COACH SHULA: Good afternoon. It's good to be here. We hope y'all have had a good off-season. We hope you guys have missed us as much as we missed y'all. It's that time of year again, and we're excited about the upcoming season.
I think our off-season -- I think we've had a pretty good off-season. We had a lot to find out about our football team with losing nine starters, nine seniors, eight of the nine that were three-year starters. We wanted to get going right away, started early in spring practice, really felt that our team vastly improved from day one of spring practice until our game on the first day of April.
We're looking now as coaches of getting back and having the opportunity to work with our football team, find out about these new freshmen.
Last year I got up here and talked about it the first time being back to have an opportunity to be at 85 on scholarship. We really only got to 77 last year. This year I feel very confident we'll be at 85 and I'm very happy about that.
Now, we'll be a young 85, as most of you know. As far as the freshmen coming in, the last couple years we've had respectively 11 true freshmen on the field two years ago, 10 true freshmen last year. I think this year, if I had to guess, I would guess we would see anywhere from five to six on the field, which is kind of I think -- again, I'm still kind of new at this. From every coach that I talk to, that's about where you want it to be, where you're playing freshmen because you want to play freshmen, not necessarily because you need them.
Last year I talked about having 14 graduates. Last year, I should say, we had 14 guys on our football team playing in the Cotton Bowl that had their degrees. Not all of them were seniors. I think there was one junior. This year, by mid December, we should see 11 guys with their degrees, which makes you feel proud as a coach. I think our guys have worked extremely hard.
Along those lines, we all know a couple years ago we were below average with our APR. We improved it last year to where we were above the line, so to speak. It's improved since then. I think our guys academically have done a nice job, our players, our support staff in academics have really put us on the right track. We're still not where we need to be, but I think we're heading in the right direction.
You know, I continue to be amazed by the amount of support that we receive, especially right from Dr. Witt, our president, athletic director, Coach Moore, our Board of Trustees, everybody involved just in providing us with what we feel is best for Alabama.
This year obviously everyone knows about the stadium expansion to come online for our first game. We've added other facilities that will be perfect for Alabama in that regard. In the past, we maybe haven't had that. Coach Moore has done a great job since I've been here in providing us with that. That is just the message to me personally and to us as a football staff, a football team, that people want the best for us. We're motivated by that.
Other things in the off-season, we had two coaching changes. Our defensive end coach, new coach now that came over from Vanderbilt, David Turner, has done an outstanding job in his short time. Our new strength coach Rocky Colburn came from the Atlanta Falcons, former teammate of mine. Done an excellent job with our players in the off-season. Happy to have those guys.
Before I get into our players specifically, our schedule, we're excited to have eight home games on our schedule. We know they will be tough games. We'll probably have one of the toughest road schedules in the country. I know in four of the loudest stadiums, for sure. We're excited about that. We realize that's a tremendous challenge. We want our guys to be ready and accept that challenge.
I think overall with our football team, we talked about replacing the seniors. We'll have seven new starters on defense. Of those seven young men, five of them will at least have some kind of experience, maybe not necessarily starting experience but definitely where they played quality plays for us in the past few years. Obviously, they'll now be starters for the first time. That makes you feel better as a head coach.
Two positions will be a little bit young at, the mike linebacker position and the strong safety position. We're going to have to obviously make sure we've got guys that can compete there and come in, get experienced in a hurry.
Offensively we'll be replacing just two seniors, our center J.B. Closner, we've moved Antoine Caldwell into that spot. Marlon Davis would be at the left guard spot where Antoine came from. The big news on the offense is to replace Brodie Croyle would be John Parker Wilson. I'm excited about him personally. I think he's already, I think, a leader if this football team, not just for the offense, but for this football team. I'm anxious to see what he can do out there.
He's a sophomore. He hasn't had a lot of experience. We know that. It's kind of like Brodie was a couple years ago. We think this guy, young man, can make plays. Is he going to make some mistakes? Probably. Any time you do something for the first time and you're out there, you're probably going to make some mistakes, but he's going to make a lot of plays. We have talented guys like Ken Darby, some other guys on offense to come up and provide us with some ability to run the football and take the pressure off the quarterback, so to speak, as much as you possibly can in the SEC.
We're looking forward to this year. Things are going to happen fast. We report Monday, August 7th. Obviously, got to get ourselves ready for the opener against Hawaii.
