This isn't scientific, or anything, since we don't know the exact words they'll use, but it's a good bet Coach Nick Saban, senior center Ben Wilkerson, and senior cornerback Corey Webster, will convey the following messages:
Saban: How's everybody? It's good to see you again. You know I always enjoy talking with the media (smattering of laughs from the sportswriters assembled in Birmingham, Ala.). I've missed you.
Seriously, though, I'm sure you're all going to be asking me if we'll repeat as national championships. Let me just say that the word 'repeat' is not even part of our vocabulary. When you talk like that, all it does is create undue expectations, and that's the last thing we need. Expectations create tension and affect your ability relative to your potential.
What we ask of our players is to go hard every second of every play throughout the game. If we do that, the score will take care of itself. I never saw a team do that any better than last year. They stayed focused no matter the situation. It didn't matter if it was the first quarter, or fourth quarter, they never lost sight of their goal, which is to play to their ability every time they're on the field.
We didn't lose many starters from last year's team, but those we did took some valuable leadership with them. They kept everyone together and reminded them of what it took to be a a winner. The goal they set before the year epitomized what last year's team stood for -- being a champion on and off the field. If you act and behave like a champion away from the game, it's going to carry over once the whistle blows.
That's the aim of this year's team, too. How they carry it off remains to be seen. I like what we have to work with, though. I saw some good things in the spring, and our summer conditioning has been outstanding. Tommy Moffitt, our strength and conditioning coach, deserves special mention for the wonderful job he does.
I know you all want to know about individual players, but, again, that's putting pressure on them that is counter productive to what we're trying to do. My fellow coaches have already done enough of that by naming nine of our players to the preseason All-SEC team. I don't know if they were trying to make my job harder or they were paying us a compliment. In any event, as long as everyone does what's best for the team, we'll be OK.
I can't go anywhere without someone asking about the quarterback situation, so let me just say that whoever we have there shouldn't be judged in terms of what Matt Mauck did for us last year. Marcus Randall's a fifth-year senior and has the experience on JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn, who are redshirt freshmen. We won't ask the quarterbacks to do any more than they're capable of doing.
Justin Vincent and Alley Broussard are both more comfortable at running back after all they went through last season. Skyler Green is ready to take over at wide receiver. But, again, he shouldn't be compared to either Michael Clayton or Devery Henderson. Having starters back such as senior center Ben Wilkerson, and junior tackle Andrew Whitworth, makes a coach rest easier, but depth on the offensive line is always a concern.
Defensively, we'll continue to be aggressive. Whether that will translate into being one of the nation's leaders, as it did last year, I can't say. We lost two very strong linemen in Chad Lavalais and Marquise Hill, but retunees such as Marcus Spears and Kyle Pittman give us a lot to work with.
Lionel Turner, our senior linebacker, began to blossom at the end of the year. If he can show us the consistency he needs to, he'll increase his value to us even more. The athleticism in the secondary is so important to us, especially on the blitz. Cornerbacks Corey Webster and Travis Daniels play like the veterans they are. What LaRon Landry gave us as a freshman at free safety last year was indicative of the help we got from so many previously untested players.
I can't stand here and honestly tell you how good we'll be because there are no guarantees. But if we remember the process that led to last year's success, we'll definitely be headed in the right direction.
Wilkerson and Webster (since sportswriters are known for asking unusual questions, we've included both the questions asked of Wilkerson and Webster, and their answers):
Ben, do you see any significance in the fact that your from Port Arthur, Texas, which has produced so many famous people from Janis Joplin to Jimmy Johnson?
Well, I can't sing, and I've never coached so, no, I don't.
Corey, if you could, would you still consider playing basketball for LSU since you gave it some thought coming out of high school?
I also played quarterback, and I'm not going back to that position.