Saban Says

The LSU football team has completed its first week of spring practice, and head coach Nick Saban met with reporters after Saturday's workout to discuss the Tigers' progress.

Opening Statement

"It was a little warmer today than it has been. I don't know if it was just temperature-wise, or more humid, or what, but I noticed the players getting a little more ‘second day in pads.' It was a little more of a struggle out there today for them than it was the first day (in pads) on Thursday.

I thought we had a really good energy level on Thursday. I don't think we practiced poorly today, I just don't think we had the same energy level that we've been having in practice, maybe because it was Saturday, maybe because we practiced earlier in the day, I don't know. But I think everybody controls the energy level that they play with and that they practice with, and certainly we'd like to do better than what we did today overall, in terms of consistency and what we're trying to get done.

We got a lot of different guys playing a lot of different, new places, and there's a lot of teaching going on. We're a little short on receivers because we have three guys out today. Skyler (Green) has a bruised knee, which he hit against the film tower. It's not badly hurt and he'll probably be back to practice on Monday. (Blain) Bech has got meningitis, and Gino Giambelluca pulled his hamstring Thursday. So we have three receivers out and we only had 8 to start with so that made it a little bit tough on that group.

Michael (Clayton) didn't play much defense today because we're short on receivers. But that's the way it is in spring ball. You have limited numbers of guys, you get a few guys hurt at a position you usually come up short, and that's the way it was today.

But I was pleased with some of the things we did offensively; I thought we threw the ball better today. I thought Matt (Mauck) was better today, just moving around, setting up on passes, and throwing with accuracy. He looked better today. He didn't look as bothered by his foot, so I was pleased with that.

Overall, we have a long way to go. We have a lot of things to improve on. I think the identity that we want to establish with this team is nowhere near what we want it to be, and we're going to keep working on that. Just play hard, be relentless, be more aggressive, have a little more mental toughness, be able to persevere and sustain things a little better. Play better in the fourth quarter, all those types of things.

But otherwise, I'm not disappointed in where we are, I just think we have a long way to go."

"What kind of role to do you seen Michael Clayton playing this year with the receivers?"

"He's had a great off-season. He's starting to step up and be assertive as a leader, which I think is good. I think the guys respond to him because everybody respects him.

I don't think we have a problem with leadership on offense. I think both quarterbacks show some leadership ability, we have a lot of experience in the offensive line. We have three receivers with a significant amount of experience and have made plays. The only place we're a little bit young, but it's easy to pull those guys along, is running back. So I'm pleased with that part of it.

On defense, I think we have to establish some leadership. I'm pleased with the way the first group of linebackers have played, but we haven't established much depth behind it. It's the same thing at safety. That's going to be a process and a very important goal of this spring.

Michael has been a leader, had a great day today and had a great spring, had a great off-season program."

"What was it that kind of hampered him last year?"

"Well he hurt his back late in the season and he played in the Sugar Bowl and hurt it again. So he really had a tough time. I don't think he ever really went through the off-season program, I don't think he was every really full-speed at spring practice. I don't think he ever really got in good shape before the season started, so we were probably a third of the way through the year before he was really totally himself."

"How's the competition at running back?"

"Well I haven't been disappointed in any of them. Shyrone Carey has made some plays. (Jason) Spadoni has done well. Justin Vincent is out there for the first time as a true freshman this semester and has done very well. Ryan Gilbert has started to show some toughness and maturity, and Joseph Addai has really don well. All five guys, we've been really pleased with."

"What are you looking for from the linebackers?"

"We have one starter back, and Cameron Vaughn started a couple games, so those two guys have some experience. They've been the best two inside ‘backers to this point. Jason Ledoux we really would like to see develop, we'd like to see him continue to improve. Dave Peterson was a backup Sam for a whole year. He was off the team last year, he's back this year. He's played fairly well. Alonzo Manuel is a freshman with some promise that's kind of feeling his way right now.

We just don't have a lot of depth at that position, we don't have a lot of experience at that position. We're just going to try to develop the players we have and we're really going to make an effort to develop the guys that we recruited this year so they can contribute."

"You've moved Lionel Turner to Mike?"

"Turner is playing Mike and Cameron Vaughn is playing Will right now. It's not a tough transition they're both really inside ‘backers. You all make it a big deal but it's really not."

"How are the guys at Sam?"

"Peterson's done a good job so far. Alonzo Manuel, we're pleased with his progress. He's made a lot of improvement over last fall. We have a long way to go with all the backups at that position. Eric Alexander has played some safety and some linebacker and seems to be a little more comfortable playing linebacker right now.

We just don't have a lot of depth there, and that's something that we'll have to work with some young players to improve on."

"After this first week what's the most encouraging or surprising thing you've seen so far?"

"Really I'm not surprised by anything, because we're with these guys for five weeks in the off-season program. Even though you're running around the gym and doing agility drills and now you're practicing football, the same personalities, the same attitudes, the same character kind of comes out in each guy regardless of what the task is. I'm not really surprised by much of anything.

I'm not disappointed in anything. I just feel that we have a lot of work to do. I think the staff has done a great job of working with the players and I think we got a lot accomplished and things have gone well at this point, and we're just hopeful that we can continue to make the kind of progress the rest of the spring and summer that we've made to this point in terms of improvements."

"You've talked about guys stepping up into a leadership role on defense, vocally and not just by example. Have you seen that yet?"

"Not totally, not like I would like to see. I think everybody's doing a good job, but total leadership has not emerged on defense. We'll see."

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