Saban's Weekly Talk With Sports Reporters
Here are the opening comments of Alabama Coach Nick Saban at Monday's press briefing:
"I think in review, a lot of guys really played really well in this last game which was something that was pretty obvious in the film. Defensively, we probably played as well as we have all year relative to stopping the run against a team that can run the ball effectively. We had a couple opportunities to make a couple other turnovers that didn't materialize for us that would have been big plays in the game. Offensively, we ran the ball effectively at times and didn't have enough consistency in the passing game. The bottom line is the major mess ups in the game; the other team was able to take advantage of. It is all about execution and how we did in our execution, not just on one or two plays, but in several plays that put us in those situations.
"You win or lose as a team but every individual executing is what helps you win. I think that is what we need to focus on. As a team, we need to move forward, we don't need to look in the rear view mirror, we watched the film this morning and we learn and improve from our mistakes. We look forward, we have a two-game season here coming up with Louisiana Monroe in our next game and there is no blame to be placed on anybody. We're trying to help people be successful in terms of how they execute, what they need to execute on a more consistent basis so we can do a better job as a team.
"It's not like we went out and played a bad game, we just had some major mess ups, not just by one person but by several that created some situations in the game that we didn't overcome. As I said at halftime, this is an opportunity to show your true character. You have 30 minutes in the game to come back. We're down by one point. This is what great competitors do - you get in tough situations and you respond. You respond the right way. It's an opportunity to do that and forget what just happened. To move forward and let's go execute and do what we need to do to have the most success in the game that we can and we are capable of having. We didn't do that.
"We're looking forward to this game, and making the improvements we need to make to improve as a team. It will be Senior Day and we have 22 seniors that will be playing their last game here in Bryant-Denny Stadium in front of their family and friends. I hope this is something that can be a memorable final home game and something they can take with them and I hope that what this team can accomplish is something that everyone can find some pride in the improvement we made in the way we finished the season.
"As a coaching staff, we had several outstanding performers, Andre Smith played an outstanding game, and he had the highest grade among all of the offensive linemen. DJ Hall had five catches in the game with a lot of circumstances of them trying to take him out of the game. Ezekial Knight and Darren Mustin had the most production points in the game. Leigh Tiffin did a really good job in the game; he is also the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week - 4-for-4 on field goals, two of those, the 50-yard types in critical situations. PJ (Fitzgerald) had his best day punting the ball, a 44.8-yd average with a couple inside the 20. Eryk Anders did a good job on special teams for us.
"The Injury update - Roy Upchurch will be in non-contact to see how his shoulder responds, he has a possibility to play in the game. B.J. Stabler we just have to sort of manage him day-to-day and week-to-week relative to his knee. He may be able to practice but it will be on a limited basis. Demarcus Waldrop was injured in the game with a groin injury that will probably keep him out for a couple days; we will see how he responds from that. We don't know what his status for this game will be.
"Charlie Weatherbie has done a very good job there in terms of they have turned their season around and won four out of their last six games. They are an outstanding offensive team. A very good quarterback, an excellent, exceptional running back. There are probably some similarities to Houston relative to their skill players. On offense they do a very good job on spreading you out and they run the football effectively. Dawson has had nine or ten 100-yard rushing days against some pretty good teams, including Clemson and Texas A&M so this is going to be a real challenge for us. Defensively, they have a very skilled secondary; they struggle a little bit up front but have played better lately. I think that the real key to the game is creating balance by running and throwing the football and not turning it over and to not give teams like this opportunities that create points on the board. It's not bad to punt, it's not bad to kick, and it's not bad to kick extra points. All those things don't have negative consequences. In the last two games we have made significant contributions to the other teams by not making good decisions on taking care of the ball and that is something we have to get better at."
Coach Saban then answered questions from reporters.
On Jimmy Johns as an option on short yardage situations:
"Jimmy has been backing up at fullback and tailback and we are trying to play the best football players, the guys that are the most ready to play. Jimmy has certainly made some improvement of late but he has struggled a little bit this season. We are trying to get him to play with more consistency and hopefully that is something we can get to here in the near future. But Roy Upchurch was kind of the guy that we would use in those situations and he got injured in the game. Jimmy has been practicing more at fullback than tailback but he can do both."
