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Coach Nick Saban Press Conference Transcript



Dec. 21, 2009


Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban Press Conference Transcript

Opening Statement:
"Well we feel fortunate that we've been able to get outdoors for two days.  It's been good for us because we haven't practiced much outside.  We didn't practice much outside for the Auburn game. We didn't practice much outside for the Florida game, so it's great to get out there.  I think it's a little different for the players and we're slowly working ourselves back in shape.  We've actually had three fundamental practices where we work a lot of technique and a work a lot against each other. We don't work a lot against any system of scheme, but really trying the get the players back into football shape after having a little bit of time off and we've made nice progress each and every day. Hopefully, we will be able to continue that for the next two days.

This is a special game in a lot of ways. You don't get opportunities like this very often.  This is a certainly a special opportunity for our players.  As a coach, you want to make sure you do everything you can to help those players get back to playing their best football. It's a challenge with this much time off.  It's a challenge with this much attention.  It's a challenge with all the things that go into playing these kinds of games, but the number one thing we want to try and get with our players is to focus on the things you need to do to play your best football.

Texas is a great football team.  They are very well coached and they have a lot of good players.  This is probably the best all-around team that we have played all year, and they have a lot of team speed.  They have a lot of playmakers on offense.  They have a really good quarterback, who does an excellent job of executing their offense and distributing the ball to their players.  There defense is one of the tops in the country, and they also do a very good job on special teams, because they've got great team speed. This is a challenging game for us in a lot of ways, but it's also a great opportunity and we just as coaches want to do the best job that we can to try and get our team to play their best football of the year."

On any changes you might make knowing Texas has two of your former assistants on their staff:
"We always do self-scout in what we do.  We kind of know what they do too. It will be interesting thing if they need to change what they are doing.  I think who you are is more important that what you do.  I've always said that.  Who we are as football team, in terms of what we do and how we execute is important and I don't really think there are a whole lot of changes to make? Are you going to trick yourself or trick them? We do what we do.  We always do self-scout, so we know what our tendencies are.  We know what the other team thinks about us, and what we need to do to balance that.  Sometimes terminology and what you call things may be something and signals are all things that you want to make sure you're not letting them have an advantage on, but other than that, I don't know how we can change our team just because everybody you play knows your tendencies. They watch the film.  They watch the tape.  We've changed some as a team since those guys have been here, so I don't know what we could do different to make it better."

On the fact that you are playing for the national championship:
"I've really already said that I am not worried about winning the national championship.  I don't want our players to worry about it either.  I would appreciate it if you didn't ask them, although I know you will.  What I want our players focusing on is playing their best football and assume that they are going to play the best football they have ever played and they are going to be playing against the best players they have ever played against.  That's what they should be working to do and that's what they should be focused on.  So, what you're talking about is clutter and I'd rather them not be worried about that. The game is still going to get played on 50-yards wide and 100-yards deep field and how they play in that game - and I don't care what award they won, or how many made All-American or how many we had - none of that's going to matter when the game starts.  It's going to be how we play and that's what the players need to understand, so I am glad you asked the question.  I've told them that and now they can hear again on TV, so that will be good."

On accomplishments on getting to this game:
"If you don't have success in the next game, it really doesn't matter.  I can't name anybody that's played in this game the last three years and didn't have success.  I don't know who they are.  I can tell you the ones that did.  You create an opportunity for yourself, so your focus should be on what you need to do to take advantage of it."

On the play of offensive line and lack of holding penalties:
"I think it means that are playing with good technique and hand placement.  They are fundamentally doing a good job and I think that is a credit to each and every one of them in terms of focus and attention to detail that they prepare with and play with.  I also think it's a credit to the coaches and the coaching staff who work with them to get them to do that.  This group does a really good job of preparing for the game.  They are smart. They play smart and they execute well."

