USCALOOSA, AL - This is the full transcript of Nick Saban's Monday news conference. It includes questions and answers for several key players, also.
Head Coach Nick Saban Opening Statement:
"Well you have to be really pleased and proud, after watching the film, of the way our players competed in the last game, the intensity that they had, came out and played really well, especially in the first 30 minutes of the game and we obviously still have plenty of things to improve on. The last 17 minutes of the Arkansas game and the first 30 minutes of the Florida game is sort of the standard that we talk about that we want to play to, and everybody needs to have the accountability to that standard.
I think teams at this time of the year definitely need to be aware of what their weaknesses are, individually and collectively, systematically, offensively, defensively and on special teams because at this time of the year people start to see what you do, see what you are doing, how you're doing it and that's when you start getting exposed if you don't start getting those things corrected, so that's why improvement, I think, is really, really important at this time of year for individual players in terms of what they do and how they do it, as well as what we're doing on offense, defense and special teams. I think the biggest thing is being able to continue to challenge yourself and challenge each other to improve and play to a standard, and I think that's what we really want to try to do here.
We obviously had some outstanding performances. I think this last game was a real team win, but Chance Warmack, who was the offensive lineman in the SEC, he and Darius Hanks were the players of the week on offense. On defense, Courtney Upshaw was the defensive player of the week in the SEC and Mark Barron (was the other player of the week chosen by the Alabama coaching staff). In special teams, Trent Richardson and John Fulton.
From an injury standpoint, Chris Jordan pulled his hamstring in the game. You never know how bad those things are. He'll probably be day-to-day this week and just see how he responds. Julio (Jones) bruised his knee in the game. Again, you never know how these things are, but we did an MRI, checked it out to make sure things are OK and he'll be day-to-day at least for the first part of the week to see how he progresses.
We had tough, physical game with these guys (South Carolina) last year. They're a very good football team, and I think one of the better teams relative to being very well coached on defense. They play tough, physical, have some good pass rushers and good skill guys in the secondary. They run well. Offensively, Steve (Spurrier) always does a great job of getting his players to be efficient and effective. This year they're able to run the ball a lot more effectively maybe than a year ago, probably because of the freshman back. (Marcus) Lattimore is really an outstanding player, and they've got some really good skill guys. (Alshon) Jeffery is obviously the leading receiver on the year, and they play really sound and solid on special teams, so this is going to be a very challenging game for us. We have to continue to challenge ourselves to do the things that we need to do to get better and play our best football. Hopefully we've learned that when we don't, good things don't happen.
I know somebody is going to ask about bye weeks so I just want to clear this up for the year. Everybody out there assumes that having a bye week is an advantage. I've always answered that question by saying, "I don't know if it's an advantage or disadvantage." Just so everybody knows we did research on the last five years of all other 11 teams in the SEC and how they did when they had a bye week, and their record is 29-29. I'm not saying I'm right and you're wrong, but the statistics kind of prove that it's not an advantage or disadvantage to have a bye week, it probably depends a lot on the circumstances."
On the importance of the secondary not allowing many big plays:
"I think that we've still given up too many big plays, some intermediate passes, some over routes in this last game that we didn't match up correctly. We still need to be more disciplined in how we play to eliminate some of those plays, but I think in this game we'll be challenged because they have great size at receiver, they have vertical receivers and they will throw the ball down the field. They did it last year, they tried last year to throw several passes down the field against us and I'm sure we're going to be challenged, as much or more, as we've been challenged all year in terms of the vertical passing game."
On opponents getting so many red zone opportunities even though the defense has stood strong:
"I think that playing in the red zone is a really important part of being a good defensive team. I think there are a combination of things that make you a good defensive team. Most of the time when you don't give up big plays, you play well in the red zone and you get pretty hard to score on. We've probably given up a few too many big plays. I don't know what the average number of opportunities for a team to be in the red zone at this point in the season would be, we've played five times and (our opponents) have been down there 14 times, I don't think that is too many but I don't really know. The key thing is when you get there you have to play the next play. Our guys have competed very well down there. You have to give them credit for the tenacity that they have. Would we rather have played and never let a team get down there? Sure. But we were better in the red zone last year and I think that contributed to our success and that is something that we have emphasized this year with this team and it is certainly something that has been good for us so far. The turnovers in the red zone and the big plays are probably the things that we need to continue to work and improve on."
