Saban Appreciates Offensive Efficiency
Following Alabama's 45-3 win over Georgia State at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said, "I was really proud of the way our team came out and played today. We wanted to build on the competitive momentum that we established last week in the way we competed in the game. We did a better job of executing, and I was really pleased with the way we came out, especially offensively, and scored touchdowns on the first five possessions and a field goal on the sixth.
"We executed better and I think our players made some improvement. It was great to be able to play a lot of players out there. Obviously, some of them did some good things and some of them had some things we need to correct.
"I think the experience creates the best learning opportunity for every guy that got an opportunity to play. Blake Sims has made a significant improvement as a quarterback. This was probably the first time that he's really played where we really allowed him to sort of run the offense. We put him in there today and I said, 'Look, I don't want any quarterback runs.' He needs to run the offense just like he has to play.
"I thought he did a really good job. I thought A.J. McCarron did a good job in the game. Chris Black, obviously. Dee White made an outstanding catch in the back of the end zone.
"I thought our efficiency was really good.
"Defensively, we gave up a couple of big plays. Playing a lot of guys, rotating guys around. One time we didn't have a corner. First play of the second half, the guy thought he was supposed to be in nickel but he was supposed be in regular 2. Some of those things got a little sloppy at times, but I think the benefit far outweighs the consequence in terms of the experience that those guys were able to gain.
"Really pleased and proud of the way our guys came out and competed today. I'm sure there are lots of things that we can work on to improve, and I think it will be important for us to improve. We've got a four-game stretch here of SEC teams that are all pretty good and it's going to be important to us to start playing our best football right now."
Offensive lineman Grant Hill played for the first time this year and Saban was asked about the freshman from Huntsville.
"Grant Hill is very, very intelligent, a very bright guy," Saban said. "Very football smart. It's very important to him so he's very much committed. He has a lot of pride in performance. He's one of those guys that is going to make sure he knows what to do and how to do it.
"He works hard every day to try to make sure that he's doing it the right way. From a character and attitude standpoint, you couldn't ask for a guy that has better intangibles. When you have great intangibles that's what helps you sort of accomplish whatever your goals are, whatever your vision is for what you want to do.
"Because you've got to have character and you've got to have great intangibles, and that's what sort of brings it out. That's really what he's got, that's really what he's done.
"We just felt like instead of taking a chance to redshirt him for this year that we were going to go ahead and play him today because I feel like we need him. I think it creates some competition. I think he's very close to being one of our five best players. Whatever position he has to play, we felt like we had to get somebody else ready to play."
The Tide coach was asked about the performances of young defensive players in general.
"I thought the experience that Geno Smith got playing out there at safety, which was the first time ever playing out there in the game at safety, was probably invaluable," Saban said. "There are a couple of things that we'd like for him to do better.
"I just thought it was really good that they all got to play. A'Shawn Robinson has really made a significant improvement over the last two or three weeks as an upfront guy, which is really important to us. We didn't play Jeoffrey Pagan today. He had a sprained shoulder a little bit in practice. He probably could have played today, but we just didn't want to push it, didn't want him to reinjure it. Didn't want to push him. If we had needed to use him, we'd have used him.
"Denzel Devall sprained his knee a little bit. He probably could have gone back and played a little. We just said we need the guy down the road, we've got other guys that can play. We've got other guys that we want to play, so we didn't put him back in the game.
"Other than that, I don't think we had any other significant injuries. "Eddie Jackson sprained his ankle or something. He could have gone back in the game and played but we were about ready to play John Fulton and try to get Maurice Smith some turns. Bradley Sylve played today. We need to continue to improve on the back end. We've got to be more consistent in what we're doing.
"I thought Landon did a really good job in what he had to do playing safety, which he'd always played strong safety. So for him to go over to free safety was good.
"Rueben Foster has been making a lot of improvement. He's a guy that we're hopeful can play for us down the road. Xzavier Dickson is a guy that we feel like is a starter on our team. Got a lot of turns last week, got a lot of turns this week. All those guys, I think, are helping. We need to improve our depth on defense up front and continue to have the competition in the secondary so that we continue to improve."
He was asked about the process of preparing safeties Landon Collins and Geno Smith, who are the back-ups to suspended starter HaHa Clinton-Dix.
Saban said, "They just both get out of class. We usually start meetings at 2 o'clock. We do a lot of install stuff and don't have a lot of time for individual type meetings. We watch a little practice tape from the day before and you can make corrections and teach on that.
"Those guys came in at 1:15 every day, so for 45 minutes I would just meet with them about basic fundamental things. I would show teaching tapes of guys doing it correctly, whether it's hitting your landmark in Cover 2 or how to play Cover 7. Whatever the circumstance was.
"Those days really helped those guys, because it gave them a visual of this is how we're supposed to do it and why. I think that extra time is just really beneficial to helping the players."
The coach was asked about the progress of wide receiver Amari Cooper, who didn't play in the first quarter. The sophomore is a pre-season All-America but has not been as productive this year as he was in 2012.
Saban said, "Amari practiced well this week. Every now and then, his toe gets a little sore, especially when we practice on turf. We really weren't holding him out. Dee White's been playing great for us. They both play the same position. Dee can play over on the other side too. Kenny Bell's been playing really well. Kevin Norwood's been playing really well. Chris Black continues to improve. Christion Jones has been very productive. We're just playing a lot of guys right now. It would be real beneficial to us if we could get Coop back in the swing of things. I think he's very close to being able to get there."
He was asked about the importance of games such as Saturday's. He said, "I think what's really important in games like this is that your players go out and you almost look like we have a faceless opponent here, and this is all about us and what we need to do to improve and let's go out there and execute and improve so we can do the things that we need to do that are going to carry over from a confidence standpoint as well as an ability to execute standpoint when you play the next time, which is going to be an SEC game. If you do that part right, then you have an opportunity to play a lot of other players, which we have not had a lot of opportunity to do this year.
"We need those guys to get some experience, make some mistakes, so that they can learn from those things. I think it creates an awareness, especially with young players, of how important it is to prepare and pay attention to detail when you're getting ready to play, because a lot of those guys are one injury from having to play.
"I think those two things are probably the greatest benefit. It was great to be able to play those guys and rest a bunch of guys to do. I think we played over 70 players."
Asked if there was any update on the status of Clinton-Dix, Saban said, "I don't have any new information and when we get new information, we'll certainly pass it along to you."
As for the men behind Clinton-Dix, Saban said, "I'm hopeful that they continue to improve. Landon Collins has been a really good player for us in whatever role we put him in. He's a fantastic special teams player. He also has played with six defensive backs in the game, so he's played a significant role and he does a great job at that. He hasn't had to play a lot of safety but now he's playing safety and he did a good job out there today. I think that experience will help him feel more comfortable and confident.
"Geno Smith hasn't played safety as long, so that will continue to be a work in progress. But Geno's got a great attitude and wants to do well and works hard. We have every confidence that he has the ability to do the things that we need to do at that position."
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