On importance of having flexibility to admit special admission students and have there been any success stories:
"I think we have had a tremendous amount of success stories, in terms of our graduation rate and the number of players that we've had that have made the Freshman All-SEC Honor Roll because they have over a three-point (GPA). I think if you look closely, some of those guys have been special admits, so to speak.  So, I am really pleased and happy with the job that we do and how we manage our students here and the responsibility and accountability they have toward academics and the success they have had in academics.  But, I also want to reiterate to you my philosophy, I think that, I guess I grew up around land grant schools and land grant schools are supposed to educate all the people and they are not selecting Roman institutions and public schools are not selecting Roman institutions, but they have become that for some reason.  So they don't really educate all the people, but we want to create opportunities for people and as long as we feel like they have the character and attitude and will respond to the direction that we give them to have success here and we have a pretty good track record of that with the people that we have, we want to give people an opportunity and we want and we want to give people an opportunity.  It's no different than Terry and I making a significant contribution to first-generation scholarships.  We're creating an opportunity for someone who may not have the opportunity if someone didn't help create an opportunity for them.  No different than Michel Oher in the movie "The Blindside."  If somebody didn't help him ... he had the work ethic and the ability to go to college, to graduate and to be a first-round draft pick.  Somebody helped him take advantage of his gifts.  I think he's better off, the world's better and we all better off because of it.  The question I would ask is do we all do enough?  Do you do enough?  Do I do enough?  Do we do enough to help other people take advantage of their gifts.  Some people have ability and they have work ethic and really never a get an opportunity."

On role of scout team:
"I don't think you can get ready to play and prepare for a game if you don't get a great look by your look squad.  It's a pretty thankless job, too.  Most of those guys don't get to play in the game.  They don't win awards.  They don't get their names in the paper, although we try to create awards and try to have scout team players of the week on offense, defense and special teams every week, so that those guys do get some positive self-gratification for what they do for the team.  They can be on the war daddy board if they do a good job in practice all week and are recognized by the coaches and their teammates for that. We can't get ready for the game if we don't get a good look from our look squads.  I think probably those guys don't get enough accolades.  They don't get enough attention from any of us, including the coaches, who spend our time coaching the guys who are going to play in the game and those guys do a fantastic job.  And probably the most difficult task that anybody has is probably those guys in terms of the perseverance they have to have relative to what they get out of it."

On the gratification of seeing a former coach like Will Muschamp have the success he has had:
"I think for me, and probably to put it in perspective, you know when one of your children does something that makes you proud.  Not that I don't have a tremendous amount of respect for these guys as men and very good character-quality people, who have tremendous work ethic and are very good at what they do and have a tremendous amount of professionalism.  I think people can relate to, anybody that has children, that when your children do something that is very good it makes you feel good and proud because of their accomplishment.  That's how you feel when coaches on your staff go on and do bigger and better things and have success in what they do.  None of those that have, whether its Mark D'Antonio at Michigan State, or (Florida State head coach Jimbo (Fisher), or (Louisiana Tech head coach) Derek Dooley, or Will (Texas defensive coordinator Muschamp), I'm really proud and want to see them all do extremely well.  We've had to compete against each other before, whether it was Bill Belichick, who I used to work for, who probably feels a little bit that way about me. We're good friends, and you compete and play against each other, but you don't dislike each other and you don't not have the same amount of respect and admiration for each other and want to be helpful to those guys if you can, even though you compete against somebody in that moment in time, you are trying to do the best you can for your team."

On whether last year's Sugar Bowl helps with preparation in this game as much as SEC Championship game experience seemed to help this year against Florida:
"I don't know. I think that every experience that you have should be a learning experience. I think the motivation is a little bit different, so therefore I hope the passion should be a little bit different. I think all the experiences we've had to this point, good and bad, should reinforce what we are trying to build in terms of character and attitude and what it takes to be successful at a championship level.  You can assume the other team wants to win.  You can assume they know how to win and you can assume they want to win too.  I think they've only lost one game in the last two years on the last play of the game.  Is that not right?  And even though all the talking heads out there seem to want to make them not so, I think they are pretty good.  They've got a lot of good players and they've won a lot of games because of it.  I think our players need to have respect for that and get ready to play their best football game of the year."

On entertaining the thought of actually scrimmaging with a five-week layoff:
"I think that we have discussed that quite a bit. That's not something that I have done in prior years and certainly at this point you would not want to scrimmage and lose players because you're creating a game-like situation which could create that.  What we have discussed is trying to create as game-like a situation as we can in the spirit of safety for our players and having one situation probably the last practice before we go home, that simulates a lot of the situations and game-like stuff.  Now whether we tackle people to the ground and do things like it's a real scrimmage - I think the greatest opportunities to get injured is when people are on the ground.  We want to try and avoid that, but we also feel like we need to do something that's very game-like that's going to help our players take the next step of getting ready for this game."

