teams wise. It's going to be important for us to find out who those guys are and give them plenty of opportunity to learn the system, get a lot of reps and feel comfortable with what they're doing because we feel like we're going to have some young guys out there that first week.
"I say that; and they're going to have to earn it. We're not going to put them out there just to put them out there. They're going to have to earn it. But we feel like with where we are depth wise, just with sheer numbers that some of these guys are going to be on the field. Plus we feel like, and this is my first recruiting class so I'm anxious to find out what these guys are actually like in person compared to the whole evaluation process that we started basically 13 months ago, or earlier probably than that. These young guys coming in here, are, to me, even before they step on the field, it's kind of a unique group, just going back to when they first talked about their commitment to Alabama and not taking trips to other places, their dedication to us. I think we've got a good relationship with all of them. Now it's time to find out what they are all about.
"The guys who are here have really done a good job of working hard throughout the team. It would be hard for me to single out one person because I think a lot of them improved dramatically. I think the biggest thing for me is just getting through my first year, the amount of growth that some of these guys go through because they're still growing physically they're getting taller, putting on weight, strengthwise, all that kind of things. I'm not used to seeing that much change over the course of one year with some of the guys I've been coaching in the last 15 years or so.
"We're excited about the guys coming in for our 105. We're missing one. We're waiting on him. Hopefully he'll be here in a couple of days. There will be 104 out there tomorrow. And we've looked hard at that list for a lot of reasons, guys that have worked hard, we want to try to create competition at every position and do it early. We're not quite there yet. We've got good competition but we need great competition at every position to make guys better. We've had a couple of guys--Freddie Roach was hurt and had surgery last week. We feel like he should be ready for the opener, no problem there. And that's one of the positions we had competition with Cornelius Wortham. A couple of other guys on the 105, Tarry Givens and Thurman Ward, they should be graduating here and have elected to move on with their life's work. We have 19 freshmen coming in. People have talked about our 28 signees, guys that are here, guys that aren't here. I'll go back to day one: we have a plan for all 28 and we still have a plan for all 28 guys whether they are on campus right now or practicing tomorrow or will be with us next year or possibly in a couple of years. So I feel good about all that. Just going through my first year with all that, learning a lot about signing guys and what the best approach is. I think our staff did a great job, headed up by Randy Ross. I feel real comfortable with what's happened."
On Whether It's a Concern Having Only 17 Seniors on the 105 roster:
"We had 22 last year---not in my mind, and the reason I say that is because we have a lot of underclassmen who have played. We've got eight returning starters on defense and six on offense and not all of those guys are seniors. So even though they aren't all seniors, we've got a lot of guys with experience. Those are going to be the guys that we are going to lean on. Everyone talks about that senior leadership or the leadership the seniors provide. For us it's going to be our upper classmen that we're going to kind of lean on. And I think guys need to realize that, our own players need to realize that, that just because they're not a senior doesn't mean that they're not going to be a leader and we're not going to lean on them a little more that way."
On Expansion of Offense in Year Two:
"The number one way we hope to see it is in productivity. I was asked that question a couple of weeks ago, and I think that's the number one thing we're working at. The worst thing we could do is all of a sudden do a lot of different things just because we've been here a second year. We've got to work on doing the things that we did last year and get better at that first, the things that we are going to have week in and out, our core stuff and then go from there. More important than that, too, is the fact that we've got to find out what some of these young guys can do that are going to be on the field and put them in position to do what they do best because that will give us the best chance. We've got to cut our mistakes down, work to be more consistent. I think if we do that, I think we have a lot of potential in all three areas when we're on the field to come up with some big plays. That to me is production and hopefully we'll see that in all three phases."
On Team's Photo Day Demeanor, Whether It's Better to "Play Tough or Look Tough":
"You probably need to ask that to Wesley Britt and Danny Martz and Evan Mathis and those guys. You're not going to get many smiles from them, especially with y'all standing back there.
"I think our whole mindset along those lines is that we've got to be very, very serious. We've got to move forward. Last year wasn't good enough. First of all as coaches we can't take anything for granted. Players can't either. We have to make sure we stay on top of every little mistake there is to get it corrected as fast as we can and not compromise anything we've done so far to get ourselves in this position as far as the conditioning and things like that, not compromise what we believe in to get ourselves ready for that opener."
On Importance of Having a Healthy, Experienced Brodie Croyle Back:
"It's really important. I think he's got a chance to have a really good year. He kind of teases me. He thinks I always get on him about this or that. But he really has a chance to have a good year. I say that: he's got to prove it himself first. When I say that, I mean things like, `hey, you don't have to complete every pass.' Just understand and stay on the field. Make first downs. Obviously not make the huge mistake, but that happens sometimes. He's good enough to recover from that because he's got the right kind of mindset. And he has realized that and he's gotten better that way. The more we stay on the field offensively, I think we're going to have the type of people in that group that are going to make plays and make big plays and be productive but we can't do that if we're going three and out or we've got turnovers. Also to do that for him, we've got to get him some weapons and I think we've got those weapons we've just got to develop them with some of the receivers. And then the offensive line, with the way we juggled these guys early, actually it was a great decision because now the Kyle Tatums, Danny Martz and Evan Mathis all playing new positions or starting at new positions for the first time, and Paul had that experience in the spring, hopefully they pick up where they left off. But I think if we stay healthy, by the end of the year we've got a chance to have a real good offensive line."
On Whether More Experienced Quarterback Helps Advance Experience in Receivers:
"It should. He feels more comfortable with what he's doing now, and I think any time that happens you can kind of help some young guys out plus he's going to be our leader anyways in working with those guys. We've got to get them a lot of repetitions together starting throwing against just with the quarterbacks and receivers and then in the one-on-one drills and then in our pass drills, our seven-on-seven drills and as many reps as all those guys can get together. And we've got to make a decision fairly early, maybe not as early as last year on some of these guys, on who is going to play where and get them a lot of reps. But I think the quarterback is a big factor in that."