Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Nick Saban Press Conference Transcript



Sept. 21, 2009

Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban Weekly Press Conference Transcript

Opening Comments:
 “Just a brief recap, the goal of the last game was to start fast and finish strong.  I think the coaching staff and players responded extremely well to that.  I think sometimes attitude and chemistry and identity and personality take a little time to develop and after three games I think that our aspirations, our expectations, are gauging our performance a little bit more, rather than something externally to inspire us. High standards come from passion within and we saw that in the last game and hopefully with the SEC coming up this week, we’ll continue to build on that.

“I know we released some players of the week. Greg McElroy has been consistently a very good, solid efficient quarterback at his position and has certainly affected the rest of the offense in a positive way, in terms of balance, is the offensive player of the week with Colin Peek, who has played very well for us. He did a good job, especially blocking, in this last game. Mark Barron and Terrence Cody are the defensive players and Terrence was honorable mention in the SEC (this week).  On special teams, Javy (Javier Arenas) had another good day in terms of returns.  Robby Green and Chris Jordan did an outstanding job on special teams. We have a war daddy board which is kind of a character, attitude, how you compete, how you execute; we actually had less mental errors and I think we played with a little bit more passion, so we had a lot more guys on that board for this week.

“From an injury standpoint, Roy (Upchurch) and Julio (Jones) will practice today.  They will be evaluated day-to-day.  Demetrius Goode is probably going to be out for a day or two.  He possibly can return, again he will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis, maybe Wednesday or later in the week with a hyper-extended knee.  But nothing that’s really an issue or problem.

“Arkansas to me is one of the best offensive teams in the country.  Bobby Petrino has always been one of the best offensive coaches, wherever he has been or whatever level.  They have a great passing game; a very good system.  Now with the quarterback Ryan Mallett, who leads the nation in passing efficiency, is obviously a guy who can execute and do it very well, but he also has some very good players around him.  They have a couple of running backs, Michael Smith and Dennis Johnson, who are very good players.  They have three receivers who are in the top-10 in the SEC in terms of receptions. They have a good tight end.  Their offensive line plays extremely well in their system.  Defensively, they have nine starters back and 10 of the top tacklers from a year ago and all four guys up front.  I think they are a much better defensive team and will continue to be a much better defensive team.  They have team speed.  Their special teams show it.  They are one of the top teams in the country in kickoff returns. So, this is a really good football team, especially an outstanding offensive team, but a really good team overall and it’s going to be very challenging for us.  It’s a little different than what we have played against to this point, so there are a lot of challenges here and we’ll see how we respond to it.”

On philosophy of playing running backs during a game:
“I basically sort of get a feeling when the game’s going on, we usually say we are going to have a guy carry it three or four times and the next guy is going to go in and carry it three or four times and then maybe you have a guy that is assigned to a specific role, whether its third down or whatever.  Sort of from that scenario, you kind of get a feel for who has the hot hand or who maybe is the guy that’s rolling out there like you would like to see it and maybe that guy plays a little bit more than the other guys in that particular game. It’s really evaluate them and see who’s got the feel.

On Trent Richardson’s increased role after game one:
“We’ve played him more and more in the last two games.  He’s had an opportunity and I think he has taken advantage of it.  He’s proven that he deserves to have a role on our team and I think he has done extremely well to this point.”

On creating more takeaways:
“That is something we need to improve on.  I think turnover ratio is very, very important.  I think it’s something that we continue to emphasize with our players. We’ve got a lot of the same players we had last year when we got a significant amount of takeaways. I think we have to keep working at it and keep emphasizing it, and I think the day will come that we get some of those.  I think if you’re being aggressive and tackling well, gang-tackling, putting some pressure and affecting the quarterback,  that you’re going to get opportunities to make turnovers and it’s been something we have emphasized and we haven’t done.  We’ve done a really good job offensively of not turning the ball over.  So, that is something we need to improve on, there is no question about that.”

On making a prolific offense like Arkansas throw the ball to beat you:
 “No. When they get five times more yards throwing than they do running, you have to adapt and play a little bit more coverage and try and take away what they do best.  I think there is a balance in all that.  I don’t think you can compromise and just not be sound against the run and not have all the gaps, because they have two good runners now and if you do that they are going to come out of the gate on you and they are good space players.  I think you have to play the situations in the game, but I also do think that you do have to emphasize coverage and be able to play the passes, especially so that you don’t give up big plays.  I think the last game they played; both sides had lots of big plays.  If you give up big plays, there are a lot of stats in the NFL that talk about how many explosive plays in every drive and if you get one then your chance of scoring goes up big time and if you get two, your chance almost doubles. When you give up those big plays, just like when they (North Texas) scored on us, they had two big plays in the drive. I don’t care who was out there playing, you can’t give them up. It’s going to be important for us to continue to get explosive plays, but not to give them up and you do have to play a little bit different.  You can’t play run down defense, when you think the team is going to throw it.”