On Mark Ingram not playing much in the third quarter:
"We didn't have the ball; unless you want us to play Mark on defense. When the other team has the ball for 13 and a half minutes in the third quarter, it is kind of hard to get him in the game. We could put him in at linebacker, safety; I'd be open to how you would like us to use him. If we get the ball we need to keep it and we need to make some first downs. We rotate our guys and we didn't have the ball but for about three plays in the third quarter, it's hard for us to get him any playing time. Barrett Jones didn't play much in the third quarter either."
On Nico Johnson:
"Nico has done a nice job. He continues to work and improve. He's got a good attitude, it's important to him. He prepares well for the games. We have a lot of competition at linebacker, we have a lot of different guys that contributed in the game. Chris Jordan played a role, C.J. Mosely played a role, Nico played a role, Dont'a played a role. We had a lot of guys who played roles at that position. I think the combination of those guys continuing to flourish in those roles will be important for us. Nico has done a good job for us all year. I know some of these things are personal struggles when you have some of the things that happened to him, in terms of losing people that are close to him. I think he has handed it very well."
On the identity of his team:
"I really think our team is progressing. Each week you have a new challenge and you learn more about your team. Like how are we going to respond this week? We play another very good team on the road in a difficult place to play. Are we going to be able to challenge ourselves to continue to do the things we need to do to play at a high standard? Are we going to be relieved with what we've done up to this point? I can't answer those questions. They have to come from within, with what people accomplish and what they want to do. So far we've responded fairly well, but not consistently all the time and that is something we have to continue to work on."
On the key to getting so many timely turnovers on defense:
"I think execution is really important when you play any defense, any time. I think when the field shrinks and you play pass defense in the red zone, you don't have the vertical separation in the field like you have when the ball is out in the field. Everything gets condensed, the area for the quarterback to throw gets condensed. We've done a good job of executing so far down there. The big thing is you stop the run, so you can make them pass. That is the most important thing. Most really good teams in the red zone run the ball effectively. If you can force them to throw, it is a little more difficult to throw it down there. They have more people in a lot less space and we've done a pretty good job of executing what we do. We practiced a lot and our players have responded well to it."
On Mark Ingram's performance against South Carolina last season:
"I think that was one of Mark's best games last year. It was a very difficult game for us in terms of offense. He had some success running the ball, but we didn't have balance on our offense and it became kind of a running game for us. I'm hopeful that we can continue to get balance in our offense. Mark had an outstanding day and that was a real key for us. We scored a touchdown on defense and only scored 13 points on offense. We're probably going to need to be more productive than that this year."
On where the defense stands right now:
"We're growing. People need to challenge each other every day to get better. We need to have a little more maturity in how we prepare for games. How we practice, so that we can continue to get better. I do think there are more players playing with more confidence. I think we played faster in the last game, we responded more quickly, we played with more confidence, but I think we need to continue to build on that and get more and more players sort of in that psychological disposition and I think we can continue to improve if we do that."
On whether he is concerned that there have not been many big pass plays in the last few weeks:
"We want to make explosive plays. Florida played a lot of man-to-man in the game and we didn't separate well all the time and when we did separate we didn't make the throws. We probably need to stretch the field vertically a little bit more and continue to try to make big plays down field. We have some people who can do that and I think that's something that is important, but when we tried a couple in the last game they were covered, so we need to do a better job in separating. I think sometimes we get a little impatient and you can't do that when people are playing close coverage. You usually beat them, not down the field, but at the line or out of the break and you have to have a lot of patience and confidence to try to do that. I think our guys are playing with confidence, but sometimes I think when they get in close coverage, they get a little impatient."
On weaknesses in the team that need to be shored up:
"We have plenty. They're not always consistently identifiable. Some games we have thrown the ball extremely effectively on offense. In other games you would like to do it a little better. Defensively we have given up far too many big plays, made lots of mental errors that we need to continue to clean up and play with consistency. In special teams we finally had a punt return last week. Our return game and our special teams we want to continue to improve. I think in just about every area that you look at I think there is something that we can improve on. Even the things that we've done well, we'd like to continue to stress being able to do better. I don't think you have ever arrived. I don't think you're ever where you would like to be, so there are a lot of things that we need to continue to focus on and improve on."
