Aug. 31, 2009
Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban Weekly Press Conference Transcript
“Well, its game week, so it’s time to set sights on someone else. I think the players on the team, who are great competitors, obviously, their energy, their enthusiasm, intensity, sense of urgency realize now is the time to get it done. Next week at this time is too late. And one of the greatest things in sports is that you have a chance to overcome with good preparation is regretting that you didn’t do all the things that you needed to do to prepare well, to play well and that’s certainly what we want to get accomplished this week in practice.
“The identity of this team, obviously this is the first opportunity against a very good team, to sort of establish or start to establish what the identity of this team really is; what the personality of this team is. Each individual player sort of makes the team what it is. The team does not make them what they are and it’s important that we have the kind of competitive character, individually and collectively that will allow us to play with consistency and the kind of toughness and be the kind of relentless, competitive team that makes us a team that no one wants to play, which always our goal in what we try to accomplish as a team, as a program, as an organization.
“We’re releasing a depth chart today. I hope everybody here is happy because of that. I have to define one word, because I remember last year someone did not know the definition of ‘or’. Or means either/or. It doesn’t mean one guy is ahead of the other, that’s why the ‘or’ is there. There are still positions on our team where there is competition for who may play, who may backup, what their role may be in a certain situation. Example: offensively sometimes you play three receivers, sometimes you play four. Maybe a guy fits into a role better as third or fourth receiver than he does on the depth chart, so he ends up playing a little bit more in a certain situation. Defensively, you may have a guy who really doesn’t have a role in regular down defense, but he is a significant contributor on third down, or in nickel, or in some other circumstance. So those things are sort of hard to define. In the old days of football, back when I played, which was many moons ago, there was only one personnel grouping. Whatever you played on offense, there was no nickel. So you played 11 guys on defense and 11 guys on offense and that was sort of it. Now, we have run out of colors. We color code personnel for the people that we play. We don’t have enough colors, there are not enough to name all the personnel groups that people play with to feature their talent. Just that bit of an explanation, I’ll certainly answer any questions that you have about those kinds of guys, but we are not trying to hide anything in what we have presented to you.
“The next three days are very important. I’ve already talked about some intangible things, like enthusiasm and intensity. All of these things sort of indicate a sense of urgency and immediacy. The preparation, to me goes a long way to say how intelligently you will play, how many mental errors you will make because of the preparation and having it now, it doesn’t just come when the game comes. You need the repetitions and the focus and attention to detail to get the little things right, so you can perform well. Nobody really performs well if they don’t have those things. I think we found that out last year, I hope we found that out last year when we played in the Sugar Bowl.
“We are playing a very, very good team. Virginia Tech is an outstanding football team. They have been an outstanding team, the know how to win. Frank Beamer has done a fantastic job. He has been there for a lot of years. He is one of the winningest active coaches in college football. Offensively, they have a lot of starters back and a lot of good skill players. Tyrod Taylor is an outstanding quarterback, who is a play-maker type, who really does a good job. Everybody thinks he is a running quarterback, I don’t really see him that way. He can create and pass the ball and make plays with his feet, as well as creating to make pass plays. I think those kind of guys are hard to defend. They have a good offensive line, a couple of good tight ends, an outstanding tight end, a big athletic guy (Greg) Boone. So, they’ve got a lot of good players. Defensively, which is what they are kind of known for, they are in the top 10 in the country. They are one of the top teams in the country in turnover margin, it seems like every year, and their battle cry is how well they play on special teams. They do have some significant players on defense. Number 6 (Jason Worilds), the defensive end is a really good player. They have a really good secondary. They do a good job of executing their scheme. The one thing I would say about this team is they have toughness, they play with toughness and you are going to have to match that toughness and intensity, if you’re going to have an opportunity to have success against them.”
Advantages, in terms of pass rush when you play the 3-4 opposed to the 4-3:
“Well, I think the advantage is not necessarily in alignment of the four guys that are rushing. I think the multiples are greater of who may be rushing, so therefore, who blocks who may becomes a little more of an advantage for the defense. When you play four down guys, the offensive line is almost always going to block the four down guys and some linebacker. That’s who those five guys are going to have. When you play a 3-4 or any kind of a odd, they have to block the three down and two standup guys, but you have four standup guys that can actually rush, so they may be wrong, so you have more multiple to overload protection or isolate on a bigger guy. I think that’s the advantage. The alignment itself is not an advantage. It’s more schematic than it is individual personnel-wise. Most people in passing downs like to get into four-down because it gives you more symmetry in the rush; push the pocket better.”
