Countdown to Kickoff
Week 11 Football Press Conference Transcript



Nov. 14, 2011

Head Coach Nick Saban

Opening statement:

“After watching the Mississippi State film, and then having watched all of their film up to that game, there’s something about that team.  They play tough on defense.  They’re very competitive.  They really play hard.  It seems like every game that people beat them, you beat them, but you don’t ever look good doing it.  Nobody else looked very good doing it either.  The fact of the matter is that the players competed very well in the game, played hard.  They played extremely well on defense.  They didn’t get started very well offensively, especially in the first half, but responded much better in the second half.  Obviously there are some things that we need to clean up and correct, and we’ll continue to try to do that.”

“You guys got the players of the week.  Trent (Richardson) had a great game.  Eddie (Lacy) did a good job coming off the bench, was a great change of pace and made some big runs.  Kevin Norwood did a good job in the game.  Chance Warmack did a good job up front.  Mark Barron and Dont’a (Hightower) were very, very good.  I understand Dont’a (Hightower) got recognized by the league.  (Marquis) Maze, Kelly Johnson, (DeQuan) Menzie and (Will) Lowery did a good job on special teams.”

“I know that people will talk about special teams.  Our special teams did one bad thing in the game.  We didn’t cover one kickoff correctly.  The rest of what the special teams did was okay.  There is a difference between special teams and specialist.  A lot of people think that if your specialists don’t perform well, that means your special teams were bad, and that’s not necessarily right.  It means what it means.  It’s very easy to define that and we need to improve.  When we try these long field goals, we are not going to make those at the same percentage we should be making some of the other ones.  We need to continue to work on that as well.”

“From an injury standpoint, Barrett Jones will still be day-to-day.  Vinnie (Sunseri) will be fine and be able to practice some today.  Jesse Williams will be day-to-day.  (Darius) Hanks will be day-to-day.  We’ve got some other guys that are beat up that may not be able to practice.  We’ll just see how they respond through the course of the week and make a decision later on as to whether we will play them in this game or not.”

“This is senior day for our senior players.   I’m always happy to see the seniors get recognized for the contribution that they have made to the program as well as the university and how they have represented the university, but especially this group, who has won 45 games in their career here in the last four years.  I think it puts them up there with just about everyone in everything.  We’re happy that they get a chance to be recognized and everybody realizes what their accomplishments have been since they’ve been here.”

“Georgia Southern does what they do extremely well.  They kind of run flex-bone offense, I don’t know the appropriate name.  It’s sort of a Georgia Tech style kind of offense—option offense that is very similar to the wishbone, but it doesn’t line up like the wishbone.  They do it extremely well.  They are one of the best running teams in the country.  They have about as many rushing yards as anybody in their division or our division.  Their quarterback does a really good job for them.   He is really experienced.  They can pop some big play passes on you because of the way you have to play defense to defend them.  Their defense is one of the best in their divisions in terms of the way they execute.  They’ve done a really good job on their special teams.”

“This is a team that’s 9-1 for a reason.  I think Appalachian State is the only team that beat them.  Teams like this beat Division I teams all the time.  Appalachian State beat Michigan a couple of years ago.  We need to have the proper respect for who we’re playing and how they do what they do.  We also need to understand that it’s not about them; it’s really about us and what our goals are in what we’re doing.  It really doesn’t matter who we’re playing against.  If you put it in baseball terms, you’re in the seventh or eighth inning and you’re up to the plate and the game’s tied and you have a guy on base.  It really doesn’t matter who is pitching.  It’s all about you doing the best you can as a hitter.  That’s kind of where we are as a team right now.  We’ve got to focus on being led by the goals and things that this team has an opportunity to accomplish and technically do a good job of getting our players ready to play in this game.”

On running back Eddie Lacy’s recovery from injury:

“He was actually able to practice a little more last week than he has previously. That’s why we have not played him as much in the games – to just spot play him, and hope that he is going to get seven, eight, 10, 12 carries at the most, and only play so many plays. So that we don’t take one step forward and two steps back, in terms of him continuing to improve. And that’s frustrating for him, because he’s a competitor and he wants to play in the games and actually played a little more in this game, but he was able to practice a little more last week. Hopefully, that won’t set him back. Usually we don’t have him do much on Monday. Sometimes not on Tuesday, and then practice on Wednesday and Thursday. That’s what we’ve been trying to do. Sort of give him a couple of days to recover. He’s responded to that, and actually gotten better as we go.”

