Countdown to Kickoff
Week 6 Press Conference Transcript



Oct. 3, 2011

Head Coach Nick Saban
Opening statement:
"It was obviously a good win for our team. I think one of the most important things in this past game is when things didn't go well early, especially defensively, there was really no panic. We did a really good job the first two drives of the game offensively, coming up with scores, with the field goal and touchdown, then the defense sort of settled down. In boxing, you never know when you have a good fighter until the guy gets hit, gets staggered, and you see how he takes a punch. In a tough environment, in a tough situation, I was really pleased with the way our team sort of competed through a lot of things that happened early. We played well on the line of scrimmage, both sides of the ball, and could run the ball effectively, had balance on offense and stopped their running, but the biggest thing we have to do is eliminate mental errors that give other teams opportunities. Whether it's how we block them, how we run routes, how we get in the right formations, or how we play coverages and don't make mistakes and how we match people up and what we do. Eliminate mental errors. You just can't give other people opportunities. They are too good of teams that we play, and it's important that we continue to improve as a team and focus on the things that we need to focus on."

"This sort of change of schedule for today was something that was planned. It has nothing to do with outcomes, and it has nothing to do with opponents. We've done this every year. When we play eight games in a row, we don't like to play more than six without changing the routine, giving the players basically two days where they don't do much. We're going to do some walkthroughs today, but I just think it's important that after so many games that they have a little extra recovery time. I think it's important that everybody knows that, regardless of what happened in the last game, this was planned for this week, and we've done it every year. If we don't have a bye week, and the season doesn't get broken up, we're never going to play more than six games in a row without doing this."

"The big thing that everybody has to keep in mind is that you've never really arrived as a football team. Every team that we play in the SEC is a very capable team. Vanderbilt is certainly a very capable team. They've got 19 starters back from last year's team. They've already won more games than they won last year and gotten off to a pretty good start. They've done enough offensively to score points and are doing a good job with the players that they have. Their defense has been very opportunistic and led the nation in interceptions. They've done a really good job of playing very good defense. Unlike what people sometimes have a perception of, this team is 3-1 and a good team that beat Ole Miss and played South Carolina tough at South Carolina. We need to be focused on what we need to do to take care of our business and get ready to play our best football game of the year and continue to improve as a team."

"From an injuries standpoint, C.J. Mosley will do some things on the practice field this week. I don't know where he'll be by the end of the week. Eddie (Lacy) will probably be in a boot for a couple of days, but we'll make a determination on him later in the week as well."

"We were pleased with some players of the week. Obviously Trent Richardson had a terrific game. I'm sure he'd be the first to talk about the offensive line. William Vlachos and Chance Warmack are also players of the week offensively. It's hard for me to imagine that anybody had a better game than Trent Richardson had anywhere in the country, against good competition, and (he) did a fantastic job. Defensively, Courtney Upshaw and Alex Watkins--Courtney had an outstanding game and Alex, for the number of plays he had and the production he had, was very, very good. On special teams, Marquis Maze, Brad Smelley, and Vinnie (Sunseri) all did a really good job."

"We're certainly looking forward to playing at home this week, and I know it is Homecoming, which is a tradition for a lot of people to be able to come back to something that's important to them. We certainly want to do what we can do to make that happy for everybody who comes back for Homecoming."

On the emphasis of finishing games in the fourth quarter:
"It's a part of the philosophy of the program since we've been here for five years. We want to win in the fourth quarter, that we have a fourth quarter program which is basically the strength and conditioning program that we do in the offseason, summertime. I think we try to get our players to believe that the hard work they do is going to contribute to their ability to be more physical for longer, and to finish games better, and that's something that we try to build as a part of the program. Each one of these things stands for something - commitment, discipline, toughness, pride, work. All of those things are really important to being able to win in the fourth quarter, and we are trying to sell our players on that."

On the progression of quarterback AJ McCarron:
"Well you know AJ is doing a good job. I think he's done a good job of managing the game in both road games, in some pretty tough circumstances and environments, and I think the big thing is he is kind of making good decisions. We're not turning the ball over. We haven't turned the ball over for several games now, not trying to put [the football] places that it shouldn't be. We probably need to do a better job overall in the passing game, but that's not really the quarterback. I mean we did a better job in protection. We have got to do a better job of taking the right splits, getting in the right formations, running routes a little bit better, paying attention to detail in the passing game. That makes the difference when you play teams that are going to play close coverage, which good teams play man to man, especially in denying the ball situations, but I've been really pleased with the way that AJ has improved and hopefully he'll continue to improve throughout the season and we will be a little bit more explosive, hopefully, down the field and making some plays in the passing game. Had a couple of opportunities in the last game and just missed them. I think it's going to be important that we start making some of those."

