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Week 12 Football Press Conference Transcript



Nov. 21, 2011

Head Coach Nick Saban

Opening statement:

“I think the biggest lesson that we probably learned this past week is that you can’t have any lapses in trust when you’re playing against the option team, which means you’ve got to trust that every guy is going to do what he’s supposed to do.  If a guy is supposed to take the dive, he’ll do it so then I can go play the next guy.  If you have any lapses in trust or discipline in what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to do it, it can have some pretty serious consequences.  I think our players are probably going to learn a lot from that.  Everybody has a job to do and it’s important to do it, regardless of what kind of offense that you’re playing against.”

“I think our offense did a really good job in this last game of controlling the ball.  It was good that they were able to do that.  But that game is over and done with.  We have a very, very big game this weekend.  This is one of the greatest rivalries in college football.  I certainly have a tremendous amount of respect for Auburn and their team and what they’ve been able to accomplish this year.  Some of the individual players that they have on their team are really good.  (Emory) Blake is a really good receiver.  They’ve got two really good running backs, (Michael) Dyer and (Onterio) McCalebb.  They have improved as the season has progressed.  They’ve got some individual really good players on defense.  They’ve been very sound and solid on special teams.  This is a big game.  Our focus is on this game.”

“We really don’t have any interest in anybody playing in the Pac-12 or Pac-10, or whatever it is, or the Big 12.  Any of those games really don’t matter.  None of those games matter.  Nothing matters except how we play in this game.  That’s all that matters.  In fact, I think I’m going to tell the team today that if they want to watch the LSU-Arkansas game, turn it off and go watch some Auburn film.  That game means nothing to us either.  So if you all are going to ask me about it, I hope you don’t.”

“Injuries to our team, Barrett Jones will start back to practicing today.  Jesse (Williams) has kind of recovered from his sickness, so he should be able to practice today.  (Darius) Hanks is going to try to do some practicing today.   (Josh) Chapman will be back at practice today.  Will Lowery, obviously we did a release on that, is out for the year.  It’s unfortunate that a guy gets injured this time of the year, certainly a guy of his (Lowery) competitive spirit and character.  He’s been a great special teams guy, playing in dime and has done a wonderful job for us, but it’s a part of the game.  We’re going to have to overcome it and he’s going to have to overcome it as well.”

On what he is the most thankful for this Thanksgiving:

“I think that there is so much you have to be thankful for. This day, my family, wonderful wife and children, the opportunity to be at the University of Alabama, around the players that we have, the people that we have and the program. There’s so much so to be thankful for – it’s almost hard to just put a finger on any particular thing. But I’m thankful that I’m in a position to serve other people, to have an opportunity to do something that makes a difference for somebody else, regardless of what the circumstances are. We tried to do that relative to what happened in our community with the tornado and we will try to continue to do that wherever we can, when people are affected by things like that, that happen. So I guess I’m thankful to be in the position to be able to do that.”

On safety Mark Barron and his development and impact since being injured in last year’s Iron Bowl:

“You know, Mark is such a tough guy, that he actually got hurt in the game on the touchdown pass, the first touchdown when he tried to strip that ball. It just felt like something happened to his shoulder. He didn’t know that his [pectoral] was torn, or whatever. The guy keeps playing. Even at halftime, he said ‘Put a patch on it, I’m okay,’ and continued to play in the second half, and actually had opportunity to make a play that he would have probably made nine out of ten times if he wasn’t hurt, that he couldn’t make. That’s when we realized maybe something more was wrong with him. But I think Mark handled this, the whole injury thing, in a really, really mature way. (He) made a good business decision about his circumstances. He worked hard to get back to where is, and he’s had a great year and probably has enhanced his future by what he’s been able to accomplish this year. But not once, not once, in this entire season has Mark Barron ever been focused on anything but what was best for our team. I mean he has been a really good leader, he’s played through injuries and pain and you name it, he’s a leader in the secondary, he prepares every week, he makes all the calls. I don’t know of a guy that could handle his circumstances and his situation any better than he has, and he had a fantastic year for us.”

