Q&A with Nick Saban

LSU's head football coach discusses talks about the Tigers with media members during the open week of the 2002 schedule.

Q: Do your players have a different intensity and focus when its time to prepare for a Southeastern Conference game?

A: I think our players realize this is our conference opener. I think they realize the importance of SEC games. I think they have a lot of respect for the team we're playing, and I think they need to remember exactly how you have to play this game for us to successful. I think that's going to be the most important thing.

If it creates a lot of anxiety because it's a conference game, then that's not a good thing. We want the intensity. We want the attention to detail. We want the longitudinal approach to getting better, you know, over the long term, that we need. But we don't want everybody to get uptight because were playing a conference game and not go out there and play the way we need to play for us to be successful.


Q: Do you have any feeling from the players on how they feel about playing early in the morning?

A: Well, I basically didn't ask the players. I pretty much told them if they're any good, it shouldn't make any difference if we played in the morning, the afternoon or at night. And I wanted them to get the mindset that you need to be able to play in broad daylight for everybody else to see.

If you're good in this league, there's going to be occasions when you have to play in the afternoon. We had to play in the afternoon for a stretch last year. Alabama and Arkansas were both in the day.

Those kinds of things you can't let affect you as a competitor. If you do, then you certainly don't have the maturity your teams needs to have to play with consistency. There are some things we don't control and that's one.

I know there's a lot of people around here who think, ‘You could veto that.' We can't veto that; it's a conference rule. …We can do everything we can to say we don't want to do it, but in the end we have to do it. We have to do it the first time they ask.

I think we should make it a positive thing, you know. It should be something that we look forward to, that our fans look forward to. I know everybody likes tradition and everybody likes a routine. But we had to play against a no-huddle last weekend and we had to change our routine on defense. So how about everybody changing their routine and getting their minds right for an 11:30 start? How about that?

That's really what our team needs. They need everybody to support them and not be upset because we're not going to play the game when they'd like for it to be played.

That's the way I look at it.


Q: How is Kenderick Allen coming along as his playing time increases?

A: Good. He played better in the last game and did some extra running (Monday) even though it was a day off so he could get back. His weight's come down a little bit too, so that's been helpful. He practiced well today…and he hadn't had any problems (stops to knock on his wooden desk). We're hopeful that he can continue to make progress.


Q: Do you have a better idea of when Donnie Jones and John Young will be back?

A: I think in ten days, probably sometime next week – Tuesday or Wednesday (Sept. 24-25) we'll know better in terms of how they've progressed. It's too early to call right now.


Q: How big do you think last week's game was for Matt Mauck's confidence?

A: Every time we make plays and develop some consistency offensively, it helps everyone's confidence. It helps the receivers, the quarterback, the team in general, feel like we can move the ball throwing it and we can do it with consistency.

Matt has played better every week and has never disappointed us in the way he's played. …We kind of expected the fact that the guy had not played that much (and) that he might not be the perfect quarterback the first game, like some people thought.

We're pleased with his progress. Jimbo's done a really good job with him. We've all supported him. I think the players respect him. I think he's done a good job of providing leadership for the offense and because of that, I think we've been able to develop and improve.

We have enough ability and talent there, if we develop the chemistry, we can be a pretty good offensive football team. You see flashes of that every now and then, but we have to be more consistent. The better Matt plays and the more plays that he makes, the more you're going to see that confidence grow with all the players.


Q: A lot of the defensive players talked after the Miami game about how the disguises they used were very effective. Is it just as challenging to install disguises as it is a defensive game plan so that you're not showing a disguise that will play into the hands of what you're scheming against?

A: It's just another step of preparing for a team. The crowd plays into that because (Miami) goes into silent counts when they play on the road, so there's a visual when he's (the quarterback) asking for the ball. Our defensive players used his visual signal to trigger all the disguises, knowing that once he lifts his leg up or rolls his hands that's he's asking for the ball. Therefore, he's not going to change the play because he's already told the center "snap me the ball whenever you're ready."

