The long summer is over. Fall camp is here. Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban spoke with the press Tuesday and here is a transcript.
From ALABAMA ATHLETICS MEDIA RELATIONS
August 5, 2009
Alabama Crimson Tide Head Coach Nick Saban
â€œWe are very excited to be welcoming our players back to fall camp today. We ended our summer conditioning program last week and gave the players three or four days off. Weâ€™re hopeful that theyâ€™re excited about coming to camp. I am sure they are. Weâ€™ve had a very good summer with our players. We have about an eight week conditioning program that we feel like has gone very well. The conditioning tests that we did, weâ€™re very satisfied with the results of, and weâ€™ve had good participation with the freshmen in summer workouts. We are excited about the opportunity to start camp. You always have some camp objectives that are important to having an outstanding football team, and even though you all would probably be more inclined to think whoâ€™s going to play left tackle and whoâ€™s going to be the backup quarterback. The most important thing to us as a coaching staff is to get the intangibles in place so that we can get the kind of consistency and execution that you need to play winning football on a consistent basis. Things like discipline, focus, ability to execute and do your job, to finish and have the work ethic and the championship intensity to see these things through on a consistent basis. We also need to establish leadership. We have team rules and values, principles and values of our team, and we have a critical mass of guys that buy into those things on our team, but I also think itâ€™s important that you have people on your team that understand the vision of what youâ€™re trying to accomplish and have the personality to affect other people to the vision. I always think thatâ€™s very important to having the kind of leadership to affect some people who may need to be affected. The ultimate goal is that you play with a team full of guys that are all are self-motivated and all have the kind of intangibles that they donâ€™t really need to be affected by somebody else. We did not finish the season last year. Finishing the season, to me, is finishing games, plays, the season, all those things are still critical to establishing the right mental attitude for us to be successful. The real challenge I think is being able to deal with success. People sort of look in the mirror and fall in love with themselves sometimes when they have a little bit of success, and thatâ€™s not really what we need. We need to have a burning desire to improve, to get better, to play better football than we did a year ago, to help and support young players and less experienced players so that they can develop to the point that they can play winning football on a consistent basis. The practice schedule that we have, we do have a split practice the first practice. Weâ€™ve talked about this before, we like to be able to take all the young players and at least for one practice be able to make sure weâ€™re teaching them, whether itâ€™s drills or fundamentals, and that theyâ€™re going to get the reps and participation in that particular practice. So we split the squad and put all the young players in one practice. They get a little bit more time to prepare for that practice. They can actually view the varsity practice, so that they see what they did and learn from that. Thatâ€™s always been something that we feel helps the freshmen get off to a little better start. Weâ€™re going to do that the first day then weâ€™ll have our four days after that of just one-a-days, which weâ€™re allowed, then weâ€™ll continue on the two-one, two-one, two-one schedule until school starts. When school starts on the nineteenth (August) weâ€™ll be on our one-a-day schedule.
The rosterâ€”we have four players on our team that violated some kind of team rule and policy and were not invited back on our team. I think you know who two of these players are, one left already, Prince Hall. Brandon Fanney will leave. We hope that heâ€™ll be able to graduate before he leaves. Alonzo Lawrence and Jermaine Preyear, these guys all did something that, it doesnâ€™t make them bad people, but based on what Iâ€™ve told you before, we have a demanding program here. These guys didnâ€™t do what they were supposed to do here, whether it was for academic reasons or whatever. Theyâ€™re not going to be a part of the program. We had four guys, Cardwell (Evan), Kirschman (Charlie), Hester (Jennings), Matchett (Ivan) that will no longer participate because of medical reasons. They have some medical issue thatâ€™s going to keep them from being able to participate in the future. We have two players that transferred, and both of those players youâ€™ve reported on, Chris Jackson and Charlie Higgenbotham. We have three potential guys that when we pass out the roster today will be pushed back to January, in terms of them starting their college careers, and all three of those players have been here this summer. When we give you the 105 there are still, in a couple of cases, guys who have not completed everything they need to complete and you have a 14 day window to complete some of that paperwork to get totally cleared by the NCAA and the Clearinghouse. So, there could be potential changes down the road.