On center William Vlachos’ value to the team:

“William has played a lot of good football here for us and played in a lot of games.  He has had a lot of success. He is certainly a leader, in terms of not only the nature of his position, and making line calls and helping other guys play better, but in his ability to execute at a pretty high level of consistency. We certainly appreciate all that he has done. We certainly don’t take him for granted. I think sometimes people take the offensive line for granted. They don’t get to score touchdowns, and they don’t usually get their names in headlines and all that kind of stuff. But the work that he has done here and the help that he has given other players and his leadership has been something that you probably really can’t totally quantify. It’s been pretty spectacular to be honest with you.”

On the last time he faced a primarily triple-option football team:

“It has been a long time. We played Army when they used to run the wishbone when I was at Michigan State as a defensive coordinator in the ‘80s. We played Navy when I was a head coach at Toledo – that might be the last time. But we did a lot of research, and a lot of work and a lot of study on these guys in the offseason, because we knew they were going to be one of the most different teams that we played. Actually it will be challenging for the players, probably, to do something different, to be honest with you. I know it’s challenging to me as a coach to try to figure out, take some of the principles of things that you’ve done long ago and I’ll try to have to reinvent the wheel. They give you a lot of formation multiples, which makes it a little harder to adjust. They do a really good job of executing what they do. It takes a lot of discipline on defense for everybody to do what they’re supposed to do.”

On what the preparation will be like for defensive signal callers:

“I think it is for everybody. I don’t think you can play – you don’t really end up playing conventional type coverages. They’re not conventional plays that you’re going to see. In terms of, when I say ‘conventional,’ I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. I guess ‘conventional’ is all that you’re used to. So it’s going to be a lot of preparation for the entire defense. How you play the blocks. Who takes what on the option up front, how the linebackers in the front fits together, but then how the secondary rotates, and where the run-force comes from, and the discipline you got to have on the edges when they get the ball outside and pitch the ball. They make some big plays sometimes handing the ball off to the fullback, but they make a lot of big plays on the perimeter pitching the ball where somebody breaks down and run out of guys.”

On the team getting stronger as the game progresses:

“Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but you know we kind of get everybody’s best game. So they usually start out playing about as well as they’ve played for a while, and you have to kind of work your way through that a little bit. Keep your poise, and just keep on keeping on. I don’t think it’s all just about how we do it. I think that it’s with those guys, this is like the – they even say it; ‘we have Alabama signs up all year long. This is a game we point to. This is kind of like a national championship game for us.’ I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way, but they’re out there ready to play. It’s our responsibility to get ready to play ourselves. I think that there were a significant number of players that were ready to play. But there were a few who were not quite ready enough, and sort of had to play their way into the kind of intensity that was passed around out there. So we did get better as the game wore on.”

On the strengths and weaknesses of the passing game:

“I think that we have made a lot of progress. And I would have said in the last couple of games, the last two games, I think maybe we would look at it and say we could have done better. We probably need to improve it. We made a lot of explosive plays in the last two games, which is pretty significant. But I also think the consistency in what we’re doing needs to improve, and I’m not talking about just the quarterback. That’s talking about the guys running the routes and the guys that are blocking up front. We dropped a couple of balls in the last game, and we had a couple of guys open that we didn’t quite get the ball to. So all those things sort of add up to the overall efficiency of how you throw the ball. We have done a pretty good job on third down all year long. Probably didn’t do as well this last time around, and we need to continue to improve on that.”

On the scout team this week, and who has stood out this year:

“We have scout team players of the week every week, and we’ve had quite a few guys contribute to that, and I think they all do a really good job. So I’m not just going to single out a guy or two. But every week we go through the personnel that we have, and we put the guys in the positions to emulate the other guys. If we’re playing Florida, we have somebody that is really fast be [Chris] Rainey and [Jeff] Demps. We even moved Jabriel Washington over there and put a shirt on him, and he’s really a defensive back, and he was one of those guys so we really got the feeling of the speed. With these guys they play two wide receivers quite a bit of the time, and then they really have three backs. One of them is a fullback, and two of them are, I guess they refer to them as A-Backs. That’s what we kind of refer to them as. Those guys are sort of blocking and over the top pitch guys, and we will take guys on our team that can do that kind of stuff, and take an option quarterback, probably use Blake Sims some, to do some of the things, he does that really well. Because he did it in high school, not this offense, but option type stuff.”