On receivers stepping up with Julio Jones missing last two games:
“I think it’s always been our goal to get more people involved in the passing game and have some other options in the passing game, and I even think in the first game where Julio played, there were some other guys that made really big plays in the game.  It’s probably important for our team in terms of other receivers to continue to develop.  I think what’s happened to this point has probably helped their confidence and the chemistry that the quarterback has with those guys is good and I think they have confidence in each other.  I think that’s a good sign.  Hopefully, we will continue to have more and more players involved in the passing game.”

On the front seven and their importance this week against Arkansas:
“I think it’s a big key. I don’t think you can commit people to extra rushers all the time to try and get pressure on the quarterback to try and affect the quarterback because you are going to be thinner in the back end, in terms of your coverage.  So to be able to get pressure with four guys rushing is really important.  I didn’t think we did a very good job of that last year in the game we played last year against them.  I think it’s going to be really important that we can do that in this particular game.  So, I think having good pressures is also important.  I think having coverages and I think doing multiples of things that change it up a little bit.  Playing defense is a lot like being a pitcher.  If you’re a one-pitch guy, they are probably eventually going to hit you.  If you’ve got good blitzes and you blitz all the time, eventually you’re going to live by the sword and die by the sword.  But if you’ve got a good changeup and you throw a slider on the outside.  I saw this guy the other day, they were talking about all he does is throw a fastball up in the strike zone and changeup down in the strike zone and they guy is winning lots of games.  I forget the guy’s name or who he pitches for.  In playing defense, especially when you’re playing against a real good quarterback, is a lot like that.  If he knows what you’re doing all the time before he gets the ball in his hands, he’s going to be able to make a good decision and take advantage of it.  So, you’ve got to be able to pitch a little bit.”

Alabama Player Quotes

Quarterback Greg McElroy
On Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallet:
“I thought he did really well (Saturday night against Georgia).  He’s a guy that transferred and is getting used to and acquainted with the SEC, but I think he did a really good job handling speed and getting the ball out on time.  Usually the big guys like that are kind of slow and deliberate, but he plays well and plays fast – throws a really good ball with a good arm.”

On the pistol formation:
“The pistol formation is just a little bit different for us.  It’s kind of a change, but it’s not something we’re going to hang out hats on. But it does allow, with my shotgun background, for me to feel a little bit more comfortable. “

Linebacker Rolando McClain:
On whether or not the beginning of Southeastern Conference play feels any different:
“It does, but at the same time it’s football. It’s something that we’ve been doing for the past three weeks now.  It’s not the first game, but it’s the first SEC game and it’s going to be huge, and it’s at home against a very good team with a high-powered offense.  It gives us a little more incentive because they are so good and we want to prove that we’re a great defense. “

On whether or not more time is spent working on coverage when preparing for a passing team:
“I don’t think so.  I know Coach Saban does a great job with balancing everything.  Practice is not one sided unless the team just completely throws the ball.  We’re going to do what we can do, or what we usually do in seven on seven.  We’re not going to do anything different.  We are just going to work on what we work on.  They’re a good team with a very good offense, but at the same time we’re going to work to improve our defense.”

Cornerback Javier Arenas:
On the opportunities for takeaways when facing an offense that frequently passes:
“When they throw the ball a lot, obviously it gives us more opportunities to take the ball away, even if it’s stripping the ball after the catch or a simple interception.  Opportunities will present themselves; we just have to take full advantage.”

On whether or not this is the type of offense a cornerback looks forward to:
“Yeah.  You’ve got to kind of strap on your gear because they are basically challenging you.  You have to expect and prepare for it.  It is basically a test to see who is standing.”

Running back Mark Ingram:
On being the team’s leader in receptions after three games:
“(I was) not really (expecting it).  They knew I could catch the ball coming out of the backfield, but Greg has been doing a good job going through his progressions.  When I’m there he just checks it down to us.  I’ve been fortunate to make some stuff happen when I’ve got the ball in my hands.  I’m happy that I’m getting a few catches out there.  It shows a little versatility.”

On the difference of the offense with Julio Jones playing healthy:
“Last year he used to draw double and triple coverage, but now that we have a lot of receivers stepping up I don’t think they’re going to be able to do that to him.  With him coming back right now it will just be another weapon out there – another headache for the defense to deal with.”