On the factors that have changed the environment of the Alabama program and has it happened faster than you thought:
"I didn't have any expectations of how fast it would happen. I've said many times before and I say it to myself many times every day, one thing at a time.  Solve one problem at a time, whether it's in the game plan, kicking game plan, whatever it is. Whether it's recruiting or personnel and just keep focusing on trying to get better in what you do and trying to get everybody in the organization better at what they do.  I think a lot of things that change the program are character and attitude and the way people are responsible and accountable to do their job.  That takes a certain amount of discipline, work ethic, perseverance, ability to overcome adversity, stay tuned to the task and a lot of pride in performance to be the best you can be. I think that each year we've made progress in that regard and we win because we have good players that have good attitudes and work hard and are good at what they do.  A lot of the players that have been here have improved as players and we've recruited some pretty good players that have improved as players as well.  I think it's a combination of all those things that has helped us get better and make improvement over that three-year time period that you talked about."

On using a formula from the 2003 BCS Game to help you in this game with Texas:
"I guess it's like all the other formulas.  If it works, it's a good one and if it doesn't you sort of look back on it and try to re-analyze it.  But really in all these bowl games, not just this game, it's usually a long time and through the years we feel like we've improved our ability to manage this kind of time and how we practice and how we break down the practices and how many practices you need to have. I think sometimes it's worked extremely well.  We didn't practice a whole lot different for the national championship game in 2003 that we did last year for the Utah game.  In one circumstance it worked pretty good and the other circumstance it didn't, but I think there are a lot of other factors that contribute to that. We have a theory that if you practice all the time over that period of time, it's going to be very difficult for the players.  You need to approach it like it's a one-game season. Let them work out on their own a little bit.  Let them work out while they are here in school and then when your start practicing really try and get them into it like you're starting over, which you're not, but that two weeks or so that you didn't have that much practice you let them work back into where they need to be and hopefully you will peak at the right time."

On your connections with offensive line coach Joe Pendry:
"Well Joe Manchin, who is the governor of West Virginia, was from my hometown and we grew up together, even though he was a few years older than me.  Joe Pendry and Joe Manchin were roommates at West Virginia, both on football scholarship, when I was probably in eighth or ninth grade, so there is probably four or five years difference in age.  So Joe used to come home with Joe Manchin, the governor, when I was in the ninth grade.  I used to go see Joe play in freshman games because we had freshman games, that's Joe Manchin, and Joe Pendry was his roommate. So, I've known Joe from that time.  I've know Sandi (Pendry) from that time.  He's visited us at the lake and stayed at our house.  We coached together at West Virginia for awhile and now we have the opportunity to coach together here.

On if Pendry approached you about this job or did you approach him:
"Well, often times you have relationships with others in coaching and you call and ask about people and talk about people.  I am not sure exactly how it came up, but I was talking to him about some other coaches and some other people and it just came up that he'd be interested in coming back and just wanted to be the offensive line coach.  He's done a phenomenal job for us here."

On why Joe Pendry is a good coach:
"I think there are a lot of things, probably.  He's a good teacher. He has a lot of experience.  He's been around a lot of other good coaches and he'd probably be the first one to tell you that most of us learn what we know from someone else, which is knowledge and experience and being around good people, have good teaching progressions and teach in a way where the players can understand it and have the interest of the players at heart so they can get better.  That's the one thing you can say about our offensive linemen here, they've all made a significant amount of improvement and played significantly well for us."

On how the Pacific Institute has helped your players:
"We have a peer-intervention program here, which the Pacific Institute is a part of it and I call their part of it the mental-conditioning part of trying to teach people how to be successful and what it takes to be successful, whether its self-actualization, whether its focus or locking on or locking out. It's all some form of motivation that you try and get people to realize how important it is to be successful.  They are one part of that.  We usually don't have anyone speak to the team during the season, but we do have a lot of things go on in the summertime and during fall camp.  The off-season is probably where we try and make the most significant impact with those people from the outside that we use.  The speaking program that we have has lots of quality speakers that come in and speak about various subjects, whether it is drugs, alcohol, agents, gambling, spiritual development, how to treat the opposite sex, macho man stuff and getting in fights.  All the stuff you read about in the paper people suffer consequences for as student-athletes, we try to address in this, in terms of behavioral issues, as well as attitude development both sides and we have a lot of people that contributed to that in a lot of ways.  We are very, very pleased in what the Pacific Institute has brought to the program.  Community outreach is also a part of that, so compassion for other people is probably the most important things in terms of qualities that anyone can have and that is certainly something that we want our players to give back to the community and help other people."

