Alabama football: Saban, players talk first game

Monday of game week means that Alabama Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban talks to the press. Here is the official transcript of his comments. There are many interesting things in the transcript, but this is perhaps the most important thing Nick Saban said was this in response to the biggest question as the team leaves fall camp: “What the maturity is? What the identity is going to be? The things that I have talked about before. What is the chemistry of the team? Are the young players going to mature? Are there enough older players that have played to provide the leadership and example to affect those guys and help their maturity? I think those are the big things. We have some guys that are in critical spots as specialist that it will be interesting to see how they grow and develop in their confidence and what they do to be performers for us.”

ALABAMA ATHLETICS MEDIA RELATIONS August 30, 2010 San Jose State Media Day Press Conference Transcript
Head Coach Nick Saban
Opening Comments:

“Well I’m sure there are a lot of players and coaches alike who are pleased and happy that this is game week, and we can get in a normal routine of what we do during the season relative to preparation to games. This is not a totally normal game week because we have spent some time previous to this in preparation for the first game, which is not unusual. That’s what we usually do.

I think the message here is we have all kind of agreed as a team that our record last year is pretty irrelevant to what we do this year. It won’t have one thing to do with it. Therefore, I think that San Jose (State’s) record last year will be totally irrelevant to what happens in this game as well. They have quite a few players back. They have a new coach. Mike McIntyre has a good coaching background, has been very successful, is a good coach and is going to do a good job there. Anytime you play against a new staff in the first game it’s a little bit more difficult preparation because you’re not sure about what they’re going to do exactly. You’re hoping that the coordinator is going to do what he did wherever he was, but you really don’t know for sure because you don’t have any evidence of it. It lends itself to defending a few ghosts, so to speak, both ways – offense, defense and special teams.

This is really the beginning of the journey for our team. How you define yourself – individually and collectively as a group, whether it’s offense, defense or special teams and individually as a player – all starts with this game in terms of how you play, how you compete and how you are able to play with discipline to execute and do your job. Everybody will make some judgment about that relative to how you define yourself. All those factors sort of develop the identity of the team. There are only certain people that can affect that identity, and that’s the people on the team – it’s the coaches, the players and the people on the team, the people in the team meetings – who can affect that. It’s up to them and us as to how we go about this year. If you’re a great competitor, you’re looking forward to establishing the kind of competitive spirit that people look at you in terms of how you play. That’s a very positive one for yourself, one that you play with great intangibles. You have great mental intensity. You have discipline to execute, you do things the right way and you make good judgments about how you play winning football. We’ve got a lot of guys that have an opportunity to do that. We’re certainly looking forward to the challenge of doing that this year.

Wesley Neighbors is going to be out probably for a week or two. He suffered a non-contact cartilage injury that required a scope a couple days ago in practice. Mark Barron missed practice (Saturday) for personal reasons and will be back to practice today. Preston Dial is ill today, so he may or may not practice. That’s all we really have to report on the injury front.”

On Chavis Williams’ improvement:
“Chavis (Williams) has always been a guy that has high energy, high effort, always has been able to run. He’s a little bit of a playmaker and has been on special teams in the past and has had some opportunities to play. He’s gotten bigger and stronger. He holds the point better and has a better understanding of the defense, so he makes less mental errors. He has been in the same roll now for several years, which I think, is really helpful with him. We’re pleased with the progress that he has made. His progress allowed us to move Jerrell Harris to inside linebacker. That was an area that we weren’t comfortable with and Chris Jordan, Nico (Johnson), (C.J.) Mosley have done a good job there and there are a couple of others that could play, but we’ll see if that is the best group in this game.”

On the depth and groupings of this year’s team:
“Last year we were primarily two tight ends and two wide receivers as a base formation in regular, because that is what our personnel was best geared for. I would say that is pretty much the same now. We may go with some regular formations outside of that, playing three wide receivers and a tight end. We also used four wide outs last year with no tight end quite a bit. We will have multiple sets with all of those personnel groupings.”