Question and answer period:
Q. Long road since you took over, everything you went through to get your team to what you did last year. What do you think your perception -- what is the perception of Mike Shula with Alabama fans now compared to what it was three years ago when you took the job? You come here talk about being on the hot seat. Obviously, that changed a lot since last year.
COACH SHULA: The minute you think you're not on the hot seat is when you get yourself in trouble (laughter).
You know, if I talked about what I thought the perception of me would be, it would be the first time I talked about it really. There would be a lot of people in this room that say, Hey, you never talked to me about what you think your perception is.
Obviously, winning 10 games last year, it made us feel good for our seniors, where they've come from. Do we have all the answers? No. Do we need to get better? Yes. Is that going to be harder to do with losing some three-year starters and some good leaders, some good talented leaders that we wish the best of luck in the NFL? Is it going to be harder to do? Yeah.
Are we up for the challenge? Yes.
I think those are the things that are on my mind. Not necessarily the perception. You get the feeling that there's an excitement out there. If you just based -- maybe that's the best way to answer that question. If you base it on the off-season, amongst red elephant clubs, alumni clubs, high school coaches maybe, the relationships there, I think that definitely has increased, if that's any indicator.
Q. Could you talk specifically about the wide receiver position, in particular if there's a plan now in place for Tyrone in terms of whether he'll play this year at all or not?
COACH SHULA: That's one of the positions offensively that we've got to take a close look at. We may see some freshmen on the field. We're not depth chart-wise we're not as deep as we were last year obviously with moving Ezekial Knight to the defensive end spot, who now by the way is up to 237 pounds. Then, of course, the question mark with Prothro, whether or not he'll be ready for the season. We haven't made any official statement. We're taking it day to day.
The good news is if he can't make it this year, we can redshirt him and get him back for next year.
There's some other guys we have to find out about, the Will Oakleys, the Nikita Stovers. And then the young guys possibly we might see on the field would be Earl Alexander and Mike McCoy. That's a position that I think as we saw a couple years ago with Keith Brown, D.J. Hall, who we expect a lot from this year, as well as Matt Caddell, that's a position where you can see guys and get them on the field earlier than maybe some other positions.
Q. Can you talk about Ramzee Robinson, Ken Darby, why did you select them to come here? What did you tell them about this event? Talk about their careers.
COACH SHULA: Actually, I didn't really tell them that much. I think they hear a lot about it from our media relations department as well as maybe some of the guys that have done it in the past. The reason those guys have been chosen, just because we feel like we've got a lot of guys that represent us well, but these guys have represented us well for consistently throughout the years.
Ramzee has really paid the price. I can remember his redshirt freshman year, our first year here, where he was the guy when he came in the game, teams looked if him to pick on him. Now all of a sudden he's played very consistent football for us, has been a very physical player, obviously his leadership, his enthusiasm spreads throughout our team.
KD is a another guy that's really paid the price, fought through some injuries, is a highly motivated guy. Maybe a little bit more so to himself than, let's say, Ramzee, but has really given us some solid play. Obviously for us to win football games, we need him to do that again.
But we've also got some depth there. That keeps him a little bit on edge, so he's not complacent. We have some other guys behind him we think we're going to need. We play two or three guys every week that we need to help this football team win.
Q. Ken Darby. What kind of a practice player is he? How much of the offensive load is he going to carry this year?
COACH SHULA: Well, two years ago we ran the ball probably as much as any team I've ever been around. He had a few games where he was in the mid 30s. I think even one game he had 40 carries. I'm not sure we'll see him carrying it that much just because a couple reasons. One, we feel like we have an ability to throw the football. We also feel like we've got some other guys behind him.
If he's on his game, we're a much better football team; we're a much more dangerous football team. We're going to need that week in and week out.
As far as practice, what kind of practice player he is, I think he's a very good practice player. He's got the lunch pail mentality. He's going to come to work every day. He's been a guy that's fought through some injuries, too. Sometimes you have to keep out because he wants to practice when you know he shouldn't practice and the trainer keeps him out.
He's got what we need as far as the mentality to play the position and to win in the SEC.
Q. Can you talk about Marcus Carter, your expectations for him this season, where you think he needs to make the most improvement?
