Coach Nick Saban Press Conference Transcript

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM
ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

Sept. 14, 2009

Opening Comments:
 “I think the biggest thing was we made improvement from week one to week two. There are still some things that we need to improve on, but we made less mental errors in the game. I think we played faster. We had really good balance on offense, our passing efficiency was very good, we still made 12 explosive plays and we finished the game in the fourth quarter and played very well in the second half.  We didn’t turn the ball over on offense. Defensively, we stopped the run and improved our ability to affect the quarterback and our pass rush was better. They really only scored seven points on the defense and we had a third-and-9 in that situation.  We improved on our mental errors and played really well in the second half. We weren’t as good on third down as we have been and we gave up some third-and-longs that we need to get corrected.  Our special teams’ were really good in the game and positive for us in the game, except for the kickoff coverage, especially on the one kickoff return we had a couple of loss of lanes, took on the wedge wrong and the safeties didn’t leverage the ball when it came out. So that created a problem for us.

“I think we need to learn to get off fast and finish strong. I think that’s what we want to continue to emphasize with the players so we can play with a model of consistency over a 60-minute period.  The season is an on-going process and we need to focus on every player getting better, every player improving what he needs to do to become a better player, regardless of what his role is in the game.  That is something we want to put a lot of emphasis on this week.

“The players of the week for this week … James Carpenter played really well.  Trent Richardson had a very good game and I think is SEC Freshman of the Week. Mike McCoy did a very good job filling in for Julio (Jones) and he had 100 (receiving) yards. On defense, Rolando McClain, (Dont’a) Hightower and (Terrence) Cody were the three guys. The specialists were Javier (Arenas) and Dre Kirkpatrick, who did a really good job in his role on special teams’ in punt and punt return.

“From an injury standpoint, Roy (Upchurch) has a high ankle sprain and is day-to-day. These things respond in varying rates and we are not sure when he will be able to come back, whether it’s a few days or a few weeks.  We are going to play it day-to-day and see how he responds to treatment.  Julio (Jones) has a bruised knee and has no other damage or significant damage.  As soon as the trauma settles down, he’ll be O.K.  He will be day-to-day as well.  There is no way to determine how long this is going to take, but it shouldn’t take more than a few days.  Damon Square has a torn ACL, which we sort of suspected after the game, but the MRI confirmed that.  He will have surgery tomorrow and will be out for the season.  It’s really too bad.  He was redshirted last year and was a promising freshman and really played well in the game and we were hopeful he would give us great depth, but this will give somebody else and opportunity to go out and play.

“North Texas and Todd Dodge has done a really good job. This team has really, really improved since last year. They beat Ball State in the opener and played a rain game against Ohio University and probably had every chance in the game to win it and came up one point short in overtime.  They are a very good offensive team, very productive and lots of balance.  They run the ball; probably as well as anybody we have played.  Their spread is probably similar to last week, but a spread that really emphasizes running it. I don’t know, I guess they have said that Riley Dodge (North Texas QB) wasn’t not going to play in the game, I don’t know that.  He is a very good athlete and really makes their offense go.  Their backup did a nice job when he went in the game last week, so we feel he is very capable as well.  They have a very good running back, (Cam) Montgomery.  Defensively is probably where they’ve made the most significant improvement. They are a lot bigger, a lot more physical and played extremely well in the first two games.  I know Coach Dodge was Greg’s (McElroy) coach in high school (Southlake Carroll HS) and was very successful, winning four state championships in five years. He had a couple of good quarterbacks there in Greg and Chase Daniel.  We are not going to ask Greg to help us coach defense this week, we’ll just go ahead and let him be the quarterback. I’m sure he’d be helpful as smart as he is.”

On Damion Square and who replaces him on defense:
“Damion Square was a defensive end, who we moved to jack (linebacker) to give us a bigger more physical guy, but really his role was to play defensive end in nickel and dime and situations. (Milton) Talbert and (Darrington) Sentimore will probably be the two guys we bring up. Marcell Dareus can also play that position if we want to move him over. It’s really Lorenzo Washington’s backup. So, with (Brandon) Deaderick coming back we can move guys around, we don’t have a plan to do that right now. Marcell does well when he stays in one spot. He was productive in the last game, so we don’t want to keep moving him around. Through this whole preseason and first couple of weeks, we’ve moved him around to sort of take up the slack wherever we’ve needed it.  We’d like to leave him in the same spot and let him continue to progress.”

