Alabama’s Nick Saban and players talk LSU

Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban Press Conference Transcript along with Alabama football player quotes from QB Greg McElroy, RB Mark Ingram, DL Josh Chapman and WR Julio Jones (via UA Media Relations)

Head coach Nick Saban
Opening Statement:
I was really pleased with the work that we got done last week in terms of the bye week. I thought that the players had pretty good focus, practiced hard and hopefully addressed some issues and problems that we can improve on. You never know how your team is going to respond to a bye week, relative to how they’re going to come out and play, but I think it’s important they get back in the routine for this week and prepare for this game.

This team has a great opportunity in the last one-third of the season, starting with the game we have right now with LSU, who is a very good team. I think we need everyone’s best. We need their best attention to detail, we need their best energy and enthusiasm, we need the best focus on execution and we need their best in terms of inspiration and how they affect other people in a positive way. The choices we make and the actions we take will certainly determine how successful we can be in this last one-third of the season. The focus doesn’t need to be on the finish line, the focus needs to be on the process of what we need to do every day to play the best football we’re capable of playing. That means you focus every day, every play in practice and the same thing when the game comes so that you have the best opportunity to play your best, which is what we need right now to keep focus on the things that are going to make a difference in the game. That takes maturity; it takes a commitment and a lot of perseverance. That will be a challenge for everyone in terms of how they finish the season.

From an injury standpoint, I think everyone will be back in action today. Kerry Murphy may be a little bit limited; he just has some knee soreness that we’ve had to manage with him throughout the year. He should be back in practice tomorrow.

LSU is a very, very good team, a very talented team and a very well-coached team. They have good size and speed as a team on both sides of the ball, play very physical up front and have very good skill players. Offensively, they’ve been able to run the ball effectively. They’ve got a really good back (Stevan Ridley). They’ve got three or four really good receivers, a difference-maker-kind-of tight end, two quarterbacks that have both been very productive at times for them this year and defensively they’re probably the best team in our league, maybe one of the best defensive teams in the country. Again, good quickness up front, they run really well, have a good secondary and they’re very well-coached. They play physical. People have struggled to run the ball until the last game against them. I think it’s going to be important that we can continue to have balance in terms of what we do to be able to move the ball effectively against them. Because they have good team speed and good size on their team, good special teams – they’re very good on special teams and have very good specialists, a great punt returner, a great kickoff returner, good kickers and punters – they do a really good job from that standpoint. It’s a great challenge for us, but that’s the fun of it. Hopefully our players are all willing and ready to give their best at this time of the year, which will be most critical.

On the opportunity in the last four games of the season in terms of UA controlling its destiny:
“I think there are a lot other people in the same boat so it’s who can take care of their business the best down the road by what you control. What we control is how we play so I think that’s the most important thing that we want to be able to focus on and that’s why we need everybody’s best right now at this time of the year. I think the teams we play in the SEC have won 23 out of 25 games, the teams we have left on this side of it (the schedule) so we’re going to play some of the best teams and we need to be playing our best football of the year if we’re going to be able to accomplish what we have an opportunity to accomplish.”

On how productive the self-scouting was during the bye week:
“Well we do that every week, and I think you want to always sort of realize your own tendencies in your self-scout because you know the other teams basically have the same statistical information. You don’t want to be too predictable in what you’re doing, but at the same time you don’t want to change what you’re doing so that you can’t execute very well. I think having the bye week gives you the extra time to do that. It gives you a chance to expose your team to other things that they’re going to see, and hopefully that’s going to help you play better down the road.”

On LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis:
“He’s done a really good job there. They’ve always had good defensive teams, good defensive players. Bo Peleni did a really good job there for several years. He (Chavis) has a lot of experience, he’s got a good system, he’s very multiple and I think even this year being the second year that he’s there the players probably feel a lot more comfortable with the system and execute it very well. He does a fantastic job. I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for him all the years he was at Tennessee and the great job that he did there. He has good players, but they all play pretty well and they’re sound in what they do.”