On preparing for San Jose State’s rumored new offense:
“In college football you see a multiple of different things that is amazing. The adjustments that you have to make from week to week is amazing and this is a tough preparation for our defense in that light, because Nevada-Reno was the number one rushing team in the country and supposedly that is the offense that this team is running. But we have no evidence of that, so we are preparing for all kinds of stuff and its option type football that we have never really experienced before. That makes it a difficult preparation for us. Now whether they have the personnel to do that or will run something totally different, we aren’t sure and have no way of being sure.”

On the pros and cons of opening against a team such as San Jose State rather than a top ten opponent as in the past few years:
“Well we play Penn State as the heavyweight, it just happens to fall on a day (Sept. 11) a week later in the season. I’ve always said in the past that when you open with a team that the players have a tremendous amount of respect for because of their national reputation, you get a little better attention to detail in the entire offseason, in spring practice and in fall camp because they are geared up for that game. I think in this case our players definitely respect the team that we’re playing, they’re showing good due-diligence in their preparation for the game, but I think they also know what challenges lie ahead. This is the beginning of a journey and I think it is about what we do and it’s always been about that. It’s not about the other team and that’s the emphasis that we will still maintain with our players right now.”

On the status of DeQuan Menzie:
“He has played in practice well enough that we feel like he can play if he doesn’t have any setbacks. Now will he be able to sustain a whole game based on the number of reps in the conditioning that he has gotten to this point? He has been able in the past seven to ten practices to maintain the entire practice in terms of what he does, once he gets going. He did have a hamstring and ankle that were unrelated to his original injury that affected him a little bit. We’re just going to try to play it day-to-day and we’ll make a game-day decision. He would be a starter for us at right corner, and he would be the star (position in nickel formation) for us if he is able to play. We’re going to progress him and prepare as if he can play and then have the people prepared behind him if he can only play for a little while or if he isn’t ready to play, go to plan B.”

On Trent Richardson’s improvement since last season:
“I think Trent played extremely well for us last year, especially as the season progressed. He has not done a thing that would say he isn’t going to continue to improve and progress. He is in great shape and worked really hard in fall camp, and has been very productive in everything that we have asked him to do.”

On the development of Kerry Murphy and his potential playing time:
“He and (Josh) Chapman have gone kind of back and forth at nose tackle. Right now Chapman has a little more experience. Kerry’s big thing is going to be getting in shape to where he can sustain his performance. He has always played better as the year goes on and hopefully we’ll be able to get the same kind of production and performance from him this year. He will play in this game (San Jose State). We always rotate five or six defensive lineman in the game, and he’ll certainly be one of the guys that we rotate. He’ll probably play a little more in nickel situations than Josh does, because he is a little better pass rusher. He definitely has a role on the team and is competing to be a starter and will play as much in the rotation as the starters do.”

On his biggest question with the team that fall camp didn’t answer:
“What the maturity is? What the identity is going to be? The things that I have talked about before. What is the chemistry of the team? Are the young players going to mature? Are there enough older players that have played to provide the leadership and example to affect those guys and help their maturity? I think those are the big things. We have some guys that are in critical spots as specialist that it will be interesting to see how they grow and develop in their confidence and what they do to be performers for us.”

On how much more he learns about the team in the game day setting:
“I think that is ultimately what you have to learn about them. How are they going to compete on game day? I’ve said this before, some guys play better when the game comes, and some guys who practice pretty well don’t compete nearly as well when the game comes and I don’t think you can figure that out until the game comes. If hot peppers give you a belly ache, you can’t figure it out until you eat hot peppers.”

Alabama Players
#99 Josh Chapman, Defensive Lineman
On who will be getting the majority of playing time at the nose guard position:
“Right now I guess they said I’m starting, but we (Chapman and Kerry Murphy) are going to get the same amount of reps, just like me and Terrance Cody did. When one of us gets tired, we roll in just like that.”