On McElroy offering tips on North Texas offense:
“Well, we haven’t asked him, yet.  We’re still trying to figure it out on our own. The way I liked to do it is see if I can figure it out and then ask him if I’m right or wrong.  That’s not how it supposed to be between the player and the coach, but that’s the way we do it.”

On Terry Grant’s progress:
“We want Terry to have success because he has certainly given his all to the team.  There is a sign downstairs that says ‘out of yourself and into the team.’ For a guy that was a star player a couple of years ago and has had a minimized role in the last year and couple of games that started out due to injury, he has been as positive a force with his teammates and also in terms of his own attitude in what he tried to do to help the team, himself individually and collectively with other people. So we keep trying to develop him a role at receiver, which we worked him at receiver. Mark (Ingram) was sick all last week, so Mark didn’t practice much, so we had to keep putting him (Grant) back to running back. Now Roy has an ankle (injury) and he is probably going to be out most of practice this week and maybe even beyond that, so it gets more and more difficult to try and make the transition with Terry and try and get the reps in practice, so he can increase his role as a guy we can use as a receiver.  It’s nice to have a guy that has enough, sort of experience, knowledge, resource of information, to be able to do a little bit of both and still be effective.  He was really effective for us in the game and probably could have played a little more late in the game and probably would have been even more effective, but we wanted to use as an opportunity to give some other players an opportunity to play as well.”

On Mike McCoy:
“We view Mike as a starter on our team. He has played a lot.  I think our receivers have all improved to some degree. So we feel like we have more guys now that can play winning football for us. Mike certainly showed in this game, when he got an opportunity that he can take advantage of it and he’s ready to be a winning performer for us at that position. I think this game probably did a lot for his confidence and certainly he will help us in the future if he can continue to be a productive player. We were very, very pleased with his performance in the game.”

On James Carpenter and recruiting junior college players:
“I think what I usually say when we are recruiting a junior college guy is they only have two years to play. Maybe sometimes they have three and sometimes they have three to play two (years). It just depends on the guy. It’s best for them if you have a role for them that they can fit into.  Now of course it’s their responsibility to be able to execute at the level you need them too to take advantage of the opportunity that they have. I think it works better for them when they have a role and they can come in and play because they only have two years. They don’t have time to develop. In James Carpenter’s case, we anticipated that Smitty (Andre Smith) would go out for the draft and we felt like it would help us , even though we had some good young players who were developing, if we had a little older mature guy playing left tackle for us.  James has worked really hard and (offensive line coach) Joe Pendry has done a very good job of helping in develop, and he has played well for us in the first two games.  So it worked well for us, but it also worked well for him in that he had an opportunity and he’s been able to develop and take advantage of it”

On offensive production in first two games:
“I have been pleased with the balance that we’ve been able to have offensively.  We haven’t turned the ball over much.  We’ve been able to have decent run efficiency and our pass efficiency is very much improved.  I think it’s improved because we have improved in all the areas. Greg has done a nice job.  The receivers are playing a little better. We’ve had decent protection for the most part and the tight ends are doing a nice job. I feel like we’ve improved overall from that standpoint.  I think there are areas that we can continue to improve on and certainly we are going to focus on the things we need to do to get better and hopefully we’ll be able to continue to be even more efficient in the future.”

On Marcell Dareus:
“Marcell has always been a hard worker and he plays with a lot of effort and intensity in the game. I think he is getting more confident in assignments and knowledge of what is expected of him at his position. I think it’s starting to show dividends in terms of his production as a player. He is a good pass-rusher, but he is also physical and can play the run. He can run and finish on the quarterback. He gets to the ball and can finish and plays with a lot of intensity and a lot of effort.  As long as we can keep channeling those things in the right direction, so he is playing his responsibility, I think you will continue to see production from him.”

