A more confident Greg McElroy & more

Greg McElroy won a national championship for the Alabama Crimson Tide, but there is little doubt that he is a more mature football player this season. During a press conference Monday, McElroy was asked about the Arkansas game and getting ready for Florida, but it is the talk about Arkansas that is most interesting for Alabama fans.

On what he learned in the game against Arkansas: “I know last year that two interceptions would have absolutely put me in the tank. I think back to the game against South Carolina last year, which wasn’t a great showing by any means, and I just folded my cards and let Mark (Ingram) take over. This year I battled and fought through it. They made a couple of good plays on us and I had a couple of ill-advised decisions, but that is part of the game. If you look around the country, guys throw picks. You look at Brett Favre and he threw two picks yesterday, but he keeps fighting. That is one thing I really learned about myself. I didn’t let the picks get me down. I kept playing and in the second half and we made the plays that needed to be made. As a team, I think everyone is really encouraged by the fact that we just kept fighting. They scored two or three plays into the game, and nobody was fazed. We expected them to have a high-powered offense, and we understood that it’s not where you start the game; it’s where you finish the game. We really showed a lot of character and poise in fighting back. I think everyone is encouraged and looking to build off of what we did last week.”

On not being afraid of failure: “With a certain amount of confidence and a certain amount of understanding, there have been times when I have thrown the ball this year that I would have checked down on last year. There have been times when I have given my receivers an opportunity to make a play, but sometimes the defense makes plays. Those guys are on scholarship too. You can’t let an interception get you down. They are part of the game. They are something that you don’t want to have in your offense, but this year if we are going to be able to reap the benefits and have the type of success we are capable of having, you are going to have to force some tight throws. Fortunately, those interceptions didn’t really come into play. We were fortunate enough to get out of it with a win. I was really encouraged by the way that we just battled. It was really a tale of two halves. In the fourth quarter, when the plays were there to be made, we made them as an offense. We did what we had to do. From last year to this year, I think our confidence has just grown so much. We were able to move the ball through the air in the second half and make a lot of third downs, which was really the tell-tale sign of the game. If you look at the fourth quarter, I think in time of possession we were like 11 minutes to four minutes, which is remarkable.”

There is much more in the transcript below as McElroy, Mark Ingram, Mark Barron, Barrett Jones and Robert Lester answer questions about the biggest football game so far this season—Florida vs. Alabama.

Alabama Players – Media Teleconference (courtesy of UA Media Relations)
#22 Mark Ingram, Junior Running Back
On the formation of the Alabama-Florida Rivalry:
“This is a matchup that I have the utmost respect for, the Florida team, their players and their coaching staff. I remember my freshman year when they beat us, for a whole year that is all we could think about, was just getting back to the championship game and playing them. I’m sure they have the same mindset after last year’s championship game. It’s always a great matchup to play in. It is always clean, good sportsmanship and I have nothing but respect for Florida.”

On Coach Saban and Coach Meyer being two of the best in the country:
“They are both great coaches, both have a lot of victories, have coached great players and have had a lot of success. I have nothing but respect for Coach Meyer and the team he is coaching over there at Florida. I’m with Coach Saban everyday and love him to death. Like I said, I have nothing but the utmost respect for that Florida team.”

On his performance since coming off his knee injury and if there was any second guessing his return:
“No, not at all. It is really just such a blessing that I could come off of surgery and have the two strong performances that I’ve had. God is good and it is a blessing. My main focusing coming back into the first game was not to have any hesitation in my step whatsoever. I wanted to have 100-percent confidence in my ability of what I could do out there on the field, and that’s the way I practice, I just push it to the limit, so I wouldn’t have any hesitation. I haven’t had any so far. I’m really happy with how things have gone since the surgery.”

On how much the team dwells on their SEC Championship victory over Florida last season:
“It’s a new year. What happened last year, happened. It’s not really going to help us win or help them win this year. What’s going to help either team win is what we do, how we prepare all week long and how we go out and play on Saturday. There is no dwelling on it from a personal standpoint. My main focus is getting the game plan ready for this week, practicing hard all week and putting ourselves in the best position to where we can have success Saturday.”

On whether he thinks he has played his way back into the 2010 Heisman race:
“I really haven’t paid any attention to that at all. My main focus is just going out and getting better every single day as a player and putting myself in the situation where I can help this team win games. That is my main focus right now, anything else is secondary and everything else will take care of itself.”

On what was the hardest thing he went through while he was sidelined with his knee injury:
“Just not being able to be out there with my teammates. I know we had a few big games, but being on the sideline and not being out there competing, you really learn to have an appreciation for every single rep, every single practice, and every single day that you’re out there on the field because tomorrow is never promised.”

#4 Mark Barron
On the carry over for Florida after a bad loss to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship:
“It probably carries over a lot. That first year when they beat us it carried over for us because we remembered what they had done to us, and we wanted to come back and get them, so it will probably be the same way for them this year. They’re probably going to have sort of a revenge-type mindset, so they’re probably going to be ready to play and probably going to have a good week of practice and come here ready to play. That’s just a part of playing ball.”

