Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Nick Saban Press Conference Transcript



Nov. 16, 2009

Opening Comments:
“After watching the Mississippi State game, I was really pleased with the intensity.  I thought the players really played hard in the game and certainly had to overcome and persevere an emotional challenge and very physical play from the other team, and I was very pleased with how people went out and did what they were depended on to do and sort of executed fairly well in most parts of the game.  The perseverance that they showed to work their way through the first quarter and stick with it was pretty impressive to me.

“Our focus for this game is to continue to improve as a team.  I think our best game is somewhere out there, still and we need to keep working toward that.  Every game has significance. There won’t be one thing that anybody ever remembers about this season if we didn’t have success against a team like this.  You can ask me all you want about it, but that’s the answer to the question right there. We respect the team. They’ve got good players.  Their coach has done a great job there. They are 6-4 this year and they have made a tremendous amount of improvement from last year.  Every game is significant and this is the most important game that we are playing and it’s the only game that we are going to talk about.  So, that’s the way it is.

“We had some guys that played outstanding.  Mark (Ingram) had a good game and Mike Johnson had an outstanding game and was the SEC (offensive) linemen of the week.  We had three guys that had over 20 production points, Rolando McClain, Mark Barron and Cory Reamer.  It’s hard to have all those guys have that kind of production and not recognize all of them.  Javy (Javier Arenas) did a good job on special teams, especially on kickoff returns, and Robby Green was good on his part in what he did in (special) teams.

“We want to continue to build and improve, get better as a team, have better execution, play with more consistency and work on the things that we need to work on that’s going to help us be better.  There are some parts of special teams we definitely need to work on and improve on.  We had made some improvement on it, but obviously the one thing that was an issue in the game was the two kickoff covers.  We had some guys not do the right things and we’ve got to be able to do that on a consistent basis. 

“This game coming up is senior day for our seniors.  I encourage our fans to come out early to sort of honor these guys, who have done a fantastic job of representing the University of Alabama and the football program over the last four or five years.  Thirteen of these guys have already graduated, which we are very proud of.  I also think this is a special group to me.  There are a lot of good football players in this group but there’s a lot of guys in this group that really, playing their last game in Bryant-Denny Stadium, all had to make a choice, most of them coming out of their freshman year in that spring to buy into the program, to do the things the way we were going to do them.  A lot of those guys have created the example and the leadership to help the program to have any success that we have had.  We’re pleased about that and we want to sort of encourage everybody to recognize that for them.

“From an injury standpoint, I think the only guy that will be limited in practice today, and probably do very little, is Eryk Anders, who just has a sprained ankle.  He’s been having it for a while.  He was little bit sore after the game, so we need to give him a day or two to try and heal up.

“We always respect our opponents.  These guys have come back in several games because of their ability to throw the ball, especially with the quarterback B.J. Coleman.  They have good receivers.  They have a good scheme and good attack on offense.  They seem to be a little simpler, playing hard and tough on defense.  They do a good job of coaching their special teams.  This is a very well-coached team.  We always have the proper respect and we need to do a good job in what we do to execute and take care of our own business.”

On the status of tight end Colin Peek:
“He played in the game and he’s fine and he never got injured and he’ll continue to play more and more and more as he gets more healthy, but he felt like he did not show any signs of having a problem, and he practiced well last week as well.

On Greg McElroy’s performance the last two weeks:
“Greg did a nice job in the game.  His pass efficiency rating was really high in the game, in terms of his execution.  We probably didn’t throw the ball quite as much as what we’d planned on going into the game.  When we did throw it, we executed and made a couple of explosive plays doing it, three or four times.  We spread the ball around to some of our play-makers Julio (Jones), (Marquis) Maze and (Darius) Hanks and made plays.  I think we need to continue to do that and have that kind of balance and I thought Greg did a really good job in the game doing that.  Some of things that didn’t work, a couple of screens that we tried, we didn’t block the right guys and really had nothing to do with him.  We were very pleased with his performance and the way he managed the game.”

On your Friday night routine:
“We only go to a movie if we have a night game.  If we have a night game, we go to a movie.  We usually have about an hour long meeting on Friday night.  If we have a night game on Saturday, we transfer about two-thirds of that meeting to Saturday after breakfast.  So we take a walk on Saturday, have a meeting and sort of get the guys re-centered on the game.  So we go to a movie on Friday night if we have a night game.  That’s been pretty consistent. I usually consult with the players as to what movie they want to see and sometimes we go to see current movies and sometimes we go see old favorites, inspirational-type movies that in some cases the players haven’t had the opportunity to see in the past.  We didn’t have a lot of choices in Starkville, so we did the best we could.”

