University of Alabama Head Football Coach Mike Shula
Tennessee Week Press Conference Transcript of Opening Comments and 1st Five Questions
“We’ve got a big and exciting week coming up for our football team on the road at Tennessee. We’re going to rely a lot, again, on our upperclassmen, the guys that have been over to Knoxville, and it doesn’t seem like there’s that many, just to kind of help with these younger guys, fill them in on what this experience is going to be about. We’ve got a little momentum from last week’s win. It was good to see our football team win in overtime. We’re going to have to play better football this week just to give ourselves a chance. They’re a very talented football team. They’ve got good size, good speed, and good athleticism. They do a good job with their schemes. They present a lot of problems. We’ll have to work on the crowd noise offensively this week. We’re going to have to find good balance offensively, defensively; we’ve got to continue to play four solid quarters of football; and special teams do the same thing. I think one of the things we’ll talk to our team about this week is go up there and we’ve got to be better as far as penalties. Tennessee is obviously going to be tough enough. If we do things that beat ourselves, pre-snap penalties and things like that, then our chances go way down. So those are all the things we’ll talk to our guys about. It’s going to be an exciting week. The older guys understand what this week is all about and the younger guys are getting ready to find out.”
Coach, there seems to be this notion out there that your football team either plays up to or down to its level of competition. Would you respond to that?
“We go out and try to win every game. We haven’t played quite as well as we think we’re capable of playing. We think our best game is still out there.”
Can you pinpoint a reason or two as to why Tennessee is so much improved this year as opposed to the team you saw last year?
“It’s hard to say. I think the quarterback is playing better. They’ve been more opportunistic. They’ve made some plays offensively. Defensively, they were good last year; they’re good again this year. Last year they had some tough things happen before our game, some things that didn’t go their way. This year it kind of seems like the other way: they’re kind of the hot football team in the SEC and they’ve got a little momentum. They’re playing with some confidence, a lot more confidence it seems like.”
What kind of things are they doing differently offensively because, obviously, their production is better this year than it was last year?
“I just think they’re more efficient. They’re doing a couple of little things differently with the way they run the ball a little bit, maybe a couple of things different in the passing game. But I think the key is that their quarterback is more efficient. He’s not necessarily trying to force the ball down the field; he’s being much more patient. They are hitting some big plays, which maybe they had some opportunity last year and they didn’t make the plays. This year it seems like they are. He’s matured, like a lot of good, young, talented quarterbacks, how they get better with experience. And he’s got a lot of weapons to use with those two wideouts.”
How careful are you with Keith Brown, Jimmy Johns and D.J. Hall to an extent this week in practice to make sure they’re ready to go on Saturday?
“I think they’ll all be limited. We’ll see where they’re at today. We want to be smart as far as giving them a lot of work today. We’ve got to get them ready. We feel like all three of them are going to be ready. The trainers feel that way, the doctors feel that way. They just need a little bit of rest. We’re going to try to provide that today and yet try to give them as much as we can. Every guy is going to do better with practice time, so it’s a fine line but we’ll try to balance that today. And then, hopefully, tomorrow we’ll give them more and then Thursday, hopefully, all three of them will be as close to full speed as possible. If not, it’s that time of year where guys are beat up and we’ve got to give them a little bit of rest and give them as much practice time as we can and get them ready.”
Tennessee has almost always had a bye week before they played Alabama. Was that ever significant to you as a player and now as a coach that they get the week off before playing you?
“It depends. Depends if the week before you have injuries or depends on how your season’s going. A lot of times if you’re on a roll then you want to keep playing. They’ve had that in the past and every game’s been close, games that we have played (with Tennessee) so, I’ll tell you a little bit more after the game Saturday.”
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA PLAYER QUOTES
John Parker Wilson:
“Physically I feel really good. Last week I didn’t take many hits at all. The only sacks came when I pulled it down and was trying to scramble. I didn’t get hit at all, really. Mentally, I feel very good. I’ve got a lot of film work so far this week in preparation for Tennessee. I’m just ready to get practicing.”
“We played a lot better last week. We had over 400 yards offense. Anytime you do that, it’s real good. We got the running game going. We had some guys make some plays, and anytime you see that is good. To see KD (Kenneth Darby) run like he did was real encouraging.”
On importance of consistency:
“I think it is. We were talking about this before in the locker room. That’s one of the things that I think is important to our offense. My being consistent and playing consistent. Putting us in an opportunity to win and not making too many mistakes.”
Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines
“ This is one of the best offensive football teams we have seen on tape in a lot of years. They have all of the ingredients right now. They have a great offensive line that is really playing good. They are in sync and playing sharp. They really do a good job up front. That is probably the trademark of Tennessee for years and years. Their running backs are running good. They have two tailbacks that are really carrying the ball well. They are running the power good, running the zone play good. They are really mixing their offense up. Probably the biggest addition, the biggest difference in them, is the tight ends. Now all of a sudden, they have three tight ends that are into the game plan big time. They are really doing a good job of catching the ball and blocking extremely well. Their wide-outs are the speed you always expect a Tennessee wide-out to have. (Robert) Meachem is probably as fine a wide-out as there is in the country right now at catching the ball and getting deep on people. The thing that is the highlight of the whole show probably is the play of the quarterback. Again, he’s in rhythm. He’s in sync with the offense. They are really doing a great job of using him. He can throw that thing down the field and then come back. He’s really putting the ball underneath where it’s supposed to go. If there is a better offense team right now, there are probably three or four up in a group, but they are certainly in the elite.”
On how he’s feeling regarding injury recovery:
“I don’t know. I’m not feeling as well in kick-off. I just have to see how those go, and go from there, take it day to day.”
“Field goals really aren’t bothering me right now. Kick-off is a little bigger leg swing. I’ll take a limited number of reps at the beginning of the week so I’ll be more effective at Tennessee.”
“Their offense is sort off like Florida. They are just a lot of athletes. If you don’t put pressure on their quarterback then they will eat you up.”
On facing a passing team like Tennessee:
“Anytime you play a passing team as a defensive back you get a little excited. There are more opportunities to make a play on the ball; you have the opportunity to make more big plays to help the team out. Tackling is a big part of it.”
On Tennessee rivalry:
“Growing up this is one of the biggest games as an Alabama fan that I loved to watch. You hear that if you beat Tennessee you get the special cigar. That’s huge. It’s just one of those things. I still have my cigar from last year and I’d like to get another one. It’s huge.”