University of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban
Florida State Game Week Press Conference Transcript
September 24, 2007
“I talked a lot last week about excellence being a habit; how doing things right is a habit that you want to create, and you want to create this habits in a way that they’re spontaneous, which means that you’re going to be consistent in what you’re able to do because you’ve created these good habits. I think everybody’s got to evaluate their performance from when things don’t go like you want. I think we evaluate our performance whether they go well or don’t go well. It’s a part of quality control that most businesses will always do, and that’s certainly something that we always want to do. But from a player’s standpoint, I think everybody’s got to be open to evaluate their performance. And if they were any part of the problem in terms of our ability to execute with consistency: what could they have done to make a difference in that in terms of the way they prepared? And what will they change in the future to create more consistency in the habits of how they go about preparing so that we can get off to a better start?
“The formula for success is every guy can make a difference for the entire team in whatever his role is. And to do it right, to get it right, is a critical factor in being successful. In the other three games, we started every game out fast, and it was an advantage to us. In this game we didn’t do that and it created a disadvantage, so we need to correct the things in terms of us being able start fast so that we put ourselves in a better position than we did in this last game.
“Now, saying all that, I’m very proud of the way the team competed in the game. I’m proud of the way we came back in the second half. This team showed no quit. There was tremendous resiliency in the game relative to the fight that we showed against a good team. So that’s a real positive thing. But you like to do it for 60 minutes. You like to be ready to do it in the beginning. Sometimes you put yourself in a position where you fight to overcome. But if you created what you have to overcome, then that’s something that you can correct and improve on. And I think a lot of those things we can correct and I think a lot of those things we can improve on so that we do get better execution. But I can’t fault the character that the players competed with at all.
“One other thing that I’d like to touch on is that I think class is a real critical part of any organization. It’s a word that I see, that comes up on our board when we do some of our traditional stuff here as a part of our university, as a part of our football tradition. I think class is an important part of what we try to do in terms of how we represent our state, our institution, and I want this program to always reflect class in how we go about doing things. We expect it from the players, and if we don’t get it, we certainly do everything we can to correct it and change their behavior so that we do get it. And I think that that should extend to every part of the organization. Every part of the organization. I don’t care if you are a supporter, or you’re a fan, or whatever you do, the way you support the team should be done with class as well. And I think that should be something that is an identity that we have as an institution, as a program, and as a state: the way that we represent what we do is first class. I just wanted to emphasize that to those out there if anyone who doesn’t understand that. It’s important. It’s important that we reflect that in everything we do.
“This game coming up this week, obviously Florida State is a national power. They have great tradition. They have a very good football team right now. It’s great exposure for our program to play an out-of-conference game that will bring national attention. It will be on national television with CBS and that type of thing, so I think when we talk about playing somebody out-of-conference that can bring that kind of exposure to the program, this is what we’re talking about.
“Coach Bobby Bowden, I have as much respect for this guy as anybody in this profession relative to what he’s accomplished, the kind of person he is in accomplishing it, how he has affected our profession in a positive way, what he’s personally done for me through the years. And he’s obviously the winningest coach in college football because of that.
“One story that I can tell that has always been a reflection on Bobby Bowden and the class that he has is, when my father passed away, I was a first-year graduate assistant at Kent State. Coach Bowden was an assistant coach at West Virginia when I was in high school. Coach (Joe) Pendry actually played and coached with him. But unbeknownst to me, and I really don’t know Coach Bowden that much (at the time) except that I know he’s a coach at West Virginia and that’s where I’m from and he coached there when I was growing up and when I was in high school. All the sudden a week or two after I’m home for my family, for my mother, to support my mother, I get a call from Coach Bowden and he says, “Nick, I don’t really have a position. But I know you’re a graduate assistant for Coach James at Kent State, but if you need to come home and be around your mother, I’ll create a position for you here so that you can be here, and you can be home, and you can be closer to home. That’s the kind of guy we’re talking about here. That’s the kind of coach, when I talk about the coaching profession, people doing things the right way, this is the epitome of a man who has done it for a long, long time and done it with a lot of class, a lot of dignity, a lot of character. And, obviously, his program, his accomplishments, speak for themselves.
