Jim McElwain press transcript 8-3-2008

Alabama Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain transcript. Courtesy of UA

Opening Comments:

“First of all, and I haven’t had a chance to meet very many of you, but I want to express my gratitude to the people of Tuscaloosa and the people of the Alabama football family and the community around for making our first time here and the things we’ve done as a family feel welcome into the Deep South. It’s my first venture into the Deep South for myself and our family being from the northwest and the great state of Montana . It’s kind of interesting. I was able to get back for the three days of vacation that we took this summer to Montana . The Alabama name and what it does and the history and the tradition, it’s amazing how far that stretches. I know they’re crazy about it here but we were in a little store up in Polson ( Montana ) and I’ll be darned if one of the checkers—one of my kids was wearing their Alabama stuff—one of the checkers stopped production and said, ‘Wow, this is unbelievable. We have somebody with the University of Alabama at our store.’ It was a fantastic thing. And I do appreciate the history and the tradition and what this job entails.

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“That being said, I know there are a ton of questions. I’d like to start out with a few things right now (that) I’ll go ahead and tell you. There’s a pretty good chance John Parker Wilson will be our quarterback, alright? I want to tell you this. He’s been fantastic to work with. I know some of the past, and any questions about the past I guess I could answer you about Fresno State and the Oakland Raiders, some places like that. But what I try to do is, (as) we’ve come in here is rip off the rear view mirror. I can’t answer any questions about what was. I can answer questions about what I expect to happen, and in JP’s development, I have been very happy with the time he spent and the things he’s done in the offseason to better himself as a player. I think some of the things he’s maybe gone through are part of the position. I don’t think they are all deserving. This is a great kid. Somebody who cares about the State of Alabama . Somebody who really cares about Alabama football and a guy who is doing everything he can to help us win games this year. And that’s one thing I can say I’m very proud of him, and I look forward to working with him as our relationship grows.

“In his case, I’m his third voice. I’ve been in this situation before. That is a hard thing for the quarterback because even though changes aren’t big, nuances are. And in this offense we’ve been very fortunate in the past to put up some decent numbers and do some decent things. But at the end of the day it’s all about wins and losses and we can’t lose sight of that fact. If we have five yards of offense and win the game 3-0, it’s the greatest game in the history of football because we won. And that’s what the bottom line is, trying to win the football game. I’m not caught up in a lot of the stats. I’m not a stats guy; never will be a stats guy. Stats will fall where they do. The key is to figure out a way offensively to combine your defense, your special teams and your offense into one unit to win the ball game. That’s what the bottom line is. We have a luxury here of obviously having a great defensive staff. To say was I tested this spring by those guys? This guy’s advanced over there on defense, I’m telling you. There are some really good things that those guys do, and that only helps you as a ball squad. Those are things that I wanted to get out there on the table as far as JP. And the development of the other quarterbacks that we have, I feel we’re going to be able to have a little bit of depth there. Too early to tell. Was I happy with the 15 days of spring practice? Absolutely not, plain and simple. Although there have been games, and you could probably ask the people in the past that we’ve been very successful with and scored some points and ran a team out of the building, and I wasn’t happy with that either. So I guess where my mind set is that it is our responsibility to make sure that we are efficient in what we do; get the ball out of our hands; get rid of any turnovers and we put the ball in the end zone and the Red Zone. Is that going to happen? Time will tell. I’m not necessarily looking forward to the Clemson game or whatever game right now. We’re actually looking forward to today’s practice; looking forward to trying to win every play every drill we do and then we’ll work on that as we go. We can’t look down the pipe right now. We’ve got too much work to do in every individual drill.”

On if he’s had any “eye-opening” experiences in the move from Montana to Tuscaloosa :

“There have been some eye-opening experiences. This thing they call humidity? It’s something that’s awful new. You kind of enjoy yourself so when you do get some time to be able to go out and sit on your back patio, and sometimes you can’t because you’re dripping with sweat. But I tell you what, the great part, I will say this, and this is not by any ways to say anything about anywhere else, but, this deal they call Southern Hospitality? I’m speaking for my family; I’m speaking for myself: it is a term that is used in other parts of the country, but until you experience it? It is a great thing. The people are fantastic. When we talk about Southern Hospitality, I can’t say anything better.”

On whether “Quarterback Friendly” or “Playmaker Offense” are accurate terms for his offense:

“From a background standpoint, there are a couple of things that means. Number one, like in the game of basketball, you’ve got a shooter. You’ve got to figure out ways for that guy to touch it and get open shots. Anybody that’s seen anything that we’ve done before, we’ll do some disguised formations, some motions, some shifts to uncover a guy that needs to touch the ball. It’s pretty simple when it all boils down. If you’ve got a playmaker or a couple of playmakers, and in some cases you are really fortunate to have multiple playmakers, (your goal is) how to figure out what they do best and then put them in situations to be successful. When we talk about the quarterback position, I think sometimes as coaches we force them in to systems. What’s a system? It’s our responsibility as coaches to find out what these players do best and put them in situations to their advantage as far as how they feel comfortable. So part of building a system is around the players you have. And so I don’t know where the “Quarterback Friendly” term came from, but he better throw completions.”

On whether he was surprised to hear from UA head coach Nick Saban about the coordinator’s job:

“The first time Coach Saban called, I had no idea that there was anything happening here. Believe it or not, out in California the Tuscaloosa News doesn’t arrive on the front porch so I wasn’t quite aware of what was going on. When Coach Saban first called, I hung up because I thought it was one of my buddies messing with me. But did it didn’t come as a total surprise? Absolutely. I think he and Coach (Hill) had maybe talked but he, Coach Hill, hadn’t mentioned anything. At first that’s how it went. How he dug up this name, I don’t know. But you know what? I’m glad he did.”

On whether he has an offensive philosophy he may “preach” to his players:

“Yes. I think one of the things is part of the background of where we’ve grown up and the systems we’ve been in, but, number one is to be physical and make sure that the team that you’re playing knows that they better bring their lunch because we’re going to come after you on every play. So I guess (also) an idea of developing that, ‘Look, when we hit the field, we’re here and you’re in for a long day.’ That’s number one. Number two is, guys, in a game of football and a game of life there are ebbs and flows. What we try to do is preach the fact that we’ve got to stay on a level surface. We can’t get down. We can’t get up. What we have to do is do this. And we try to preach a ‘win this play’ philosophy. And what I mean by that is in the game of football, if you’re lucky you get 65-70 offensive plays, that’s 70 individual events that occur in the game. The key is to win the majority of hose individual events. Now you have a chance to be successful and win the ball game. So the idea of ripping off the rear view mirror (of) what happened on the last play and not letting it affect your play because you’ve got to go out and win the next play, those are the things that I try to preach.”

On whether UA has enough playmakers in its offense:

“There are guys who have individual skills that some do some things better than others. It is still in progress. Those 15 days—it’s amazing in the pro game you’ve got all these (open days), you’re with these guys all the time. So you are able to kind of develop a little more personality of who these guys are and what they can do. So this is really an important training camp because it’s an evolution of the 15 days we had. And, have those guys all come out? I’m not going to put a name on anybody because it’s still a discovery stage. The thing we’ve got to do right now is make sure conceptually everybody understands their role – everybody understands what we’re trying to accomplish. And at that time it’s amazing how playmakers kind of emerge.”

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