Tuesday, September 24, 2002
"Let me start out real quickly talking about Ahmaad Galloway before we leave Southern Miss. I know we all touched on him the other day in the teleconference but I just want to say what a fine young man, great character, great leader, solid player, somebody who has loved and given a lot to the University of Alabama. We certainly feel for him. His surgery is today. Certainly a loss for our team in some ways that we've all acknowledged. You go into coaching to coach the Ahmaad Galloway's. He's just somebody you'd want your son to grow up like. He played very hard and he always gave his best to his team. I know our players are all disappointed for Ahmaad with his injury and great expressions of that to Ahmaad by them. I thought that was a great representation and token of how they feel about him as a person.
"I didn't want to dwell on that but I certainly wanted to touch on that because he is a fine person.
"Arkansas right now looks like a very good football team. It's an SEC game on the road. Obviously they are going to be a well-rested, probably fairly healthy football team. Should be confident. I think they've won eight out of their last ten games now, really, after they played us last year, got on a roll and got on a nice stretch and I think they won six out of seven and then lost the Cotton Bowl in a close game to Oklahoma. And of course we know a lot about Oklahoma. They're 2-0 this year and off to a good start. Haven't really been challenged yet by their two teams. They're very athletic. They're well-coached. They play very hard. They've got some outstanding athletes. Their scheme of defense is similar to Southern Mississippi so there is some carryover value for us as there will be for them in watching that tape certainly.
"Their defense will be a challenge to move the ball against. They gang-tackle. They have great speed. They run to the ball well. They are very multiple. They're very solid in every area. The defensive line is solid. Their linebackers are solid. Their secondary I think is very good, very good speed. (Ken) Hamlin and (Tony) Bua really stick out for them, make lots of plays. Watching number 22 play the game-- for a coach, he's a guy that continually catches your eye because he just runs and makes plays and plays with such spirit and effort and everything. He's almost kind of like an Ahmaad Galloway for their defense.
"Offensively, last year we kind of caught them searching for a quarterback. I think they've found a quarterback now in Matt Jones. He's done very well for them. Tarvaris Jackson has played some and done well, too. They've got a group of tailbacks that are all very capable starting with (Cedric) Cobb and (Fred) Talley. Good offensive line, nice size. They've got a tight end that's 6-5, 315 pounds. That may be the biggest tight end I've seen. He can block. Their skill is good. Their kicking game is always solid. This will be a tough, hard-fought football game, much like last week."
What are you going to look for in Santonio Beard in practice and in the game that shows that he's ready to step into that number one tailback role that (Ahmaad) Galloway had?
"I hope that Santonio is going to raise his level of focus, pay attention to all the details of the things not necessarily when he's carrying the football. And I think he will do that. He's a guy who, I think, he could carry the ball 25 times in a game very easily and he may be asked to do that at some point in time."
As far as a fourth tailback, have y'all made any decisions about what you want to do there?
"Probably not yet. We'll look at them both this week in practice and make the call."
Outside of Tyler's (Watts) situation, how important was it for Brodie (Croyle) to get into a game and get some real reps, real contact, coming into the SEC games?
"I think it was one of those immeasurable, intangible things that happen very fortunately for us. He did not go into the game thinking he would be the starter but about six or eight plays into it, he was. I think in some respects that might have been good for him and now he has been out there and played a great deal. As I often say, you can't hand them experience, and he got a whole game of experience. He made some mistakes but the good thing is his mistakes we overcame. They weren't at a point where they cost us a football game and so that's a real positive I think. For the most part, he played pretty well. Did a lot of good things. I think he's got some real things he can look at and say, `you know I'm doing this pretty well,' and he's got some real things to look at and say, `I need to work at this and improve on these things.' Sometimes you can tell them all you want to as a coach but until they experience those things first hand it's maybe not as meaningful. He's been out there now and done that and he's done a lot of good things in a lot of different areas. I think he learned a great deal about himself and about playing the other night that is immeasurable for him in the future weeks."
Since halftime of the Oklahoma game, what's been the difference in your defense?
"That's kind of hard to answer in a way. I think our d'line has probably taken control, our front. Anytime that you defend the running game as well as we have and then pressure the quarterback as well as we have, you've given your entire defense a chance to play well. Evidently maybe they were finding themselves in that first game or game and a half. And really, I don't know if we can fault the d'line or the defensive front. We really gave up three plays in the first half against Oklahoma or that was a pretty solid football game all the way around, so, almost the whole game after the Middle Tennessee game, I think. And we've talked about how draining that second quarter was against Middle Tennessee. We only played 55, 56, somewhere in that vicinity snaps the other night. They're getting some three and outs, they're getting off the field, they're staying fresh, the offense is holding on to the football. Those defensive linemen are really playing with some vengeance right now and some aggressiveness. If it's not Kindal (Moorehead), it's Kenny (King). If it's not Kenny it's Jarret (Johnson). If it's not them, it's Antwan (Odom), Nautyn (McKay-Loescher), Todd Bates. We've got a host of guys who are doing a nice job up there."
I know you probably haven't seen a lot of the teams around the country in terms of your top level teams maybe like the Miami's of the college football world. Where would you rate your fronts, offensive and defensive fronts, and the way they are playing right now?
"I'd have to rate them up there. I think they're a force that has to be dealt with on both sides. Our front on defense has been very demonstrative for us the last few games. You rush for 300-and-something yards against Southern Miss, your offensive line has done a good job. Somebody told me the other day that may have been the first time since something like 1990 that anybody has had that many rushing yards on them. That's a month's worth of rushing yards on them, not a game's. Our protection of the quarterback has been better than ever before. All those factors. So I think both of them are starting to put themselves in a position that they're very competitive with anybody."