On the decision making process of who fills in for linebacker C.J. Mosley:
"Well [C.J. Mosley] only plays in certain personnel groups, and he only plays on certain down and distances, so logically, the person you chose to take his place would sort of fit the same kind of role. I think a lot of things come into consideration. Sometimes you might have the better guy athletically to do it, who may not have the knowledge and experience. I, personally, I would rather put players on the field that will do the right thing and not make mental errors. Even if they don't match up quite as well physically, but we take the best players we have available. Nico [Johnson] kind of took his place in nickel last week and did a really good job. Dont'a [Hightower] took his place in dime, so then Alex Watkins and Adrian Hubbard took Dont'a's place in dime. And a couple of the other personnel packages that we have we didn't use, a little bit because of what Florida did, and a little bit because of where we were personnel-wise."

On the amount of first-down pass plays and if it helps open up the running game:
"Well I think the balance is the most important thing. I think the best down to throw it on is first down. You usually know what you want to get, especially if you can run the ball. The other teams, probably 70 or 80 percent of the time, are in some kind of safety down, middle of the field, closed type of [defense], which is the best time to throw it. I think we have to continue to mix it up, and try to keep the team off balance based on whether its formations, how we line up, and some of the packages that we put together based on what they line up in. That determines what we do, so some of that is called, and some of it is `this is best thing to do against this particular situation.' We've been doing a good job with that. When I'm talking about game management, that's the kind of stuff that I'm really referring to."

On kicker Cade Foster's kickoffs:
"No they are not high and short by design. I wish we would kick it in the stands. I can't tell you why. Technically, in practice he does a really good job. I think he has to have confidence that if he carries over those same fundamentals in the game, that that's going to be the best way to get the best results. That's something that he has to continue to work through psychologically, so that he's confident and believing in the process. It's no different than my golf swing. When I swing it right, I hit it straight, and when I don't, it goes sideways, and it doesn't go very far. And I can't tell you why."

On if defensive players understand what they can and cannot do relative to player safety rules:
"First of all, I think our officials have done a really good job. And it's pretty obvious if I think they're not [doing a good job], in most cases, which is something I'm not necessarily proud of, but there's only been a few of those circumstances, so that's a good thing in terms of the job that I think our officials that we've had have done for us. I do think that there's probably a little bit more of people trying to sort of enforce their mojo on other people, if you know what I mean, just by whether it's trash talking or a little extra hit, or a little extra push as if that's going to, some kind of way, give them an advantage. And I think that challenges the officials to control, which it started a little bit in this last game, and I think that they kind of nipped it quickly. Couple of flags, and then it was gone. We're constantly trying to tell our players that that does not help us win a game. You should never talk to the guy you are playing against. You've got nothing to say to that guy. We should be doing our talking with the way that we play, the effort that we give, the toughness that we play with, how physical we are, the discipline we play with, and you cannot lose your poise. You cannot lose your poise, and that's an issue we need to work on with several of our players that have sort of kind of gotten drawn into this in the last couple games, and they can't do that. It doesn't help us win. And if we get a penalty, then it actually hurts us."

On how well the defense has adjusted following the first quarter of games:
"Well I think there's two parts to that. We really haven't played worth a damn in the first quarter is one way to look at it, and that was certainly the case in this last game, where we gave up half the yards. They didn't change players, and they didn't really change what they were doing, and we did make some adjustments and adaptations to it, and they did do a few things that we probably hadn't practiced a lot, and sometimes, especially in that kind of environment, players don't adjust and adapt, maybe fundamentally like you wish they would. So the one part of that would be that we need to play better in the beginning. And the other part of it, depending on how you want to look at it would be we play better as it goes because we make good adjustments, which we do. They get good information, but I think part of it is how a player thinks when he starts the game. I think in the more emotional games, players probably are more emotional and think less, which affects mental errors. And high anxiety is not a thing that will help you make good choices and decisions, so that's something that we need to manage a little bit better. I think the way the way you do that is go back to thinking, just think. `What am I supposed to do? What is my assignment? What's the call? How do I execute that? Where should I line up in this formation?' Paying attention to detail, rather than be so anxious to want to make a play or do well, or whatever that you start taking some shortcuts that really don't help you get where you want to go. That takes maturity and you know guys that have confidence and are mature usually do a pretty good job that way."

