Predictably, a variety of subjects were discussed.">
Predictably, a variety of subjects were discussed.">

Shula quizzed by reporters

With several "visiting" reporters from Oklahoma and Texas also on the line, Mike Shula's Sunday teleconference took relatively longer than usual. <br><br>Predictably, a variety of subjects were discussed.

After having a night to reflect on Saturday's game, Shula was optimistic about his team's potential. "Hopefully now we can correct our mistakes and build on the good things," he said. We'll keep working to minimize our mistakes. If you have the chance to make a play or make a tackle, go ahead and make it."

Asked if there was something specifically that he could do this week to keep his offense from starting slowly, Shula laughed before replying. "If I knew that... It's just preparation and having confidence. We talk to our guys about not waiting on someone else to make a play. Be the leader yourself. Go make the play yourself, but don't think you have to do it by doing something other than what you're being coached to do.

"Play 100 percent and have confidence."

"Hopefully we'll get off to a better start," he continued. "But if not, we all realize it's four quarters. You've got to stick with it. It's a game of highs and lows. You've got to be able to forget about the play you just executed and go execute the next play."

When his team was down in the second quarter, Mike Shula talked to his veteran players on the sideline, advising them to stay calm and just go out and make plays like they had done in the past. In the third quarter, Shaud Williams made a big one, returning a punt 73 yards for a touchdown.

Saturday the Tide was able to overcome their early-game jitters to dominate in the second half. Should the offense struggle again, at least now the players know they can overcome it. "I think it helps a little bit," Shula acknowledged, "but hopefully we're not in that situation a lot. But if we are, then guys can look back and remember they were in the situation earlier. Let's just stick with it. Nobody panic or get concerned.

"Obviously you don't want to make a living doing that."

As much as anything else, Shula was glad to get a chance to work on game control. Saturday's game was the first chance he and his staff had to work together on the myriad details that go into organizing and directing a team in action. Shula explained, "We needed to go through the things you can't practice in games or scrimmages. Not the Xs and Os, but the mechanics of communication on the sidelines, the information that has to be passed along, making adjustments during the game."

Which areas remain to be improved? "We want to find ways we can get information down from the coaching booth down to the field to let us make adjustments," Shula replied. "My background is in the NFL. There you get four preseason games to get all that figured out. That was one of the things we all were anxious to see how it would unfold. We'll want to be even better next week."

Saturday's game presented an interesting contrast in coaching personalities. For South Florida, Jim Leavitt was up and down the sideline. When he wasn't yelling at the officials, the Bulls coach was getting in the face of one of his players.

On the other side of the field, Shula presented a decidedly calmer demeanor. Has he had enough time to imprint his personality on the team?

"I don't look at it as the team reflecting my style," he replied. "But one thing we talk about is we want to be well prepared. We want to be a disciplined team, not beating ourselves by making mistakes, penalties or mental errors. That's our approach. We want to be a disciplined, well prepared team that's on top of its game every week."

"We want to be a team that plays for 60 minutes," Shula continued. "We want people to watch us and come away saying ‘If you're going to play Alabama, you're going to have to play for 60 minutes, because that's what they're going to do. You're going to have to be on top of your game if you expect to beat them.'"

Bama's previous head coach made a great deal of creating statistics for the offensive line. Each week the film was scoured, looking for so-called "knock-downs" to be tallied per player.

Shula has a different system. He explained, "We grade our athletes, but we'll never release the grades of the players. In general the offensive line had to get used to South Florida's team speed on defense. Their quickness, they were slanting and stunting. We knew they were going to do that, but it's hard to simulate that when you practice against yourself. It's hard to imitate how quick they were.

"Eventually our guys got a good feel. We got off the ball better and started moving (South Florida) around in the third quarter."

On the injury front, Shula said he expected Triandos Luke to return next week. Luke had an excellent first half, catching four passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. But heat-related cramps kept him out of second-half play.

Versus South Florida's pass-happy offense, only three defensive tackles saw action for the Tide. But Shula says that will change. "We played just the three inside guys. The other guys that we thought might play didn't have a chance. We were going to try to play some of them later on, but our offense held the ball. They did a nice job of keeping it away from their offense."

Surrounded by photographers after the game, Mike Shula shares a moment with his wife Shari and daughter Samantha. Father, Don, the winningest coach in NFL history, can be seen to the left.

Seven different Bama players caught passes, and three different backs carried the football. "To a point I was satisfied (with the way Bama spread the ball around)," Shula said. "We completed some passes in the third quarter that helped us keep (South Florida) off balance, but we need to be better. We were just over 50 percent passing, and we need to be better than that. We'll look at whether it was Brodie or the receivers or the protection.

"That's an exciting thing to me. We won the game, and we're going to look at a lot of things where we have a chance to get better."

As he plans to do this Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium, Shula and his team stood on the press-box sideline Saturday. It will mark a change from previous years, but Shula believes it's justified. "I think it helped us. Being in the shade helped. And even before you get in the shade, the sun isn't in your eyes. You don't have to squint. It can be a little tough on the other sideline. I think it did help everyone being in the shade."

Virtually Shula's entire family, including two sisters, a brother, his father Don, and nephews and nieces, were on hand Saturday for his first game as head coach. Afterwards, he and ten of his friends from high school went back to Shula's house. While father Mike attended to family obligations, his friends ate pizza and watched ESPN highlights.

What was it like watching himself on SportsCenter?

"I really didn't see it," Shula admitted. "I was putting my daughter to bed and attending to other family things."

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