On the BCS standings and Alabama’s chances at getting back into the title hunt:

“I don’t really care about that. I mean, I’ve been sitting in that room for two days watching film, trying to get enough guys on a pitch guy. You figure it out and come tell me what it is because I don’t know, and don’t really care. All I know is that we just need to take care of what we control, and what we control is how we play. My contribution to that is how we get the team ready to play. So I couldn’t care less about that because I don’t understand it to start with.”

On the offensive formations he claimed he had not seen in 40 years of coaching:

“Well, that was a little bit of an overstatement. I have seen that stuff before, but we just weren’t ready for it in this game. We do know how to adjust to it. Basically it was all the formations where they took the lineman and moved them out to be receivers. I have seen that before, and we have a whole set of adjustments that we go through. We just haven’t gone through them for a while and hadn’t gone through them for this game and had to go through them during the game, and at halftime. It has been a long time since I’ve seen that stuff.”

On if the team responded right to the unusual formations:

“When they first did it, the first time they did it, they put a drive together on us. That’s the drive they went down and missed a field goal, I think. But that’s the first time they did it in the first half. When players see things that they’re not sure about, sometimes it can affect them. Now our guys respond to all that stuff a lot better this year than they did a year ago, because they got a little more knowledge and experience, and they don’t panic too much. We played through it, adjusted to it and got it all fixed, and they did it differently in the second half. They did it on the punt team, and we weren’t really quite ready for that either, so we called time out.”

On offensive lineman Alfred McCullough and his versatility:

“I think one of the things you appreciate about a guy like Alfred McCullough, who is a senior, who does have some leadership qualities, and guys who do end up as seniors in backup roles, they can take one of two roads. They can become guys who get disgruntled, don’t really put the team first, kind of get the ‘poor me’s’ about their circumstances and don’t really work to improve so that someday when they get an opportunity, they’ll be ready to do it. Well Alfred took the other road. He worked hard all the time. He made a contribution every way that he could. He was always excited about whenever he could play. He affected some of the other guys and tried to help some of the other guys who were playing ahead of him. So in the last, however many games he started, he’s really started at guard, he’s started at tackle and he’s played a lot down the stretch here. He’s been able to play well for us, and played well against Mississippi State at tackle, which is the first game he’s played at tackle this year, but I think that’s because he managed it, and handled his circumstance and situation like ‘I’m going to work toward accomplishing the goals that I have, so that if I get an opportunity I am going to be ready for it and take advantage of it.”

 #99 Josh Chapman, Defensive Line

On playing against the triple option:

“Watching the film it looks difficult to play against but it’s about guys going out there and doing their jobs.”

On what it changes with him being in the middle:

“With these types of teams you’re going to get a lot of cut blocks and a lot of different blocking. You just have to watch film and go out there and do your job.”

On going up against a smaller line:

“I’ve been against small linemen from high school up. Those are the guys who you think you overpower but they stay on you like gnats. It’s hard to get off of them because they are quick and fast off the ball.”

On stepping in for injuries:

“One thing we have on our defensive line is a great rotation. All of our guys can come in and play. You won’t even see a change.”

On what the offensive line will be missing with William Vlachos next season:

“He’s a great leader. The guy is a hard worker and he gets everyone around him going. That’s what they are going to miss. He keeps everybody synced on. He’s a great guy and we are really close. He knows the game of football. The guy loves studying film. He’s a tough player and a competitor. He makes it fun by getting after you. He doesn’t show pain if he’s hurt and he just keeps going. It’s going to be weird not going against each other next year. We’ve been doing that since seventh grade. We’ve known each other for a long time.”

On playing your last game at Bryant-Denny:

“It hit me yesterday knowing that after all my years here, it’s my last game here this Saturday. A lot of guys who have left here say there’s nothing like playing at Bryant-Denny. It’s a great stadium and we have a lot of fans that love you. I’m going to miss it.”

On how DeQuan Menzie has stepped up and bounced back after his injury:

“He’s a great player and athlete. I just see him out there and he’s always banged up but that’s football. He plays well with injuries. He’s a fighter. Just seeing how he performs out there shows that he’s one of the best in the league. He’s good at what he does.”