On the sack and non-fumble, and cohesion of the offensive line:
"Well I thought the line, offensively, played very well in the last game. I mean you don't run the ball as effectively as we ran if the offensive line doesn't play well. We had good protection for the most part. Never gave up sacks or negative plays that way. There is certainly room for improvement, and we'll continue to work to try and to get better, and play with more consistency. You know I really think the officials got it right on the field, I think it was called a fumble. The bean bag went out. The ball was in sort of a unique position. First of all, a player got hurt, which is unfortunate, on that particular play, and the ball was sort of laying under him. Our guy kicked it out. Somebody else blew the whistle thinking that he had recovered the ball, so once that occurred then the play was over. That's the way it happened, but I thought the officials got it right. Now maybe they could have explained it, or made an announcement or something so everyone would have understood it, but they got it right. The referee threw out the beanbag, they got it right."

On the identity of the football team:
"I think you start to establish an identity the first time you play. I think you want to try to build on that identity because that identity can move in one direction or the other, and consistency is what I would be more focused on right now in terms of to continue to play at the level that we play. And the most challenging thing for players is to practice well because the thing that happens is when you don't practice well, you lose fundamentals. You don't play with good fundamentals. That affects your ability to have success in the game. We play against so many different things that you start getting assignment oriented and thinking of what I'm supposed to do and spend less time practicing and thinking about how I need to do it. And that, to me, is the most important thing as the season progresses so that you improve. I can't tell you what the identity is. You have your own opinion about that. I have my opinion about it. I know some areas that I would like to see it grow and develop, but this team has demonstrated pretty good leadership, and pretty good competitive character to this point, and I'm sure that is going to get challenged on numerous occasions in every game that we play in the future."

On linebacker Nico Johnson in the nickel package and his performance against Florida:
"Well Nico did a good job. He really did a good job. He plays the run well, which was probably really important in that last game. We got to playing more and more zone because they were bunched and running crossing patterns all the time. Which we play man to man and that's kind of what we messed up in the beginning of the game on a couple of third downs and started playing more zone as the game went on, and that was more effective for us. He does a good job, he drops the right places, so and it wasn't because of him we started playing zone. He didn't do anything wrong. It was just more favorable, schematically, to what they were doing and what we needed to do. Nico did a good job in the game. I was pleased with the way he played."

On Vanderbilt quarterback Larry Smith:
"Well they do a really good job with their offense. Obviously, Larry does a good job of directing their offense. They're sort of a no-huddle, lot of checks, lot of Nike checks whatever you want to call it, looking at the sidelines coming back. He gets them in the right play. He does a really good job of executing. He's really improved as a passer, even though they throw a whole lot of screens and bubble passes, and things that complement the running game that they have with their offense, but I didn't see him last year. We didn't play them, so I didn't see him that much, but I think he's done a really, really good job this year executing at the quarterback position."

On the progression of Defensive Lineman Jessie Williams:
"Jesse's done a good job for us. He's played well. He's really improved a lot from the spring to the fall, and each game this fall. He's a good practice player. He's a smart guy. He's learned how to use his hands better. He's become a little better pass rusher. He's a very physical guy, and difficult to block. So Jessie has been a real key, I think, to helping our front, and done a really, really good job. I'm really pleased with the way he's progressed. I think he's come along quicker than I thought he might, and basically he just hasn't played as much football as a lot of these other guys. You know, he grew up playing rugby, or whatever they play in Australia, and I got a rugby national shirt and all that. For the rugby team, not the football team."

On the dominance of the run defense through first five games:
"First of all, those statistics are not correct because when you take sacks off, and passing plays off rushing, it's not right. I look at how we play the run on the running plays, and when that quarterback scrambles for 27 yards, that's a pass play to me, and we messed it up. That really doesn't go on our rushing yards."

On if he is pleased with run defense once all non-running plays are removed:
"Well I was happy in the last game. I think we can tackle better, keep leverage on the ball better. We missed some tackles in the last game. We need to keep doing what we do, but what we need to do is the defenses that we play, that stop the run in, we have to convert to pass rush better on play action passes. That would be the big point of emphasis that I would make. I don't think I need to tell you that if that's what we're doing statistically, that's pretty good. You know that. I don't even know why you're asking me."

#99 Josh Chapman, Defensive Lineman
On his getting shaken up and coming off the field against Florida:
"I kind of got my foot stuck in the ground. It kind of scared me a little bit, but I ended up okay. I'm pretty good."

