Q&A: Spurrier previews Alabama
"Okay, we're looking forward to going to Tuscaloosa Saturday night at 6:45 their time, 7:45 eastern. So, it will be a late one getting back, but that's okay. It seems like we play a little better at 7:30 than we have at 3:30. Hopefully that will help us a bit. When you look at Alabama you notice how experienced these guys are. You wonder why they're so good; they've got I think seven seniors on defense starting and two juniors. And on offense, really only three seniors and four juniors. They're an experienced team. Their guys have all been there. Their quarterback, Greg McElroy, is in his third year at least. That's why they're a solid team. We don't need to tell you how good they are, everybody knows how good they are. It appears they and Florida are probably the top two right now in the country, the way it's played out. But we're looking forward to going over there and seeing what happens. Obviously we've got to play a whole bunch better than we've been playing. Most of our guys are pretty healthy right now. Weslye Saunders should be back, and offensively I guess we're about as full strength as we can be. Defensively of course, we've lost a few guys and it hurts us a little bit. Travian Robertson probably is a big loss there inside, and Rodney Paulk. But other than that we're looking forward to seeing what happens over there in Tuscaloosa."
Question: Coach, do you think top to bottom, the SEC West is more talented than the SEC East?
Spurrier: "I don't know about all that. That's for you guys to figure out, we don't worry about that. We just try to get ready to play one game at a time. Try to play a lot better than we did last time out. We still have a lot of sorry plays here and there that haven't quite cost us some games. It did cost us one (against Georgia). Other than that we've been very fortunate to have the record we have right now. We all realize that, and we're still trying to play much better. So we'll see if we can do it."
Question: How far will this game go towards letting you know just how much work you have to do to really get the team where you want it to be?
Spurrier: "I have no idea, we haven't played it yet. After we play it, ask me that, okay?"
Question: On Sunday, you talked about Stephen Garcia and how he had earned the respect of his teammates with that dive for a first down. Based on your experience, a quarterback earning the respect of his teammates, is that an ongoing process, or something that can develop fairly quickly?
Spurrier: "Well, I think he's had respect, but you earn more as you go. Anytime you leap in there and throw your body around to make a crucial first down to possibly win the game, you earn a little more respect. But he had it also. You keep earning respect with everything you do as a player, so that's what I was trying to say. He earned a little bit more. But they've respected Stephen. He's done just about everything we've asked through the summer with preseason workouts and so forth. He's trying. He still has some miscues here and there, but not nearly as bad as last year. So he's making progress."
Question: With how they've played, is this a game that's going to be decided at the lines of scrimmage?
Spurrier: "We got to where sometimes we struggled against a lot of teams up front, but then we do some good things also. Our line struggled. When one guy struggles on the offensive line, then they all can look pretty bad, I guess, (or) the line looks bad. But our guys are doing better. I think they can play better. Our offensive line can play better. Our defensive line I think has played about as well as we can. Most of those guys. We missed a few tackles last week that hopefully we won't this week. Anyway, the linemen certainly have a big control over every game."
Question: Do you coach any differently when your team's a big underdog?
Spurrier: "Big underdogs? You coach a little differently. You may play it a bit more wide open and hope everything hits. You certainly have no chance playing conservatively against a team like this unless you feel like your defense can play very well. If we feel like our defense can stop them most every time, then you can play conservatively. But Alabama's got such a good defense (that) offensively they don't have to try a whole lot. They're going to make sure they don't have a bad play that would give the other team a score. So, certainly the strength of your team does determine a lot of the play calling. Florida (against) LSU last week, they didn't have to throw a whole lot, just run the ball and play defense. Play calling goes with how you feel your team can beat the other guy, simple as that."
Question: Steve, has the speed of your defense been able to overcome some of the loss of that physicality?
Spurrier: "Yeah, a little bit. A little bit of the speed certainly has helped. We're not real big in there. Of course Shaq Wilson is about a 210-pound inside linebacker. He doesn't look like most of the guys we've played against. But he does a good job to keep those big linemen off him. Cliff Matthews and Eric Norwood I think are the two best rush guys in the country. Everybody's got a lot of good ones, but our two guys are as good as everybody now. Now can we get Alabama in a throwing game? I don't know, it would be fun if we could. If we could somehow get ahead by a score or two. I don't exactly know how that's going to happen, but if that could happen late in the game, I think our pass rush should give them some problems if it comes to that. We'd have to get ahead before it would come to that type of game."
Question: Steve, what is it about Coach Saban's teams that make them so effective?
Spurrier: "Well, first of all, like all coaches he is one of the best recruiters in the country. That's why he's one of the best coaches. I'd put him in the top four or five coaches in the country. He and his staff do a super job there. They're just sound, they're very sound on defense. They play a lot of the same coverages everyone else plays, they just play them a lot better, disguise them more. But they are a ‘come after you' type defense. They don't want to concede a two yard run. If they can tackle you behind the line, they try to do it. They're an attacking type defense. But (they've) played fundamentally very sound, very good."