COACH SHULA: Marcus is at that strong safety position I mentioned earlier. We don't have a lot of experience there. He's played for us. He's played mostly special teams. He really has improved over the course of the spring practice from day one to day 15. He's done a nice job.
He's going -- it's not his spot for sure right now. He's going to compete for it with a couple guys, Corey Reamer, here in Hoover High School here in Birmingham, a couple other guys. But that's going to make him better.
We need him to produce. We're a defense that's been fairly successful against the run. A lot of it is because of the guy playing that position. Last year it was -- they're interchangeable pretty much with Charlie Peprah and Roman Harper. He's going to have some big shoes to fill. If he keeps making strides like he did in the spring, he ought to be able to do some good things for us.
Q. Where are you going to play the multi-talented Jimmy Johns?
COACH SHULA: Did he ask you to ask me that question (smiling)?
He's lined up as our halfback. Our coaches fight for him just about every other day in our staff meetings. Our linebacker coach fights for him, our defensive end coach fights for him. Sparky Woods, our runningback coach is holding on for dear life. He is a talented guy. Anybody that's watched his first run and the first game he played last year, his first carry, compared it to any of the spring practices that were open, especially at the end, you'll see how much he improved.
I know we probably could put him at the linebacker position and get him in there. I know this. Not many of our defensive backs or linebackers like tackling him. I kind of like that in people saying that about our runningbacks. He's going to be at runningback. Hopefully we see a much improved runningback in Jimmy this year.
Q. I don't know many coaches who were in favor of the permit 12-game schedule. Schools either have one open date or none. Your opinion about that? Do you think after a couple years, the coaches will try to mobilize a little better and try to do away with it?
COACH SHULA: Well, it sounds like that's probably pretty tough to do as far as the coach, from the coach's standpoint.
You know, when it was first being talked about, I'm just going into my fourth year of college experience, at that time I think it was just one or two years when it was originally talked about, all the coaches that I talked to that have a lot more experience than I do, like you said, they were against it. With all the demands on the student-athlete, school-wise, there's a lot more they're asked to do than obviously an NFL player who that's just his job, that's the only thing he does.
It's something that in the lack for us really of a bye week during the course of the season anyway, it's going to make it tougher. Those are things that you just handle. Those are things that you talk about. When they come up, you talk to your football team about it. You make them a non-issue.
As far as that is concerned, we'll go 12 weeks. We'll go however many weeks we need to go. I guess all of us will probably be better to answer that question at the end of the year when you kind of see the results of your own football team and the burden it takes on as far as the mixing in of the academics obviously.
Q. Can you talk about having so many starters back on offense, how that helps a young quarterback, having that supporting cast, just what you like about Wilson, what his strengths are?
COACH SHULA: Well, I think we've got some returning starters back, 9 of the 11. I think we've only got two or three starters that are seniors. We've got Ken Darby, Le'Ron McClain, Tim Castille, even though he's not a starter, we treat him like a starter, and Kyle Tatum. That's it. We've got some experience coming back. They'll continue to stay here with John Parker. That will definitely help. We know we've got to get better at the offensive line position.
I think that everybody involved offensively has to have a hand in how we move the football, just can't rely on the quarterback.
I think what John Parker Wilson brings to the table, he's got good arm strength, good touch, good accuracy. We think he's a mobile quarterback. He's not a Vince Young or anything like that, but we think he can make and create plays when he needs to. We can do some things and get him in and out of the pocket where he's not just sitting back there, so to speak, at the same spot every play.
That's what we have seen so far in practice day in and day out and also in some of the games.
Q. You returned four starters on the offensive line. Are there some spots where you see competition coming over from the pre-season camp?
COACH SHULA: For sure. We've added Justin Britt. We moved him from the defensive to offensive side. He's going to compete for the right guard spot with BJ Stabler. BJ Stabler is an interesting young man. He can play some tackle. We may take a look at him possibly at the tackle position, too, or even a left guard spot. We need to create that competition there.
The one guy, graded out the best last year, was Antoine Caldwell. He's now at the center spot. Chris Capps and Kyle Tatum have both improved. They've been through some tough times as younger starters to the positions, young experience-wise.
But I think they'll be better because of the experience, whether or not it's good or bad.
Overall, I think we're going to be a better offensive line just because we're more mature physically.