On LSU defensive back Patrick Peterson:
“Patrick Peterson is one of the best defensive backs in the country, not only in terms of what he does as a defensive back, but he is a great return man too and has had a significant amount of production in both kickoff return and punt return. I think he’s a physical guy, he’s got great athletic ability, good size and speed for his position, but he’s also a very instinctive, good player all around. He’s got great ball skills, good ball judgment, is a good tackler and he can cover. I think those are the three critical factors for a defensive back and he’s got them all covered. He’s also done a fantastic job this year, as I mentioned before, in the return game for them being a weapon.”

On Alabama and LSU consistently competing for the SEC West title:
“They’ve really had probably as good of a run as anybody in the last however many years, eight to ten years probably, and Les (Miles) has done a fantastic job there. His record speaks for itself in terms of what he’s been able to accomplish. They continue to recruit well, they’ve got good players, they’ve got a great staff, they do a really good job of developing their players and this is one of the premier programs in our league. That’s what we aspire to try to be and consistency is the key to that drill, and that’s something that you have to do all the time. You never arrive, you’ve just got to keep on keeping on and I think that’s critical for us. Even though we’ve had to sort of rebuild a little bit this year and play a lot of new guys, those guys have started to improve, respond and mature, and hopefully we can play with that consistency down the stretch here.”

On the parity in college football and national champions rarely being undefeated these days:
“I think, that from a players perspective, 14 games in a season – especially when you play in a league like our league where there are six teams in the top 20 or 25, and on many occasions there are more than that, there’s actually five teams in our league that are in the top 20, that speaks to parity. I think from a players perspective, the consistency in performance is the most difficult thing to try to generate with your team all the time, especially when you play multiple good teams which means that you can’t just get up for one or two games during the season, you have to play just about every week because you’re playing a really strong opponent. That takes a lot of maturity, it takes a lot of commitment from the players and they’re at an age where sometimes that’s very challenging, and I think that’s why sometimes you don’t know for sure what you’re going to get from week-to-week in college football. I’m not talking about our team; I’m talking about all the teams in the country. When good teams play, even though one team is favored, there are still good teams playing but somebody has to be favored, but when Michigan State loses to Iowa is that really an upset or is that just two good teams playing? I think anybody that is in the top 25 is very capable, and I don’t think there is that great deviation between good teams that you can really sit there and say this team should dominate that team. There are a few teams like that most of the time. It seems like Oregon and Auburn are the two teams that have been able to do that most consistently so far this year, but other than that, all the rest of us that have what you would classify as at least a good team have played a lot of good teams and struggled to get that all the time.”

On what can be taken from LSU’s run defense performance against Auburn:
“I don’t know if fluke is the right word, because you have to give credit to the people that did it, and it is a unique style that they have because of their quarterback runs and what they can do with the outstanding player that they have at that position, but that’s not conventional and a couple of big plays really contributed to those numbers in terms of what they gave up. From our standpoint, we discount it because that’s not really our style. That’s not something that we would look at and say, “Wow, they’ll have difficulty defending those plays against us,” because we don’t really have those plays. We don’t have that kind of quarterback. We don’t have that kind of offense. We have a tremendous amount of respect for their defense and what they can do. We also have a lot of respect for what Auburn’s been able to do on offense to about everybody they’ve played.”

On whether or not Marcell Dareus has been progressing as the year goes along:
“We’re hopeful that he’ll continue to improve. He missed a couple of games and he struggled with a little bit of an ankle injury. I think that’s getting better as we go. I think he has played better of late, and hopefully he’ll continue to improve and feel more confident as we play. We need for him to be a very good player. I think he’s a guy that can inspire other people with is positive energy, attitude and performance. We’re not displeased with the way he’s played at all, but he is capable of being a significant player for us and we’d love to help him do that.”

On Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson’s play:
“I think both of those guys have had a lot of nicks and things that have – I don’t think it’s ever really affected them in the game – affected them sometimes in their ability to practice. I think Mark’s stuff is pretty well-known by everybody. Hopefully those guys will benefit from [the bye week]. I think our whole team can benefit from this. Eight games in a row is a pretty difficult run, in our league especially. Hopefully this will be helpful to us – our entire team and to those two guys as well.

On slow starts on the road:
“I think it’s important to start fast in any game that you play. I think it’s also important to finish strong, because I think every play in the game is important. You certainly want to be able to get off to a good start wherever you play, whenever you play. I don’t really know exactly what the reason might be [for slow starts]. I think I know. I think that you need to have some calm in the midst of chaos sometimes when you play on the road because there are a lot of other distractions, and I think mature players that have experience probably handle that a little bit better. Now that we’ve played on the road a few times, I thought we handled it a little bit better at Tennessee. Hopefully we’ll handle it a little bit better this time. It’s all about your ability to focus on the task at hand and not be distracted by all the things that are going on around you. There are a lot of difficult places to play in this league, and it takes a lot of maturity to be able to stay focused and do those things. Hopefully our team will continue to mature and be able to play better and better as we play on the road. I think it’s going to be critical in this game for sure.”

On the differences in LSU’s two quarterbacks (Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee):
“I think both guys are very talented guys. Jordan Jefferson is a very, very good athlete and a good runner. They run probably a little more option when he’s in the game, some zone-reads, zone DT reads off the sweep and some plays that are similar, for our fans, to what Auburn does with him. He’s been an effective passer for them. I think when Jarrett comes in he’s a little bit more of a classic passing quarterback. They run some of the same plays. He does not run the ball nearly as much, but he has a quick release, has a good arm and is very accurate and they’ve got some very talented receivers. I think these two styles of guys are a little bit different, but both guys are very talented with what they’re capable of doing.”

Alabama Player Quotes
#12 Greg McElroy, QB
On the challenge of playing against LSU’s defense:
It will be difficult. I don’t think it’s anything you ever want to do as a player is play against a great defense like this, but it’s definitely going to be a great challenge for us. I know we are looking forward to it. We had a good study on them last week in the Thursday practice, and it was just kind of a good starting point for us. But I think we need to pick it up today and obviously get a good heavy install today and just be able to execute on all cylinders on Saturday because that’s what it’s going to take.

On what you see when you watch tape of LSU’s defense:
You just see a lot of team speed, which you see that a lot in the SEC, but this team has an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time, and I think it’s a credit to their execution as a defense and also their talent level. I think they do a good job of anticipating. They do a good job of just making things difficult for the wide receivers on the edge and they definitely pose a pretty big threat on the defensive front. They have a lot of great talent on the front seven so we definitely need to have a great week of work, a great week of study, a great week of preparation in order to be ready for them.

On watching football during the bye week:
I can assure you I was rooting for Nebraska and Iowa on Saturday, that’s for sure. It was great obviously for us as an individual, but we understand it all starts with our game against LSU. Quite frankly, in order for us to get to where we need to go, we need to take care of business from here on out and the best way to do that is by having a great practice each and every day. Just focusing on one game at a time, and I know that may sound like a coaches speech and a cliché, but that really is the only way to be successful.

On the play of wide receiver Julio Jones:
Julio obviously is a special talent. One thing that’s great about him, and usually you don’t see a lot from wide receivers position, you see a lot of guys who are selfish me guys, not so much team guys and that’s not the case with our guys. We are very fortunate and obviously with Julio being the front runner of that pack as a leader and obviously with his play. We try to learn from what he does, and the way he executes. He’s definitely a great asset to have not only for us as an offense but to us as a team as well.

On worrying about the BCS:
Not really because I think we control our fate, and we just need to worry about how we execute and I don’t think that it’s any extra motivation. We want to get to where we want to get to, and with our goals coming into the season being set pretty high. We understood what the difficulties and adversities that the season was going to pose, but we have done a good job of handling things up to this point. We responded well after our loss to South Carolina. Last year’s team really improved after the bye week, we kind of got better as each week progressed and that’s what this team needs to do as well. Hopefully that will lead to a successful outcome and hopefully a nice ending to a good season.

