Alabama’s Saban, players talk Mississippi State

Alabama Crimson Tide Head Coach Nick Saban Press Conference Transcript Along with player quotes from QB Greg McElroy, DL Marcell Dareus and OL William Vlachos (transcript courtesy of UA Media Relations)

Head Coach Nick Saban Opening statement:
“In the review of the last game it was a big point of emphasis for us all week long to get tremendous focus on execution in the game. Right tool; right time; do it the right way. When you look at the film, there were too many occasions where we didn’t get it exactly right. We have to refocus on what it takes to master our positions, individually and collectively. We made some mistakes up front in the offensive line that created pressure. We had an inability to run the ball as effectively as we could have, had we executed properly. We turned the ball over, which has been a little uncharacteristic for us. The defense gave up a few big plays, several of which were big-time mental errors, so the reality check of it all is “where do you want to go from here?” I think the real glory of it is, sometimes when you get knocked down, it’s your ability to get back up, to overcome adversity, and that’s a true test of character. When you play good teams and you don’t do things right you get exposed. I think the emphasis needs to be on teaching and doing a good job in technique. Now, we’re responsible as coaches to be those teachers and to be good teachers, and that’s certainly what we need to do to help our team get better.

“Julio Jones was the offensive player of the week. Josh Chapman and Dont’a Hightower did a really good job on defense. Marquis Maze and John Fulton had good games on special teams. I know you already have that information.

“From an injury standpoint, we have three guys that will be day-to-day this week that we probably will not work today. They are Trent Richardson, Kerry Murphy and Chris Jordan. Those guys are day-to-day and we’re not sure how they’ll respond throughout the course of the week so I can’t comment on that.

“Mississippi State has a very good team. Dan Mullen has done an exceptionally good job there. You all know their record, they’re 7-2, and they’ve lost to two teams in the top-10, in very close games. This is a good team. They run the ball extremely well on offense. They control the ball. Their defense has played really well this year. They’re athletic, they can rush up front and they play hard. They’ve played with a lot of conviction all year long.

“But we still need to stay focused on what we need to do as a team to play better, to get better, to play with the kind of intensity that we need to play with and to be able to execute what we need to do to have success. I know that everybody is looking for some dynamic way – and I know you’re going to ask me how are you going to this or how are you going to do that – I’m already giving you that answer. That’s the answer to the question right there. Players have to have the right attitude about doing it. They have to respond the right way. We have to do a good job as coaches to teach them what they need to do so that they can continue to have more success.”

On the results question following the game Saturday:
“I’m talking about a mindset, which is a process of what you need to do to improve and get better. Kristen (Saban’s daughter) had a hard time understanding that one too. I understand that I didn’t do a very good job of articulating. When your daughter questions you on what you said, you know you didn’t do a very good job of articulating. Not that she doesn’t question me about a lot of things a lot of the time, especially when it has to do with what time she has to be home at night. Really, what I’m talking about is when you become so result-oriented, you lose the focus on the process of what it takes for you to improve and get better and play your best. The whole idea is – I’ve always talked about becoming the best team that we can be; become the best player that you can be; develop into, for personal reasons, the best player that you can be; and for team reasons, develop into the best player that you can be. You’re always playing to a standard; you’re not just playing to win the game. That’s basically what I meant by that, because of the circumstance, we may have lost sight of that. Now that’s not the reason we haven’t developed, and if we had won the game by three everyone would have thought we developed just fine. We certainly had our opportunities to do it. We didn’t make the plays that we needed to make in critical times and they did. That’s why you play the games. We need to do a better job as coaches, as teachers, and the players need to do a better job of focusing on execution, not only when the game comes, but every day in practice and everything that they do in terms of the kind of people that they are, the things that they do to prepare to play the game –whether it’s how you practice, how you eat, how you rest – all of those personal habits that can help you perform, all those things are important to performing. I think I was just trying to focus on the process of doing what it takes to be the best that you can be rather than just getting the result. I know it’s my responsibility to get the results, and I’ll take that, but I feel you get the results by being the best that you can be. I feel like you get the results by doing the things you need to do to take advantage of and dominate the opponent you’re playing against, whether it’s your effort, your toughness, your discipline to execute – all the things that we talk about all of the time. If you lose sight of that, then you’re not going to be as good as you can be. That’s one thing that I’ve been harping on with this team all year long is to develop that sense of a standard that we’re all going to play to, along with the intensity and toughness that you need to do it.”