Q. When you have a young quarterback like y'all had this year, several teams in the SEC this year will have, is that the one position that makes coaches the most nervous? Why would you agree or disagree with that?
COACH SHULA: Yeah, for sure. Any time you have a young quarterback, you'll probably be a little more nervous. I know you think back to -- what you compare it to is how you felt going into the season, and during the season last year with Brodie, who had been through the three years of experience, understood your system.
You know, I think the biggest thing, is there concern? Yeah. You'd be lying if you said it wasn't a concern. It's not like you don't feel like you can win games -- you can't win games because of a young quarterback.
We've got to do a good job, just like John Parker Wilson has to do a good job with what he's asked to do, we have to do a good job as coaches in what we're asking him to do. We feel like what we are doing offensively will best fit him in being successful for our team.
Q. What does Prothro have to get done before he can get on the field? Where is he in his rehab? Have there been complications? How is it going?
COACH SHULA: There's a lot of -- obviously, it was a serious injury, very serious. Does he have a ways to go? Yeah, he's still got a ways to go. It's a day-by-day -- there hasn't been any complications as far as that. It's an injury that's going to take a while to heal. Everybody that's had an injury like this responds differently.
For us to say he's going to be ready next week wouldn't make any sense. For us to say right now he won't be ready until next year, that doesn't make any sense either.
It's not that we're trying to, you know, hide or keep anything out. Everything is going well. He's improving every day. That's the thing that I keep seeing, I keep hearing, that makes me feel good about him being back. When he's going to be back, you know, we don't know.
Q. Going back to the discussion of the open date or lack thereof, you said you handle that and go on. Is that something you've ever seen before or dealt with before? How do you envision dealing with that this time around?
COACH SHULA: I missed it? As far as what?
Q. The bye week.
COACH SHULA: Not having the bye week, the open week.
Well, for a long, long time, my personal experience coaching-wise first few years in the NFL, you didn't have bye weeks then. You kind of go back to that mindset.
I think it's something that you talk to your players about at the start of the season, and then it becomes a non-issue from that point on. Everyone gets in their mind, you look at the schedule, there's no breaks, there's no open week, you just get it in your mind you're going to have to grind each and every week.
I think it puts a little bit more of a premium on your depth and utilizing your depth throughout the year. You structure things -- you might structure things a little differently practice schedule-wise where your guys don't feel like without a break they're just -- you know, they're not at their best week in and week out, without a week to take off.
Those are all things that you talk about as a staff. You talk about that when you're going through your two a day schedule. You may restructure some things that way as well as the in-season practice schedule, too.
Q. Fighting through your fan base to get up here, saw a guy with a couple houndstooth hats in his hands. You came from out of state. Talk about the passion of the Alabama fans. Does it ever let up during the year?
COACH SHULA: It's unique. It truly is unique. It's exciting to see that in your fans where you're out on the road, whether or not you're speaking to an alumni club, booster club.
I wished as a player I was exposed to that much excitement in the off-season that I am now as a coach. It really is, it's something that, with the excitement, comes high expectations. Nobody realizes that more than we do as coaches. We remind ourselves that each and every day, how important it is to come to work and know that you have to worry about the things you can control, give your best each and every day, have that be contagious with your players.
Q. This is your fourth year. Most of your ballclub are kids that you've actually recruited. How important has that been in establishing your program? You've also surrounded yourself with veteran coaches, a lot of coaches with head-coaching experience. How has that helped mold this into a program that really has your stamp on it?
COACH SHULA: I think, number one, we've had a good mix -- a unique mix of players and coaches since we've been here due to the circumstances in which we got here. We came in May, the coaching staff, the players, obviously seeing I was the third coach they saw in one year. Those guys, especially the last two classes, the class that just left, then Ramzee and KD's class, are guys that have taken the young guys under their wings.
It wasn't they were recruited by this coach, all these other guys were recruited by our staff. It hasn't been that they really meshed together. We do have a smaller class this year than I would think most years, a smaller senior class, I should say.
Is it important for the young guys to come through? Yeah, it's important to help us win. We've talked about replacing starters in this room. I opened with it. I'm not so sure the most important thing are going to be some of these young guys we recruited are not going to necessarily be starters but are going to have to come in and play quality snaps. Defensive line, we like to rotate guys there. We have some seniors, but we need some other guys to come in and play some winning snaps for us early in games.
