Stiff and obviously very nervous, his statements before answering questions sounded much more like a prepared speech than a synopsis of his team heading into the fall.
A head coach for the first time in his career after years of coaching in the NFL, the son of Hall of Fame Coach Don Shula handled the question and answer segment much better the longer he stood behind the microphone. Admitting that he never planned on being in this situation, Shula said he's eager to get the Alabama program back on its feet.
"As an alumnus you feel for your school," Shula said. "Each week we coaches would watch as much as we could of every Alabama game. When they won you felt great and when they lost, you just go up and down just like all the guys do here. All the things that have happened over the last few months just tore at you because those are the guys I thought about first. I pictured myself and if that would have happened to me how I would have handled it. Now we have something to do about that. We have a chance to go win, to surround ourselves with good people and win with class.
"People have asked me, ‘Why did you come back here?,'" Shula added. "One of the reasons is because I feel like I have unfinished business. We didn't win an SEC Championship, we didn't win a National Championship. I'm jealous of the guys at this university that have those rings. I want one myself."
That's something that's not likely to happen anytime soon with Alabama's program crippled with scholarship sanctions by the NCAA and negative publicity over both the Dennis Franchione and Mike Price eras at the school. Still Shula said that he feels this team has a chance to do some good things this season with the veterans the key to those possibilities.
"I haven't seen this team on the field yet, but on paper I think we'll be pretty solid. You have to remember many players that won 10 games a year ago will return as seniors. Granted this team lost some key players off last year's team. A lot will depend on how well we mesh these players together with some of the players that don't have this experience, and we can't afford injuries.
"The seniors will play a vital role to our success this year," Shula added. "This group has been through more than any of us ever imagined. They stuck with it and paid the price. Now they will lay the cornerstone for future Alabama teams. Any success we have this year, in my opinion, will be in direct proportion to their dedication to this football team."
One challenge facing Shula is trying to incorporate a new offensive system in time for the season opener against South Florida. After Price's run and gun offense was used this spring, Shula said that they'll pick and choose different things to build a base offense this fall.
"We'll take some of what was being done in the spring, but we'll add some variances by adding a few things that Coach Rader, Coach Woods and myself will bring. These kids have worked hard on their own this summer, but obviously we'll plenty of work to do when camp starts August 5th."
To accomplish his goal of getting the players up to speed as soon as possible, Shula filmed several lectures that the players used this summer to learn more about the offense. With that head start he said that by the time two-a-days are done he hopes to have a base plan in place. That's something that will be vital with a tough schedule waiting down the road for the Crimson Tide.
"What we've done is give them what I equate to a mini-camp book in the NFL," Shula said. "It's what we give rookies and veterans the first three or four days. We're going to go in with not a big playbook, but it will be stuff that we feel like we're going to run week in and week out to win ballgames with. As we got from there we'll continue to add."
Whether or not they'll have enough to add to make a difference remains to be seen. One thing is for sure though, this is bound to be a learning experience for the young head coach.