“They’ve got a great defensive football team. They’ve got eight starters back. They’re very aggressive. They’ve got tremendous team speed on defense. This team runs as well and plays as well in space as anybody that we’ve played. They’ve got an outstanding front. They’ve got excellent linebackers. They’ve got all four starters back in the secondary, so this is a very, very good defensive team.
“Offensively they certainly have the capabilities. I know there’s a new system. There’s a new coordinator. Jimbo’s (Fisher) a great coach. They will improve as the season goes on offensively relative to them being able to understand what they’re supposed to do. Jimbo Fisher is one of the best offensive coordinators in the country. There’s no doubt about that. They’ve got a very good coaching staff. I think when their players understand and execute a little bit better, they are going to be very effective because they have good players on offense. They’ve got good skill players; good receiver; they’ve got a good runner. The quarterback’s got experience. They’re a little young up front in the offensive line but they certainly have a significant number of players who can make plays.
“From our standpoint, from an injury standpoint, Darren Mustin has made improvement. I can’t say that he’s ready to play the game or he will be ready to play. He will resume practicing. But we can’t make that decision until we see how he responds and how he recovers relative to the strength that he regains. And he’s made progress and we’re hopeful that he’ll be able to come back and continue to make progress..
“Our players of the game: Mike McCoy had his best game and Mike Johnson, both two young players who played extremely well in this game on offense. Defensively, Rashad Johnson played an outstanding game and Simeon Castille played an outstanding game. And Rashad had an interception which was a big play. On special teams Javier (Arenas) has done a really good job all the time on special teams. Even though he didn’t have the big return yards he made good judgments and decisions and did a good job. And Chris Rogers had several tackles on kickoff coverage and did a good job in other areas as well. So those are our players of the game.”
On what, within the media, might have been “over-stated” regarding the crossovers in relationships between Saban, Bowden, Fisher, etc., and how well they all know one another:
“I think it’s relatively insignificant because it comes down to the players’ ability to execute on the field. And whether you know the offense or they know the defense, they still don’t know when you’re going to do what, and it still comes down to the players being able to execute. Now there was some crossover in last week’s game relative to all that with Stacy Searels being the offensive line coach (at Georgia), but still it comes down to they run the stretch play weak, and they don’t know when we’re running corner fire. We don’t know when they’re running corner fire. When we ran it, we got them in the backfield. When they ran it, they got us in the backfield. But we never knew when it was going to happen. And when they didn’t do it and we got the corner we ran for 39 yards down to the 1-yard-line. So it still comes down to players being able to execute on both sides of the ball. That’s what we try to get our players to do. I’m sure that’s what they want their players to do. There’s enough diversity in what we all do that even though you know what the other team does, you still have to be able to execute when they dial up whatever they dial up on either side of the ball.”
On John Parker Wilson, and what he sees when he studies his play in these games with a trained eye:
“What I think John Parker needs to do is just settle down. Take what the defense gives. Make good decisions. I think sometimes he puts too much pressure on himself which can get him out of sync a little bit. And I think the players around him need to play well. We probably had a little more pressure in this game than what we had in the past, and how we picked up that pressure, how we handled that pressure, when we’re supposed to break hot, where we’re supposed to throw it hot. All those things we have to be effective at and confident in so that we don’t get out of sync. And I think the most critical thing there is to be able to relax and take what the defense gives you. Be confident that if we all execute and do that, that we’re going to have success. I think putting pressure on yourself relative to what you want to accomplish or what you think other people expect you to accomplish can be not a good thing when it comes to trying to compete and stay focused on what you need to do play-in and play-out. And that’s something that we want to continue to work on and develop a good understanding in terms of his ability to feel confident in his execution and the players around him to feel confident to execute well around him so it’s easier for him to do his job. “
On earlier remark about class and whether it referred to reports that ice was thrown on field during Georgia game:
“No. It was just a message, you know, about having class. I don’t think it’s classy to throw something on somebody else. I don’t think it’s classy to call somebody’s house at night and complain about something. I don’t think any of that is classy. If anybody out there, our fans and our supporters don’t think all the coaches here don’t work hard and want to win as bad as anybody and as well as the playerstrust and believe in that. Trust and believe in doing it right. If you want to do something, do something positive to support the program or don’t do anything at all.”