As far as the coaching staff, I think it's a unique staff. I feel very fortunate to have the group around me. A lot of head-coaching experience on that staff in Joe Kines, David Rader, Sparky Woods. A lot of SEC experience in our staff. These guys have shown really from day one, obviously we just met that first year, then now, just how they're loyal not just to Alabama but they're loyal to me. I think that's very important for any head coach.
Q. What is your opinion on the level of quarterback play throughout the conference? Who do you see as the best players at that position?
COACH SHULA: Well, you know, I think last year we didn't have many guys -- we had one of the few guys that were seniors that had experience. Now we're in the boat with some other schools that maybe have quarterbacks that don't have a lot of experience.
I think, you know, Auburn, they've got a guy now that's got some experience, played well last year. He's going to be looked at to be one of the leaders in this group. You know, other than that, LSU with their quarterbacks, he's won some plays. They've got a couple guys in the mix there.
Don't look too much right now down the road about the guys. I think for sure that's been a subject that's been talked about the last couple years with the defenses playing the way they are, being known as a defensive-type of league, you know, that's a viable question for quarterbacks.
Q. Being the coach at Alabama, are you more scrutinized and dissected and second-guessed than maybe anything your dad experienced in the NFL or what you saw during your time in the NFL? Are you under the microscope more than maybe any other coach?
COACH SHULA: You know, that's hard to answer that question. I've been around coaching, haven't been a head coach other than year, but I know it's -- the word -- I'd like to ask you to define "scrutinize," but you kind of said it with being second guessed. That's everywhere.
People call it second-guessing, being scrutinized, criticized, whatever you call it. It's something that I think that has created interest. Whether or not you call it positive interest or negative interest, it creates interest in this great conference.
I know there's been other places outside of this conference where you go in, if you happen to turn a talk show on, you hear them talking about a certain coach, you say to yourself, Well, it's everywhere in the country.
You know, I kind of feel, this is obviously my first time as a head coach in college football, and it comes -- maybe I've had an advantage growing up and seeing my dad, all the things that he's gone through with winning and losing, the media, those type of things, you know, kind of understand that when you get into this position.
Q. You were talking about the passion with the fans and everything. How much do you think the home atmosphere at your games will be enhanced by the stadium improvements, having more seats, the plaza area, Walk of Champions?
COACH SHULA: I think the atmosphere for sure will be enhanced tremendously. I think that will help us in a lot of areas as far as obviously more people in the stands, when you close the end zone in, it's going to be louder. I think it's going to be a beautiful place for our fans as you're entering the stadium, from the north, the plaza, all that. The new sky boxes, the club level, all those things are going great.
What we've got to do to keep the excitement and atmosphere is play well. Doesn't matter after that opening kickoff, you know, fans are going to respond to how our football team plays. That's what we keep talking to our football team about.
Q. Did you look at year three for you when you took the job as maybe being the year you had the best chance to break through? Now that you are coming off the 10-win season, how important is it to maintain some consistency as you go forward?
COACH SHULA: Well, I don't think when I first got the job I thought about year three. I will say this: At this time last year, I felt awful good about having nine starters that -- eight of the nine that were three-year starters, felt good about our defense, felt real good about Brodie being healthy. We kind of had that mindset. Those guys really improved a lot of things - not everything, but improved a lot of things, won a lot of games and had some fun.
How important is it now to keep the arrow pointing up? It's extremely important, for a lot of reasons. Number one, like you said, there's more of our guys here. We need to find out just not about new starters, but new guys to come in and play winning football. We feel like we've got -- the players know what to expect from us now that they've been here. Now they can help our younger guys as they come in understand what the expectations are day in and day out at our university.
Q. What is your take on the graduate students being able to transfer without sitting out a year?
COACH SHULA: Yeah, well, it's definitely -- it's interesting. It can be scary at times. Our conference is a little bit different. I don't know if the commissioner talked about that. Other than having guys go and transfer to another school their senior year, it opens up - what's the word - I guess some nervousness for coaching staffs if all of a sudden you have a guy going into his senior year that's graduated, wants to go transfer, and there's nothing you can do about it. A little uneasy feeling, I should say.