On his evaluation of the past two games:

“Well it’s a tough circumstance for everybody when you lose a tough game. I think we’ve been a little knicked up the last couple of weeks, and I think we’ve had a lot of players that haven’t been able to participate like they would like to, relative to what they’re capable of. Hopefully, we’ll try to get some of those guys back this week. I do think that our players have handled the situation going to Mississippi State and playing in a tough environment against a pretty decent team, and playing the way we needed to play in that game to be successful. I think that really defined the character of this team to be able to do that. Last week, I don’t think we played very well in the first half, but I think we responded the right way. But I’ll be honest with you – it’s tough. You feel like you’ve got everybody focused on what they need to do. Georgia Southern was a better team than what everybody thought. Especially the way they execute and run their offense. I’m not talking about us, as coaches, I’m talking about the respect maybe the players had for it. The people, the community, the media, like this is ‘just show up and win the game.’ It’s not that simple. But we’ll kind of see this week, because this team has a tremendous opportunity in a big game for us. But you know, we weren’t able to finish last year. It’s always tough to play down there. So this is probably as big as of a challenge as we’ve had all year, so it will be interesting to see how we respond.”

On who will take over as dime back since safety Will Lowery was injured:

“Well you know we could leave Mark [Barron] – continue to play there, and play somebody else at safety. Or [safety] Vinnie [Sunseri] has been the backup dime guy, and just leave Mark to play safety. But those would be the two things that we would probably make a decision about – we don’t play dime until later on, so we kind of make those decision as the week goes on. When we do third down, that’s when we play dime, so that’s probably when we would make that decision. “

On quarterback A.J. McCarron’s development and how he handles adversity:

“I think A.J. has done a good job. I really do. I think that he’s played well. I think that as any quarterback, you probably get a little more credit when things go well, and you may get a little bit more blame when things don’t go so well. Certainly there’s some plays that he has made that have been very, very good plays on a pretty consistent basis all year long, relative to being a first-year starter. And he probably has a few plays out there that he wished he had back. But I’m not sure that there is any player on our team that couldn’t say that they didn’t make a choice, or a decision, that would like to have back, including me. So all-in-all, I think he has done a very good job of managing the offense, providing leadership for the offense; he’s made a lot of good throws – a lot of good throws. We’re pleased with the progress that he has made.”

On Auburn running back Michael Dyer:

“I think he is an outstanding running back. Probably as good as anybody that we’ve played against this year. I think he has played really well. Maybe his numbers aren’t what they were a year ago, or whatever, I [am not going to] make that comparison, but I just think the guy is a really good back. He’s got good change of direction, good burst, he’s got some power, he’s difficult to tackle, he’s got good vision and instincts as a runner, especially in the things that they ask him to do. So I think he’s an outstanding player.”

On if the outcome of last year’s Iron Bowl has provided additional motivation for this year:

“I haven’t seen our team since the game, but I’ll see them in a little bit. So I don’t know if they’re fired up or not. I would assume they’re excited about playing. I’m excited about playing, and everybody around here is excited about playing. If you don’t get excited about playing in the Iron Bowl, in a game like this, you’re probably not going to get excited about anything. So I’m assuming, but maybe I shouldn’t assume. I think that anytime you have a disappointment, it tends to probably motivate you a little bit in terms of what you would like to accomplish, because of the disappointment that you suffered when you didn’t have success. That would be in anything, and would probably be anybody. So is that something that probably some of those disappointments, sometimes are things that tend to bring people together, sort of in a common goal of what they want to try to accomplish. We had several disappointments a year ago, and I think all those things probably contributed to bringing this team, making this team, the chemistry on this team, what it became and what it is.”

On the origin of the phrase “Never again,” relative to this team:

“I don’t know exactly how it was born, or why it was born. I know when. I just think it came from the disappointment of last year’s game. Some player said it; somebody said it somewhere along the line. It is what it is. I don’t know that it was something that was not spontaneous that somebody said, that just kind of stuck.”

On if there was any second guessing about the coaching in last year’s Iron Bowl:

“Specifically, what? Since things went bad, I think it was a horrible job of coaching, if you want to know the truth about it. I mean, just like everything else, when it goes good, same guy that coached the first half coaches the second half, so whatever happened in the first half, I guess we all did great. Whatever happened the second half, we really did bad.”

On the play calling becoming conservative, sitting on a lead:

“I think that we were doing everything that we could do to win the game. I think you have to give their players a lot of credit for the character that they showed to come back in the game. The competitive spirit they have. But when you have a team that wins a national championship, whether it’s ours or theirs, they have that kind of competitive spirit. And you tell the players at halftime that ‘they aren’t going away now.’ You got to get ready for the barrage of what’s going to happen, you got to survive the flurries and do what you have to do to continue to play and compete in the game. They did a better job in the second half than we did.”