On Leigh Tiffin:
"There are certain technical things that you need to do to hit the ball straight, but everybody swings a little different. There are bench marks you like to look for in guys so they can be consistent. Leigh technically is pretty sound in what he does. I think it's a matter of confidence and having the right psychological approach. For years I managed these guys like they were playing left guard and that is not the way to do it. They are going to go in for three or four plays in the game, almost like an assassin mentality they have to focus on that one thing they have to make it work, it's a little different approach. I think if you focus and concentrate on that one thing you have a better chance. You are not like the rest of the players on the team so why try and make them that way. I think he has done a good job for us all year and I think his confidence is growing and I think that is very important as a specialist that you believe what you are doing, you believe in your techniques, you know what your benchmarks are and you duplicate those on a consistent basis, that is basically in a nutshell how you coach kickers, punters and specialists in general."
On the execution of the team and grading the film:
"The execution always needs to get better but the continuity is important too. Right now offensively we had some significant changes at some pretty critical positions. Although I thought the offensive line did a pretty decent job in the game. Chris Capps did a decent job in the game. Mike did a good job playing right guard. Andre Smith had a good game but there a lot of changes. Obviously, we are playing a guy (Jonathan Lowe) at running back right now that wasn't even playing running back in the beginning of the season. He did a pretty good job in the game, created some space plays and did some good things. Some of that contributes to it, some of that contributes to what you do; some of it contributes to how the players who have been playing well think of the circumstances and situations that they are in. That shouldn't be what they are but it does have some effect on them in some way. There are critical positions where you need to get it right and if you don't get it right people can't do what they need to do to be productive. That happened in this game. We have to develop more confidence and consistency so we can get what we need so that can feature some of other skill players so guys can make more plays. Defensively we made some errors on third down and that's about consistency. When you play the same play five plays in the game and set the front right and make the adjustment and its third and 10 to get the ball back and to win the game and you don't do it, you tell me why. It's an ability to focus on that moment in time and be able to execute in critical times and don't hurry up and do it and do it fast, do it like it's always been done. We didn't execute one of the three plays on the goal line correctly. We didn't block the guys right. I know that if we had a big back in there he would have scored and a little back wouldn't, but it also helps a big back, little back, me running it, whoever - if you block them right, that helps a lot. It helps if we run the play we threw an interception on right, it helps a lot. So when you don't do it right that is when all the questions come. It didn't work, it was the wrong thing to do, I agree with everybody, it was the wrong thing to do, and it didn't work. Unfortunately, we have to make those decisions when the game is going on. We can't get the results and then decide. We had the ball on the one-yard line. We thought we could run it in on second down and we ran it behind our best players and we didn't block them exactly right. We didn't block the edge and the guy hit the back in the backfield and we felt we could run it in that situation. Obviously, when you throw the ball to the other team and they run it in for a touchdown you wish you did something else on that play, too. Winning football comes from the ability to execute and that is not being affected by any circumstance in the game – or anything that happens in the game – and when the game is on the line that is when you have to be able to focus and execute the best. That's what makes for winning football."
On Sticking with Leigh Tiffin to not take away his confidence:
"I never really thought he was struggling that much. He missed a few that he could have made, I trust and believe in the guy and he made a big kick at Arkansas. Just like I trust and believe in the right side of our line on the 1-yd line. I think the guy has done a really good job; he never consistently wasn't able to get the job done.
On playing reserves more:
"I'm worried about winning the game. I'm not worried about who is playing. I would like to see our starters play well in the game. I would like to see them execute and gain confidence in the game. It has nothing to do with how long they play in the game it is how they play when they play. However many plays they need to play in the game to get the job done, that is what we would like to see. We can build confidence in what we are doing and feel good about what we are doing and play winning football. That is something we need to get back and doing. That is the important thing, how many plays it takes to do it is not an issue."
On Chris Capps' progress:
"I thought he did a good job in the game and Mike (Johnson) did a good job at right guard, as well, we might end up that way again this week. I'm not sure at this point it depends on other people's health situations. Chris (Capps) has been our third tackle all year long and we have been fortunate to have both tackles and now the circumstance is not because we lost a tackle but because lost so many interior guys that we had to make a switch to try to get our best five guys on the field, Chris is one of those guys right now and he did a good job in the game. He is a smart player and he is one of the guys that even though he has been a starter around here he has never not worked hard to continue to improve and get better throughout this season. I always tell players, and players have a tough time with this, you can't always create your opportunities in life but you always can be ready to take advantage of the opportunity when it comes by working and preparing all along. Just because you do that doesn't mean you are going to get an opportunity but it does mean you will be able to take advantage of it when it comes. I think Chris has done that all year long, he made improvement, has good understanding and he played fairly well in the game because of it."