On Mark Ingram’s improvement since game one of the season:
“I think Mark’s played well of us all year.  I can’t look back and say he was doing something poorly in the beginning of the year.  I think his confidence and what’s expected of him, in every phase of the game, whether it’s the running game or the passing game.  The thing that we always try to emphasize with running backs is be a complete player.  You have a responsibility and obligation to do something when you don’t have the ball and that’s the part of your game that we want you to do well, because all of those other guys are blocking for you when you’ve got it, so what are you going to do when you don’t have it and that’s something he has done a pretty good job of all year as well.”

On senior class:
“We’ve got a lot of seniors in this class.  I would say, we’re not disappointed in any of them.  They’ve all done a really good job.  Mike Johnson and Drew Davis have a significant amount of starts on the offensive line and both of them have been real good players. They’ve been good people and they’ve certainly had a positive impact on their group.  Colin Peek hasn’t been here a long time as a tight end, but certainly has done a really good job this year for our team and did a great job for our team last year, and you didn’t even know it, because he was with the scout team every day.  We’ve got some receivers who have really contributed well and had a great attitude about their role and what they do and we’re pleased with that.  Defensively, we probably have a few more guys.  Javy’s (Javier Arenas) been a tremendous asset and had an impact on the program, not only his leadership, character and competitive spirit, but his big-play potential as a returner and a really solid, consistent performer as a defensive back.  Justin Woodall has been a good player for us.  Marquis Johnson has done a really good job and improved each year.  I think back to when he was a sophomore and we were playing Florida State and you all were saying don’t you have anybody else you could put in there.  We believed in the guy and worked with him and he worked really hard himself and has become a really good player, who is very confident in what he is doing.  Eryk Anders has come a long way and makes a lot of plays.  I’m hoping I’m not leaving somebody out.  All these guys have made a tremendous impact on our team.  The guys up front, (Terrence) Cody’s only been here for two years, but has done a good job.  Brandon Deaderick has done a really good job. Lorenzo Washington has done a really good job. I would have a hard time saying which guys haven’t done it.  It’s a tough question to answer and whatever guy I left out deserves a tremendous amount of credit as well.  This has been a very good group.”

On if the Mississippi State game was as close as you have come to playing your best game:
“I think we’ve played well at times this year and I was really pleased with the way the guys played in that game, especially the way they competed, especially the perseverance in that situation in that environment; knowing you’ve got to go out there and sort of get into a street fight right off the bat with all the emotion they had in the game for what they wanted to do.  To be able to persevere that and just keep playing through it, I think that was the most important thing.  Hey, there are a lot of things we can point out that we need to improve on and I am sure the players would tell you the same thing.  So, we’re never satisfied with where we are.  We’ve never really arrived and I think everybody needs to have that perception as we move forward, in terms of what’s in front of us.”

On Marquis Johnson’s play against Mississippi State showing that cornerbacks have to have a short memory:
“No doubt.  I’ve been coaching these guys for thirty-something years, I’ve never coached one that never got beat.  They’re all going to get beat sooner or later.  They ran a double-pattern on the first play of the game and he could have used a little better technique on it, but he bounced back and played well the rest of the game. That’s the way we’ve got to do it.  When they do that in practice, we get on them a little bit, but when it happens in the game, you might see me rubbing their neck because he’s got to go back out there and play and they’re going to try and throw it over their head again.

On how you teach your team to stay focused from week to week:
“I think it’s a lot of things and I talk about them every week.  So, at the risk of being redundant, it’s about who you are. It’s about you wanting to be the best you can be.  It’s about you constantly trying to be responsible for your own self-determination and do your job, the job you’re being depended on to do, and do it for yourself and for your teammates.  It’s also about doing it in any circumstance and any situation, regardless of what’s happening around you and who you’re playing really doesn’t matter as much what you do and how you do it.  The last thing is having the perseverance to be able to do it week in and week out, down in and down out and play in and play out, and those are all the kinds of things you want to condition you’re guys to do.  You’ve got to have mental toughness to do it.  You have to have the willingness on the part of the players to give the effort to do it and you have to have the work ethic to do it and also the mental intensity to focus on what they have to do to be able to execute it and do their job.  It’s a combination of all those things I think.  We control who we are.  That’s what we can control and that’s what I want our players to focus on being able to do and we talk about that all the time.”