On competing against his friend Kerry Murphy for playing time:
“With playing football you’ve got to have somebody push you. Kerry pushes me and I push him. Also, off the field we push each other. Some things I’m weak at and some things he’s weak at. We just kind of help each other and build off that. Kerry is a great player. Everybody has seen that.”

On the difference in this week and the last three weeks of fall camp:
“We’ve been banging on each other for a long time. That’s something we’ve had to do to build what we’ve got going for us. With us knowing that this is a game this week, it changes to studying more for San Jose State. It changes practice to more of what they do than what other teams do. When it comes down to it though, it’s going to matter what we do on the field.”

On preparing for San Jose State after opening the season against top-10 teams the last two seasons (Clemson 2008 and Virginia Tech 2009):
“That doesn’t change anything. They’re an opponent just like anybody else is.”

On playing with the nation’s No. 1 ranking:
“Being No. 1, that’s good, but just like coach says, that ranking doesn’t mean anything. We’re going out there to play every game one at a time. That ranking is one thing that we don’t really listen to or look at.”

#4 Mark Barron, Strong Safety
On the status of the secondary when compared with fall camp’s first scrimmage:
“We’ve made a lot of progress from that point to this point, so I feel like we’re pretty much ready to get going now that we have the depth chart. We’re ready to start working on the game plan.”

On cornerback DeQuan Menzie:
“He came in ready to play. You could tell that he had been coached somewhere else. The only thing was that he had to change a couple of his techniques to the way we do things instead of what he had been taught before. He is very impressive and he’s still learning, but he’s been very impressive so far.”

On whether he thinks teams will attempt a lot of passes to test the young secondary:
“I’m pretty sure they will. They probably feel like that may be the weakness of our defense, so they probably will try to throw it a little bit on us. That’s a challenge to us. That’s why we work and do what we do. I feel like we’ll be up to that challenge.”

#22 Mark Ingram, Running Back
On his excitement level to get to play on Saturday:
“I’m definitely excited. We’ve been practicing really hard going through camp all these weeks leading up to game week. We’ve been hitting each other and banging on each other, so we’re excited that it’s game week and that we get to prepare for a game to go out there and compete against someone else.”

On the depth at the running back position:
“We have a lot of running backs that can contribute to the team in multiple ways, not only just running the ball, but contributing on special teams as well. We have a lot of talented athletes in that group. Every single person that is listed (on the depth chart) is capable of contributing to the team, not only running the ball but in other aspects of the game as well.”

On being listed as a possible kick returner:
“I returned kicks all throughout high school, and I’ve returned them in practice ever since I’ve been here. If I do have to go out and return a kick, it won’t be anything surprising. I’ll welcome it as more opportunity to get the ball and do something to help the team.”

On preparing for San Jose State:
“Our mindset isn’t any different. We’re preparing for San Jose State just like we would any team. They have a good team and a new coaching staff. We just have to prepare for them, get ready for them, study film and have a great week of preparation.”

#12 Greg McElroy, Quarterback
On preparing for San Jose State:
“It’s very similar to last year. I think everybody is real confident and real comfortable with where we stand right now. We’ve made a lot of great improvements. I think we’re ready to put our best foot forward on Saturday against a quality opponent.”

On whether or not anxiousness disappears in his second year as the starting QB:
“I think everybody is a little anxious and little nervous for the first game regardless of who the opponent is. I think everybody just understands how much preparation went into this coming up Saturday. We’ve been working at this since January and it’s finally here. Nine months later we’ve finally arrived at the first game. Everybody wants to get off to a good start and have a great first game. Of course there are a few butterflies, but those should wear off after the first couple of snaps.”

On San Jose State’s defense:
“San Jose does a good job of using disguises. They have some good quality pressures. They’re a bend-not-break defense. They keep the ball in front of them and do a good job tackling. It will be a good challenge for us. I’m really looking forward to it.”