On Florida having a little bit of a motivational edge:
“We’re just going to do what we do. We have a motivational edge regardless of the situation, because we want to come in and win every game and dominate every opponent we play. I don’t feel like they have a motivational edge really, not in my opinion.”

On what it takes to bring down Mark Ingram on the field:
“I’ll tell you, it’s hard to do. You can’t go in scared, you just have to play ball. You have to go at him. You can’t be scared of him.”

On how much the secondary grew as a unit last week:
“I feel like we grew a lot. A lot of guys made mistakes last weekend, and at the same time they were able to come back from those mistakes. I feel like a lot of guys grew up last week.”

On teammate Robert Lester leading the SEC in interceptions:
“I’m happy to see that he’s doing good. I told him today though, that he can’t just take my prime, I’m not going to let it be that easy. I’m happy to see that he’s doing good and happy that he’s doing good so far.”

Alabama Players Press Conference Transcript
#12 Greg McElroy
On what he learned in the game against Arkansas:
“I know last year that two interceptions would have absolutely put me in the tank. I think back to the game against South Carolina last year, which wasn’t a great showing by any means, and I just folded my cards and let Mark (Ingram) take over. This year I battled and fought through it. They made a couple of good plays on us and I had a couple of ill-advised decisions, but that is part of the game. If you look around the country, guys throw picks. You look at Brett Favre and he threw two picks yesterday, but he keeps fighting. That is one thing I really learned about myself. I didn’t let the picks get me down. I kept playing and in the second half and we made the plays that needed to be made. As a team, I think everyone is really encouraged by the fact that we just kept fighting. They scored two or three plays into the game, and nobody was fazed. We expected them to have a high-powered offense, and we understood that it’s not where you start the game; it’s where you finish the game. We really showed a lot of character and poise in fighting back. I think everyone is encouraged and looking to build off of what we did last week.”

On how important it was to throw the ball deep against Arkansas to keep their defense honest:
“It was important, and there were a couple that we were pretty close. We had a pass interference call on a deep one, and I also got Julio (Jones) a little off balance a little bit. It is important to keep those guys off you a little. Anytime you have a running game like we have, you have to be able to hit your shots deep. There were a couple we missed, but looking back on it, I actually felt like it was a pretty good game. I felt strongly about our performance offensively. A couple of plays here or there and it could have been a totally different ball game, but the fact that we didn’t make those plays and were still able to get a victory is really encouraging.”

On running back Mark Ingram’s performance since coming back from injury:
“I don’t think I have ever been in shock. I have never doubted what he can do. He has great ability, and he does a great job with the ball in his hands. We all thought he was going to have a great season this year. He had a great off-season and a great spring. He has worked extremely hard to get back from this recent knee injury. It hasn’t set him back at all. His mindset has been good, and he has come out and run the ball with a purpose. That is really what he brings to the team with his spirit and his leadership. Having him in the huddle is definitely a vital asset.”

On not being afraid of failure:
“With a certain amount of confidence and a certain amount of understanding, there have been times when I have thrown the ball this year that I would have checked down on last year. There have been times when I have given my receivers an opportunity to make a play, but sometimes the defense makes plays. Those guys are on scholarship too. You can’t let an interception get you down. They are part of the game. They are something that you don’t want to have in your offense, but this year if we are going to be able to reap the benefits and have the type of success we are capable of having, you are going to have to force some tight throws. Fortunately those interceptions didn’t really come into play. We were fortunate enough to get out of it with a win. I was really encouraged by the way that we just battled. It was really a tale of two halves. In the fourth quarter, when the plays were there to be made, we made them as an offense. We did what we had to do. From last year to this year, I think our confidence has just grown so much. We were able to move the ball through the air in the second half and make a lot of third downs, which was really the tell-tale sign of the game. If you look at the fourth quarter, I think in time of possession we were like 11 minutes to four minutes, which is remarkable.”

On if the fact that the team didn’t panic sets them apart from other ranked teams:
“I don’t know if that is necessarily something that separates the No. 1 team from the No. 4 team or No. 10 team or No. 20 team. I don’t think it is a ranking perspective, it just shows the heart of this team. It shows the fact that we are winners. We have a mindset and an expectation of winning every time we step out there on Saturday. That fact that we never panicked is a testament to our leadership. We had a lot of guys step up at halftime and say things. We had a lot of guys in the huddle just maintaining calm. As I stepped into the huddle, I didn’t see one face with any sort of panic or negative look. It was a big reason we were able to make the play down the stretch in order to win the game.”

On if he expects the team to carry over what they learned from last week:
“I think so. Anytime you get tested like that, I think that it really builds character. It obviously gives us confidence. We did not play our best game, and we played a very good opponent. Offensively, defensively, and even in special teams, we just did not play our best game. I think everybody understands that. But we were still able to get a win against a top ten team on the road, and that really gives a lot of people confidence. Arkansas is a very good football team this year. They are going to win a lot of football games, and they definitely put a lot of emphasis on that game. You could tell by the way they came out and played. So I think all of that should carry over. I think everyone is looking forward to the challenge we have this week with Florida and that things we learned on Saturday not only about ourselves, but about the type of competitors we are, should definitely help us in the long run.”