On if there are concerns with players celebrating Thanksgiving and eating improperly before the game:

“We have a team nutritionist that’s probably saying that every week to probably several of our guys. Look, Thanksgiving is an important time. It’s an important time for family. It’s important time for everyone to give thanks, and to realize all they have to be thankful for. I think it’s just one of those things that’s probably a little bit more important than a football game. I think in some kind of way, as a coach, you have to give your players an opportunity to do that. We let our guys go home that live in a two hour radius, and all the guys that stay come to some of our homes for Thanksgiving. So it’s a time for family and it’s time for being around people that you care about. That’s what we try to do for our players. They have to have enough discipline to know that they got a game coming, that this means something to them. They got to make good choices and decisions about what they do, whether they’re sitting and eating at my house or not. [Terrance] Cody came to my house a couple of years ago for Thanksgiving. He just sat and stared at the coconut cream pie. I said, “You know you can have a piece, it’s Thanksgiving.’ He said, ‘No coach, no coach, I’m not going to do it, I’m staying on my diet.’ I don’t know what happened when I left the room, but he was at least good when I was watching him.”

On how much Auburn’s defense has improved through the season:

“I think they’ve done a really good job all year long. They had a lot of young guys; they had a lot of guys they had to replace from a year ago. They seem to be getting better, better and better as the year has gone on, and seem to play especially well when they’re playing at home. They had some tough games on the road. A lot of things contribute sometimes when you give up points, and I don’t think that you can always contribute it just to the defense. Field position, turnovers – lots of things contribute to that. But they played really well at times this year, and they’ve become more and more consistent as the year has gone on.”

On being aware of unconventional offensive plays:

“I think, first of all, [Auburn Offensive Coordinator] Gus [Malzahn] does a great job with their offense, and they’ve been very, very productive. And he does a very good job of utilizing the players that they have, and roles that they can be productive in. But they have a lot of, whatever you want to call them, gadget, trick plays, crazy formations, whatever you want to call it. And I think the big things is, you got to get your players on defense settled enough to change personnel, when they’re going at a fast pace. They’re doing a lot of things that can disrupt defensive players, and I think the most important thing is that you get lined up and you can play and the players are confident in what they’re playing, and they’re not all running around trying to get lined up and making adjustments that are going to put them in a bad position.”

On the Spirit Award given to the team in honor of their efforts following the April 27 tornado:

“I think that it really speaks well for the University of Alabama. I really think it speaks well for a lot of people in the organization who made a significant contribution to trying to help a community that was effected by probably as devastating of a circumstance as I’ve ever had to deal with in my life. Carson Tinker, who was also named, who I think has done a lot of community service, probably lost the most and has given the most. I’m very proud to be a part of this, and I think a lot of other people should be as well. I think it’s the way we should do things, and I think I’m proud of the example we try to set in helping in our community, and I’m talking about the University as a whole and the football program as a whole.”

#99 Josh Chapman, Defensive Line

On senior day and how special it was:

“Senior day is a great thing around here. It was my last game in Bryant-Denny. It was a great win, and our guys went out there and fought. It was special to have my mom out there before the game. She got me where I am today, so it was a special thing for her also.”

On what was going through his mind as he walked through the tunnel for the last time:

“When I walked on the field, it felt like I just got here. My years are up, and the next time I walk out on the field I’ll probably be in blue jeans instead of pads.”

On his last Iron Bowl:

“The Iron Bowl means a lot to me because it’s the rival of the state. I almost went to Auburn a long time ago. It’s one of the biggest games if not the biggest in college football and it means a lot for this state and this school.”

On everything riding on this game for Alabama:

“It’s a lot but it’s just another game on our schedule just like the other opponents we’ve had. This is the biggest game because it’s the next game.”

On none of the BCS stuff mattering if Alabama loses this game:

“That’s why we have to come out with the right mindset of going out there and dominating these guys. We are going to practice hard so we can get out there and finish the season off strong.”

On how tough it’s going to be to go to Auburn and win this game:

“It doesn’t matter how many losses they have, Auburn always plays us hard. Those guys feed off of that stadium down there. It’s going to be a great game.”

On Auburn’s offense vs. our defense:

“They have a great offense, and we have a great defense, but it’s about who’s going to go out and dominate the game. We have a lot of guys out there that know how to do their job, and they do it well. That’s all we need is 11 guys doing their job and playing Alabama football to their standards.”

#3 Trent Richardson, Running Back

On what the Iron Bowl means to you:

“It means a lot. We are fighting for the best Alabama team out there. Alabama doesn’t have a pro team, so it’s just college football for us. It means a lot to this program and all the people who have played here and made this legacy go on. I’m hoping to make my name part of this legacy.”