On the productivity of changing players:
"Our players here on our team, based on our experience, no one can be productive on our team who hasn't created that for themselves. It had nothing to do with anything else relative to what they do, their consistency in performance because we want to play the best guys. Some guys have been inconsistent and some guys have shown flashes of good things at times and other guys have struggled with consistency for various reasons. None of these guys are not performing because they have some personality characteristic that makes them a bad person, I'm not talking about that, just been their ability to perform on a consistent basis for whatever reason in terms of what want and need them to do. We would like to help all the players that have ability have chance to contribute in a positive way. We have done a significant amount of things to help some guys to try and get them on the field and be consistent."
On the play of quarterback John Parker Wilson: "I think everyone has a responsibility and obligation to do their job on a consistent basis and I think some things are obvious and to not acknowledge the obvious would be ridiculous. There are some things that happened in the game that don't need to happen and can't continue to happen. This organization can't tolerate bad judgments. We are continuing to work to try and get that corrected whether it's through preparation or keeping poise in games, having an understanding of what expectations might be so that we can be more productive on a consistent basis. We can't give it away. If a guy tries, does the right thing and throws the ball to the right place then we can live with some of that. But when we are not doing that on a consistent basis that is a concern. We have to get it fixed and take what the defense gives you. The last two teams have schemed to take 22 (DJ Hall) out of the game and we need to be able to recognize that because we have other people should be productive in those circumstances."
On keeping Wilson's confidence up:
"I talk to the quarterback often, we have one or two meetings a week most of the time and we have already had a meeting this week."
On naming Chris Capps as a game captain for the Mississippi State game:
"We have a group of players that we feel are doing the right stuff. We don't want the leadership to be limited to two or three guys that get elected captain, so we rotate the seniors and even at that don't limit the leadership to just the seniors. So everyone can contribute and for all the guys that we feel are providing leadership and affecting other guys in a positive way we have rotated those guys as captains. We don't have a scoreboard; we just kind of enforce positive performance in what guys have been doing to make a positive effect with their teammates."
On Ezekiel Knight's performance:
"I think the biggest thing is that Zeke hasn't played linebacker, a standup position before in his career. He's probably not quite big enough be a ‘hand in the dirt' guy all the time and we use him as a standup guy on regular downs and a ‘hand in the dirt' guy on third downs, which minimizes the running plays he has to play and maximizes his ability to rush and his athleticism. It also gives us a chance to stand him up when we go to the 30 package because he has linebacker skills and rush skills. That's three different roles for a guy, and for a guy who really hasn't played the position before, there is probably a little more difficulty there in developing confidence and knowledge. As the season has gone on that has definitely gone on for him. He is playing a little more instinctively, pulling the pin a little quicker and making less mental errors. So, hopefully, he will continue to do that because he is a guy that has a lot of ability."
On preparing for the defense scheming for DJ Hall:
"Well, we tried to plan for it last week even though they have never done it. I come from a kind of copy-cat league. Anything you see on film in the NFL you are going to see again. If somebody hurt you with something you are going to see it again. That is the way it is, and that is good coaching. That is why you watch the film, you see what gives people problems and if you can implement it that is what you do. So we anticipated it and practice and will see some form of it again."
On Rolando McClain's progress:
"I think Rolando (McClain) has done a fantastic job for us all year long. I think for a freshman to accomplish what he has accomplished, especially at the position he plays, we have seen a tremendous amounts of multiples this season in the offenses we have faced. I can't tell you how good we feel about what he has been able to do and how he has been able to do it. I do feel that sometimes the cumulative effect of all those adjustments and multiples can cause some confusion with some players and he has probably been able to consume more without being confused than maybe any freshman I have ever coached. So he has done a good job. We are in a situation right now where Prince (Hall) is back and (Darren) Mustin is playing defensively. It's like having three starting linebackers right now."
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