On the Florida secondary:
“They look good. It is a lot of the same players as last year. I know Ahmad (Black), Janoris (Jenkins), and Will (Hill) are all back. It should be a great test for us, but I think as long as we continue to execute the way we have been, we should be able to have some success.”

#22 Mark Ingram
On how the team fought back on Saturday:
“It was huge for our team to go through a situation like that and overcome the adversity that we had to, just from being down 13 and coming out and scoring right away in the second half. We really had to gut-check ourselves. We had to go out there and start executing fast. I think for us to overcome that situation during that game just says a lot about our team and the character that we have.”

On the challenge of facing another top ten opponent:
“Florida has a lot of athletes, and they are very talented. It is definitely going to be a challenge for us. We are just going to do what we do every week and go out there and practice and prepare the best we can to give us the best chance of being successful.”

On how special the series with Florida is:
“It is special. I have nothing but respect for their program and their team. From my freshman year playing them in the SEC Championship and losing, then last year playing them again and winning that game, it is definitely a special match up. I respect their program to the fullest. They have great athletes and they always play great. I am definitely looking forward to Saturday.”

On if he ever talks with the defense when they are struggling:
“I do, just to keep their confidence up. You want them to know that we support them 100 percent and that we have confidence in them. We know what they are capable of doing and that they have just as much talent as anybody in the country. Once they get their communication together and get on the same page, I think they will be hard to have success against them.”

On Florida targeting this game:
“I just remember how we approached that Florida game when they beat us. If they have the same kind of mindset as we did, then it is going to be very intense out there. That is all we thought about for a year after they beat us. If they have been thinking like we had, it is going to be a very tough challenge for us.”

On the physicality of his running style:
“Everybody says the running back is always getting hit, but I try to deliver the hit. I want to make the defense not want to tackle me or I want to make them sick of tackling me by the fourth quarter. I try to punish them before they hit me.”

#75 Barrett Jones
On the physical carry over from the game Saturday:
“I think it is no secret that the SEC games are extremely physical. We are extremely sore on Sundays and Mondays, which is why we get Sundays off and do a lot on Sundays to recuperate our bodies. On Mondays, we usually have a little bit of a lighter practice. Usually by Tuesday you are getting your legs back under you.”

On being involved in community service:
“I think it is something that has really impacted my life tremendously. It is something I have always thought is extremely important. I try to use the platform that God has given me to do things other than just football. I try to use that to go other places and talk to kids like I did in Haiti. That was such a unique opportunity and something I will never forget. I think a lot of the guys here do a really great job of getting in the community and trying to use the platform they have to change kids’ lives.”

On if he expects Florida to have a chip on their shoulder:
“I remember last year how we prepared for this game. It was really something we thought about all year. I think Florida is going to come in here extremely intense and ready to play. We welcome that challenge and are excited to play the game. We know we have a hard week ahead of us, so we are just going to work really hard and try to prepare for it.”

On the balance of athletics and academics:
“It has been extremely challenging. I knew when I came here that I didn’t want to come here just for football, but that I also wanted to get an education. It is something that is not easy because we do put so many hours into football. We have a great support staff that helps with academics, so I just want to keep working and try to maintain my gpa.”

On going for the fourth and inches against Arkansas to put the game away:
“That was something where we were really hoping he (Coach Saban) would trust us to get those few inches. He did, and it felt great as an offensive line knowing that he was behind us.”

#34 Robert Lester
On being able to come back and win against Arkansas:
“I think it is more of a mentality that our team took. We just wanted to win the game that badly.”

On what the team learned from the adversity in the game against Arkansas:
“I think we learned that instead of waiting to execute in the second half that we need to start from the first play of the game to the end.”

On if he had to encourage any of his teammates during the game:
“Yeah, that is very important, because you never want one person to be down, because if he is down, he can give up more plays. It is always better to just pick other players up and have confidence in them.”

On if the team is more confident heading into this week:
“Every game is a confidence booster. The better the game we have, the more confidence we gain.”

On having such a profound effect on the game each week:
“Every week since the season has started; I told myself I need to at least get my hands on the ball twice. It has been happening for me, so I am going to keep going with that.”

On if his success can be partly attributed to the defensive line and linebackers:
“I think with my success of having four interceptions, I have to credit the defensive line and the linebackers for putting pressure on the quarterback. Without that, the quarterback will sit back there and make the plays. Mallett is a great quarterback who can make a lot of plays, so with me getting two interceptions, I have to credit the defensive linemen and linebackers.”

On the overall play of the defensive line:
“I’m not worried about them, because the secondary has a big challenge. We have to do as much as possible to be able to get our things together. The defensive line has been on their game and we are sure they are going to make plays.”

On having a “never say die” attitude each game:
“I think we took that mentality once Coach Saban made out the depth chart. Those are the guys who are going into the game, and we have to make something happen no matter what.”

On if the rivalry with Florida is the ultimate measuring stick for Alabama:
“Every week is a challenge for us, so if we lose to any other team, it doesn’t matter if we lose to Florida, because we already have another loss on our record. Beating Florida would be a great accomplishment for us.”