University of Alabama Football Coach Mike Shula
Auburn Game Week Press Conference Transcript
November 14, 2006
“I think a lot has already been said this week about this game, even though it’s just Tuesday. I know we’ve answered a lot of questions already and talked about what the atmosphere is going to be like, how our players feel, what we’re going to have to expect from playing in this football game. I think the main thing that our players have to do, like every other week, is have a great week of practice with great focus. We’re playing against a really good football team. A team that’s got a lot of speed on defense and yet they’ve still got size. Their inside linemen are big and play big. Their outside defensive linemen are speed rushers and can chase things down from the backside. Their linebackers are fast flow guys. Their secondary gets up in your face and presents problems in the bump and run.”
“Offensively, when they’re running the football, that’s when they have the most success, and that comes kind of right out of their mouth. They’ve got backs in (Kenny) Irons and (Brad) Lester that are just as good as we’ve seen all year. Their quarterback does a great job managing the game. They do a lot of misdirection things off of their running game, and their receivers have been making big plays for them. So we’ve got our hands full and we know that coming into this game. Our goal is to put together four quarters of football in all three phases and lay it out there on the line each and every play. And, as we do every week, go play that play with the mindset that that’s going to be the one that wins the football game.”
A two-part question: first of all, watching Brodie (Croyle) get sacked as many times as he did last year, what was that feeling like as a coach, just watching that? And then this year, obviously with your offensive line situation much more stabilized and John Parker (Wilson) being more mobile is there any chance something like that could happen again?
“We hope not. Yeah, it’s tough any time you quarterback’s getting pressure, but you’ve just got to keep fighting through it. You’ve got to keep talking about it up front, whatever you need to get corrected. We’re more experienced now upfront even though we did lose the senior center. I think our line has progressed in the pass protection department, although we’ve struggled at times. In all due respect to Brodie, John Parker has kind of moved around a little bit better. Brodie would probably disagree with his athleticism. But the main thing that we’ve got to do as far as pass protection is number one, stay out of long yardage situations. We all know that. You’ve got to be able to run the football, too, to make those guys honor the run so their not just rushing up the field and speed rushing and using their talent in that aspect.”
Coach, a lot was said a couple of weeks ago when you guys had a great week of practice and you lost to Mississippi State. Do you guys make any adjustments in the preparation to maybe try to get how well you’ve practice, get that success carried on to Saturdays?
“Well, we keep talking about it. I think it’s important to have that good week of practice. If we don’t, we make sure we’re going to do things to stay out there to make sure we get them corrected. All that does is give you a chance, you feel like, to go out there and play with that opportunity. I think it’s important for me to tell you guys that, personally, because I think our team has been really focused all year and haven’t had very many bad practices going back really from training camp. And that’s how our older guys have led this football team. Now we’ve just got to take it to the field. And if there was a magicsomething in a book that you could tell them all to do to and just go out there and do itwe’d be doing that. I think part of it is experience. I think part of it is giving them as many looks as you possibly can to some of the younger guys. You don’t always get the looks that you practice. But to have each guy know that if he’s got to make any adjustments, go out there with confidence and make it. Just follow your rules. Follow the things that you’ve been taught to do and those should take care of themselves, and if you need to make any adjustments on game day or in between drives, then go ahead and do that. Last year I think we did that real well, especially on defense, and I think that comes with experience. And this year we’ve done it decently at times. Other times we haven’t quite made some of the adjustments we need to make.”
You guys have had a few disappointing losses this year, but this is may be the biggest rivalry on the schedule. What does beating Auburn do for the team? And does that maybe not cure but make it easier to forget some of those other games?
“Yes. It does. This game is that big. It’s a big game for all these kids, especially the ones in this state, for this program, for the seniors winding up their last home game, their last game against Auburn, their last SEC game. All those types of things. You’re heading into the off-season; your last regular season game. So the kids all know that. They are motivated by that. Some of the ones that don’t are maybe the out of state kids that haven’t played in this game before. They’ll find out in a hurry.”