On whether or not the defensive line was more physical than Florida's offensive line:
"We knew we had to come into the game and out-physical them at the line of scrimmage. We tried to stop the run and affect the quarterback. That was our main goal, stopping the run and affecting the quarterback by getting pressure on him. Once you get pressure on him and affect him that's when the sacks come."

On trash talk on the field:
"I mean there's always some down there. I mean you have offensive lineman to go against. They do a lot of extra shoving, a lot of talking to me. One thing here, we just try to talk with our pads and helmet. But that's what you're going to get. It's football."

On staying focused:
"I mean, we just staying focused by trying to finish. It's about our practice atmosphere. And when we have bad days at practice it kind of carries over. We're trying of start the week off right with great practices. When you have the first day right, practice ends up well, then you start playing well in the game."

On today being almost a break and that being what the team needs:
"I mean it kind of does, we do it every year. I mean just get our legs right. Instead of practicing on the field we do more inside the film room, try to watch more film on our opponent."

On the difference in an opponent's energy in the fourth quarter compared to the first:
"I mean the fourth quarter is what we pride ourselves on. We have the Fourth Quarter Program in the spring, and it's a hard program. It's about being quick mentally. If you're quick mentally, you're quick physically. We try to dominate our opponents for four quarters and the fourth quarter is what we pride ourselves on."

On whether the Alabama defense has made opposing offenses quit:
"We try to. I mean every time, it is what it is."

On the play of Alabama in the fourth quarter in last year's three losses:
"Last year we gave up in the fourth quarter. We didn't finish last year."

On whether he feels like they would have enough energy for a fifth quarter if they needed it:
"Yes. I mean we just try to keep on pressing that thing to the pedal. The fourth quarter is just one thing we pride ourselves on."

On giving up half the season's points in the first quarter:
"I mean the first quarter...guys come out shaky. That's one thing about football: you get kind of hyped up. Sometimes you lose track of what you're supposed to do. But when we settle down that's one thing we do."

On C.J. Mosley's skill set and the linebackers filling in for him:
"Yes he does. But we have a great linebacker corps. You pick any one of them bottom to top and I'd like to roll with any one of them."

On whether anyone can intimidate AJ McCarron:
"I feel that, once you're going against Courtney Upshaw, and Dont'a off the edge every day...I mean, those guys are two great pass rushers. Courtney being out there...I mean, a lot of guys fear Courtney. You got him out there in your face every day, you go out onto the field and nobody else will."

On how much the offensive line has improved since the start of the season:
"Those guys improved pretty well. Chance (Warmack), (William) Vlachos, (Anthony) Steen, all across the front, they're a great offensive line. It started in practice. When teams go against those guys, they're great. They'd be a nice punch in the middle. They're a great offensive line."

On what people mean when they talk about chemistry on an offensive line:
"I mean those guys bond together. They kind of sync together, they're all communicating. When you get guys, as a defensive lineman, when you hear o-lineman communicating with each other that means they're clicking so you try to dominate them to try to mess up their chemistry. We try to get our guys kind of strong and unified together."

On whether he's going to keep growing out his beard as long as the team keeps winning:
"Momma said I need to go ahead and trim that up now. She doesn't like it. I'll go ahead and trim it up a little bit."

On what happened on the play Upshaw had the pick-six:
"I mean he kind of wrapped around. It kind of looked like a screen and Courtney (Upshaw) was just out there being a ball player. He followed the quarterback's eyes and he ended up with the ball."

On whether it's his turn to be in the end zone:
"I hope so. That's one thing I want to do is score."

On Nick Gentry getting pressure on Brantley:
"(Nick) Gentry is a good pass rusher. The guy's probably one of our top ones on the team in the middle. He can get pressure. He's strong and knows how to use his hands."

On what it's like knowing that Will Lowery and other backup defenders can make plays:
"Having Will (Lowery) back there, Will's a great guy. I mean, me and Will played high school ball. We got a lot of guys on our team that do their responsibilities and are accountable for what they're doing. We can pick anybody on our defense. I'd go to war with them any day."

On what AJ McCarron is like out on the field, whether he is as feisty off it as he is on it:
"He's feisty off the field, the guy's competitive. I like that."

On what separates him from Greg McElroy:
"I mean those guys, they're great quarterbacks. AJ's great. He's different. He's AJ. He's athletic and knows how to play ball."

#35 Nico Johnson, Linebacker
On the start of the game:
"We kind of got off to a rocky start. But we played through a little adversity, tried to stick to our game plan and it fortunately it worked out to a good end for us."