We will have our normal group of camp speakers starting today. Lisa LeMaster is here to talk to our players about public relations issues and how to present themselves and do a good job with you, the media, so that they represent themselves, their families and the University in a first-class way. We will have various speakers throughout camp, some be it motivational, some be it educational and some be it relative to rules that all the players have to live by, whether it has something to do with gambling or other behavioral issues.â€
On his mindset and attitude heading into fall camp:
â€œI think that when youâ€™re process oriented and youâ€™re driven to try to do things a certain way, and you believe that doing those things that way are going to help you have the best chance for that particular team to be successful, I donâ€™t think there is a whole lot of difference. Every team has a little difference in personality, but at the same time, I think the principles and values that help any team be successful, which are a few of the things Iâ€™ve touched on before, whether itâ€™s work ethic, discipline â€“ you know weâ€™re talking about the basic will to be successful, how important it is to them, what the determination is, what the commitment is, what the accountability is to the principles and values that everybody buys into. I think those things are the most important to get established. I said this at SEC Media Day, â€œnot one player is going to put our team over the top, but one player can destroy our team by not doing what he is supposed to do, by not buying in, by not being responsible to his own self-determination relative to what he needs to do to help our team and help himself be successful.â€ I donâ€™t think those things change a whole lot. I donâ€™t think what it takes to be successful changes a whole lot in your life, relative to whatâ€™s important to you and what youâ€™re committed to doing. That part of it stays the same. Every team has needs. There is no perfect team, there is no perfect player. Every player has something that they need to work on to improve. Every player can improve. Every team has issues and problems on their team, relative to personnel, whether itâ€™s lack of experience at certain positions or lack of depth at certain positions, and obviously weâ€™re going to take every player that we have and do the best we can to put them in the best roster spot so that they can develop to try and satisfy some of those issues on our team so that we can have the best depth that gives us the best opportunity to be consistently successful throughout the season.â€
On players showing leadership and staying out of trouble:
â€œI think we didnâ€™t have guys getting in trouble this summer, last summer and for the last year a half because of the individual decisions that they make. Iâ€™m not sure thatâ€™s all about leadership, I think itâ€™s about guys understanding what it takes to be successful, and how when they do the wrong things they actually get negative consequences, and when they do the right things they can get positive consequences. Consequences do matter in terms of their chances to be successful as people, as students, as football players and their future development, those things matter. Weâ€™ve had players here that everybody had high expectations for to get drafted and have great NFL careers that didnâ€™t get drafted, and weâ€™ve had players here that walked on and became third round draft picks. The players see all that, in terms of who did the things they needed to do to create the kind of consequences for themselves that are going to help them be successful. We have a lot of internal programs, the PX2 guys, the Pacific Institute guys had a great summer again with our players and our players enjoy that. We have guys from IMG, Trevor comes in and talks with them. We do a lot of things to try and develop the right character and attitude â€“ thoughts, habits, and priorities to make good choices and decisions about what you do and what you donâ€™t do. We are going to continue to do that. Does that mean that weâ€™re never going to have a problem? I doubt it. But, I think we are going to have less because we are going to have the kind of people who are going to make better choices and decisions about what they need to do to be successful, and what their goals are and understand the consequences of not making good decisions.â€
On what will become of the Jack Linebacker position with the absence of Brandon Fanney:
