Javier Arenas Named Semifinalist for Jim Thorpe Award

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM
ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

Nov. 3, 2009

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The No. 3 Alabama football team practiced for two hours in full pads Tuesday afternoon at the Thomas-Drew Practice Facility, as preparations continue for Saturday’s game with No. 9 LSU.

Alabama senior cornerback Javier Arenas was named one of 12 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award on Tuesday evening.
Arenas is one of three SEC players among the semifinalists.  The finalists will be announced Nov. 23 and the winner will be named at the Home Depot College Football Awards Show on Dec. 10 in Orlando, Fla.

“The credit really goes to my teammates on defense as well as our coaches,” said Arenas. “Coach Saban and Coach Smart are the best defensive coaches in the country and put is in a position to be successful as a defense. I appreciate the Thorpe Award recognizing me and it’s an honor to be named along with the other great players on that list, but our main goal is to be successful as a team. If you are, all of the other stuff takes care of itself.” 

Alabama sophomore running back Mark Ingram and senior offensive lineman Mike Johnson talked about the challenges the Crimson Tide’s offense faces this Saturday as it goes against a talented LSU defense.

“They are big and fast, strong and physical,” Ingram said on Tuesday.  “The scheme they play, they do it really well. They are coached up really well. They all do their assignments. They all get to the ball and they make it really hard for offenses to have success. “

“They’ve got a lot of athleticism and size up front and a lot of talented players,” Johnson said.  “We are definitely going to have to prepare.”

On the defensive side, Alabama junior linebacker Rolando McClain LSU’s dual threat on offense, both running and throwing the football.

“They are just like any other LSU team,” McClain said. “They are very physical up front.  They like to run the ball.  I think this year, more than last year, they have a dual-threat quarterback.  The guy is able to run.  If he’s given time in the pocket, he can make plays with his arm.  We have to play sound defense against these guys.  They are very good, and they are well coached.”

The Alabama-LSU game will be nationally televised by CBS Sports with kickoff set for 2:30 p.m. (CST) from Bryant-Denny Stadium. Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson and Tracy Wolfson will call the action. The game can also be heard on the Crimson Tide Sports Network, with Eli Gold, Phil Savage and Barry Krauss. The game can be heard locally on WFNN-FM (95.3) in Tuscaloosa.

Sophomore running back Mark Ingram:

On why you’re so good at protecting the ball:
“When you get in traffic you have to keep the ball high and tight and get two hands on it when you run through traffic. When you get in traffic just keep two hands on it, that’s all you can really do. You have to stay focused and be alert. If you don’t have the ball you can’t do anything else. As a runner you have to take pride in holding on to the ball.”

On what makes you effective as a runner:
“Just working hard at practice, studying films and doing the best I can everyday at practice. Every day I try to improve and get better as a player. That’s all you can do is try and make improvements everyday and never be satisfied and always try to get better.”

On which Alabama player you’d vote for in the Heisman Trophy race:
“Probably, Ro (Rolando McClain). The impact he has on our team. Not just how he plays, but from a leadership standpoint. As a player, he goes out there every day and he makes plays. He comes to play every day. He knows everything that’s going on with the defense. He knows what the d-line is doing. He knows what the corners are doing. He makes all the calls and makes sure everybody is set where they are supposed to be before the play even starts. Just the overall impact he’s had on the team for making plays and being a leader, that’s why I would vote for him.”


On how a handful of plays could make a difference in game of this magnitude:
“In a game like this, you go out on the field and whoever plays the hardest and whoever does the little things right the most consistently throughout the game, that’s who will win the game. You can’t really focus on ‘we’ve got to make this big play’ or ‘we’ve got to do this or got to do that’. We have to focus on the game plan, perfect it and execute it. Whoever does the little things right the most consistently wins the game.”

Senior left guard Mike Johnson:

On going against nose guard Terrence Cody in practice:
“Too many times. It happens every week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We do an inside-run drill and I’ve had to go against him pretty often.”

On advice to someone having to block Cody:
“It would probably be to get on him before he gets on you. Once he gets 350 pounds of momentum going, it’s pretty hard to stop the guy in his tracks. He is strong and he is agile and he is a freak for his size. Get on him before he gets on you is the best advice I can give anybody.”