Coach Beamer said it would be tougher for Virginia Tech to lose this game and win the national championship than it would be for your teams, do you agree with that?
“I think that’s one of the advantages to playing in a conference like our conference. I think we’ve had two national champions, when we won (at LSU in 2003) we lost a game, I’m talking about SEC schools. Florida lost a game last year. LSU lost two games, the year they won it, a couple of years before that. I don’t know that I agree with his part of it. They have a pretty good schedule this year. They play Nebraska and Miami, early in the season, as well as us. I don’t know that I agree with that. Any team that has one loss still has a chance to win the national championship and there is evidence that a team with two losses has that potential as well. If there is anything that I dislike about the whole system now, and I have always been a bowl guy. I’ve always been a guy that lots of positive reinforcement for a lot of players who get the opportunity to play in a bowl game for their efforts. If there is anything that has created a negative situation in college football, to me, it’s the fact that there is only one thing that matters and that’s who wins the national championship. I don’t think that’s fair to all the other good teams in college football, or all the other players who play in college football. It’s a pretty significant accomplishment to win the SEC. It’s a pretty significant accomplishment to win the ACC. So, if there is a down side to our system right now, that’s why I’ve always been kind of for the plus-one thing, where there are at least four teams involved in this. Maybe it wouldn’t be so much that way. Because if you had four teams, there would be one and two losses, would not knock you out of it and a lot more people would be interested and there would be a lot more teams in the end. So now we’re talking about the first game of the season, you’re out of it. It’s horrible. It’s a horrible thought for any team to be out of anything for one game.”
On whether or not this game is being played on SEC turf:
“I don’t have a feeling about that. Everybody knows where Atlanta is. I don’t think you have to major in geography to figure that one out. Our fans have always been great, we’ve always travelled well and we appreciate their enthusiasm. It certainly helpful to our team and I know our players really appreciate the support that they get. I’ve played at Virginia Tech, and they have very good fans too. But I am sure our fans will do a great job in supporting our team at the game.”
On Mark Barron’s progress:
“Mark has always been a really good player. I think sometimes, when guys haven’t played their particular position, and he played so many positions in high school. He was a running back, he played receiver, he played linebacker, sometimes he played safety, but most of the time close to the line. Those kinds of guys have to develop a position. They have to find a home when they become college football players. He really hadn’t played that much safety before, especially in the deep part of the field. As he learned, we knew he was going to be a very good player. I’ve said this before, because he was such a good athlete, sometimes those guys get penalized because you want to use them is so many different ways; maybe you caused more confusion than you need too, especially when they were young players. I don’t think there is any question we might have done that last year. In our efforts to get Mark Barron on the field, we put him in more situations than maybe he was ready to handle and that was my mistake, our mistake. Since he has settled into a position and he gets reps at that position, he has been a very productive player. He is a very good player. He is very physical. He’s got good ball skills. He’s got great range. He obviously doesn’t have experience, but the way you get experience is to go out there and play. We’ve been impressed with the spring that he had and fall camp.”
On fewer number of first-year players on first-team depth chart:
“Well, it’s a sign of one or two things. We either don’t have as good of freshmen, or the guys that are here are a little better. That’s the only way I can explain it. But, we do have a lot of good freshmen, and a lot of them are in competitive positions to play, and I think there will be some freshman that will make a significant contribution to this team, this year. I think Trent Richardson will. I think some of the depth on the offensive line is going to come from young players. I think Dre’ Kirkpatrick is a guy that has a chance, if he continues to develop, and develop a sense of urgency about what to do, is as important as how to do it, which is the maturity that young players sort of have to go through. There are several guys, a couple of linebackers on the depth chart that could do some playing this year. Anybody that is listed on that (depth) chart has a chance of playing this year.”