â€œWell, we have lots of Jack linebackers. We had one in the spring. Fanney didnâ€™t participate in spring practice and we didnâ€™t drop football at Alabama. We still had football. One player canâ€™t make our team one way or the other. We have other players that weâ€™ll try at that position â€“ Eryk Anders has done a good job. Weâ€™ll take every linebacker we have on the team, inside or out, and try to make sure that we get the best four linebackers on the field, relative to their strengths and how they can help our team. Thatâ€™s two inside guys and two outside guys. Last year when we went into camp, we only had one linebacker that had ever played. Rolando McClain was the only linebacker that had any experience that had ever played. We moved Reamer (Cory) from inside linebacker to outside, Hightower (Donta) was a freshman, Fanney was a defensive end that we moved to outside linebacker, so thatâ€™s how we got where we were. Maybe after eight or ten practices, maybe after two weeks of practices, maybe after 20 practices, at some point in time if some combination of guys looks like itâ€™s going to be best for our team, then thatâ€™s when weâ€™ll make a choice and decision about that. But I think we have some good players and I think we have some good candidates. I think there is lots of opportunity there for lots of players.â€
On whether or not one issue stands out as being most important heading into camp:
â€œWell I already discussed most of those, which I think is going to be what makes our team successful or unsuccessful. Obviously, we want to create more depth in the offensive line, we want to have a backup quarterback who is an affective player. If we had another go-to guy at receiver, that would make us a better team. We are always concerned about the kind of execution that we get at the quarterback position. Defensively, regardless of what we did last year, we gave up 31 points the last two games we played in both games that we played in. Those guys have a lot to prove and a lot to reestablish in terms of who they are, what they want to do and how consistent they want to be. All the things that we emphasized in the last two games, we didnâ€™t do. We were a pretty good red area team, almost 60 percent no touchdowns in the red area, and those last two games they scored seven out of nine times they got in the red area, and that was the difference between playing in the National Championship game and not playing in it. We were +13 in turnovers and were -4 in the last two games. So, we had issues. We gave up more big plays than weâ€™d give up all year. We had issues and we need to resolve those issues if weâ€™re going to become a better team.â€
On quarterback Greg McElroy:
â€œFirst of all, you guys always use that comparison and expectation, I donâ€™t have any expectations for him. I can tell you what heâ€™s done to this point and how happy we are with what heâ€™s done to this point. He is very smart, a very bright guy and has a good understanding of the offense. Players really like him. He has a lot of positive leadership qualities and he does affect other people. Heâ€™s very instinctive and he makes good choices and decisions at his position. Now, to play quarterback well, the people around you have to play well. Itâ€™s a difficult position to play when youâ€™re not getting protected, when you canâ€™t run the ball, when you donâ€™t have receivers that can get open and make plays. Itâ€™s going to be important for the entire group to play well and I think Greg will do just fine, but I donâ€™t have an expectation for him. I know what heâ€™s done to this point and weâ€™re pleased with his progress. Weâ€™re looking forward to seeing how he does when the games start.â€
On Terrance Codyâ€™s conditioning progress:
â€œHe has made some progress. If we had a game today we wouldnâ€™t put him in on third down, but heâ€™s made some progress. He weighs less than he ever did last year and heâ€™s probably in better shape than he ever was last year. Has he reached all the goals that we established for him? He has come close and we want to continue to help him work through camp so that he as an opportunity to maybe achieve those goalsâ€
On the depth at running back:
â€œI think I would always be comfortable having three guys. I also think that running back is a position where good special team players come from. If we have some other guys that have those qualifications, I certainly feel like we could take more. Roy Upchurch has been one of our best special teams players. Terry Grant became a very good special teams player for us last year. There are certain positions on the field â€“there are models in the NFL now, and I now Bill (Belichick) does this in New England, where a backup running back has to be able to contribute on special teams. A third down back, which may be your third back, has to be able to contribute on special teams, otherwise with a 47 man roster you donâ€™t have enough guys to play on special teams. In college you have more players, you can take more players, but there are still some positions that are better suited, body type and athletic ability wise, to play on special teams and running back would be one of those. I would like to have three good functional backs that can play in our offense at a minimum for the first game. We would like to have that.â€