Nov. 12, 2008
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The top-ranked Alabama football team worked out for two hours in full pads Wednesday afternoon at the Thomas-Drew Practice Facility as preparation continues for Saturday’s game with the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
“I am proud and pleased with the way the players have worked this week,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said following Wednesday’s practice. “They’ve had a good attitude. It is a challenging preparation for us. It always is with the way we do things and the players have worked through it very, very well.
“I think on the offensive line we’ve done a good job of blocking people, getting a hat on a hat and that’s going to be really important for us in this game. We’ve worked really hard to improve on the passing game this week. It was a little windy out there today, but seems like the timing and execution is getting better and that’s something that will help us tremendously, especially in this game because they have such a good pass defense.”
Alabama and Mississippi State will meet Saturday, Nov. 15 in a nationally televised game on ESPN. The kick off is set for 6:45 p.m. (CST). The MSU game will mark the Tide’s eighth television appearance of the season and seventh national telecast. Mike Patrick (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (analyst) and Holly Rowe (sideline reporter) will call the game to a national cable audience.
The game will also be available live online via ESPN360.com -- ESPN's signature broadband sports TV network. The game is available completely free to any student on campus (in fact, to any student on any U.S. college campus -- nearly 18 million people). This season, ESPN360.com will feature more than 300 college football games.
Coach Saban also participated in the SEC Head Coaches Teleconference Wednesday morning and here are some of those comments:
On expectations and progression of Julio Jones:
“We didn’t have any expectations for him. Anytime we recruit young guys, you bring them in and you try to help them develop and learn and grow and don’t really know what their maturity is going to be and the ability to sustain. I think the biggest surprise for us is his maturity as a competitor. The way he has been able to learn and grow and improve during the season and not be affected by external factors, which is usually a difficult thing for a young player. I think that’s why he has been so productive and that’s why he continues to improve. He has had an outstanding year for us.”
On progression of John Parker Wilson and the receivers other than Julio Jones:
“I think it’s important that we develop a consistency in our passing game. I think when you throw the ball sometimes it is not determined as much by you as it is by how the other team plays. Teams play us with a lot of eight-man fronts. They play a lot of single coverage outside. So there is a lot of opportunity to throw the ball vertically down the field. If you don’t do that on occasion, they are going to sit on all your routes short and they are playing man-to-man and that’s going to make it more difficult for you. I do think Julio has played extremely well and we have some inconsistencies with some of the other guys, but they’ve all shown an ability to play well. I think the key to the drill is we all need a little more consistency week-in and week-out, player-in and player-out, so that we can develop a confidence with some of these other players that they are going to make plays and the other teams is going to have to respect them on the field as well.”
On keeping the players focused for Saturday’s game:
“I think our players have handled the external factors throughout the season. It doesn’t really matter where you’re ranked right now. It doesn’t define what happens at the end of the season. It’s always our goal to improve. I kind of tell our players they’re climbing a mountain and you’re at 19,000 feet and the air changes a little bit, and it’s little bit rarer, and it’s harder to breathe, but you have to stay focused on the things that are going to help you continue to climb. If you don’t do that the consequences can be even more severe because it more dangerous at this elevation. It’s always a management with people not getting relief-syndrome and being satisfied with where they are at and wanting to continue to strive and improve and do even better and I think that’s going to be the real key for all the teams that are in the position that we are in right now. Who can do that the best?
On how senior leadership has helped your team:
“We have nine seniors on our team and they are all good guys and they all affect other people. Antoine Caldwell, John Parker (Wilson) and Rashad (Johnson) probably are he guys that get recognized the most as guys that will affect other people, which to me is the key element in being a leader. I think it’s created a real positive attitude on our team. We have some young guys that have fit in well, which was important to this team. I think the maturity and leadership has allowed that to happen. Our offensive line has some real strong leadership that had affected the other players on our team with their toughness and tenacity and the way they compete and play. It’s kind of a combination of a lot of things, but I don’t think you can go into an environment like we did Saturday when you don’t have strong character and leadership on your team and people staying focused, especially when things, you know, go poorly. We turned the ball over three times in the first half. We had to overcome a lot of adversity, and I think that says a lot about the character that we have and the leadership that we have.”