Coach, Keith Brown was limping pretty good in here earlier. He said he was surprised you guys brought him in here for interviews today and he seemed a little more hopeful than sure that he would play Saturday. How much work does he get today in practice and then how hopeful are you that he’ll play Saturday?
“We think he’s a lot better than he was even 48 hours ago. He’s continuing to get treatment. He’s better today than he was yesterday. We’ll probably keep him limited today and then see how’s he’s feeling tomorrow and Thursday. We want to give him every opportunity to play. He did kind of get rolled up pretty good but he’s moving around a lot better and he’s got the right mindset, and I think that’s the important thing.”
Coach, last year coming into this game Ken Darby and Irons both were leading, one-two in the SEC in rushing and their games have kind of been de-railed. Can you kind of talk about the two running games and why both teams have not been as successful with their premier running backs? I know Lester’s kind of picked up the slack over there at Auburn.
“I think some, I guess with Irons, I know he’s been hurt and has missed a couple of games and missed some action in that regard. It’s hard to put your finger on it. I know we don’t have as many plays. It seems like the games are going by faster. Some of the plays, if you’re throwing the football, it takes away, obviously, from the running game. Our offensive line and our running game, including K.D. (Darby) and including Le’Ron (McClain) and our tight ends, it just hasn’t been quite as consistent. As far as their football team goes I think it’s hard to put your finger on it. They didn’t have the statistics rushing the ball or really offensively that they wanted to have last week. That’s going to be even more motivation for them to come out there and think they’re going to really try to run the football against our defense and try to use that with their play action passing game to work to be effective against us. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why you’re not moving it in the running game. Defenses do different things. Every defense is a little bit different. The main thing is the execution. We keep talking to our guys all the time: you can’t have one guy on this play and then one guy on that play. Even though let’s say it’s the right guard. He plays 60 plays, and if he has five bad snaps but plays 55 really good plays, that’s still not quite good enough because if the left guard does the same thing and they’re all on different plays, then you’re not operating the way you need to operate. That’s where we’ve got to get better up front and as an offense.”
Coach, as you saw their game against Georgia last week, was there anything that you could take note of for this Saturday?
“Well, Georgia hit them with some big plays in the passing game then they got some turnovers and got a lead on them in that aspect. Defensively, I thought (Georgia) took some chances that were not necessarily unsound but they just took some chances and made a couple of plays on some interceptions. (Georgia) had a tipped ball so they had a lot of good fortune. (Georgia) ran the ball in some different formations. I know Auburn is going to try to correct all those things. (Auburn) had a couple of guys out of place that they feel like they need to get corrected for this game but you also look at some other games where they are stuffing the run pretty good and doing a lot of things that makes them be one of the better defenses in this conference. So we’ve got to be sound in what we’re doing. I think a big key, like I said earlier, is the running game on both sides of the ball, and obviously to do that is to win the battles upfront at the line of scrimmage with the offensive and defensive linemen.”
Is it difficult to keep this game just in the fish bowl of 60 minutes this Saturday and not really think about the cumulative pressure of the four years and all that?
“I don’t think it’s difficult right now. I think our guys are going to be focused in on our game plan, especially when they are over here during the meetings and on the practice field. Maybe as they are on their own in study hall or eating dinner or whatever, they’re probably thinking about some of those things. But we like to use some of those things as motivation to You know how we felt the last couple of years, we don’t want to feel that way, so keep that in mind when you’re going through your preparation and pushing yourself mentally and physically during the course of the week.”
Mike, just kind of follow up on that when you talked to guys who have played in this game they just talk about how much different it is than any other game they’ve played in. Tell me how you feel about the way your young guys are going to handle that?