On MSU’s improvement:
“This is one of the best teams that we’ll play in our league this year. If you’re making comparisons, I guess you could say they have improved a lot, but I thought they had a pretty good team last year. Anytime you’re there for the first time in your first year players make a lot of progress in terms of what’s expected of them. I think this team has certainly made a lot of progress in a lot of areas. They have made a lot of improvement. They’ve done a great job with their players and they play with a lot of discipline. They do the things you need to do to play winning football all the time and this is a very, very good football team.”

On left guard Chance Warmack:
“He’s done an excellent job for us all year long. Being a player who doesn’t have as much of the same experience that the other players have, sometimes in some of the critical games that we’ve played, maybe there’s a few more mental errors. I think that’s a part of maturing, a part of growing up. He has played extremely well. He’s a very physical player. He really works hard. He has played with a lot of toughness and has done an extremely good job for us all season long.”

On the difficulty of emulating the MSU quarterbacks:
“We’ve seen a lot of that this year where we’ve had to try to use someone else to be the quarterback to do the quarterback runs, and we’ll continue to do that this week. Blake Sims, who was a high school quarterback, did a lot of these same kinds of plays in high school, has been the guy that’s filled in. Phillip (Sims) does a good job of it too because he’s very athletic and big and strong. So we’ve gotten a decent picture of it in the past when we needed to.”

On MSU running back Nick Ballard:
“I had a lot of respect for (Anthony) Dixon last year in terms of being a big, strong physical back, so I was saying to myself “I’m glad that guy’s gone.” The guys they have carrying it this year have really good ability, probably a little more speed and explosiveness. They are in a lot of what you would call three-back runs. They do a great job of executing a lot of gap blocking. Their backs have done a really good job and he’s been their most productive guy.”

On how the Alabama team will react without major postseason games to play for:
“I guess there are some scenarios and some possibilities that we could do something, but I think this is all about how you want to finish the season. What you can accomplish as a team, there’s a lot out there that this team can accomplish. How you respond to adversity is the key. We are probably going to play four more games, regardless, and that’s a quarter of a season. There’s a lot of improvement and a lot of things that can be accomplished relative to the results that this team can accomplish, which obviously is what you’re asking me about. Am I concerned that this team has the pride and performance to do that? I think it’s a reality check for them to see how important it is to them, and what they are willing to do to make it happen. I know as a coaching staff we’re very committed to doing the things that we need to do to try to make that happen, and we’ll work very hard starting today to make that happen. I know there are some individual players on our team that are excited about trying to do that as well. But it’s going to be a combination of the chemistry, the leadership and the individual commitment to make this season something that this 2010 team can be remembered for.”

On DeQuan Menzie’s health:
“He could have played. He was healthy, he warmed up. He practiced all week and we’ll probably play him a little bit more in this game. In fact, he may end up starting in this game, but he was capable of playing in this last game, so he has no physical problems.”

On Julio Jones’ production:
“In the last two games he has been very, very productive for us. Obviously, the more explosive plays that we can make on offense the better – and he’s one of the guys that can make them – but we have other guys that can make them and we want to see all those guys contributing in a positive way to make an explosive play. We want to continue to get Julio the ball because he is an outstanding player, but I think we want our entire offense and all our skill players to complement one another because there are other guys there that can make explosive plays as well. We want to utilize those things to make our offense a team that’s difficult to defend.”

On this team’s leadership:
“When you have a young team – which we have a young team, only eight or nine seniors on the team – sometimes it’s a little bit more difficult to get the younger players to assume the responsibility of leadership. We have had some good leadership on this team. I think it’s something that we need to continue to develop and grow. That’s going to be an important part of how the team responds. The true test of the leadership is how the team responds. I think the leadership is most effective when things aren’t going well; that’s when it makes the biggest difference.”

On what kinds of questions Nick Saban is asking himself:
“What I’ve been asking myself for two days is how are we going to stop Mississippi State from running the ball? How are we going to move the ball against them? I know what I’m going to say to try to get our team to do what they need to do and what we’re going to do to try to get them to respond. What else should I be thinking about? I think that pretty much covers it. I think about Miss Terry now and then just so I don’t get in trouble for not including her in all of this.”

On how important a fast start is against an emotionally charged MSU team:
“I’m very proud of the way our team responded to that, in support of Nick Bell and his family; the compassion that our team showed for their team in terms of a tragic loss, and a young man with a bright future. I don’t know what that has to do really with the game. It’s a personal thing and I’m sure there are a lot of relationships that get affected by something like this, but when the game comes I’m sure everybody will be focusing on doing the best they can to compete. I’m hopeful that our players will do the same thing.”