On avoiding clutter in your own mind:
"I really don't think about stuff like that, actually.  When you work as many hours as we do and there are as many things that are going on, whether it is recruiting, or getting ready for practice or like I said the other day forgetting your anniversary, there is a lot going on.  We work a lot of time and we have a lot of people who make a lot of contributions, our coaching staff and everybody else, in management and scheduling and what you're doing. I try to pride myself in the ability to focus on the next event and try to do that as well as we can so that everybody in the organization will have a chance to do as well too.  I think anticipation of issues and problems is really important in trying to do that, so you are always trying to think one step ahead and be well organized when it comes, so you're getting the most out of the work that you're doing, whether it's with the staff, or with the players, or with recruiting or any of that stuff.  I don't have a lot of time to think about that.  I really try not to think about it and I really don't think about it.

"Anticipation is what's coming up next.  We have a practice tomorrow.  What are we going to work on in practice?  What's going to be the focus?  There are a lot of things you need to cover and that's the type of stuff I'm thinking about on a day-to-day basis.  We are going to evaluate practice today and decide what we can do to help make it a better practice, as well as individually, how we can make some of these corrections that would help someone play better.  Also, reinforce the positive plays, so the guys can feel good about what they did accomplish in a good way.   So, that's not ever been one of my issues.  It's always been the next thing, the next challenge, the next issue and the next play.  I honestly believe that if I'm blessed with anything, it's the ability not to get complacent and not to get sort of comfortable because of the perfectionist that I feel like I am in terms of how we operate and what we do.  That's not easy sometimes when you've got that kind of personality, but it is what it is, I guess is what I usually say."


Senior cornerback/return specialist Javier Arenas

On the difficulty of getting back into the routine of practice after a long break:
“If you ask me it’s easier because you get that time off to get your legs back underneath you, and you feel like you haven’t played football in a while so you’re not sluggish. You’ve got more excitement. When you do get back into everything, you’ve got to take it upon yourself to make sure you do all the things right to get back to where you used to be, as far as tackling and reading assignments.”

On controlling people physically being a trademark of the defense:
“Yeah, it’s one of the things. There are a lot of different things to being physical – like chemistry. That’s just one of the many things we do well, but we pride ourselves on being very physical. We pride ourselves on playing speed defense as well – flying to the ball. There are a lot of things we pride ourselves on, but that (being physical) is just one of them and it’s safe to say that.”

On last year’s Sugar Bowl versus Utah serving as a learning tool for the BCS Championship:
“I think it’s too far in the past. We’ve got a lot of confidence coming into this game, but at the same time we’re hungry still because we haven’t accomplished anything like this before. We still have something to accomplish. We’re not thinking back to New Orleans, but we do know how we got in that position and lost that game, so we have that advantage on our side.”

On his senior class having a chance at a memorable finish:
“You can’t write it up any better, you know what I mean? I think it’s something that we’ll notice after the season when we look back on it as seniors, “Dang, look how that that happened.” We’re going to pride ourselves on it, and it will make you a better person in the future. Not playing football, but as a person because you’ll know what kind of hard work you put it, and know what the results are if you do that (work hard). It’s a special time for a lot of seniors. The underclassmen might see it the same way when they come back.”

Senior linebacker Cory Reamer

On last year’s Sugar Bowl having the feeling of a consolation prize:
“Yeah. The Sugar Bowl is a great place to play, but the way it’s been going the No. 1 SEC team has been going to the (BCS) National Championship (Game), so it did (feel like a consolation prize). It was real heart breaking to lose the SEC Championship and I think that kind of wore us out preparing for the Sugar Bowl, which you can’t let happen if you’re going to be a successful team. You want to win each and every game you play, but we weren’t prepared at all last year and we were not ready to go out there and compete. We should have been.”