On Lacy after his foot injury:

“He’s just been doing day-by-day things. He’s one of those guys who, yeah he’s hurt, but he knows the game by getting mental reps. You see what the running backs in front of you are doing.”

On his signing class:

“We’ve been here since the program was built up. Coach Saban’s first year was our first year. Now it’s our last year here. We are just going to remember how we went from there to here.”

#37 Robert Lester, Defensive Back

On Georgia Southern’s different offense:

“Just like any other game plan that the coaches install, we’re going to trust it 100 percent and trust that the coaches are going to put us right where we need to be and teach us the technique that we need to be able to defend us.”

On playing something new or something he’s comfortable with:

“A lot of people would say they would rather play something that they are comfortable with but I enjoy playing things different because you never know when you might see it again. Being able to see it now and getting a chance to defend it will help us be prepared for it later.”

On communication with coach Smart at Mississippi State on the odd formation:

“There wasn’t much communication because the guys had no idea what to do. I think me and Mark (Barron) being safeties, if we don’t know what to do the last option is to stay deep and don’t let them get behind us. That’s what we did. When we see things like that we can’t panic. That’s the first thing about being on defense is that you can’t panic when you see something new. We had to adjust and play what we saw and that’s what we did.”

On Courtney Upshaw jumping off sides and how that actually helped them regroup:

“Whenever teams do something like that, that’s so awkward. You never know what can happen when those type of plays are out there. It did give us a chance to regroup.”

On the challenge for the defense facing the triple option:

“I’m excited about going against a new type of offense. The only thing we can is trust that our coaches are going to put us in the right position to make plays and trust the game plan. We will do whatever we need to do to be able to play against this offense.”

#4, Marquis Maze, Wide Receiver

On his ankle:

“It’s fine. It was just a slight sprain but its 100 percent now.”

On confidence in the offense going forward even with injuries:

“I think we have very capable back-ups. Those guys did a wonderful job Saturday. You really can’t ask for much more, there’s always room for improvement.”

On DeQuan Menzie:

“He’s strong and fast. He’s one of the best corners we have. Hands down I think he should go first round. He’s been the same guy as last year just faster.”

On what makes the slip screen play work:

“The protection, the throw, the timing and the guys making key blocks on the outside.”

On what he looks for once he has the ball in his hands:

“Once I get the ball I’m trying to find a seam. Most of the time the seam is between the tackle and the inside receiver. Sometimes teams read the play and you have to bounce it outside.”

On coming to Alabama in 2007:

“At the time, I was thinking that Coach Saban came from the NFL so he knows what it takes to get where I want to go. I felt like he would make me a better man and a better person on and off the field, which he has.”

On the passing game living up to his hopes this year:

“It has. We might not have a lot of numbers with touchdowns and all that, but we are helping the team win and we make progress every game.”

#24 DeQuan Menzie, Defensive Back

On how you react to the play Mississippi State ran where everybody except the center spread out to the sidelines:

“I was really confused looking at the sideline and Coach Smart couldn’t give me the call. We were just looking crazy on the field. But we executed well though.”

On how his senior season has went

“This season is great for me really. I get to play with no injuries. Last year I had a lot of nagging injuries and I really couldn’t do anything. But this year I was really confident I could do what I could do.”

On what the injuries were last year:

“Achilles ruptured and pulled hamstring - just nagging stuff.”

On if you have ever played a triple option team:

“In high school. It was very difficult. You’ve got to look at the right stuff and if you don’t then it’s going to be really bad.”

On being recognized by Alabama’s coaches on his play last weekend:

“It means a lot to me. Whenever coaches have something good to say about their players it’s really good to hear about.”

On comparing personalities with Dre Kirkpatrick:

“I’m really quite. Dre is really outspoken.”

On if it’s hard being a quiet cornerback since it’s seen as being more of a trash-talking position:

“Not really. You’ve just got to be yourself. That’s all you’ve got to do.”

On who the best wide receiver is he’s had to cover in a game this year:

“I’d have to say Rueben Randle (LSU). He’s the best receiver I’ve played against.”

On how frustrating last year was:

“Very frustrating – especially since we lost three games. Everybody was thinking we were going to go back to the SEC Championship and BCS Championship. But obviously we didn’t. For me personally it was a disappointment. I was just coming in thinking we were going to come in and get rings but we didn’t.”