Nov. 24, 2008
“We have reported back and we’re ready to go. We had a productive week last week, in terms of getting some rest, getting healthy and also getting some good practice in and making some improvement fundamentally. We practiced a little bit extra for our upcoming opponents and now we’re ready to get back into a normal practice week and get prepared for a game.
“I think when you play a game like this; it’s like having a one-game season. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done before this or what’s coming up next. It’s all about this game. It’s all about Alabama and Auburn. It’s not about where you’re ranked or what you’re record is or any BCS or any of that stuff. It’s really about this game and this week. I think the thing the players need to focus on is what they need to do to play well and not think about all the things surrounding the game. The game will get decided by what happens on the field and how you prepare and how you focus on that to play well and do your job with discipline, toughness, effort and intensity, all those things that have benefitted our team well all year long, will be the keys to any success that we have in this game or any other games we play. I think it’s important that our players stay focused on that.
“I also think that this is the last game in Bryant-Denny Stadium for 13 seniors on our team and nine scholarship guys. A lot of those guys have had outstanding careers here. It’s certainly an honor for them and for us to have them represent themselves and their family in their last game.
“Auburn has a really good team, in my opinion. They’ve lost four games in the SEC by five points or less. They are a very well-coached team. They are an outstanding defensive team and one of the highest ranked teams in our league, in scoring defense. Their front is very, very good. They’ve got some dominant players up front. They are physical. They can play the run. They’ve got some pass-rushers that can affect the quarterback. They are outstanding. Offensively, they’ve got good runners and good offensive line. Kodi Burns has gotten better and better each game that he has played. They’ve got very good receivers, mostly the same guys we played against a year ago. They’re outstanding on special teams and one of the best kickoff return teams in the country. They are good on punt returns and play well on (special) teams. This is a team that we have a tremendous amount of respect for and know that we going to have to play as good a football as we have played all year to have success against.”
“From an injury standpoint, we don’t have any new injuries to report. Everybody will be practicing today, except (senior receiver Will) Oakley (shoulder surgery last week), which we have talked about. I don’t foresee guys having problems. We have a couple of guys that need to prove to themselves that they are healthy enough to play and that would (running back) Roy Upchurch and (receiver Earl) Alexander, but they have been cleared to practice and go full speed.”
On experience of Iron Bowl and is it just another game:
“It’s not just another game. I think it’s a great rivalry. It’s something that we have a tremendous amount of respect for, in terms of what we learned last year in participating. These are two good teams and two good programs. A lot of the players know each other. It’s a game that’s about the players and hopefully we can get our team in a position to play excellent football in the game and that’s what we want to try and do. We have a tremendous amount of respect for the rivalry, because we respect both schools and the tradition that both schools have and the support and passion the fans bring.”
On a psychological factor being involved when one team has not beaten the other team in a rivalry:
“It’s only a psychological factor is you let it be. It’s not to me and it shouldn’t be to our players. It’s the same old thing, when Notre Dame wears their green shirts. If that’s a psychological factor to you, then it’s a psychological factor. If green shirts make you play better, then I guess it’s a factor, but other than that it’s not a factor, unless it’s a factor to you and you let affect you. I am sure this game will get decided based on what happens on this field at this time and how the players play. They need to understand that and know that and focus and play well.”
On running back situation with three backs playing:
“I think each of these guys has a role on our team and they’ve done their role extremely well. I think they should all feel a lot of positive self-gratification for the way they’ve contributed to our team and how it’s helped our team sustain some consistency that each one of those guys role has made an impact on the success of the team. I’ve been on teams where you have one back that carries the ball a whole bunch. I’ve seen it work. I’ve seen it have issues if they guy gets injured. I’ve probably been on more situations where your have two or three backs that share it and everybody ends up being more productive in the long run because they can stay healthier, fresher and pay special attention to that their role is. I am very pleased with they way all of our guys have handled it this year and it doesn’t seem to be a real issue with them and it’s been a real positive for our team.”
On how two teams from same conference from the same state affects recruiting:
“It doesn’t really affect what we do at all. My approach in recruiting has never been to worry about what the other guy is doing. I have never done that and never will do it. It’s always been about our program and this is what we have and don’t say bad things about somebody else, and I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know any bad things about somebody else. I don’t know their school. I don’t know their program. I know about our school and our program and the things that we do to help our players to be successful as people, student and players and the organization that we try and use here, in terms of resources, to help them launch their career when they leave. I think it’s special. I think it’s good and I feel in my heart that every guy should want to come to school here, because we have a great program. So, that’s no disrespect or negative to anybody else and it never will be. That’s what I believe and that’s how we recruit. It doesn’t really make any difference what anybody else does.”
On senior class:
“We have a great group of seniors. They have done a fantastic job. I think, regardless of what happens in the future this senior class is going to be, in my mind, the group that sort of turned it around. They bought in. They believed in it. They changed their ways and they affected other people to do that, as well as made a really significant contribution, in terms of what their role was to the success of the team. How they’ve impacted other people probably goes unnoticed to some degree. Whether it’s Antoine Caldwell, Rashad (Johnson), Travis (McCall), Bobby Greenwood or John Parker (Wilson), the team means something to them and they have invested a lot in this team and this team’s success, not only in how they have performed and played, but how they served their teammates and supported them. Their commitment, the perseverance and the work they have shown has gone a long way in having a huge impact on the change that has been made here in two years.”
On role of special teams play in this game:
“I think special teams will be big in the game. I don’t think there is any question about that. Their kickoff return team is one of the best in the country (leads SEC and ranks 4th nationally with 26.06 yards per return). They’ve got a good punt returner themselves. I always think that in special teams you control the vertical field position in the game by how you do on special teams, whether it’s drive start on kickoff or kickoff return; whether it’s changing the field position a little bit with your punting or punt return. All of those things are critical factors. You know, scoring in the red zone sometimes with field goals can have a big impact in the game. I think special teams will have a huge impact in this game and I think it’s critical that we play at our best. I think we have improved on special teams throughout the course of the year, but that’s something that we will need to continue to do and have one of best games against a team like Auburn has.”