#8 Julio Jones, WR
On matching up with Patrick Peterson of LSU:
“He is a great competitor. He is not going to give you a single play. I like the challenge; it should be a good game.”

On the Crimson Tide controlling its own destiny to Glendale:
“It is nice to know, but we just have to go out and play Alabama football – start fast and finish strong. We have to go out and try to dominate our opponent for 60 minutes. We haven’t done that all year. Some games we’ll play great one half and then slack off for the last 30 minutes. We haven’t played the complete 60-minute game.”

On going on the road at LSU:
The crowd really gets into the game, so it’s a loud stadium, but as players we can’t allow the crowd to get into the game and mess us up. It’s just wild there. I like playing there and just being a competitor.

On his connection with quarterback Greg McElroy:
Greg and I are on the same page. Week in and week out we try to increase our togetherness and just being on the same page, and I think we are doing a good job of it.

On what he remembers from playing at LSU as a freshman in 2008:
The only time I notice the crowd is when I run back to the sideline. When I’m on the field I really don’t hear anything because I just block out everything. But when I come back to the sideline, they (the crowd) try to get in your head and they talk trash.”

#22 Mark Ingram, RB
On how the BCS picture looks and how he spent his bye weekend:
To me I just feel like we control our own destiny, so I feel like if we just keep doing what we do and we just keep winning games then everything will take care of itself. I just tried to enjoy the off weekend and relax and get ready for the second half (of the season).

On if his knee is 100 percent:
My knee feels great, especially after the bye week. Sometimes throughout the week it will swell up a little bit but you just ice it and you get treatment on it and you take care of it the best way you can. But right now it feels great. I have a lot of confidence in my knee and my ability to make cuts as well, so yes I would say my knee is 100%.

On playing against LSU’s defense:
They’re fast, they’re athletic, they run real well and they play the game the way it’s supposed to be played with a lot of passion, a lot of heart and every single year they have been a great challenge for us on offense. So we are just going to need to focus real hard this week because they are a great team and we have a big challenge ahead of us this week.

On getting off to a fast start at LSU and not falling behind early:
It’s always important to get off to a good start in an away game because we know we are going into a hostile environment. We know what this rivalry is like. We know how their fans are going to be, but we like that. That is exciting to me personally, just to be able to go into a hostile environment and play in that type of environment is something that you always dream of as an athlete and a competitor. But it is definitely important for us to get off to a fast start.

On how the Crimson Tide played in the second half at Tennessee:
We really weren’t playing that well in the first half but I think in the second half we played offense, defense, special teams, we played our best football that we have played all year and it was just the fact that everybody buckled down, everybody focused. It wasn’t 10 guys doing it right and one guy doing it wrong, all 11 guys were in-sync doing their jobs correctly and playing aggressive, playing physical and executing. We just put together a great half, and we just have to keep it up and keep moving from there.

On what’s important during the bye week:
Hard work. You go back to the fundamentals and you have to pick something that you have to get better at, something that you need to work on and you work on being fundamentally sound at it throughout the whole week. You get in better condition. You get healthier. You have to make progress as a team during that bye week and that’s what’s most important.

#99 Josh Chapman, DL
On how physical it is playing against LSU:
Playing against LSU is always a tough battle. It is about who can hit the other in the mouth first. We have to come out early and hit them in the mouth fast.

On playing at LSU:
It is a loud and crazy environment, but it is still about what happens on the field.

On each team having so much on the line:
It all boils down to LSU is LSU, and that is one team we have on our schedule that we have to beat. It is going to be a physical ballgame. You get in the weight room for this type of games.

On being the highest ranked team with one loss:
We just have to take care of our business and all of that will take care of itself.

On the importance of the bye week:
It helped us a lot. We worked on the little things we had to work on like running to the ball, and then we got to rest and help our bodies also. I think we needed it, but that’s football.