Alabama Player Quotes
#12 Greg McElroy, QB
On the team’s outlook on the rest of the season:
“I think just as an individual I have to realize that I have three games left that are guaranteed. I have to just go out there and try to enjoy my last three games wearing the crimson helmet and crimson jersey. I just have to try to enjoy it the best I can. That is my approach as an individual. As a team, I realize we just have to play for all of our pride. Obviously, there is still a lot we can accomplish this season even though we can’t go to the national championship. This team still has a lot of character and a lot of pride. Every member of this team is very proud to be a member of this team, so they try to make the most of it.”

On what it means to him to enjoy the game of football:
“The reason why we play the game is to have fun. That is why you start playing it. Long before you even understand what the intensity, pain, and suffering can bring about, you just play because it is a fun game. Of course we are going to have an intense approach because we want to win as bad as ever. That is unchanged, and our goals are unchanged from that point of view. Also, from an individual standpoint, I just kind of want to soak it in, because I have had such an incredible time here. I have had so much fun over the past four and a half years, and Alabama has greatly impacted my life. I just want to try to enjoy my last three games in Bryant-Denny the best that I can. That won’t at all change my intensity and preparation toward each individual game.”

On if a lack of intensity or preparation resulted in the loss to LSU:
“I think the intensity was good. I really think we had a good week of practice for the most part from an intensity standpoint. I think it was just a lack of execution on both sides of the ball. After we look at the film with the coaches, we should be able to decipher and put our fingers on some of the problems. A couple of the guys were talking last night about how this game really is a game of inches, and how one step in this direction or that direction can change the outcome of the game. Unfortunately, we were on the losing end on Saturday. It is disappointing, but I think this team can definitely bounce back and be proud of what we have accomplished. We just need to continue to work and improve to be the best team we can be the rest of the season.”

On if some guys listen to the leaders on the team more than others:
“Of course some people are more impacted by leadership. I think that is only natural. Every individual is a little bit different when it comes to the way they respond to a challenge or what is said or a goal. As far as everyone’s reaction to leadership, I think it has been relatively good. At times the leadership hasn’t been as impactful as it was last year, which is disappointing, being one of those leaders. It is something that we obviously just need to do a better job of and just try to get through to people to make them realize how important these next three games are, starting with Mississippi State. I think that is going to be a real key for the leaders on this team. We just need to step up and make these games important, because they really, really are.”

On the comfort of playing at home:
“I think there is a sense of comfort. Last year, when I was making my first few road starts, I had a little bit of uneasiness. You have that routine and get into a comfort zone when you are at home. Everything just kind of rolls the same, and it feels very natural. When you are on the road, obviously things are a little different. For a lot of the guys, it was their first trip to South Carolina and LSU. Unfortunately, that is not really much of an excuse. We just have to roll with the punches and not let it affect us. It does make a difference – it absolutely does. As far as our ability to overcome it, we need to be better at that by this point in the season as far as the number of starts everyone has made. I just don’t think it was that much of a factor. We just lost because we didn’t execute.”

#57 Marcell Dareus, DL
On the passing of his friend and Mississippi State player, Nick Bell, and the relationship they shared:
“We we’re really close – me, his mom and his sisters. He was just a real close friend of mine and a good guy all the way around. We always joked and played and were always in competition. Every game we always called each other and were like, “I’ll bet you that I’ll have more tackles than you, I bet I’ll make more plays than you. When we play you all, let’s see who does the best. I bet we win.” He was so competitive no matter what we were doing. We could be playing a game and he would always say he was going to beat me, or if he was done and he got a big play he would jump all in my face and break the controller. It’s funny. It was just funny how we would always react with each other – wrestling and stuff. He was just a cool dude.”

When asked who would win their wrestling matches:
“I always beat up on him. He would always try to twist my arm. He was funny how he would react. He was just a cool dude and we would just act like kids. It’s wasn’t just so much about football when I was around Nick. We had so much fun with either that when we got around each other we didn’t ever talk about football. That was our escape away from football, away from anyone else. We just chilled, had fun, would go out and do whatever. We didn’t have to think about football, we didn’t have to talk about football; football was not even in our conversations.”

When asked how old he was when they met:
“In like middle school or in high school. He went to Minor. We played against him at Minor then he transferred to Jess Lanier and we played against each other at Jess Lanier.”

When asked if they hit it off immediately:
“Yeah, just like that. I met him through a friend that went to school here and ever since then we were just cool. We kicked it. I played on the AAU team that his high school basketball coach coached. Ninety percent of their team was their high school team and it was just me and another kid from Hoover that was on their team, and we just played and clicked like that.”

