Season nearing for Saban and Tigers

Highlights from head coach's Media Day comments.

Q: What specific challenges does Matt Mauck face in replacing Rohan Davey?

A: I don't think you try to replace players. I think you have a personality and identity of your own…and you try to play to your strengths. You hope the players around you complement those things.

The challenge for Matt Mauck is to play within himself, to make the plays he can make and play to his strengths. For the players around him, to recognize what those strengths are and put a premium on the importance of their execution.

 

Q: What do you like about Matt Mauck?

A: I like the fact that he's a bright guy. He's got some leadership characteristics. I think he's a very good athlete and a threat to run the ball at any time, even on the passing plays… His understanding, the precision and the accuracy in the passing are all things we need to continue to work on and improve.

We were encouraged by the type of summer our players had in that area, so we're anxious to see how that starts out here in fall camp. I

 

Q: How much more will we see Domanick Davis in light of LaBrandon Toefield's injuries?

A: Not by plan. Domanick Davis is in phenomenal shape. Toe's in good shape. If Toe can go through this fall camp and not have any significant problems, we feel like both those guys are starters on our team. Both have proven their ability to be affective players for us in the past, and I think both deserve the opportunity to play.

It's really insignificant to me which one plays first or which one plays second. But I think both of them need to play a lot and have significant roles in what we accomplish on offense.

 

Q: What kind of expectations do you have for the defense, specifically the cornerbacks and whether they'll allow you to play a little more aggressively this year?

A: We're hopeful of that. I thought we improved in that area in the spring. I thought that was a team thing on defense; I thought we were better in the secondary but I also thought we were better up front. Marquise Hill, Marcus Spears, Kenderick Allen…and (Chad) Lavalais are a dominant front relative to their physical ability that we really haven't had around here.

Now we don't have a tremendous amount of depth, nor can we replace any of those players relative to their quality. But we do have some good football players behind them that are going to have to step up to the challenge and play up to their ability…

 

Q: Will you reign in Matt Mauck's ability knowing that you already have an injury at quarterback?

A: Hopefully, by the Virginia Tech game we will have an established second quarterback.

I'm an old pro guy. When you pay the quarterback $6 million a year, whoever it is, you don't want to see the guy get hurt. But the same time, we don't want to coach caution into a player and not let him go compete the way he's capable of competing and making plays. …You always want to practice with safety and teach your players to play with safety, but I think you cross the line when you make the players cautious.

 

Q: What's your assessment of the offensive line heading into 2002 following the loss of Brad Smalling and Kade Comeaux?

A: We were pleased with the offensive line in the spring. Unfortunately, two of the guys who were in the two-deep in the spring are not going to be there in the fall.

But I feel comfortable that we have five solid starters. The five starters that we have are guys who might have been starters anyway because they were certainly in close competition for a starting position before we lost two players.

Rudy Niswanger is also a guy that in spring practice we felt would be a very capable guy if he needed to start at any position on the offensive line – tackle or guard.

From that point on, I think we need to develop some young players. John Young is a senior player who can play inside for us and do a good job, but I think we're going to have some younger players develop and add depth that we may not have needed had we been able to stay totally intact from spring.

 

Q: Is good team chemistry a matter of luck or something you can nudge?

A: When you have as many guys as you do on a football team, as many personalities, as many different psychological profiles, I think it's always a challenge to the entire coaching staff and the head coach to give all these variables of personality a direction they can relate to and take ownership.

Obviously, the leadership on your team affects that as well. …I probably spend as much time on that as a head coach as anything. Sometimes you're effective at it. I feel like we've had good chemistry on our team two years in a row. I think it's gotten better as the season's gone on.

I'm hopeful that we have enough positive leadership, good people to buy into the system and feel like it's important to them that we'll have the same kind of result this year.

…It's always important that you know which dogs you can pet and which dogs are going to bite you. We had a lot of strays in West Virginia, so I learned about that early.

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