Alabama Football: Nick Saban talks Penn State, quarterbacks, Cyrus Kouandjio and Duron Carter

Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama Crimson Tide

On Monday Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban held a press conference to talk about the upcoming game. Items on this week’s agenda were Penn State, Alabama’s quarterback situation, Cyrus Kounadjio, Duron Carter and more.

Alabama Press Conference Transcript (courtesy of UA Media Relations)
Alabama head coach Nick Saban Opening Statement:

“Obviously there are a lot of things after a first game that you look at and say how some guys played extremely well and some guys did a lot of good things. Other guys have certain things that they can improve on. I think the biggest thing, probably, was that the biggest lesson to be learned for every player is that every fundamental error that we made and technique has a consequence. We didn’t play very well in certain areas of our team because we didn’t execute fundamentally the way we need to. Too many guys give you that, ‘I thought I could do this.’ I don’t care what you thought. What were you told to do? What’s your job? What are you supposed to do here? How are you supposed to step? How are you supposed to block the guy? How are you supposed to play your gap? How are you supposed to blitz the hole? Whatever it is, on any part of the team, that every guy on the team should learn the lesson that if you don’t do things fundamentally correct, there’s going to be a consequence. I think that’s the thing that we really need to emphasize with our team is that we’ve got to get better fundamental execution in a lot of areas.”

“Now, there are a lot of good things in the game. You guys know what they were. My focus as a coach is on, it’s great to get a win, is how much are we going to improve from last week into the next week? That’s what we want to try to build on. Most good teams will make a significant amount of improvement from last week to this week.”

“Most of the new players that played—most of—did not play as well as what we had anticipated or hoped. Whether it’s anxiety, first game jitters, or whatever, we need to make an improvement in that area. We did not play with the consistency up front in the offensive line that we need to execute with. We’ve looked at some different combinations of guys in that particular game. We’ll make some evaluations throughout the course of this week and see what we can do to try to make that situation a little bit better.”

“We had some real positive performances. Offensively, Barrett Jones and Eddie Lacy are the offensive players of the week. Courtney Upshaw and DeQuan Menzie are both defensive players of the week. Specialist, Marquis Maze, Will Lowery, Trey DePriest and Vinnie Sunseri on special teams did a really, really good job.”

“Kevin Norwood is really the only guy that we had that has a little bit of a sprained ankle that may not practice today, but should be back in a day or two.”

“I know you’re going to ask me about the quarterback situation. We’re going to continue to develop both of the quarterbacks that we have. We’re not going to name a starting quarterback today. Later in the week, as we see how the two guys practice, we’ll make a determination as to which guy will give us the best opportunity in this particular game, or if there’s some combination of the two that would be helpful and useful to us, we’ll look at the option of doing that. I think the most important thing that we want to focus on with both quarterbacks is what do we need to do to play as well as you’re capable of playing, and continue to improve and work through, with both guys, the importance of doing the little things right and the fundamental things right so that you can play the way you are capable of playing. I think both guys are capable of playing better than they did, not that we’re disappointed in either one of them, but we still feel like we have two really good players at that position and both of those guys will continue to develop and help us somewhere down the road.”

“Penn State is, I think, a very, very good team. [They are] a much different team than we played a year ago. They seem like they play faster. I think the circumstances down here that it was real hot last year, probably affected them a little bit. They have more experience. The quarterbacks are playing better, which is probably the biggest key, offensively. They have some very good runners. The strength of their team on offense is probably their three returning receivers. They were all very productive last year. They have seven starters back on defense and a couple of other guys that have started in the past and played in the past that were injured last year, or whatever, that are going to come back and play. This is more of a veteran team in terms of the experience that they have. They were a good football team last year, and we think will be a totally different team. They traditionally play very well at home. They’re like 37-6 or something like that in the last five or six years, playing at home. They haven’t lost many games to non-conference opponents at home for a long time.”

“There are a lot of challenges here for us. We have to play on the road for the first time. This will be a good experience for us down the road. This is the kind of team, Penn State is always the kind of team, that they don’t give you anything. You have to go take what you’re going to get by playing sound, solid, fundamental football, and not giving them anything in the meantime. You’re going to have to beat them with good fundamentals—playing on the line of scrimmage well, play blocks well, have good eye control and discipline in what you’re doing, and that’s no matter what position you play. This is a good team that we’re playing. All Joe Paterno-coached teams are fundamentally sound in everything that they do. You have to match that with good preparation and good practice, so that you have an opportunity to execute the way you need to against these types of teams.”

On whether he would prefer to stick with one quarterback throughout the coming game:
“Well that’s a hypothetical question. We know where we are playing this week; we know what it’s like to play there. We have played there before, and we know what our quarterback situation is. I’ve already addressed that.”

On Duron Carter:
“He is good. He practiced six practices, really practiced hard. He gave a good effort. I was pleased with the physical condition he was in, and he has been able to implement himself with some practice time in pads. We are going to see how he picks things up and see what kind of a contribution he can make.”

On the challenges the offensive line faces when people are changing positions:
“I don’t think that’s the case. When you play on your toes and put your head down and whiff the linebackers, what’s that have to do with who is playing where? It doesn’t matter if you are playing center, guard, tackle, tight end. It really doesn’t matter which position you are playing to be able to get your second step on the ground and butt the guy in the throat and finish the block. Guys talk about communication, so we need to communicate better. We need to play better, and we need to play with better fundamentals. I don’t think it has anything to do with that quite honestly, but that would be a great thing for you to make a big deal out of publicly, but it doesn’t really mean jack you know what.”