When they don't go on the silent count, because there's not a crowd noise factor, it's a little more difficult to disguise it because they're actually going on sounds. They can change the cadence at any time, and defensive players usually get caught one time out of position (in a disguise). Then all of a sudden, they want to line up in what they're in.

I think it happened to Corey Webster one time when they almost threw the ball over his head on front of our bench. He really was out of position when the ball was snapped because he never got back to where he needed to be to start the down.

But the disguises did do a good job, and it helped keep (Miami) off-balance. It helped our players be able to execute more effectively in the game, and they did a really good job with it. I mean they really did. You've got to give them a lot of credit for that because a lot of guys won't pay enough attention to detail to do that.


Q: Have you talked with Trev Faulk since he was cut from the Denver Broncos?

A: I have not seen him.


Q: Were you surprised that he didn't make it with a team?

A: I thought because of the kind of character that he had, the kind of competitor that he was, that he would have a good chance to make a team.


Q: Do you think he's undersized for a linebacker?

A: Not really. He could have probably gotten a little bit bigger.

I think it's a style issue. In the NFL, they look for guys that have special qualities. If you can really, really run and you're athletic, then all of a sudden your size is not a big factor. If you're not as good an athlete, they want you to be a big time thumper. Sometimes guys who are good all-around football players kinda get sandwiched in their as being not special enough in any area.

They want guys to play on third down. And to play on third down, you've got to be a good enough athlete to cover and to rush.

Even though Trev did a magnificent job for us here…I was always pleased with the way he played, the way he competed, the job that he did for us. We never took him off the field for any reason and even developed a scheme where he and Bradie (James) could both play at the same time.


Q: Did you tell him you thought he might be making a mistake by declaring for the draft early?

A: …Trev talked to several NFL clubs. I don't know what they told him, but I know what they told me. It wasn't that he was a first-round draft pick. …They haven't even done the full-scale work-up on the guy to know size, speed, work him out, make a judgment on athletic ability, change of direction – all the things they make their decisions on. They haven't even watched him really closely on the film to make a decision about what he can do for their particular team.

When they come back with that (he's a fourth or fifth-round pick), it doesn't take much to slide right out. When a guy comes back a 1 or a 2 (first or second round pick) or a 2 with potential to be a 1, which Josh Reed was, then I sit down and talk to them and show them: how much money they can make, how much they can insure themselves if they want to stay, how much we or the NFL feels like they can improve at their position relative to their problem is. And then you make a decision to go.

If a guy is not a first-round draft pick, you run the risk of what happened to Trev Faulk happening. You can slide easily.

That's what I've always told players, and there are players every year that make the same mistake.

But hey, it was Trev's decision to do it. We supported him in his decision. I was surprised that he didn't get drafted. I was hopeful that he would, and I was hopeful that he'd make a team.


Q: Are you guys using a new football this year?

A: No. There's a new football out that's kind of orange-looking. A football, to me, should look like a football. We used the same football they use in the NFL.

I guess I'm too much of a traditionalist. I think a football uniform ought to be whatever the tradition of the school is. I don't put raindrops on the side and stripes that match the bottoms and the tops. But that's where we're heading.


Q: Do you prefer the early morning games? Most coaches are early risers.

A: Hey, I love playing at night. I love playing at night here because it's a tradition and the people love it and all that. But when we can't play at night, we've got to make the most of playing in the day and we've got to play well in the day.

It can't be an excuse because they ball is still going to weigh 13 ounces, the field is still going to be 50 yards wide and 100 yards deep. So…just because it's daylight instead of dark, I don't know how that should affect anybody's spirit, enthusiasm, intensity, want-to, will to win – whatever you want to call it.

I know it's (night games) a tradition here, and it's a great tradition. I respect the tradition.

But we also have to be open-minded enough to know that we've got to have some flexibility.


Q: Could you tell the difference between day games and night games at Michigan State?

A: Not really. I don't even know that it's dark when we're playing at night because I'm just right in the middle of it.

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