“Well I think our young guys will kind of follow the older guys, the seniors, and I know the intensity just in the preparation picks up today. It’s different from any other week. You’d like to say that it’s not [and] you’d like to say they’re all the same as far as preparation but this is different and I think the younger guys will sense that. I think it’s important for the guys that haven’t played or the guys who have just played a few snaps to understand it. Even though they may only have a couple of opportunities, it’s going to be critical for those guys to know what they’re role is and to do their job the best way they can because that play might make the difference. I think that’s the message the older guys can help us as coaches get across to the younger guys.”
There are a lot of elements that aren’t part of the game anymore because it’s not at Legion Field; you know both bands playing the National Anthem, two student sections, all that stuff. What do you think the series has lost from that standpoint, or what are your memories of Legion Field when the series was there that isn’t part of the series now?
“It’s kind of torn. I think that was part of the tradition and part of the history playing that game in a neutral site, splitting the tickets right down the middle. I was never out there when the bands were playing the National Anthem but I think that was unique going to Birmingham, Legion Field, that whole setting was pretty unique. I think it is nice now to have it a home and home because you can have your own fans obviously, you can alternate back and forth and just like any other game, you feel like you have an advantage when you play at home and you can use the crowd noise a little bit in your favor.”
Coach obviously the one for the thumb thing has to be motivation for your players and reminding them of what’s being said on the other side...do you have someone looking for those comments?
“I think each and every week there is always things that you have in your building that go up if there are things that are important for your players to read. I think of the things we do is look for information that might help us during the week on offense, defense and special teams. There are a lot of things being tossed back and forth, how much more can you get to be motivated by right now, our kids understand how important this game is and how they have to play to have an opportunity.”
Mike with Keith Brown’s injury problems that seemed to have turned defenses focus on DJ Hall, yet he seems to keep making catches, can you talk about the year he is having?
“He has done a nice job; we have been able to move him around a little bit so teams cannot just focus in one him at one position. He has real good awareness obviously eh is catching the ball very well, making tough catches when the ball is up in the air and he is being contested by one of two defensive backs. He is giving John Parker Wilson a lot of confidence. If Keith cannot go then it will be important for him to step up in that role too. We are getting much better production from Will Oakley, Nikita Stover; Matt Cadell has made a few plays for us two.”
Coach can you run down injuries, include Johnson and the ride side of the offensive line?
“It looks like everyone will practice today except Rashaad and Keith will be limited, Rashaad still has an outside chance to play we will see where he is at tomorrow, he is improving more and more. We are not going to rule him out just yet. Hopefully he will have a chance to practice maybe on tomorrow or Thursday. I think everybody else is pretty much in good shape.”
Coach I know the fans wanted to see more personality and obviously more touchdowns in the last few weeks and maybe we saw some things in the LSU game that would give you staff and players some hope that maybe things are going to get better. Can you talk about some of the brighter moments that may lead you to believe you guys are turning the corner this weekend?
“I think everybody’s personality looks better when you are scoring touchdowns that’s the best was to increase your personality. I think that just moving the ball in the air the way John Parker and our receivers did, our pass protection is better for the most part we still struggles a little bit and had to many sacks. I think the way the guys responded after LSU going up on us two scores, really did not bat an eye, just kept focus and kept playing, those are all things that are important to take into this game. We still had some opportunities there, where we did not come up with points; those are the things ones we have to keep working as hard as we can to find a way to get the ball into the end zone. But when you can move the ball against a good defense, even though we did not win the game there are some things you can take out of it to give you offense some confidence.”
In recruiting, obviously you guys are recruiting some of the same players as Auburn, does the result of this game make or break you with some kids, who might have both of you on their short list, or is that over stated to have it come down to one result?
“I think there are a lot of kids that have already made their minds up that will not be swayed by the outcome of this game. One thing I learned when I got here, as a player; it is also what I learned as a coach; after my first year of recruiting, I talked to all of our signees on their deciding factors and probably three-fourths of them said, Coach, I’ve loved Bama since I was a kid.’ I think there may be some guys who are kind of on the fence; most of them are probably out of state guys that if you can bring them into an atmosphere like this and have some success that really weighs a lot in your favor.”