On Cyrus Kouandjio’s development since camp:
“Cyrus did a good job in the game, and I think like a lot of freshmen, freshmen sort of go where they improve and then they kind of hit the wall, and maybe the cumulative effects starts to get them a little bit. They almost regress a little bit, and then they get their sea legs back and start making that same kind of improvement. I think that same thing has kind of happened in the last week or so with Cyrus, and he played well in the game. I think that game experience will help him.”

On whether or not we will see fewer home-and-home games versus neutral sites and whether it is good or bad for college football:
“I don’t know if it’s a good thing or bad thing. I think that probably a combination of those things is probably good for college football. I know that regardless of where they played the games, some of the games that were on this last weekend probably were very interesting to a lot of people. One game was played at a home site, Baylor and TCU, which is a great game. I know there were a couple other good games that were neutral site games that were interesting to watch for a lot of folks. I think there is good and bad in both, and I don’t think that there is a significant consequence to it either way. I think that it almost goes without saying that you can say that they are made for TV, but the TV and the exposure that college football gets from TV is a tremendous asset for college football.”

On his relationship with Penn State head coach Paterno:
“I think you have to go a long way to find somebody that didn’t have a tremendous amount of respect for Joe Paterno, not just in terms of the number of games he has won, the longevity he has had in the same program and the consistency that that program has had for what is it, 46 years now? I remember when I was a kid in West Virginia, going to a game to see Penn State play and him running out of the tunnel when I was a kid. Then the way he does it. Just the character that his teams play with, the character they have, how they represent college football, the principles and values that are ingrained in the program, I think make it first class and make him first class all the way around. He has been a tremendous asset for college football. He’s got great interest in the rules and the wellbeing of the players. I told the story last year about Duane Goulbourne; who was going to be ineligible and had to get in graduate school to get his sixth year and couldn’t get in graduate school but could get in the continuing education program and they hadn’t changed the rule in the Big Ten. Joe was the head of the committee and he changed the rule so the guy could play. Low and behold we are up there playing in the last game of the year and Goulbourne runs 50 yards for a touchdown and ties the game up with a couple minutes to go in the game. It gave us a chance to win but that never fazed him (Paterno). It was the right thing for the young man (Goulbourne), and he (Paterno) did the right thing and he has always been about that. Not just about what is good for his team. He is a good friend. He and Terry (Saban) are like Italian buddies, and they get along great.”

On Saturday’s game and what Marquis Maze meant both offensively and on special teams:
“Marquis had a really, really good game. He did some good things for us on special teams; changed field position especially with the punt returns, had eight catches offensively. We knew that we were going to put him in some positions in the game where he was going to have some opportunities, and he certainly played well. He has not been able to practice, and he did get a little bit tired in the game which affected him as the game wore on which is something that we need to remedy down the road. We obviously need more players on offensive to be able to make big plays, especially at skilled positions, and we need to execute better overall as an offensive team so more guys will have opportunity to do that.”

On the pluses of Alabama and Penn State traditions from a program standpoint:
“I’m not sure I know exactly what you are asking me, but I think tradition is something that we all value. I think that everybody that is associated with the tradition here values it because there is a significant number of people who have worked hard through the years to make the tradition what it is. I think there is a tremendous pride in that for everyone. I think that when you play in games like this you have to have a lot of pride not only in yourself, and how you go about it but also what you represent which is the tradition and all the people who have worked hard to make it what it is and your responsibility to make sure that you are performing, playing, coaching and whatever it is that sort of elevates that standard to what it needs to be.”

On the scene before last year’s Penn State game with Coach Bowden and Coach Paterno on the field:
“Well first of all, personally, I really like Bobby Bowden, and I really like Joe Paterno. I have known both guys for a long time. At different stations of my career, I have looked up to them. As a kid growing up Bobby Bowden was a coach at West Virginia. I played against him as assistant coach and just have always looked up to him, but the stations of your career sort of make you realize and respect what they do even more and how long they were able to do it and the success that they had. I don’t know how many games I have won as a head coach, but I know it is not a third as many as Joe Paterno has had. I think about that, and I say that is unbelievable. It is unbelievable that you would be able to sustain at the same school all these years and do it in such a first class fashion in every way. So, I love those guys. I love Coach Stallings. I have such respect for coaches. I guess when you grow up as a player and your coach means so much to you. Maybe besides your parents, your coach meant more to you than anybody else. My high school coach probably other than my parents was as much as a significant impact on me, my future, career, going to college and doing all these things that anybody had. You kind of look up to people in a special way that are coaches when you are a player. Now these guys to me are the highest of the highest when it comes to people in our profession. I absolutely love them, and I love what they do and how they have always done it.”

On the receivers:
“I think that we had a lot of young guys playing. I don’t think they played fast all the time. I think there was a lot of anxiety. I don’t think we had very good ball security, and I don’t think we looked balls in. I think we played in a hurry and cut the routes a little bit short and didn’t do it exactly right, which sort of affects the timing of what you are trying to do and makes it a little bit more difficult for everybody. I think it goes right back to the fundamental discipline of playing and understanding the importance of doing it right and getting it right. I think a lot of players are going to learn a lot from that game, and I think it will help their performance in the future.”