(via UA Media Relations) Alabama Football Head Coach Nick Saban Opening Statement:
“After watching the film, I was really pleased with some of the areas that we made progress in as a team at Arkansas. I thought we competed well in the game in a tough circumstance, being on the road and in not good weather conditions. We knew that we would have to persevere. There was an emotional surge in the beginning of the game. I thought as the game went on we played better and better, which was good that we could keep our poise and stay focused. I still think we always see things that we can improve on. We probably had a few too many penalties in all areas. We still need to continue to work on developing some kind of consistency in some areas of our game.
I was not pleased with some of the backup players when they got an opportunity to play and what their readiness was to play. Nobody really cares about this but for young players to learn how to prepare for a game and how to motivate themselves for a game, and for the older players to take some of the responsibility for helping them do is probably an important aspect of developing your team. That’s something that we need to get the young guys, and maybe this experience will help them, to understand. Being average is contagious. I said that after the game. If you demand more of yourself, you get more. If we went out and asked some 12 year-old kid what he needed to improve on he would probably have to sit there and think for a half hour or 45 minutes about something he could improve on. If we went and asked Peyton Manning what he could improve on he would probably write a novel on all the things he could do better relative to all the success he’s had. The point is that there is always room to improve. You’ve never really arrived. The goal should be to make the team stronger. We need to work on demanding more from each other and ourselves so that we can become a better team. It’s human nature sometimes that people respond better when things go bad. I want to see if our players have the maturity to be able to respond even when things don’t go bad. That’s something we will see if we can manage a little bit better this week than we have in some past week.
Players of the week on offense were Eddie Lacy and Chance Warmack. Chance was also the SEC (Offensive) Lineman of the Week. On defense, it was Adrian Hubbard and C.J. Mosley and special teams was Cade Foster and Dee Hart.
We don’t really have any personnel issues or injuries. We have guys that are bruised up like you always do on Monday but nothing that is of any significance that we need to talk about.
We respect every team that we play. Carl Pelini, who is a very good coach, has done a good job with this team (Florida Atlantic). They are much improved relative to where they were a year ago. I think the way they played against Georgia last week sort of shows that, being 14-14 in the second quarter and moving the ball and creating a lot of problems. The guys play hard, and they are well coached. We certainly need to respect them and focus on what we need to do to improve as a team.”
On the key to getting out and starting fast in all three games so far:
“What was the score after the first quarter last game? We didn’t get off very fast. I remember it being 7-0 for a long time. Worried about whether we fumbled the punt or not so that they were going to get the ball in good field position and tie it up – with all those people dressed in red up there, screaming down our neck. I must have been at a different game. Was I at a different game or were we at the same game? I thought that it was a very tough game for the first quarter of the game. I think that part of the way we play is that we want to try to wear people down as we go – psychologically as well as physically – in terms of our ability to execute, the kind of effort that we play with, the kind of toughness that we play with, the way we can sustain and persevere through a game and I think that’s important. It is all part of the whole fourth quarter program, conditioning and strength and all the things that we work on so that we can have a team that can do those types of things. I have been happy with the way we have been able to do that in a couple of games – I didn’t think in the second game we played particularly well in any aspect, not even in the second half. We want to continue to improve on those things.”
On why Coach Saban does not teach the defensive backs to back-peddle and if Saban was taught to back-peddle:
“They’re taught to back-peddle. They all can back-peddle. You come to practice every day, they back-peddle in individual, they back-peddle sometimes on their plan. We play our corners up on people a lot, so sometimes they bail-off; sometimes they play bump-and-run. Sometimes they get off and back-peddle. I just think that we’re just not philosophically in to playing a lot of soft coverage, where you line seven, eight or nine yards off a guy and give him a lot of easy throws in front; but we do teach them how to back-peddle. We teach them how to plant and drive out of a back-peddle. There are coverages that we have where our corners do play off, that’s just not philosophically how we play most of the time. And I can back-peddle – I back-peddled when I played, and I can still back-peddle – and cover – somebody.”
