ALABAMA HEAD FOOTBALL COACH NICK SABAN
PetroSun Independence Bowl Press Conference Monday, December 17, 2007
“A couple of things, I am really pleased with the way our players finished up academically. This is going to be one of our better semesters. I think the spring was one of our best semesters. The new graduation rates have come out and we have some pretty impressive numbers for 2001 and 2002. We had six guys graduate on Saturday. We are pleased and proud of those guys to go along with the six guys that had already graduated and probably more guys to join them after this semester. For those players, we congratulate them. We are pleased and happy for them and their families that they are going to have a much better opportunity in life for what they have invested here and getting their education is one of the priorities that we have.
“I think our players have also done a really good job of contributing in recruiting. The two recruiting weekends that we have had have been successful because those guys have invested their time and energy in trying to help us develop the kinds of relationships you need to do to be able to recruit the kind of players that we like.
“The first two practices have gone well. I think the expectation that we have as coaches is that we improve fundamentally and that each individual is responsible to work hard to improve and get back to knowing the importance of fundamentals and getting back to being able to execute those fundamentals so that we have the best chance to be successful.
“We kind of look at this as a one-game season. We are kind of going back and starting all over, that is the way we have started our practices and I think it’s never too late to start the season over. We won our first three games of the season because we had good energy, good enthusiasm and excitement and supported each other and had good team chemistry. The players were committed to what they needed to do to be successful. They worked hard in the off-season program. I think we believed in each other and we believed in the system. We had a sense of urgency to prove something and the kind of football team we could be.
“So, going back to this one game season, if we are going to have success in this, it’s obviously a privilege for us to play in the PetroSun Independence Bowl against a very good Colorado team. It’s certainly going to be a challenge for us, but it’s a privilege for us to have the opportunity to go back, for our seniors to have the opportunity to have one more chance to kind of show what they can do, relative to their future as football players and to play in their last game and hopefully be able to go out with success. For the younger players on the team to be able to continue to develop and improve and be able to put themselves in a position where they can be better in the future and improve for the future. We will probably be able to do that with the same kind of thing we started this season, since this is a one-game season.
“The enthusiasm and excitement has been good. It seems like everybody is committed to doing what it takes. We had good intensity and sense of urgency in the first two practices. Toward the end of the season, as a team, I didn’t think we were as responsible. We didn’t play with as much discipline. We have to work to get those things back, and having positive energy to support each other will help us develop the team chemistry that we need. That is one of the things that we really want to work on.
“From a personnel standpoint . . . probably the two guys that you are most interested in. Jimmy (Johns) came to talk to me at the end of the season. He came and talked to me with a few weeks to go in the season. We had discussed the possibility of trying Jimmy at linebacker. It never really worked out in the spring, so we are in the process of doing that and he’s done very well and worked very hard to learn the stuff. It looks like he may have some potential to be a contributor at that position in the future. We thought we’d use a few of these practices to make a determination on that and then decide where we use him in the game at some point and time later on, but right now that is where he is. It’s something he wanted to do. It’s something we were anxious to do. It’s worked out well both ways. We will work him there and see if he can learn, and I don’t know if he can learn it enough to contribute in the bowl game or not, we will certainly at least know what to do with him in the future.
“Javy (Javier Arenas) has done some work. He has a black shirt on to limit contact. He has done some individual work and he has done some punt return work, but has not be fully cleared to practice, especially the cutting and changing direction it takes to play (defensive back), although he does do the individual drills he just doesn’t do the live drills yet. We are hopeful that after this week he will be able to do that and we will be able to increase his activity as the week progresses, if he doesn’t have issues or problems moving forward.”Is Antoine Caldwell back at center?
“He has worked at center the last two practices. Mike Johnson has worked at right tackle. Marlon (Davis) and Justin (Britt) are playing the guards, right and left guards, and Smitty (Andre Smith) is playing left tackle. We may stay that way. I think we will stay that way at tackle for sure and try and get the best three players starting inside that we can, regardless of what position they play.”
On NFL Draft information for juniors?