On how important this game is to the Alabama family and to the fans:

“It’s going to mean a lot to them. Whether we win or just come out with a good game, it’s going to mean a lot to them. They deserve it around here, especially with the tornado. This game goes much further than what football is to us.”

On how tough it’s going to be to play at Auburn:

“It’s going to be a really tough game because it’s a rivalry game. They are not going to let us down, and they are going to come at us with everything they can just like every other team. This game is so much more than any other game because it’s Alabama and Auburn.”

On how important it is to go out and win this game for the senior class:

“It’s going to mean a lot to the seniors. They came here when Alabama wasn’t up to where we are now. We have to make sure we lead this team and let the seniors go out with a bang.”

#37 Robert Lester, Defensive Back

On what this week means:

“Just like every other game, it’s the next game, which is the most important game. It’s a rivalry game. It’s going to be a big game, and we are looking forward to it.”

On it really not being like every other game because there aren’t signs up around the building for every game:

“True. We put the signs up for motivation to let us know that these guys are going to play their all every time they play us, and we’ve got to bring our all when we play them.”

On what it felt like at halftime of the Auburn game last year, and what it felt like as the game slipped away from Alabama:

“I think we got comfortable during the game last year. We had a 24-point lead, and we didn’t really think that they would come back. We just kind of eased up and let them. We can’t let that happen this year.”

On Mark Barron getting hurt in the game last year, and if they talked during the game:

“Mark is a great competitor. I knew that he was hurt. He could barely move his arm, but I knew he wasn’t going to want to get out of the game because he wanted to hold it upon himself to win the game and contribute to the win. Unfortunately we lost that game.”

On there ever being a point where you told Mark Barron to sit out:

“No I wouldn’t do that because he would know if he couldn’t play or could play. He thought that he could. If he thinks he can then come out there any play.”

On what Mark Barron’s emotion was in the locker room after the game:

“He didn’t show any emotion. Like I said, he is a competitor. The only thing on his mind was winning that game.”

On how much Will Lowery will be missed in the secondary on third and long situations:

“Big time. Will was a leader back there. He was a guy that knew the defense and made calls. He is going to be missed greatly going in dime [package]. I feel sorry that he had to go out this way.”

#73 William Vlachos, Offensive Line

On if there has been a day go by since last year’s game against Auburn that you haven’t thought of:

“Not really. It’s certainly something that’s in the back of our minds all the time. I think for everybody that played in that game it is something we will remember the rest of our lives. We are really fortunate to get another chance to play them coming up, and that’s what we are focused on.”

On how out of character it is that Auburn’s run defense is giving up almost 200 yards a game:

“I played against their defense the last couple of years, and it’s the most physical game you are going to play in every year. I remember last year I came off the field just bleeding out of my mouth and my hands were bleeding. It’s just one of those games where I’m not worried about statistics, honestly, because it really isn’t going to matter. Alabama vs. Auburn – it’s a whole different deal.”

On remembering Mark Barron getting hurt last year and what was going on with him:

“I mean no not really. When the defense is out there on the field, we are usually on the bench trying to catch our breaths and make adjustments with our coaches. Obviously I figured out after the game what happened with him. It was a heroic effort for him to stay out there. This team means a lot to him, and obviously he displayed that.”

On what it has meant to have Mark Barron again this season since he could have left for the NFL:

“He is a great player, and everyone knows that. He has been great since the day he got here. He has won a lot of awards. He is one of the best players I’ve ever played with, and he is certainly one of the leaders of our defense and our entire team in general. He does a great job.”

On this being the most banged up Alabama has been going in to an Auburn game in recent years:

“I mean, yeah. That comes with the territory this late in the year. In this conference you are going to be banged up. Hopefully we can get Barrett [Jones] feeling better this week, and he’ll hopefully be able to go. We’ll see what happens with that, and we’ll take what we’ve got and go with it.”

On what makes this the best rivalry in the country:

“I think it’s just that you’ve got two sides where people are so passionate on whichever side they are on.  It means a lot to everybody in the state, no matter if you play on the team or if you just watch it on TV or what. It’s very important to a lot of people and it’s obviously certainly important to us.”

On what the rivalry means to you personally:

“It’s big for me. My grandfather played at Auburn. He was an All-American there, so I wasn’t really a die-hard Alabama fan until right before I got here. Like I’ve said, this game the last two years has been the most physical game I’ve played in. They’re going to want it bad and we are going to want it bad. It’s been a great experience and I’m fortunate I’ve had the opportunity.”