Q. One of the biggest concerns is the 12-game schedule without a bye. What is the real concern, the gut feeling, the one that keeps you up at night that you're really concerned about with your team this year?
COACH SHULA: Oh, gosh. There's probably not just one. I guess scoring more points than the other team (smiling). Protecting the football. It's an overall thing. But it's a good feeling. It's a good nervousness. It's an excitement when you get into the season about what your football team is going to be like. You know your name as the head coach is on this program, your signature is on it. Obviously you want people, especially our own fans and alumni, to be able to say, Hey, that's what Alabama football's all about, when they see our football team out there laying it on the line for each other, being a disciplined football team, a well-conditioned team, a relentless team, and a team that can find a way to win games. Those are all things that you think about during the season for sure, probably every day for that matter, but especially during the season each and every night when you go to bed.
Q. How many offensive starters you have coming back and how few defensive you have coming back. You won a couple games 13-10, 6-3. Does the balance shift this year to offense having to do more to win some games that maybe the defense can't do?
COACH SHULA: Yeah, well, for sure, when you look on paper and you see the returning starters, for sure you're going to ask that question. The number one thing we got to do as an offense is find a way to score one more points than the team we're playing. We've had a pretty good defense the last few years in a lot of categories. Points allowed is one of them. I think even though we've got nine starters back on offense, we lost seven starters on defense, we still have more seniors playing on defense than we do on offense, even though they haven't started. That's what we've talked about as a staff.
But for sure, do we need to do a better job this year offensively? Yeah, for sure. Do we need to take pressure, not make our defense hold the opponent to shut-out or three points to win football games? Yes, we need to do that. Our defense needs to do that for our offense, too. If we need to shut them out to three points so we can win the game, we need to do that.
Q. You lose a great linebacker in DeMeco Ryans, also in the middle with Freddie Roach, a three-year starter. Can you talk about that situation going into fall camp, how you look for that to play out?
COACH SHULA: Well, those two guys are going to be hard to replace. We don't have any DeMeco Ryans on this football team that we know of right now. There may be one that emerges. But we do have some guys that got some experience. Obviously, Juwan is returning as a starter. Terrence Jones is a guy that hasn't started, but this is his fourth year now. He's played as a true freshman. DeMarcus is coming in and giving us quality snaps. Those are going to be the guys we have to rely on to come in and play, whether or not it's starters in Terrence or DeMarcus, to give us some winning snaps.
Again, the inside position where we have to replace Freddie, that's the one that's a little more concerning, but the one the we worked the most on with Matt Collins, Prince Hall, Darren Mustin. We have to have a guy that can definitely call the shots, stop the run, make sure everyone is in the right spot.
Q. Your take on fan message boards? Do you think they can be a distraction to the team?
COACH SHULA: You're probably asking the wrong guy 'cause unless it's right next to the game clock, I probably don't look at it too much.
Can it be a distraction to the team? Are you talking about instant replay, showing video replay?
Q. No, the message boards on the Internet, fans get on and post things.
COACH SHULA: I'm sorry. I thought you were talking about stadiums.
There's more Internet involvement for sure. Does that affect our players? Does it affect our team? You know what, I don't know. Everybody's different. The guys that don't read it, obviously it doesn't affect. Guys that want to read a lot about themselves, it probably would.
The same thing, those things are going to be up there, whether or not they're in the newspaper, they're on TV, whether or not they're good or bad, they're going to be up there. You can't control what people are going to say about you. Don't worry about it.
Q. Could you give us an update on a couple of guys, D.J. Hall for one, the latest, will he be eligible when he comes back? Something on Juwan, maybe had an issue resolved today.
COACH SHULA: Yeah, we expect both those guys to be back.
Q. How much have players changed since you played, considering the fact you look around the country, coaches are coming up with policies for gun control in their own team, players have myspace.com, how much have players changed since you played? As a head coach, how much do you worry about that kind of stuff?
COACH SHULA: It seems to me that there's definitely more things out there available to or presented to, you know, young people these days more so than ever, whether or not it's things on the computer or what have you. Unfortunately, not everybody's looking out for your best interest as a football player or as a young person.
Ours get exposed more so obviously because of the attention on our conference, on our football players. But that's what our guys sign on for.