“We go through a process with them. My thing with these guys is show them how the money goes down in the NFL Draft, relative to where you get picked, and that your security sometimes is defined by where you get picked because that defines your signing bonus. The first thing we do is make them understand what they will get and if they go out for the draft right now where they are sort of ranked. We do that a couple of different ways. The junior committee will give us some idea and we haven’t gotten those results back yet. That won’t be public information when we do get them back. So I know you will want to ask me, but I won’t be able to tell you. We will discuss it with him and his family and show them what to expect at that particular deal. We will also talk to some of the teams and see what the benefit of him staying in school will be, relative to what he needs to improve on and how he can improve on a year from now. My thing is, and I have told all of our players this, if you’re going to be a first-round draft pick then I’m going to support you coming out. That’s probably the right thing for you to do. You might have a decision to make if you’re a late first-rounder and you could be a Top 15 pick because that is a significant difference, but basically that’s kind of the rule of thumb I use. Otherwise, you’re better off trying to improve your draft status.”
What is the running back situation right now, with Coffee, Upchurch (is he healthy) and Terry Grant?
“They are all three healthy.”
Do you think the time off helped you and the team approach things differently?
“I don’t really know. I think the team did pretty good in what we asked them to do in the few weeks we were off in terms of lifting and running and working out that we asked them to do. I think we had some opportunities to talk to some people and sort through some of the issues and problems and make people aware of how they might be able to improve some of those things, whether they were emotional-type things, relative to character and attitude and how we competed, or where they were actually physical things we need to work on to improve. I am pleased with that and I am kind of pleased with the carryover we have had from the season. This week is critical to the kind of improvement we can make, though.”
Is this the first time this season you have had the compliment of running backs, the big guy and little guy like you have said you wanted?
“Well, there were times where we had it earlier in the season. We certainly haven’t had it lately. Hopefully these guys will all continue to develop and be able to stay healthy and we’ll have those three guys when it comes time to play the game.”Academically, is everybody good to go to the bowl game?
Yeah, but we will have three guys that will not make the trip to the bowl game. We have two guys (Thomas Darrah and Jacob Vane) that will practice this week and will not play in the game. We have one senior, who was struggling academically and even though he may be academically eligible to go to the game, he decided to put his energy into that and not make a commitment to do the things he needed to do to play in the game. So, it was his choice. Marcel Stamps is a senior and has done a great job here all year long. I have no complaints about the guy. He was struggling academically and has not played much all year, so we just mutually agreed that it would be best for him to really focus on trying to do what he needed to do to get this semester done correctly, so he’d have the best chance to graduate. He was unable to do anything relative to football.”
On the progress of (freshman running back) Demetrius Goode:
“He is making progress. He had a pretty significant injury and he has worked really hard. He has had a great attitude about overcoming this adversity he has had to overcome as a freshman. He has done well in school. Hopefully, we will have him full speed for spring practice.”On advantages of extra practice during bowl week, in terms of working younger players?
“I don’t think there is any question about the fact that if your able to coach the young players, who get lost a little bit during the season. They get coached some, but they spend a significant amount of practice, some of them, doing the other team’s plays, or running the other team’s defense, or being on what we refer to as the scout team. That is a very important role for the team and there are other things they can improve on while they are doing that, but I think this is a great opportunity for them systematically understanding, knowledge and experience of what they are expected to do and how to do it. Those kinds of things, relative to our offense, our defense and even in some roles on special teams. I think going through that again and having another opportunity to go through that with those guys relative to fall camp, bowl practice, spring practice and now next year I think that really enhances young players’ development. I think that will help our guys this year.”
What can you tell us about Colorado?
“They play real good defense. They are a real good defensive team. They have an outstanding linebacker (Jordon Dizon). They are active up front. They have been pretty consistent in terms of how they have played defensively. Offensively, they really run the ball extremely well. They scored 65 points against Nebraska and rushed the ball up and down the field. They came back to beat Oklahoma. I haven’t watched every game yet, I’ve watched about half of them. They have a good running back (Hugh Charles). The quarterback (Cody Hawkins) does a great job management-wise and is very athletic and capable of making every throw. I think the most impressive thing about them is their ability to run the ball. They run the ball against everybody pretty effectively and it will be important for us slow that down a little bit.”