Question: When you look at their defense, what do you think about Rolando McClain, what he does at linebacker?
Spurrier: "Oh they're all very good. He's a big strong guy, looks a little bit like Jasper Brinkley in there, 6'4'', 260 and so forth. He's one of many. Of course they've got the big defensive lineman, he's as big as about anybody. They list him at about 354, that might be a little on the underside. You see him on tape, Terrance Cody. But he's active too, he moves around. Usually those big guys like that play offense, but he's a defensive tackle in there that can move around so hopefully we can slow him down a little bit."
Question: Is that the biggest challenge for you there on the inside, how to block Cody?
Spurrier: "That No. 91 from Kentucky, Corey Peters, gave us all we could handle last week. He smashed us up pretty good at times. But yeah, Cody would probably be the biggest most physical guy we've had to block thus far this year, sure."
Question: Was that 4th quarter against Kentucky maybe good for the run game going into a test like this?
Spurrier: "Our draw plays? We popped a couple of draw plays last week fortunately to put us in position to win the game. We certainly didn't knock them back too much. But you know, Kentucky they played Alabama tough. They've got a good defensive line, they really do. Anyway we'll see if we can make a few yards here and there."
Question: Steve, what was it that Alshon Jeffery needed to do, I mean how come y'all were not relying on him more early in the season?
Spurrier: "You try to let everybody earn their way. If you watch practice, as coaches you try to let everybody earn their way as they go and Alshon kept getting better and better knowing where to go. In fact, we were commenting last night in practice that he's practicing so much faster than he did earlier in the year. In fact, last night he was flying around. He's improved. He'll tell you that. When you know where to go, then you can go faster. For a true freshmen to step in here and learn the offense without being here much during the summer, he's come pretty quickly."
Question: Steve, do you like relying on those young guys on offense? Stephen doesn't have a whole lot of experience, Alshon a freshman, Miles a freshman. Do you like relying on those kind of young guys?
Spurrier: "We're relying on whoever we think are the best players obviously to give us a chance to go win the game. We generally don't sit around, I try not to talk about so many freshman and young guys, but we have said we don't think this is the best team we're going to field here overall. We have a good team, but we're not a dominant team until you have some fourth and fifth year players. We have about five or six seniors on the entire team that play. I found something else very interesting when I looked at their specialists. Their punter, their kicker, their holder, and their snapper are all seniors. So these guys have done it a long time. They're experienced, they come in with a lot of confidence anytime they play. So we've got to have some good things happen to get us in the ballgame with these guys. But who knows, maybe we'll get some bounces like we did last week. Maybe that ball will bounce our way on Saturday night."
Question: Coach, C.C. Whitlock got a game ball last Saturday. Do you think maybe he's matured a little bit from last season, after some off-field issues?
Spurrier: "Yeah, C.C.'s tried to do what's right. And that's why you don't give up quickly on some freshmen that have some problems. Hopefully after this game Akeem Auguste will be back. He's a very good player, but that's what gave C.C. his chance to play. C.C. had a good game, he made eight tackles I think which is something he's not familiar with doing, is making a lot of tackles. So he's improved, has gotten tougher and has proven he's ready to play. He'll probably be, when Akeem comes back, one of our three corners in there."
Question: Steve, you've had your team in this position before where you're nationally ranked, got a good record, facing a tough team, higher ranked team. Do you feel with this team you have maybe a few more bullets in the gun, maybe a bit better chance to spring the upset?
Spurrier: "I don't know until we go play the game. Obviously we want to go and give it our best shot and see what happens. But there's not a lot of pressure on that stuff. We're not sitting around here telling our guys. There's more pressure on the Kentucky game and the game next week when we play Vanderbilt because we line up with those guys a lot better. So we all know that. On the other side, if something good happens, we're going to give it our best shot and see what happens. But we're not going to toss in the towel if it doesn't work out for us. (There's) a lot of football left, and this is just one game and we want to get in the mix with them and see what happens. But we've also got to remember down the road a bit too."
Question: Kenny's carried the ball 40 times the last three games, more than double of any of the other running backs. What has he been able to do to go from no carries the first two games to being the featured back and got to carry six times that last possession against Kentucky?
Spurrier: "He seems to make some yards. That's usually the reason you give the ball to a running back more than the other guys. He's running forward and not going backwards, and making a guy miss every now and then. So that's probably why. But still, Brian Maddox did some good things the other day, caught a nice pass down the sideline and made some good blocks in there. So he's still going to play. Jarvis, we'll get him in every now and then. I wish we could get in Eric Baker. He looks good running around in practice right now. But it's hard to play all of them. Of course we've got Sherm, Bryce Sherman averaging what, twenty (yards) a carry, something like that, can't get him in there. It's hard to play five running backs. But we are playing three, so it's hard to do that also."
"I think South Carolina, we won last time we were in Tuscaloosa. I think Syvelle Newton had a heck of a game if I remember right. 20-3 game, so they're probably a little bit different Alabama team than then, but who knows?"
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