University of Alabama Head Football Coach Mike Shula
Duke Game Week Press Conference
Transcript of Opening Comments and 1st Five Questions Asked
October 3, 2006
“We get started today on our preparation for Duke. It’s a team that we don’t know a lot about. We’ve watched them on tape. Our focus this week is to find a way to get back on track. We had good work Sunday night. The kids, I think, have a great attitude. We’ve suffered two tough losses, losses in which we felt like we could have won the game. I think there’s a lot of points that you can talk to your team about, as far as where we are and where we could be, and how we’ve got to get back on track. The main thing for all of us to do is be positive and learn how we can all get better. Really put the emphasis, as we do every week. But, especially this week, doing everything right and come in here and prepare harder than we’ve ever prepared; and just each guy start with himself on how he can help this team get better.
“As far as personnel, injury-wise, we really don’t have any updates yet on Ezekial Knight. (We’re) Still waiting on results back from tests, so his status is the same. Terrence Jones made it through the game okay. He’s still going to be a little bit sore. He’s not 100 percent now but he should be ready to play this week. Le’Ron McClain was moving around well Sunday. They took x-rays; they were all negative so I think he should be all set for this week. I’m not sure how much he’ll practice today. I think those were the three, or the ones, that we had the most concern with. Everybody else should be in good shape.”
I think you guys are around 50 percent in converting third downs. How much of that is John Parker Wilson, things that he’s doing right?
“He’s one of the reasons, one of the big reasons, of why, so far, knock on wood, we’re having the best year we’ve had on third downs. He moves around and makes plays. The last few weeks a lot of our third downs have been short yardage, which is good. The percentages go up the shorter the distance, and we’ve done a nice job of converting some of those short-yardage gains. We need to have less third downs; in other words, make more first downs on first and second down. But he’s been helpful. I think his decision making and his mobility have helped us.”
You talked a second ago about a lot of talking points that you could make to the team about good things you did Saturday, and even Sunday you referred back to you need a win just to give the confidence a boost. Is confidence something you’ve got to protect at this point?
“I don’t think so. I just know when you win, you’re going to get more confidence. So a win can cure a lot of things. It helps emphasize all the points that you make throughout your dealings with the players in the off-season and fall training camp and of course during the season. The older guys, you don’t ever worry about that. Maybe the better answer is some of the younger guys, they’re going to gain more confidence as we win. But for a small senior class, we’ve got good leadership, and I think, really, that’s shown more in the last couple of weeks with that group than it has this whole season, including going back to the off-season. Which makes me feel good about going into this week and the rest of the season.”
Coach Shula, Jimmy Johns averages about five yards per carry where Kenneth Darby averages about 3.4 yards per carry. And, right now since Jimmy Johns is doing really well, we were just wondering, will he be given more playing time?
“Did Jimmy write all that for you, or did you do all that research?”
I did all that research.
“Okay. It’s not the first time I’ve heard that question. Yeah, we’re going to go with guys who are running the ball well. We go into that same (approach) each and every week. K.D. (Kenneth Darby) was running the ball pretty well last week. The one thing, and we were talking about this as coaches the other day, is it just seems like, in general, we had more carries the last few years than we’ve had this year. Of course, we were throwing the ball a little bit more the other day. But, yeah, if one guy is going and running pretty well, we need to stick with him a little bit longer. But we’re not going to neglect the guy who’s had two 1,000 yards seasons that’s been playing pretty well and had a good week last week.”
You’ll be at the midpoint of the season after this game, the sixth game of the year. Will the decisions on redshirting that may still be out there, will they essentially be made this week going into this game?
“I would say at least half of those decisions would be made but we always reserve that due to injury. If we had no more injuries, then, yes, there would be some decisions after this week as far as guys not playing. As you know, I think we’re playing five or six true freshmen, so, if we’re going to play a guy who hasn’t played this week, then we need to have a plan to play him the rest of the year. We shouldn’t just go into it thinking that we would just play him this one week. Again, that’s without the injury factor.”
You guys have run the three-man front a lot, it seems, and still stop the run. Are you surprised with how successful that’s been and what do you like about that defense?
“Am I surprised? No, because we struggled offensively running against it every spring practice. How would you go about trying to be more successful? I’m not going to tell you. I’m not going to try to help any other offense.”
What do you like about it?
“In general, I like that it utilizes our speed on defense. You’ve got one more smaller, quicker guy that can move around and get to the football.”