On the atmosphere at Bryant-Denny Stadium:
“Well I think I’ve also spoken about that just about every week.  I think our fans have done a tremendous job.  I always say our fans are a part of the team, especially last year at the end of the season and the last few games that we’ve had, the Tennessee game, the South Carolina game, the LSU game.  I don’t know where you could find a better environment to play a college football game, in terms of the atmosphere created by our fans, the enthusiasm and the passion they have and how it affects the players. I don’t think that myself or any of the players don’t really appreciate that.  I’ve always said that’s important and sometimes it’s more important when you’re not playing as well, as it is when you’re playing really well.  We’ve had both of those circumstances this year and our fans have been very, very positive and supportive in both cases and very helpful in both of those cases.  So, we appreciate it. It’s important.  I’m happy they have the passion.  I’m happy they have the enthusiasm, but I also want them to know we appreciate it and it’s important to what we’re trying to accomplish as well.”

Alabama Player Quotes (Chattanooga Game)

Linebacker Rolando McClain
On keeping the mentality of showing respect to every opponent:
“It’s just something that we have to accept and something that we’ve accepted as a team.  We try to respect every opponent, and give them the same respect that we expect them to give us.”

On how much pride he takes in staying focused on the task at hand:
“That separates us from other teams.  It’s something we think is an advantage for us.  With the great leadership and with great coaches, it’s been a lot easier than it has been in the past.  It’s something that we put on our shoulders and something we try build on.  Like I said, we didn’t have it at first, and it’s big for us.  I think that helps us in a lot of games.”

On how the defense has responded since the loss of Dont’a Hightower:
“I don’t know.  I think we could be even better if Dont’a was here, but we’re happy with what we’ve got.  I think Nico (Johnson) and Cory Reamer have done a great job.  I think that all of our success comes from hard work.  Everybody knew when Dont’a went down we all had to step up our game, and I think everybody just started working harder because we knew we had a key piece to this defense gone.  Everybody just had to step up their game.”

Cornerback/Kick Returner Javier Arenas
On Saturday’s game being his last in Bryant-Denny Stadium:
“I’ve thought about it.  It’s the last one.  To sum it up, it went by kind of fast.  I’m going to try to make it one to remember.”

On his senior class buying into Coach Saban’s philosophy:
“It was my first opportunity to experience a coaching change, and I wasn’t really too deep into the Coach Shula era – I was just a freshman – so the transition wasn’t that hard.  It was like coming in as a freshman with Coach Saban, so to adapt to the things that he wanted us to do and the things that he thought was best was really easy.  It’s been very beneficial since I’ve been here.”

On the challenge facing the secondary with Tennessee-Chattanooga frequently throwing the ball:
“It’s always a challenge.  We always bring our A-game, and we treat every receiver the same.  It doesn’t matter who we’re going up against.  If we have to line up against Julio (Jones) one Saturday, no matter who it is we are preparing the same way, and we have the same mindset going into each game and that’s to be successful.  You watch upsets each and every week.  You want to avoid that.  The only way to avoid that is to come in with the same mindset and try to dominate.”

Quarterback Greg McElroy
On Saturday being Senior Day and his thoughts on this year’s senior class:
“We are pretty close, my class and the class that are seniors.  Cory Reamer, Barron Huber and even Charles Hoke, he’s obviously no longer with us, but all those guys, we’ve become pretty close over the years.  Mike Johnson.  It’s going to be strange playing without them next year – but we’ve still got a few more games to enjoy them.  I know that this is going to be a special week for them, and we’re going to try to take care of business for those guys this week.”

On the team’s best football having yet to be played:
“I think that our best football – you know the day you play your best football should be the last game of every year.  I think we’re continually improving.  I think everybody is trying to improve personally, individually and obviously collectively we’re trying to accomplish all of our goals.  Our best football is out there.  When we come back and look at the film on Mondays there are things that we did wrong. That’s natural and you’re never going play a perfect game, but there are things that we’re trying to iron out before the season ends, and things that we need to try to improve on this week.”




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