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Coach Nick Saban Press Conference Transcript



Dec. 4, 2009


Opening Comments:
"First of all, I'd like to thank especially the people from Alabama and the national media as well for the fantastic job that you've done in terms of covering our team and creating a lot of positive self-gratification for a lot of our players in terms of your attention, your time and the exposure that you provided for them.

"I think they probably don't really know how to say thank you.  But I know they appreciate it. I know it's important to them.  We're very proud of the fact that we have guys up for national awards as well as four guys (Mark Ingram, Mike Johnson, Rolando McClain and Javier Arenas) that made All- American yesterday and I think it's the exposure and the things that you do that helps those guys be able to receive those kind of awards and that kind of positive self-gratification.  I'd like to thank you for all that you do for the University of Alabama as well as college football.
"We've had a good week this week.  And we're certainly excited about having the opportunity to be back in the SEC Championship game.  This is a little bit like a title fight.  And you know the other team's going to be pretty good.  You know they're going to know how to win or they wouldn't be here.  You know they're going to be well-prepared and probably pretty well coached.  And I think that hopefully we learned a few things last year about what it takes to be a champion, what it takes to win a championship.

"And it's a very good team that we're playing.  All the things that I've said above are true about the team that we have an opportunity to play.  So it's just going to be a matter of every player being able to focus on what they need to do, each playing the game for every play in the game because each play or any play can affect the game and the outcome of the game. Regardless of the circumstances in the game, you're going to have to be able to compete through that and play every play in the game that way.
"So I know you have a lot of questions about the specifics of the game, but I just think that's really important to understand what it takes to win a championship, the team togetherness that it takes, the discipline to execute in an emotional environment and being responsible for your own self-determination, the positive energy and attitude to affect your teammates, the kind of resiliency and effort that it's going to take for every play in the game to be able to compete in a championship game."

On Florida's complex offense and how well they run the option:
"I think that what you say is very true.  I think that to probably summarize their offense, they have a quarterback who can run the ball.  They have some very good running backs who have great speed on the perimeter.  And they are reading their plays almost each and every play as to whether they hand the ball off or option the ball, or even create a pitchman sometimes to option the ball. Or even when they run a shovel pass sometimes they have the option to pitch the ball.  So that in itself is an option. So it is difficult to defend, because it's about numbers.  So you really have an offense that the point of attack can change from out there to out here, to running it in here or throwing it down there.  And that's about and all those things can change in one step, whether it's play-action pass or how they create their options.  And the fact that they have a quarterback who is unique in terms of his ability to run the ball, execute their offense and be a very efficient, effective passer, makes it very important to play very disciplined team defense in terms of everybody keying, being in the right spot and making sure you keep the right side boards on the defense and they do it out of a lot of different personnel groups and different formations so that makes it even more difficult for the defense to adjust to each one of those things correctly.

On the status of Mark Ingram:
"Mark is fine and practiced well. We think he's ready to go. You don't know when guys go into games with injuries what their situation is going to be right until game time, but we have a good feeling about it right now.  And I think Mark has a good feeling about it as well."

On Mark Ingram and is he a legitimate Heisman candidate:
"Well, I think that Mark has had a phenomenal year.  Mark is a great competitor and an outstanding person.  He's been a team guy all year long in terms of knowing that all of his success has been because of his teammates and what the other players on his team have done offensively to help him be successful. But he's had a phenomenal year because of the hard work.  And the guy's a great competitor.  And I think that his resiliency as a competitor has contributed to his great physical ability as a running back.  He's got quickness, change of direction, speed, good instincts.  He can run behind his pads.  He has good hands and is a good receiver. He's had one of those years that probably make him a legitimate candidate and he's one of the best players in the country."

On learning from last year's loss to Florida:
"Well, I think our players learned from their experience last year.  Florida's a very good team and we're interested in playing our best football game of the year. We want each player to play each play in the game like this is my best play, I have to play and be responsible on and give effort to and knowing that every play can have an effect and impact on the game. And hopefully our players learned last year what it takes to win a championship.  But these are two good teams playing.  And it can be a great football game.  And it's probably too bad that somebody has to win and somebody has to lose, based on what everybody's accomplished, but that's the way it is.  I want our guys to give a championship effort and be champions in the way they go about their effort as a team in terms of their responsibility to execute their attitude and relentless competitive attitude and how they compete in the game, knowing that just like I said in my opening statement, the other team's a championship team, too, or they wouldn't be here. So it's disappointing always to lose and not be successful.  But I think our focus is playing our best game of the year."

On whether you recall seeing two defenses with this much talent before:
"Well, you know, I think it's probably unique circumstances that the two defensive teams that are playing in this game are statistically, at least, on par to be in the top categories in a lot of different situations.  That's probably a little bit unique in and of itself. I remember playing in this game once when Tennessee had John Henderson and that group, and they probably had as talented a team as I've seen to that point, defensively as well as offensively, with the receivers that they had (Donte) Stallworth and (Kelley) Washington, I mean they really had a lot of talented guys.  I'm not comparing teams, but when you asked me the question, we had some pretty good players on defense in that game, too. But I think that this Florida defensive team, with the experience that they have now, and as long as they've played together, the talent that they have and having, I think all 22 guys back from last year's team, I mean not just the starters, but the backups, too, is a pretty unique circumstance in and of itself and I think they've played extremely well because of the talent level and experience they have."
On the expectations of a low-scoring game given the stats of these two defensive units:
"I think both teams are capable of scoring points and I think both defenses will get challenged in the game. It's going to be the teams that can play with the best consistency in terms of responsibility football to me on defense with discipline that are going to have the best opportunities to be successful. Especially in our case, because of the option, because of the passes, the play passes, and the multiples of things that they would do from formations, and I'm sure they'll do something that we're not prepared for that we'll have to adjust to in the game. So I don't really anticipate any kind of game, whether it's low scoring, high scoring, or whatever.  I just think that they're a difficult offensive team to stop and I think it's going to be important that we control the ball on offense so they don't have it all the time.  To do that, we're going to have to move the ball effectively on them and score points."