On what Coach Saban teaches in practice regarding turnovers:
“Well I have already been down this road, there’s not much else to say. We do turnover drills every day. We try to get the ball out in every drill we have, and if the ball’s on the ground, we scoop it and try to score with it – even if it’s not a fumble. I think that after doing this for a year and a half we have a little better buy-in than we have ever had before, and I think that it’s showing in the number of turnovers that we have. I think ball security with our offensive players is something that we emphasize just as much. I do think that it does help that the defense is always trying to get the ball off of them, so they’re conscious all the time of protecting the ball. I think that in the circumstances that we played in the other day, I don’t know how many times Arkansas fumbled the ball, but we didn’t have those issues. I think that’s probably good and something we need to continue to work on.”
On the secondary has responded and improved:
“Well I think that we have a lot of improving to do in the secondary. I don’t know that they have been challenged down the field with a vertical passing game. We gave up a few big plays in the first game, but we are going to see a lot better quarterbacks and a lot better skill guys down the road. I think the players need to prepare for the various things that we are going to see, and we need to improve the way we do it – control, discipline, run support, tackling as well as ability to cover and get off the field on third down are all areas that we can improve on.”
On Jalston Fowler:
“He had his surgery last Thursday and surgery went well. Pretty serious injury, but doctors feel like he can make a full recovery, so he is back here now working on his rehab. He did stay in the hospital for a few days but part of that was because we weren’t here, and they can care for him there when are medical staff is not here. He’s doing fine.”
On how much of the turnover battle is mental:
“I think it’s a consciousness and awareness as much as anything. I think it gets a little bit contagious and sometimes that becomes physiological. When you start getting a lot of turnovers everybody is focused on that and you continue to be able to create plays, and get them and I think sometimes when you don’t get them, and you talk about all the time that we are not getting them, that kind of gets to be a roadblock in your mind about being able to get them. So I think your mindset has a lot to do with it, your confidence and your ability to do it and have an experience of doing it are all things that can contribute to it in a positive way. I think it’s the same thing when you’re a runner, if you get the reputation of being a fumbler – sometimes that’s hard to shake. How much is that physical, how much is psychological, I’m not sure, but sometimes if you tell somebody that they are something for long enough they start believing it. So I think sometimes you have to be careful about trying to be technical and how you correct people rather than branding them in any kind of way.”
On where Coach Saban sees weaknesses and where he wants to see improvements this week after an ‘almost flawless performance’:
“Well first of all, not to disagree or to be disagreeable, but we were far from flawless in the way we played on defense. Sometimes everybody just looks at the result. It was a tough day for them, they didn’t have their quarterback, they were a little out of sync on offense – our players did a good job, they did a good job of adjusting in the game to some things that we really hadn’t prepared for. We need to improve on playing blockers upfront. We didn’t fit a couple of plays that they ran correctly that we fundamental did things that we need to improve. I think we need to improve the overall rush and coverage. We had a few too many missed tackles for my liking and some poor judgments relative to penalties. We did get a lot of turnovers. We did affect the quarterback and overall they didn’t score any points. When our twos are called on to play, what they don’t understand is, those guys got to play because we were ahead in the game, but one of these days they might have to play because we need them to play because someone else can’t play, I think they need to do, as I have said before, a much better job of preparing themselves and motivating themselves to be ready to play.”
On Kenyan Drake:
“He has done a good job and we need to continue to have him progress and mature as a player. There is more to being a good running back than just carrying the ball. There’s a time when you have to block and there’s a time where you have to understand things in the passing game and do things correctly. Young players have to realize the importance of that and Kenyan can also be a really good special teams player for us because he has really good speed and he is very tough. He is a guy that we need to continue to develop; add depth on our team. We are pleased with his progress. Most of the time you guys ask me about practice, let me just tell you about practice: guys don’t do different things in the games than they do in practice. Almost everything that we messed up, we messed up in practice. Almost everything guys do well in the game, they did well in practice. So, the guy makes good runs in practice, and he made a few good runs in the game, but that’s the way it goes – it kind of is what it is.”
On the keys in the red zone both offensively and defensively so far this season:
“Well we practice down there a lot – I think that the players are just getting comfortable in that part of the field. I really think that if you are going to be a good red zone team, because the field shrinks so it gets more difficult to pass the ball and you have the same number of players in a lot less space playing pass coverage, and you can take advantage of that if your players know how to do that defensively. If you can run the ball I think that is a really good start at being a good red zone team, so you don’t get down in the down and distance, you don’t have to throw it so much because it does get tight down there, in terms of spacing.”