Alabama’s Nick Saban talks Arkansas, Florida

One of the best rivalries in college football the past couple of years has been Alabama and Florida. The teams have met the last two years in the SEC Championship Game and meet this year during the regular season. Alabama Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban was asked about the difference in playing Florida during the regular season and the postseason. Here is Saban’s answer:

“We want to get ready to play our best football every game that we play. It’s a standard that we want to play to here, and it doesn’t really matter if the names on the back of the jerseys change and the numbers change but the standard never does. That’s a very challenging thing to get from a consistency standpoint but it’s certainly what we want with our team. I think the focus for our team is to play their best football and learn what they need to do to continue to improve to be able to do that. We’re playing a very, very good team and this is a great opportunity to show some of that improvement, but I think our focus has to stay on what we do, how we do it, understanding the fact that we control a lot of what happens by what we do. I think it’s important that we learn and grow. That’s got to be the focus for our team. We’ve got to be concerned about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and how to improve and get better.”

In other words, Saban doesn’t see much difference because he expects everyone to do their job every game. You can read more of what Alabama’s coach had to say about the big game in the transcript below.

Alabama Press Conference Transcript (courtesy of UA Media Relations)
Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban addressed the media on Monday

Opening Statement:
There’s certainly plenty to learn from last week’s game. I think the biggest thing is what we’re capable of when we do things correctly and what can happen when you don’t. I think the intensity of the game overwhelmed us a little bit early in the game. We kind of counterpunched our way back into it, but it’s an unbelievable job of overcoming adversity, which is something that some teams may or may not be able to do. I think it’s a real credit to the competitive character to our team in the situation they were in, the circumstances that they were playing in, but I think all these things are opportunities to learn from. The biggest one being, you better bring you’re a-game every time you play in this league, regardless of where you’re playing. There are a lot of good players and a lot of good football teams. We certainly need to be ready to play and hitting on all cylinders every time we play.

We had some outstanding performances – Barrett Jones, Mark Ingram and Preston Dial on offense. Defensively, Mark Barron and Robert Lester – Robert had the big plays and was SEC Player of the Week. Trent Richardson, Jeremy Shelley and Julio Jones did a really good job on special teams.

Marcell (Dareus) is making good progress – the only real significant injury. We’ve got some other guys with some bumps, but he is going to move around a little bit today and see if he can practice tomorrow. I think he’ll be back Wednesday for sure.

Florida is an outstanding team. They probably have a record of dominance, more than any team in our league, over what they’ve done in the last few years under Urban Meyer, who is an outstanding coach and does a great job with them. They’ve got a lot of team speed. They’ve got good players at all the skill positions. They’ve got a good offensive line. Defensively they’re very active, run well, have a lot of team speed and they play outstanding on special teams. This is as good of an all-around team as we’ve played all year, and certainly have improved each week that they’ve played this year with a new quarterback (John Brantley), and also with a new guy coming in at quarterback some who really plays tight end, No. 8 Trey Burton. He’s done some of the quarterback run stuff that (Tim) Tebow used to do. This will be a very challenging game for us and a very challenging preparation for us relative to what they do, but certainly the kind of game that our players should be looking forward to.

On what he learned from his team in the adverse situation against Arkansas:
“I think that you really kind of hope that people can learn lessons and not have to go through horrible experiences to do it. Everybody is sort of willing to change when something bad happens. A lot of people aren’t willing to change when good things are happening. Hopefully we’ll have the maturity to be able to learn from the adversity that we had to overcome, some of which we created ourselves, some of which they created with their ability to make plays, but at the same time we have to know that getting it right, doing things right and having a sense of urgency about doing the things the right way is going to help us become a better team, individually and collectively. I think a lot of our players need to learn that based on the experience that they just had. Now, I’m very proud of the team for keeping their poise and having the composure to come back in the game, to keep grinding , executing and making plays, and some guys came back and made very good plays in the game and made plays when it counted. I think that’s a real key for us, but I think what we want to learn is we need to do that all the time.”

On Trey Burton’s ability and whether or not he makes Alabama prepare for two different offenses:
“Not necessarily. I think it would be a combination of what they did last year, but this guy can throw the ball, he has thrown the ball so it’s not a running back just playing quarterback. He’s a good football player when it comes to playing tight end too and being a pretty good receiver for them. All of his scores did not come playing quarterback, he did it both ways. The guy is a very good player. It does create some problems, but it creates more problems when you’ve got one guy who can do it all because you have to defend it all, all the time. This guy is a very good player. Brantley is a very good passer, so the combination of those two guys does present some issues and problems.”

