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Coach Nick Saban Press Conference Transcript



Oct. 20, 2008

Opening statement:
“I think there are a couple of things. Our players really played hard in the last game.  It was a very physical game.  We did not execute fundamentally as well at times in the game. Certainly that needs to be our focus as coaches in terms of what we need to do and I am sure our players will want to do the same thing. I think that sometimes when you get affected by external factors, which I am sure you’ll want to ask me about today, and I’m not going to want to talk about them, but you’ll ask anyway, then sometimes you lose sight of that. I think that is critical for our team I terms of the situation that they are in, the people that they have to play and what we need to go do be an effective team.  I think that’s very, very important.  I think when you play with that kind of intensity, physical toughness and focus, it helps your execution and you do the little things right that helps you be successful.  I’m very complimentary of Ole Miss as a team. They battled. They are physical.  They are tough. They’ve got a good scheme, on both sides of the ball, and it’s a very challenging game for us. Regardless of their record, they are one of the better teams that we have played.  That’s kind of what we see about this game and that’s what we need to do.  I think whether it’s the first half, second half or whenever it is, that’s what we need to do, and when we don’t that we don’t play as well.  Whenever it is, that’s what we need to do.

‘We did an MRI on (junior nose guard Terrence) Cody and he has an MCL sprain.  He’s probably going to be out at least two weeks and then we will re-evaluate where he is. It’s a similar injury to what Smitty (junior left tackle Andre Smith) had and we will see what happens.

“We had some players who did an outstanding job in the last game. John Parker (Wilson) had a good game. Mike Johnson, who is also the SEC lineman of the week and has played well for us all year, had another good game.  Rashad Johnson really had a good game – nine tackles, caused a fumble and had an interception. Javy (junior defensive back and return specialist Javier Arenas) had a good game.  Brandon Fanney had a good game.  On special teams, Robby Green and Chris Rogers both did a very good job, so we had some positive performances by a lot of our players.

“Tennessee is obviously a big challenge for us. They have a lot of good players. They have 16 starters back from last year’s team.  Phillip Fulmer has been there a long time. He has a lot of experience and he has won a lot of games. He is going to get this team playing better and better and better as the season goes on, I am sure of that, and they have made a significant amount of improvement and played very well last week against Mississippi State.  They have eight starters back on offense. The offensive line is very, very good.  They have two receivers back.  They have three or four very good runners.  Nick Stephens has done a good job since he has played in these last few games at quarterback.  Defensively, they are in the Top 20 in just about every category nationally that you can be in.  They are the second-best defense in the SEC, statistically, in almost every area, whether its yards, points allowed or whatever it is.  Eric Berry has five interceptions. They have 14 picks as a defense (ranks No. 1 nationally). They are a ball-hawking bunch that thrives on turnovers.  They have some people up front that can rush the pass.  They’ve got good linebackers.  This is a good team. This team has as good a specialist – punter, kicker, return guys – that we have played against all year long.  They do a very good job on special teams.  So regardless of the record in this game, it doesn’t really matter what our (record) is or what their (record) is or anything else. We need to bring our A game. We need to play our best football game of the year and that is certainly what we are going to try to get our players to focus on to do.”

On playing Brad Smelley for first time and are their other guys we could see down the stretch to add more depth:
“I think there are some guys that have played, that haven’t played a lot that could play. There may some opportunities created for some players because of injury.  For example, we will have to look at the nose guard situation. Lorenzo Washington has played there before and we will probably look at him there a little bit. (Nick) Gentry played a little bit there in the game last week.  Damion Square is a freshman that we’ve redshirted so far that we may give some reps to this week and make a decision later on in the week as to how we go from a depth standpoint at that position. We don’t have a plan for that. Smelley has been a guy that we have been back-and-forth on all year long as to whether we should play him or not play him.  He does give us something athletically as a tight end and pass receiver and he can block and has a role. He is the kind of athlete that can help you on special teams. All of those factors contributed to making the decision to go ahead and play the guy.”

On role of Josh Chapman:
“He plays with strength.  He plays with power. He plays run-blocks very well. He is a true nose guard for what we want and he has played all year. It’s not like you haven’t seen him. He is out there and probably plays one-third third of the run down plays in every game.  He did a very good job in this game when he had to play the last quarter and a half.”

On role of Brandon Fanney:
“He played well in the last game. He makes plays as a pass-rusher and he has constantly improved as a stand-up player, which is maybe not totally what he is used to, but he has learned to do that. But the one thing that he is, is he is instinctive and he plays with instincts out there which is why I think he continues to make plays and is productive.”

On an emotional letdown without Cody in the lineup:
“I don’t think you replace guys like Cody.  He is a very good player and he has played well for us.  I think the other players like him and have a lot of confidence in him.  I think this is a time for players to support the players that are going to play.  We all want to support Cody and help him get back and get healthy so he can play well again.  I am sure that’s what he wants. That’s what we want.  That’s what the other players want, but we have to help support the other players that are going to play. I think the leadership on the team understands that and will certainly do that.”