Did you get a call late at night?
“No, I didn’t. I don’t answer my phone anyway so it doesn’t matter.”
On his thoughts of playing game at a neutral site and if he’s done it before:
“It can be effective relative to exposure, especially in areas where you might recruit. It’s like a bowl game in a way. You’re playing somebody out of conference; it’s a national game. It’s not an SEC game, but it’s a national game. We’re representing the SEC. I think that’s important. They’re representing the ACC. We’re playing at a neutral site where we both recruit quite a bit, whether it’s south Georgia or Florida. So I think there are a lot of positive things from an exposure standpoint that can be beneficial to a program.”
On whether FSU’s rush defense is its strength and if it’s the best he’s faced and on Roy Upchurch and Glen Coffee’s playing rotation:
“I think this is probably the best run defense we’ve played so far and I think they have an outstanding front seven: physical up front, fast, run well, get off of blocks quickly, play a lot of one-gap stuff and do a lot of penetrating. The linebackers can all run; great space tacklers, very instinctive guys. I think this will be the biggest challenge from that standpoint all year. I do think that those three running backs that you talked about, or two of the three, Terry Grant being the third, are guys that have all made a nice contribution to what we want to do. When they’ve gotten an opportunity they’ve been very productive and we want to continue to use all three of those guys in some kind of role, in some kind of capacity as we move forward in the season. We’ve been confident that Roy could play and had a plan to play him a little bit in the Arkansas game and didn’t really get to it. He did get a couple of carries in this game, did play on some special teams, so he’s a guy that we want to get more involved in what we’re doing. And Glen Coffee has done a really good job all year.”
On the difficulties a new coordinator, such as Jimbo Fisher, faces in “putting his stamp on a unit” and Fisher’s strengths as a coach:
“Jimbo is a bright guy. He’s a great play caller. He’s got a great understanding of the game both sides of the ball. I think he’s a great motivator with the players. He’s a very inspirational guy. I don’t really know of any weakness that he has as he did a fantastic job for me. The only thing that I’m surprised about is the guy’s never gotten an opportunity to be a head coach, or, I think he’s gotten a couple of opportunities, that he’s not a head coach right now because he’s an outstanding coach. I used to say young coach but he’s not young anymore. But I think when you put a new system in, and I think that we go through that here a little bit with what we’re doing both sides of the ball for us because we’re new on both sides of the ball, is it takes a while for the players to feel comfortable and confident in all the things that you’re doing so that you get the kind of execution that you want. And I think that’s the frustrating part of it. It’s kind of like growing through adolescence: sometimes you get disappointed that you haven’t matured a little bit more than you’d like. But what you’ve got to do is keep working toward getting them where you want them to go and don’t give up on them and at some point in time they all come back after they go through adolescence, and I think it’s the same thing when you’re doing this kind of new system approach: offense, defense, it doesn’t matter. And the more the players play it, the more they feel comfortable with it, the more they’re confident in it, the better execution that you get, the less errors that you have, the greater opportunity that you have for success.”