On what goes into keeping players out of trouble off the field:
“I think everybody has a responsibility to represent themselves, their family and the institution in a first-class way, and that’s what we try to sell to our players. We try to do some educational programs, whether its peer-group intervention or success-oriented type education that helps players know what’s going to help them be successful. I’m sure that every program tries to do that to some degree. I’m sure they’ve tried to do that at the University of Florida, and I know the people that they have there, the coaches that they have there and what they want and the expectation that they have for the standard for behavior that we’re all trying to achieve in college football. We’ll continue to do the things that we’ve always done to try to help our players make good choices and decisions so that they have the best opportunity to try to take advantage of their gifts.”

On the purpose of allowing local law enforcement to view practice:
“I think what we try to do with our players is have meetings with the law enforcement officials in this community. We want our players to understand that police provide a great service in our community and it’s something that they should respect, understand and know about and develop relationships with. The police are there to help you. I think we’ve done a good job of that and have a pretty good relationship with those people, and our players do respect that. I think having the guys around some probably helps enhance that a little bit.”

On Barrett Jones:
“I think Barrett Jones is one of the finest people that I’ve ever had the opportunity to be around in terms of his willingness to help others, his involvement in the community, going to another country (Haiti) to help with difficult circumstances – very giving. I use the term, do you want to be blessed, or do you want to be a blessing? I think this guy is a blessing in a lot of ways. He’s an outstanding football player and has done a really good job for us all last year and this year. He is smart and helps the other players with his leadership play better as well. This is really a fine young man that’s going to be very successful at whatever he chooses to do, and he’s been very successful here as a student-athlete and as a football player.”

On how good the SEC has become over the years:
“I think there are a lot of good players in this league, period. I think the high school football programs in the southeast are really good. I think there a lot of players that develop. There are a lot of good athletes. There is a lot of speed. I think all those things contribute to the kind of players that they look for at the next level. We’re fortunate as a league to have some great institutions that can attract those players with the kind of programs we have and the kind competition that we have in the league. Getting those guys to play in this part of the country all makes our league what it is. I think it goes back to the players. I think we’ve done a great job from an SEC standpoint, the commissioner and the entire league, of having a great league in terms of what we do and how we promote it. I think it still comes back to the quality of players, the type of people they are, and that’s what people want to see. That’s where a lot of the fan interest comes from, and it’s really fun to coach because there is great competition and there are a lot of great players.”

On the play of the linebackers on Saturday and Nico Johnson individually:
“We did a little better job against the run. I think some of the issues in pass defense we still need to continue to just be a little more consistent, whether we’re playing zone or pattern-match man or man-to-man, everybody being consistent and doing their job, that’s not a reflection on Nico, I’m just saying in general from a linebacker standpoint. I did think we fit the run a little bit better. We played the run a little bit better. We also moved Dont’a back to where he played most of his career, the money position, and I think he’s a little more comfortable there. I think the combination of those two things is what contributed to us playing the run a little bit better. This is a good running team we’re playing this week so we’ll certainly have to do a good job against the running plays they have and the speed they have on the perimeter.”

On Jeff Demps potentially missing the game:
“He’s an outstanding player. He’s a great player for them. They’ve got a lot of speed, and they’ve had other guys play in his place that have done a very good job as well so I don’t think they’ll necessarily change what they do, but he is just one outstanding player at what he does. He’s a good runner and has great speed on the perimeter, probably the likes of which we have not seen, but I think their entire team does, and they have some other backs that are very capable guys as well.”

On how much the secondary matured and grew against Arkansas:
“I’m hopeful that everybody learned from the – it goes right back to the opening statement. Here’s what your capable of doing when you do things correctly. Here’s what happens when you don’t. With young players, maybe this is a great lesson for them to learn from and that they become more aware and conscious of the discipline it takes to do things correctly against good players who will take advantage of every mistake you make. I think we made a lot mistakes in the first few games that maybe the other team didn’t take advantage of, but when you play a guy like we played last week, especially in the passing game, they’re going to take advantage of it, especially in the first half.”

On the Wildcat formation:
“We’re fortunate to have a couple of really good runners. The offensive line does a really good job. I think you’re adding a gap to the defense when you do this because somebody has to cover the quarterback. Even though he’s not going to get the ball, somebody has to cover him. Therefore you create a little bit of a running advantage for yourself, even though they know what’s coming. That’s been a very effective tool for us in the last two years. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue to execute it and get the kind of production that is helpful to our offense. It also makes the other team have to prepare for it and spend time on it, as well as all the other things that you do.”

On how John Brantley has played this year:
“I think he’s played very well. I think he’s played better in each game. I think some of the issues that they had may not have been totally on him. When you play quarterback, which I did in high school, you usually get more of the credit than you deserve and you usually get more of the blame than you deserve. He’s a very capable guy. He’s got a good arm and they have made very consistent improvement in the passing game. They have good, quality skill guys. Their play-action passes are difficult to defend because they’re such a good running team. I think he’s played very, very well for them in what his role has been. I think he’ll continue to improve, and it’s going to be a challenge for us to be able to stop the combinations of things that they do. He is very capable of making good plays, as they always have very good skill players.”