On value of being an understudy for two years at quarterback and how Greg McElroy has handled that role:
“I think that any player improves, regardless of his role. Obviously, you never really want to play and player until he is ready to play. I think to have patience to develop at any position is probably something that most players don’t like to have, but in a lot of cases probably need and some realize they need it and some don’t. I think in Greg McElroy’s case, because he is such an intelligent, fine young man, that he realizes what he has to do to improve, and he has improved in our system dramatically in the two years that we have been here, leading up to his opportunity. I think some of them have enough foresight, even though sometimes we have that conversation about guys not understanding consequences of their behavior. You have freedom of choice, but don’t have freedom of consequence. I have said that one before. He has enough foresight to realize, that even what he did two years ago, last year, every time he got an opportunity, every time he’s gotten an opportunity in the spring, that he was eventually going to be the guy that goes out there and plays. I don’t think there is any substitute for experience, and I don’t think there is any substitute for the fact that as he gets experience and makes plays, he’s going to become more confident and the players around him are going to become more confident in him. I think with that, his leadership will be more effective, and he will be a very effective player.”
On McElroy’s demeanor this week:
“He has been very good. I think he is a pretty common, systematic approach guy. He realizes that preparation is always important. He always wants to get it right, almost to a fault because you can’t control all the variables in a football game. Somebody is going to mess up. The left tackle is not going to block the guy right. The receiver is not going to run the right route. I think those types of things are what players playing together and gaining experience, actually helps a guy be able to adjust and adapt too. He has been very good. We have every confidence in him as a quarterback. My concern would be more are the players around him going to play well enough to allow him to do what he needs to do to be a good player. I’ve said this quite often, quarterback is a difficult position to play, if you don’t have the people around you playing well. Then, you always have the ball, you always have to make a decision or make a judgment and their disciplined-execution make those things a little clearer and make those choices and decisions a little easier to make more quickly, which all helps.”
On Terry Grant’s role on the team:
“Terry Grant has done an outstanding and he did an outstanding job last year. I think he handled an adverse circumstance last year on our team as a guy who had gotten hurt and then coming back from that injury had some guys sort of pass him up that he probably did not count on, but made a tremendous contribution to our team on special teams, and when he got an opportunity, he did a very good job and took advantage of it for the most part. Instead of going in a shell and accepting that circumstance, he has worked as hard as anybody on our team and been as positive in his energy and attitude as anybody on our team through spring practice, off-season, summer and this fall camp to develop a role for himself on our team. Certainly now, he is listed as backup at his position with Mark (Ingram), but feel like both of those guys can both be starters. He’s got speed and is a space player and hopefully we can get in the ball in ways that he can make plays and give us another weapon on our offense.”
On Virginia Tech defensive end Jason Worilds:
“Their defensive end is really a good player. They have, maybe not as big of guys up front as we sometimes play at linebacker and defensive end, but they are very quick and very aggressive. This is guys is a very good pass-rusher. A very quick, tough, explosive, good first-step quickness kind of a guy, who can make a difference in pass rush for sure for them. He is a very good player. That’s sort of their defense. They will sort of move and stunt and bring a guy off the edge and beat you with their quickness. They also can play you straight up, and they play their system very well and they have a good system. They play very good defense, and they historically have a great tradition for it and this group will be no different.
On Justin Woodall and his ability to call the defensive signals:
“Well I think that is certainly a responsibility in the secondary and Justin has been a starter for us all last year and certainly did an outstanding job for us. I think you get into a little bit of a comfort zone as a player when you have somebody like Rashad Johnson, who is very bright and a leader and actually wants to take the responsibility of making the calls and understanding things because that’s his personality type and he has those types of leadership skills. I think that one of things that we’ve sort of tried to pass the torch to Justin, because he has the most experience at safety is for him to contribute to that, but I do think it is important that both safeties communicate that. I think it’s going to be important for Mark (Barron) to continue to grow in that area. Communication is critical in the secondary. Even if you communicate the wrong thing, if everybody does it wrong, its right. Does that make sense? It sounds backwards. If we are supposed to be playing “cover two” and everybody plays “cover three” we’re fine. We can get mad on the sideline and throw our headsets because someone missed a check, but we’re not going to give up a touchdown. We are still playing sound. Everybody is playing the same thing. It might not be what we wanted to play. The problem in the secondary is when you’re supposed to be playing “cover three” and these guys on this side are playing “cover three” and the guys are on this side are playing “cover two” then somebody runs down the middle of the field and there is nobody there. That’s the reason that communication is so important. The safeties must communicate with the corners and they must communicate to the perimeters, the outside backers, what the support is as well as the coverage we are playing. I think both safeties communication is critical and Justin has to assume some of that role.”