On his performance in the game:
"I think I played well, I still had a couple mistakes, but I think I played well. I practiced hard the whole week and coach gave me a lot of motivation. I was confident with the game plan so I tried to do my best to help the team and make my presence felt."

On the importance of shutting down Florida's offense, especially in the Swamp:
"As far as rushing we pride ourselves week in and week out on that. We're just going to make the offense one dimensional and then we'll go from there. That's what we did, we made them one dimensional, we took away the run and, fortunately, like I said before, it worked out to a good end. They were forced to pass and our DBs came up big."

On whether homecoming will bring in more family for him to see:
"I do have family coming in, but as far as the game it doesn't change anything because last year we felt like we were in the same spot last year and we lost to South Carolina. We want to be able to finish and go forward with this so we're going to work hard. Like, we play Florida again or any other team that's good. We're going to respect our opponent and we're still going to work hard."

On whether or not they can take any team lightly:
"No sir. Not in the SEC."

On something he wants to work on in practice:
"Just cutting down on the mental errors. Like I said, I had a couple mistakes in practice and I want to try to be mistake free. That's what I'm going to do today, is try to correct what I messed up in the game, and just try to roll with the flow."

On his assessment of the defense five games into the season:
"I couldn't say. We have a lot of things to work on and just get better."

#75 Barrett Jones, Offensive Lineman
On the game at Florida:
"I think it was a really good game for our team. It was our biggest team win for sure. As the offensive line, I think we played our best game as a unit, so I'm really proud of that. It gives us confidence going into the next few weeks, and it's something we can grow on. At the same time, we probably left some points and some yards out there. We have to go back to the film and fix the things we messed up on, but overall I was pretty pleased."

On the offensive line having a good game:
"Sacks and yards are probably the two easiest things to measure of the offensive line, and we were pleased with both of those."

On Trent Richardson's performance:
"It's no secret that Trent is an outstanding player. I think he's gotten extremely comfortable on the offense as the year's gone on. He's in a great groove right now and that's a great feeling as an offensive lineman, blocking for a guy like that who you know is not going to be brought down by just one guy. It's an awesome feeling. It fires us up to block even just a little bit harder just because we know that long run could come at any time."

On what William Vlachos means to the line:
"I think the center has a really important role, especially on the road, just to communicate to everyone and make sure everyone is on the same page. I think this week, Vlachos did an outstanding job of blocking his assignments. He had a guy right over him, which is hard for a lot of centers, but I think he handled it really well and did a good job of communicating."

On the upcoming game against Vanderbilt:
"I know they have a really good defense. I think we have our work cut out for us this week, watching film and getting ready for them. They've forced a lot of turnovers and made a lot of explosive plays on defense so we have to make sure we watch film. The 24 hour rule is in effect. We've forgotten about Florida and now we are moving on to Vandy."

#3 Trent Richardson, Running Back
On the feeling after the big win at Florida:
"It was a hard day's work, and we know we got the job done and I did everything I could to go out there and win that game. It feels so good and is such a relief. That's why you see me run off the field with a smile on my face. It's one of the happiest moments ever, especially being on that field."



On Heisman hype:
"I try not to buy into it and just stay focused. I take one game at a time and try to make sure I'm doing everything I can to get better. Coach Saban always says whether we win or not, `What can you do to get better?' It's one thing you have to put in the back of your head. `What can I work on? Is it my vision or breaking tackles or my speed?' Even if it's just being a leader, I try to think about it every day. At the end of the day I want to see what I did to get better."

On Mark Ingram or himself not winning the Heisman in 2010 and what did he learn:
"We weren't really focused on that. We had two good running backs. It was going to be very hard to do in 2010 especially with Mark and me. It's the system we've always run, but it was even more balanced last year than anything. We were both humble about it and didn't worry about it. We are more put together as a team this year. We have more character and leadership this year than we had last year."

On having a walk-through today:
"We've been going hard every day so a walk through will mean a lot. Coach Saban isn't taking any pity on us. We don't look at it like that. Even when we do get a chance like this we have to go out there hard. We have to make the walk-through just right. We have Vanderbilt this week, and I know they aren't going to take any pity on us. They are going to be coming at us with every blitz they've got. I watched a little film last night and they come with a lot of blitzes. It's crazy, and I know they are going to try and come with everything."

On what the offensive line has proved since the first game:
"They've proved a lot. There was a lot of stuff we were missing. They are getting better and better every game. They really are just coming along."