University of Alabama Football Coach Mike Shula
Mississippi State Game Week Press Conference Transcript of Opening Comments and 1st Five Questions
October 31, 2006
“We’re back in the SEC this week, at home, with Mississippi State coming in. This is the first of three SEC games for us. Our team is a little bit beat up from last week. This game last year was a very physical football game, kind of defensive football game. We had 17 points and no offensive touchdowns. Mississippi State is a very good defensive team. They’ve had some injuries on offense a little bit like us, maybe even more so than we’ve had. Although they’re a hot team offensively right now. I think the last three games they’re averaging 33 points a game. Their defense, even though they’ve given up some points, when you watch them on tape, they’ve got good personnel. They’re productive. They’re fast and physical. So we’ve got to play a very, very solid football game to give ourselves a chance. We’ve got to have all three phases. One of the good things to see last week was we had some help from the defense with some turnovers. We had some help from the special teams, and we’re going to need that again this week. We’ll start preparation today. We’ll look at our games last year and previous years as well as what they’re doing this year just to see how they’re going to defend us.”
Can you update us on John Parker Wilson, Keith Brown and the guys that are hurt?
“Thinking positively, I think all of them are going to be able to play. John Parker went back in the game. We wouldn’t have let him back in if we didn’t feel like he was in a position that would really hurt him. Right now I feel real good about him playing. I think he feels real good about it. I think he’s probably where he was this time last week and no worse going into Tuesday’s practice. We’ll see how he is today. I don’t know if he’ll get quite as many reps as he does on a normal Tuesday just to make sure we don’t make that ankle sore. But I feel good about him.
“Keith Brown feels much better than he did this time last week. We’re going to give him even more practice time today and yet we’ll be smart with that to maybe try and give him more as the week goes on. I think the other guys should be ready to go: Jimmy Johns and KD (Kenneth Darby) would be the only other two. B.J. (Stabler) we’ll see. He was sore last week. We held him out. We’ll see where he’s at practice-wise today. Even if we limit him practice-wise today, unless something goes south, so to speak, we think he’ll be ready to play. Antoine hurt his ankle a little bit. He’ll probably be a little bit limited today, but I think he’ll be ready for the game. And then Javier Arenas hurt his shoulder and he’ll be probably non-contact in drills today. But other than that, I think he’ll be ready to go. Like a lot of other teams, especially the one that we’re playing, we’ve got some guys that are beat up but I think, hopefully, like I said, thinking positively, we’ll be ready to go.”
If John Parker is not able to be as mobile as he has been, does it concern you with some of the speed you’re going to face off the edges in the coming weeks?
“Yes, it does. You say coming weeks.’ We’re worried about this week. They’ve got some guys that do a real good job that rushed the passer against us last year. Anytime, if your quarterback is limited, which hopefully he won’t behe probably is a little bit today and we wouldn’t ask to move around todayyou’re a little bit concerned. We take that into affect with our game planning and things like that. And we also make it an emphasis for the rest of the offense as well as him, just, Hey, let’s make sure we do our job better,’ so there’s not guys hitting him on every play when he’s throwing it and things like that.”
Right now Mississippi State has one of the best rush defenses in the conference. How are you going about in attacking this?
“Number one, we’ve got to stay out of long-yardage situations. That’s one way to keep yourself, against a good pass rushing team, from getting your quarterback too much pressure. The other thing is just kind of focusing. We feel like we’re better on the offensive line than we were going into this game last year. We’re more mature. We’ve got guys that work together. I think the other thing is, scheme-wise, you’ve got to make sure that you’re not going to ask your quarterback to hold on to the ball for a long time. Plays that do that, because those pass rushers aren’t getting further away, they’re usually getting closer when the ball is snapped. So, those types of things, and just be more efficient on early downs to stay out of long-yardage situations.”
Just looking at them on film with (Michael) Henig as opposed to without Henig, what does he do for them? How much of a difference does he make?
“He made some big plays in last week’s game. You talk about him, from watching him last week, and then watching him last year when we played them, he’s just a totally different guy. So much more confident. He’s a really good athlete. He’s not afraid to throw it in there. His arm strength has improved. His accuracy has improved. His confidence has improved. And he’s doing a good job of finding some receivers that are very big and capable of getting open and making tough catches and, then, also taking it the distance once they catch it. So, they’re playing with a lot of confidence, probably as much as we’ve seen in the last few years coming into this game offensively, throwing the football.”
I know you guys liked Keith (Brown) before he went down, but do you have an increased appreciation for him now that you have played without him? Have you been surprised with how different it’s been?
“We were talking about this coming in here. One of the things that we’ve got to do a better job of as a team offensively is, we’ve had some guys get hurt during the course of the season the last couple of years, our productivity has gone down when those starters have gotten hurt. We need to be better. We need to be an offense. We need to be a football team. When one of your playmakers, when one of your guys who has been very productive goes down, we’ve got to have other guys step up. And not just the guy that comes in. Offensively, for example with Keith, everyone else has got to step up. We can’t let the production slide just because one guy is out of the lineup. But, no, we’ve had as much appreciation of Keith, even when he was healthy, as we do now.”