On off-the-field distractions surrounding bowl games:
“You have to be put in the situation we were last year, where we had a lot of distractions off the field, stuff that really didn’t let us focus everyday on what we needed to do. As a teammate you have to think about your team and not about yourself going into this offseason. There are a lot of guys that have an opportunity to go to the next level, but right now their main focus needs to be on what we need to do to get better and get ready for the next game.”

On Greg McElroy early in his career compared to now:
“I think he was pretty much the same guy that he is now. He was sitting back learning from John Parker (Wilson) and John Parker was a great quarterback to learn from. He had a lot of experience, so Greg really got to watch him and see how he did things. When he was redshirting, he still made great decisions. He still ran the offense like he does today. He always understood what the coaches wanted, and I think that’s what he is doing today that’s important – he’s managing those guys really well.

Senior defensive end Lorenzo Washington

On Alabama holding no victories in the Texas series history:
“I definitely found it surprising that Alabama had never beaten Texas. I would have thought that at least somewhere that Alabama would have beaten Texas, so it is kind of surprising.”

On Terrance Cody’s All-American selection feeling like a “team award”:
“Terrance Cody is an incredible player.  Being named a first-team All-American, a lot of the stuff he goes out there and does it himself.  I think a lot people get individual awards from, like coach said, everybody working together.  Terrance, he made a lot of plays this year, not necessarily tackles wise, but he’s so important because every offensive line coach schemes against us you cannot forget about Terrance Cody.  He might not be making many tackles, but he’s taking up double teams, even triple teams sometimes.  They slide protection away from him, run the ball away from him, which allows the linebackers to make plays, even people like Mark Barron and Justin Woodall, our safeties, get to come up and make a lot of plays.  I think each player doing their job individually, not necessarily just the people who made All-American, helps people get awards also.”

On whether it is tough staying focused with a lot of time between games:
“No, we just need to go out there and take it day by day, practice by practice, period by period and play by play.  You can’t look to the future; you’ve just got to handle the now.  I think everybody daydreams a little bit, but when it all comes down to it, you’ve got to live in reality first and take care of that first.  You can dream all you want, but you have handle reality first.”

Junior quarterback Greg McElroy

On the greatest challenges the offense faces in getting back to the level it played at vs. Florida:
“I think it all comes down to rhythm.  So much of our offense is based on rhythm and efficiency.  Sometimes when you’re throwing the ball when a guy is out of his break, as opposed to right before he gets out of his break then that can make a big difference.  Having the two week layoff that we had it’s been difficult these past three days to get back to where we were before the Florida game.  It’s something that we can fix by getting repetitions and we’ll have plenty of those over the next few weeks.  Coach Saban will have us ready and Coach McElwain will have the plan.  We’ll be able to execute I think fairly strongly pretty soon, I think it just takes a couple of days to knock the rust off and get back on the same page with you offensive line and receivers.”

On how familiar he is with Colt McCoy:
“I know Colt fairly well.  I met him when I was in high school when I was junior and he was a senior and once or twice at camps.  Colt and I spent some time together at the Manning Passing Academy.  I’ve gotten to know him mainly through that and the social situations.  That was pretty enjoyable and getting to see somebody on the field is obviously eye opening.  I have so much respect for Colt in the way he carries himself and the way he handles both the pressure and the celebrity status that comes with being the Texas quarterback.”



Sophomore wide receiver Julio Jones

On Kareem Jackson’s abilities as a cornerback:
“Kareem, he’s a lockdown corner.  He’s great at zone or man-to-man.  If he wants to he could take his game to the next level.”

On the offense making progression throughout the year:
“We just take what the defense gives us.  They were double teaming me and the run game opened up a little bit.  Also, they weren’t expecting the other receivers, so Greg was killing them with those guys.  The season kept going on and they starting respecting the other receivers a little more so then the running game came open.  Now they don’t know what do to.  You have to pick your poison.  You don’t know if you’re going to stop the run or stop the pass, so either way.”

On Mark Ingram winning the Heisman Trophy:
“I knew all along that he was going to win.  I was hoping he would anyway.  It’s great that Mark won and brought in the first Heisman Trophy here.  I am really happy for him.”

On having a long break between games:
“It’s good to get that rest, but at the same time coach told us things to do while we were home like work out three times.  You need to workout to stay in shape, but we’re always hungry.  We’re never satisfied.  Nobody on the team is getting complacent.  We haven’t arrived yet.  We’ve still got something to do.”