When asked when the last time he talked with Nick Bell:
“The Friday before he passed – that Friday and Saturday. He was with me all day Friday. That Friday he stayed with me all day. He rode around with me all day. He said he wasn’t feeling good and just wanted to ride with me so he rode with me all day. We went out later on that night and just had a good time. The next day he called me and I was seeing how he was doing, just chatting. He said he had a friend coming down from Mississippi State. I said OK then they chilled and I didn’t speak to him. That’s when he told me everything that was going on.”

On becoming a leader on the team:
“I kind of find myself doing that a couple of times (trying to get the younger guys in line). I kind of see myself developing into a leader. Looking back at Rolando McClain, Rashad Johnson, looking at them you kind of see how they were acting and how they interacted with everybody – Antoine Caldwell – they laughed and joked, but at the same time when it was time to play football it was time to play football. It was time to go out there and strap it one, have fun and dominate at the same time. This year it’s kind of harder to get that going. I haven’t been in that position before on the level that we’re on now. I’m trying to do what I can – me, Dont’a (Hightower), Courtney Upshaw, Mark Barron – we’re just going out and trying our best to get everybody together. We’re still developing into a good team. We’re just trying to get the young guys involved, get them mature and get them developed to the point where they just go out and don’t have to think twice about what they’re doing.”

On what it takes to play the type of football Alabama is trying to play:
“Looking at the team now, we have that maturity and we’ve shown it games. We’ve shown it in the last 17 minutes of the Arkansas game, the second half of the Tennessee game. We’ve shown that we have the maturity. Our young players, they’ve stepped up and made plays that were big for us. We’ve shown that maturity, we just have to play a complete game. Their minds have to be focused in for a whole 60 minutes, not 30 minutes, not seven minutes, not 17 minutes, not a quarter, we need a whole game. Once they buy into that, it will be a lot better for the unit.”

On what he would like to see out of the team for the remainder of the year:
“I’m not even thinking about the National Championship. I never thought about the rankings. I could care less about winning our division. I just want to see our young kids, I want to see the seniors, the juniors, I want to see everybody gel together for these last three, four or however many games we have. Let’s go out there and play the best football that we can play. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is. We don’t think about the end of the season, we’re not thinking about next year – not thinking about anything. We’re just worrying about focusing in, doing what we can, getting extra film work and play the best football that we can play – everybody just has to show maturity as a whole, even me. We have to start up front with the defensive linemen, doing the best I can getting everybody together and do the best that we can do.”

#73 William Vlachos, OL
On the mood of the team this week:
“I wouldn’t say there is any sense of panic or anything like that. Some people haven’t been in this position before, losing two games in a season. We still have a lot of football left to play, and we just have to keep getting better. We have to keep a sense of urgency in practice and just do the things we are supposed to do and play the way we are supposed to play. That is really all we can worry about right now. There really isn’t a panic mode right now. People aren’t really calling each other out and getting in everybody’s face. Everybody just has to do their job.”

On how much Mississippi State has improved from a season ago:
“They are very good. They run a three-man front, which is kind of what our base defense is. They have played some good teams this year and really had some good results. They are a well-coached football team. They are always going to have good defensive fronts. They have a new defensive coordinator this year, and he has done a great job. Their offense has also been strong this year. Like every other game in the SEC, it is going to be a challenge for us.”

On if it is comforting to be playing at home the rest of the season
“It is an advantage to play at home. There were some times this past week where it got a little bit loud and some communication errors took place. You can’t let that distract you though, because that is part of football. We know what we have to deal with when we go on the road.”

On if he considers the team to be better at home:
“I don’t know. We always just have to do what we need to do. The field is always 100 yards long and 52 yards wide. Football is football, and it doesn’t really matter where you play.”

On if the team has lost some of the enjoyment of the process of getting better each day:
“I think what he (head coach Nick Saban) says as far as a lot of people being result oriented, he tells you all the same things he tells us. He calls them like he sees them. He is our leader, and he is who we follow and listen to. He is right; he is definitely right. We just have to get back to the basics and look at the little things. That is what got us so far last year, so that is what we have to get back to doing.”

On the improvement of (offensive lineman) Chance Warmack this season:
“He is very talented, especially for a young guy. He has done a great job this year. He has had some growing pains just like everybody would have being a young player. He has stepped in and worked extremely hard. I really enjoy playing next to him. I feel like he has helped me out a lot at times and I have helped him out a lot at times. He has a very bright future.”