When things come up, you definitely need -- the best thing I know is you confront them, you address them, you talk about them, you talk about the good, the bad. Everyone in this room, just like everyone on our football team, knows the difference between right and wrong. Use good judgment in that area and continue to talk about that and how important it is to have good character and know that you represent all of us when you sign on at our university.
Q. Do you ever remember your dad being approached at church for an autograph?
COACH SHULA: Do I ever remember my dad? No, huh-uh. If you're pertaining to anything that was written in regards to me this off-season, not one person has asked me -- one person has asked me about that, and that was six weeks after the article in Sports Illustrated. No, I was never approached. No, I've never changed churches. There hasn't -- other than one out-of-town writer asked me about that to confirm that. In case anyone wants to know if that was confirmed, if I've changed churches or been approached, no (smiling).
Q. In this day of big, strong, multi-talented quarterbacks, you're looking for them to help you out early on at the wide receiver position, but how much of a look will you give Earl Alexander at the quarterback position?
COACH SHULA: Right now he kind of has changed his tune a little bit as far as understanding that he can be a pretty good wide receiver as well. He's got that mindset right now. Are we ruling out that he could be a quarterback? No. Could he take quarterback snaps? It will be something -- we haven't even worked with him yet. We think that he could be one of those guys, a little bit similar to a Jimmy Johns that we want on the field, however we get him on the field, however we get the ball in his hands, is yet to be -- we still don't know just because he hasn't been with us as of yet. We're not ruling out Jimmy Johns yet. He has to take some more quarterback snaps.
Running Back Kenneth Darby
(On the attention/pressure one is under at Alabama) "When I was a freshman, I wasn't used to it. It doesn't take long though before you're around so much that it isn't as big a deal."
(On quarterback John Parker Wilson) "He's a great guy. I think he brings a lot to the team and will do more than is expected. He has a winning spirit instilled within him; he came from a high school that was used to winning. He brings that spirit to the team, and we feed off that just as we feed him with the experience we have."
(On John Parker Wilson) "He's maturing faster than expected. He reads defenses better, and he's really getting a feel for what the college game is like."
(On his health and outlook for the fall) "I feel good. I'm ready to roll."
(On Auburn running back Kenny Irons) "He's not really a rival. He's a good back, and I think I'm a good back. I wish him well."
(On the team's opener) "People can't disrespect them (Hawaii). We have a chip on our shoulders because we lost to them in our last game so we won't underestimate them."
(On the team's tougher road games this year compared to last year's) "We know it's going to be tough, but that's where your maturity level comes in. We will go to other people's stadiums and face other people's fans, and that's where you mature. All of that will make us better."
(On being near the school rushing record) "I think on it, but I'm not entering a game thinking about it. I'm going into a game just wanting to be productive with every carry."
(On the offensive line) "The guys have improved tremendously. Every guy was new last year except for JB Closner, and he's graduated. They (offensive line) got their feet wet last year, and now, they have the experience and know what to do so they will be 10 times better. They are more comfortable."
(On how badly he wishes to beat Auburn) "How badly have you ever wanted something you've never had?"
Cornerback Ramzee Robinson
(On expecting a lot of cameras) "No I didn't. It's overwhelming. It makes me appreciate the game more. I'm glad to be here and represent the team."
(On being an upperclassman) "It's all on my shoulders. I have high expectations, and I know they're capable. We want to be successful this year. We haven't gotten the credit we deserve. I took it upon myself to push the team."
(On if he thinks Tyrone Prothro will play again) "I think he will play again. I'm glad his spirits are high. He understands what it'll take to get back. His faith has propelled him thus far. We don't want to rush him. We don't want any injuries when he does come back."
(On the upcoming road schedule) "It's challenging. As a club, you want to be challenged. Road games will show us the team we have. We're looking forward to it, and we gotta think about it going into training camp."
(On his friendship with fellow teammate, Ken Darby) "Good people. He's my best friend on the team. I can always talk to him and he won't sugarcoat anything. He's good to have as a friend."
(On preseason poll) "It's motivating. With the season we had last year, we felt we deserved more credit. We'll have a chip on our shoulders going into training camp. We gotta let our actions speak. It's all about working for what you want."
(On playing in Cotton Bowl) "We expected more. We were playing well. Going into the LSU game, we knew it'd tell a lot about our team. We came to play (during Cotton Bowl) and were happy to be there, but at the same time we had higher goals for ourselves."