On the depth at running back:
“Mark (Ingram) has probably played as well as anybody on a consistent basis. We were very pleased with his performance having three days of illness prior to the game to be able to come back and be able to play in the game. He actually played in the game more than we anticipated that he might.  When Roy got hurt early on, Trent stepped up and did a fantastic job.  We have been really confident that Trent would be a contributor at this position at some point and time during the season when the opportunity presented itself.  He has practiced well. He is a really a fine young man and works hard and has good understanding of what he is supposed to do.  Terry is very capable and Roy is very capable. So if you have three backs that can play at all time, I think you’re fortunate and should feel fortunate. We feel like we have four and Demetrius Goode didn’t do a bad job when he was in there and I feel like if he had to be the third back in the game, we would be OK with that as well.  We are hopeful we can keep these guys healthy.  I think that is going to be important because that is one of the strengths of our team, is the collective groups of running backs that we have.”

# 12 Greg McElroy, Quarterback
On his relationship with North Texas head coach Todd Dodge, his former high school coach:
“Coach Dodge and I had a good relationship.  Obviously, I kind of fell behind a player who he had a fantastic relationship with in Chase (Daniel), so I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked to with Coach Dodge as a starting quarterback, but I very much enjoyed the year I had with him.  We did some great things offensively.  We ended up scoring more points than any other offense in the history of Texas high school football that year.  Coach Dodge is really a great coach, and I am glad to see him having some success this year.  His son (Riley Dodge) is a good quarterback and I have a lot of faith in him as well.  Other than this game, I will be pulling for them the rest of the year.”

On developing confidence with offensive teammates:
“I think the way that we do that throughout the course of the season is continuing to get more and more reps.  Obviously game time reps are the most important.  Obviously things are just a little bit different in the games – something might not go as planned, depth might be a little bit different, my timing, I might get rushed a little bit and have to step up a hair and be a hair late.  I think just getting on the same page with those guys in practice is the best way to get us prepared for the game.  I think those guys have a lot of confidence in themselves, we’ve got a confident bunch.  I have confidence in those players as well because we have great talent.  The way they played on Saturday, everyone made the most of their opportunity.”

#80 Mike McCoy, Wide Receiver
 On Saturday’s performance:
“We go through it just like practice – the way we prepare for it.  When Julio (Jones) got hurt it was just my opportunity to step up.  Greg threw the ball and I just caught it.”

On his position this year versus last year’s:
“I’m really just trying to find my role, and I just do whatever they ask of me, whether it’s blocking downfield or whatever.  I just try to maximize my opportunities.”

On his thoughts when Julio Jones left the game with an injury:
“We really didn’t know what was the case.  They really didn’t say if he was coming back in the game or not.  I didn’t know if I was going to play or not, but when he called my number I just caught the ball.”

#3 Kareem Jackson, Cornerback
On his thoughts of the FIU game after reviewing tape:
“It was a learning experience.  We’ve got some stuff we’ve got to improve on.  We came out kind of slow.   Like I said it was a learning experience.  All we and can do is just take the things that we did wrong, the mental errors, and just try to correct them for this weekend.”

On ways to correct starting the game slowly:
“Like Coach said, that’s something that every guy has to take upon themselves and just look deep inside and say, ‘We’ve got to play.  It’s here, so we just have to play.’”

#62 Terrence Cody, Nose Guard
On whether he has yet to not face a double team this season:
“I don’t know.  I don’t pay any attention to it.  The linebackers are making plays.  Somebody is being double teamed or somebody is taking up two blocks.”

On the difference in the pass rush from last year to this year:
“We are just relentless.  We just made a vow to ourselves that we are going rush the passer and effect the quarterback this year.  It’s not about sacks, it’s about effecting the quarterback – throwing off his timing with his receivers and making him get rid of the ball earlier than he wants to.”

On the boost Marcell Dareus has provided in Brandon Deaderick’s absence:
“It’s a real big boost to have somebody else that is also good and is able to play in Deaderick’s role.  It is a real big boost.”