On how hard it is going against the Alabama defense:
“They are a defense that is one of the best run-stopping units in the country and most of the time when we face them its run drills and stuff like that. Just talking about Terrence, he is the prototypical nose guard that can take up double teams and two-gap center and does a great job at what he does. Some of the other guys up front like Brandon Deaderick, Lorenzo Washington and Marcell Dareus and linebackers like Rolando (McClain) and Cory Reamer, those guys are great at what they do. They are not just a great defense on Saturday they are a great defense throughout the week because they work hard, part of that comes against us as an offense. We’re lucky to have a defense to go up against like that on a weekly basis. It just makes us better in the long run. They are going to continue to get better at what they do and we’re going to continue to get batter at what we do.”

On importance of being that diverse offense once again:
“It’s been a combination of things. One of the goals we had coming into the year was to have more explosive plays, especially in the passing game. That really wasn’t one of our strengths last year. I think we did a good job of starting off on that note and we’ve kind of got to get back to that. We had a lot of explosive plays and play-action down the field early in the year, and we’ve got to get back to that. On the same note, guys have done a good job. We’ve faced better defenses. There is a lot to be said about SEC defenses that can come in and stop the pass and we’ve played some good safeties and good defenses the past two weeks and they did a good job of kind of throwing some things at us. We’ve still got a pretty a good offense, when you talk about Julio (Jones) and Greg (McElroy) and Mark Ingram. Mark and Julio are both sophomores and second-year guys, and Greg’s a first-year starter and we’ve got three new offensive linemen. We’ve just got to get back to what we planned on doing from the onset of the season - try and make more explosive plays in the air and on the ground.”

Senior cornerback/kick returner Javier Arenas:

On how the play of Alabama’s front seven allows you to do more things as cornerback:
“I’d say it’s great communication and a lot of guys who are on the same page and things like that, as well as a lot of athletes.  The front guys they make it much easier by getting pressure on the quarterback, so we won’t have to cover for six or seven seconds.”

On memories of last two Alabama-LSU games:
“It’s always a tough environment to play as far as being in the game and both teams have a chip on their shoulders going in the past games.  It’s a very competitive environment and each guy wants to beat the guy across the ball, so it’s just a very competitive game.”

On what makes Rolando McClain so good:
“Rolando McClain. He is smart.  He is real smart.  He has all the pieces a great linebacker should possess.  He is smart.  He is fast.  He will hit you. It’s like Coach Saban being out there on defense, just picture Coach Saban being huge and being able to play football, that’s what it’s like out there.”

Junior linebacker Rolando McClain:

On how this program is starting to build based on Coach Saban’s past recruiting efforts:
“In order to have a good team, you have to bring in good guys each year. I think that is what he has done with me and Kareem Jackson and some of those guys, and then with the big recruiting class with Julio (Jones) and Mark (Ingram).  I think he has done a great job and I am sure we will continue to get good guys, but that’s not really what we’re focusing on right now.  We play with the guys we have right now and try and develop some of those guys so they can be contributors also.”

On how close you and Coach Saban’s personalities are:
“We are somewhat similar.  We are both perfectionists. We have a low tolerance for guys who don’t know what to do and I think that’s what makes us somewhat similar.  Obviously, he’s a guy that knows what to do and being my third year, I pretty much know a lot about this defense, and we’re both good leaders. I guess that’s the comparison.”

On development of Alabama defense:
“I think our success this year comes from our guys playing with each other for three years.  We have a lot of returning starters from last year, and we’re a lot more comfortable with each other, and we’re a lot more comfortable with the defense.  Being comfortable allows us to play faster and that’s where our success comes from.”

On what Coach Saban instills in your defense:
“It’s just hard work.  We’ve all bought into the program.  Besides the hard work, it’s like we are a band of brothers out there.  We don’t want to let the guy beside us down.  I think that’s the important thing and that’s what he has put in us, we don’t want let the guy beside us down.  We give our all on every play, so we don’t let him down. You don’t want to be that guy that messes up a play, because everybody has to be accountable for what they do on the field and accountability is what he’s taught us.”