On how his relationship has grown with Bowden through the years since he was a graduate assistant at Kent State:
“Terry and Tommy both were GA’s at West Virginia when I was coaching there, so I’ve always known them really well, and they’ve both done extremely well in this profession. But other than seeing Coach Bowden in recruiting and talking to him on occasion---he’s always positive and upbeat. There are a lot of people in West Virginia that I know that know him. In fact we’ve got some coming to the game, including my good friend the governor who will be at the game because he played at West Virginia when Coach Bowden was an assistant coach there. And he’s also a good friend and my son’s godfather. It’s just a lot of mutual relationships. But it’s always been positive. And it doesn’t make any difference if you’re recruiting Michael Clayton and it’s down to Florida State and LSU. He’s never any different. There’s never any paranoia about anything. There’s never any, Somebody’s going to do something wrong.’ He kind of worries about what he doesand it’s really refreshing.”
On Major Applewhite and the two-minute-drills regarding who calls plays and communication:
“We already have practiced what we are going to do in two-minute. We practice it on Thursday. We’ve already discussed it. We already know what our two-minute offense is. And we also know what the situation plays are when we come up in certain situations. We don’t really have to discuss the plays. Sometimes if they’re doing something on defense, I kind of watch the defense and say, They’re playing a lot of cover two and this works well against cover two.’ That’ s more the kind of dialog that we have, positive input if there’s anything to contribute. So it’s really nothing that’s already been planned.”
On whether or not Jimmy Johns is still in the running-plan mix:
“Jimmy is doing a good job on special teams. Sometimes guys struggle a little bit. There’s a lot of good competition. We’re trying to get Jimmy to develop a role in our offense. We moved him to fullback. We moved him back to tailback; we work him at fullback. We play him on all the special teams. And as these other guys have emerged a little bit, I think it’s affected Jimmy’s role. But we need for Jimmy to have a role. He’s a good football player. We want him to have a role. He has to do his part in getting ready to fulfill that role and we have to do a good job as coaches in figuring out what that is and how he can be effective in helping us.”
On FSU’s offense and the problems it can create:
“They are, to me, from a system standpoint, as challenging as anybody that we’ve played. They’ll use a lot of personnel groups. They run the ball,rRun some option with it, some zone option stuff like West Virginia which I’m sure is Coach (Rick) Trickett’s influence there to some degree, although we did some of that stuff with some of our quarterbacks at LSU when Jimbo was there. With there being four wide outs or three wide outs they do a lot of bunch passes. They do a lot of pro-style things that players don’t always get exposed to. And they have balance in their offense in terms of they’re going to try to run it and make it work. They’re going to formation you and try to get you out-flanked in some kind of way. And if they get something going, they’ll really put it to you. So you’ve got to be able to adjust in the game because you may see something different than what you’re prepared for. But I think the multiples of the things that they do and how you’ve got to prepare for it is the most difficult challenge.”
“It’s always that way. Every week you’ve got to get ready for something different. I think that keeps it interesting and it’s also very challenging for us as coaches.”
On why Wilson appears better in the two-minute drill and if there’s anything he can take from there to the rest of his game:
“We go two-minute all the time. We did go red-ball in the game. We’ve got two different things where we go red-ball and we actually go no-huddle and that’s how we actually hit the play that Terry (Grant) ran down to the 1-yard line. They weren’t lined up on defense. That was helpful to us. It’s usually helpful to us to create a little different momentum, a little different intensity in the game. And John Parker has done a good job when we’ve done those things and he’s done a good job in two-minute as well.”
On Prince Hall:
“He did have a lot of production in the last game relative to tackles and he did make some mental errors in the game, but he’s playing a little bit of a new position, especially in regular. He was playing Darren Mustin’s position and Rolando (McClain) was actually playing his, and then in nickel, Rolando actually played Mustin’s position and Prince played his old position. So we tried to not give one guy all the new stuff and kind of split it up, and I think that helped him a little bit. But it does not help you relative to continuity when guys have to play different positions. But we feel like we have three good inside backers, and I don’t think it’s very helpful to me and my mental health when we can’t get the two of the three best ones on the field in any circumstance and situation. Now, is that more challenging to them in terms of their preparation and readiness because you lose some continuity in the repetitions that they’ve had at their particular position? But I thought both guys did a good job in that this past week.”