Alabama Player Quotes
On whether or not he's opening himself to some hits that he doesn't need to take:
"Probably. I think I definitely need to start sliding. It's not that I don't understand the importance of sliding and staying healthy, it's just that when I'm out there I have a hard time going down. You can see me slow down before I take a hit, almost as if I'm thinking to slide. It just doesn't really process within my mind. It's something that I probably need to start doing. It's a long season. We're five games in and I've gotten lucky enough to not have taken too many huge hits up to this point, but I might not be so lucky next time, so hopefully I can get on the ground a little better this time and make that a point of emphasis for myself."
On what he learned from his performance against South Carolina last year:
"I learned a lot. I think I just learned a lot about myself in the fact that last year I played with a lot of false confidence. Up until the South Carolina game I wasn't really sure what I was capable of, and I had success but a lot of that success was, I wouldn't say lucky, but it was just fortunate. I thought a lot of good things happened to me throughout the first five or six games. The South Carolina game really opened my eyes that if I don't go out there prepare, understand and handle myself the right way, then I'm not going to be able to have success at this level. After that game I kind of turned the corner, and I know my statistics weren't great against Tennessee last year, but I played pretty well in that game from a check standpoint, from a decision making standpoint and then that kind of carried over to the rest of the games. Last year for South Carolina, although it wasn't a very good game for me, it was a turning point in my mindset, the way I handle myself and the way I prepare for games."
#37 Robert Lester, S
On the key to creating turnovers:
"Just execution, playing assignment football and doing what Coach Saban tells us to go out there and do. He tells us to put our hats on the ball, hit the guys and the ball will come out. By playing physical, it will create turnovers."
On how the first half against Arkansas helped the development UA's secondary:
"I think it was an awakener. It made us realize that we can't go in and just play one half against great teams. We've had to show that we are capable of coming out the first play and playing great football until the last play."
On the potential of facing two quarterbacks against South Carolina:
"We just have to game plan for those things. The quarterback is going to come in, do what he's got to do and we're going to sit back there and whoever is in, we'll just do our game plan and execute."
#65 Chance Warmack, Left Guard
On being named SEC defensive player of the week:
"When I get that award, everybody gets that award. The whole offensive line gets it – Vlachos, Carpenter, Jones and Fluker. We all get it. It's an award for everybody because we all did well in the game. That's how I feel."
On how the offensive line is graded for their performance:
"As far as the actual grade goes, we don't really get graded. Coach Pendry always focuses on our assignment and technique, so he wants us to be right all the time so we can execute. When we look at film we always look at the steps, how low we get and hand placement. We want to make sure everything is perfectly sound."
On how close to perfect he would call his performance against Florida:
"I really think I have a lot to work on as a player. I still have a long way to go, and I'm working hard at getting better every game."
#99 Josh Chapman, DL
On the challenge South Carolina presents
"They are a great team that is well coached. We know that we have a lot of things to prepare for. They have a great offense. I know Coach Spurrier has been there for a while now with those guys, so they are going to bring a lot to the table for us to prepare for."
On the importance of playing solid red zone defense
"We pride ourselves on just going out there and doing our job, whether it's in the red zone or anywhere on the field. As long as you try to dominate on every play that is all you can ask for. But one thing you have to pride yourself on is not giving up down there. It is about going out there and tackling guys in the red zone. You have your back against the wall because you aren't that far from the end zone, but you just have to dig down deep inside of you. We don't want to give up any points down there."
On preparing for two quarterbacks
"We prepare for all teams differently, but it is still about us going out there and doing what we have to do. It all boils down to going out there and knocking them in the mouth. That's one thing that we pride ourselves on doing."
On South Carolina freshman running back Marcus Lattimore
"He is a great back. I have seen him in previous games, and he is a great back coming in straight out of high school. He runs the ball well. He prides himself on getting more yards after the first hit. He is a great SEC back."
#22 Mark Ingram, RB
On his performance last year against South Carolina
"From a running game standpoint, we ran the ball very well. The line did a tremendous job of creating seams and holes for us to run through. It was just a great game for us. The game was still kind of close toward the end, and they just put me in the Wildcat, for I think four, five, or six straight snaps. I just wanted to get down there and put the nail in the coffin. I really just wanted to make a play for the team."
On if he or receiver Marquis Maze has the better throwing arm
"Maze, he put that ball right on the money. Even if I did say I had a better arm, he proved me wrong. I am 0 for 1, he is 1 for 1."
On not running out of the pistol formation much against Florida