Saban sits down for weekly news conference - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Saban sits down for weekly news conference

Head Coach Nick Saban
Opening Statement:

"I think that after watching the film of the last game there is one thing that was really pretty obvious in the game.  It was a very physical game, you know, on both sides which is a good thing from the standpoint that I thought we played with better toughness and better effort. Especially on defense, tackled a little bit better, made less mental errors.

"I think, offensively, we probably need to execute a little bit better, and I think everybody has got to take responsibility for that, from a coaching standpoint, from me to everything that we need to do.  Every player on offense can't have a couple of plays where they don't do it exactly like it's supposed to be done.  I know on many occasions it's always the quarterback's fault, but quarterback is a hard position to play when the people around you aren't doing exactly what they're supposed to do. I'm sure that every guy on our offensive team would certainly say that they could play better, probably including the quarterback, but the biggest thing is we need to focus on is improvement, and we need to focus on making the corrections that we need to make to improve. The way you do that is we know we can be better so we've got to go practice with the expectation that we can be better and work on getting better together as a group with everyone supporting each other so that we can make the progress that we need to make in all parts of the game – talking about offense, defense, and special teams. We're still looking to continue to improve as a team so we can play to a standard that I think we're capable of for 60 minutes in the game. We're going to continue to work toward that.

"We had some players of the week – Trent Richardson and Alfred McCullough on offense. Defense – Mark Barron and C.J. Mosley. I know Mark was the defensive honorable mention guy in the league.  Special teams – Cade Foster and Marquis Maze, who was the co-special teams player of the week, and Alex Watkins all did a nice job for us on special teams.

"From an injury standpoint, I don't know that we have any new really significant injuries, but we do have a few guys that will be limited today. DeQuan Menzie, Eddie Lacy, Demarcus Milliner, Courtney Upshaw – mostly guys just bruised up, dinged up, whatever – should be able to go tomorrow and may be able to do some things today. D.J. Fluker will continue to be limited and I think his status is still very questionable as to whether he'll be able to get back and can do enough this week to be able to play in this game.

"The Alabama-Tennessee game is certainly a signature game for our fans and our alumni. There have been some great games in this series through the years. I think you can kind of throw out everything, from record, what happened last week, in the first game of the year and all that stuff. This is a big game for both teams and they certainly have a very capable team. I think Derek (Dooley) has done a fantastic job with the team that he has.  They're well-coached, they play sound and they put themselves in a position to have a chance to win games against good competition.  The quarterback has done a nice job for them.  The tailback has done a nice job for them.  They've had balance on offense.  They're defense plays very aggressively and plays with a lot of spirit.  This is going to be a difficult game for us and we need to focus on playing our best football of the year."

On what teams have been doing to slow down the Alabama offense:
"I'm not sure it's always about what they did. When we watch the film, most of the time it is about what we did and in some cases what we didn't do. We need to execute better. We need to do things better. We need to get better play at every position. We need to play together better. We need to stay positive in what we try to do and get some trust and belief in each other, in that if everybody does the right things, we're going to have a chance to be successful. I said this at the press conference after the game, the way Ole Miss has tried to play us the last three years is putting everybody up in the box and dare you to throw the ball. We executed in the passing game at times and we did not execute like we need to at times. We left some plays on the field with dropped balls, missed throws, a couple of misreads, a couple of not so good routes and sometimes we could have had a little better pass protection. So I don't think it is any one specific thing, I think there are some things we need to do to execute better and that will help us."

On the increased role Darius Hanks has had this season:
"Darius Hanks has been a great player for us for several years now. He is very athletic and very consistent.  He has certainly improved and continues to play with better and better toughness. He has great hands and if there is anything that we need to do better, it's to be able to get him the ball. We feel like he's a guy that can make plays and does a good job of running routes. I think him and Marquis Maze have both done a really good job at receiver, we just need to get them the ball."

On DeMarcus Milliner being put under fire in his freshman season:
"I thought he played better in this last game. He played with more confidence, made some more plays on the ball. He certainly has the ability. With the young players we have worked hard on trying to be a good perimeter force team and do a good job in leverage and tackling and that is something that I think we all need to improve on. He has done a good job for a true freshman who is getting the baptism under fire by playing against some pretty good players."

On his relationship now with Derek Dooley:
"I still get to talk to him on occasion, but I haven't talked to him in a couple of weeks. You have personal relationships with people and you have professional relationships with them. You have to compete against them, but that doesn't mean you have to dislike them or you can't appreciate or respect all that they've done for the years that they worked with you and the relationships you have with them and their family and everybody else. That is something that has never been an issue for me, whether it was Bill Belichick or whoever, it doesn't seem to be much of an issue with the people we have relationships on the other side of it, either. I do talk to Derek on occasion and I think he is doing a fantastic job up there."

On what makes Dooley a good coach:
"I think, first of all, he is a very bright guy, a student of the game in all parts of the game. He was never one of those guys that just thought he was a one-position coach on offense or a one-position coach on defense. He looked at the big picture all the time. He has a great family heritage, relative to football, so he kind of grew up with it. He understands the big picture of issues and problems that you have to deal with in a program and I think he is a really good recruiter. I think he has all the right stuff to be a very successful college coach."

On Alabama's pass protection:
"I think in the last game we got beat a couple of times by their inside rusher, 57 (Jerrell Powe) a pretty good player. They got some penetration in the pocket, which hurt us a little bit, but I also think we need to get the ball out of our hands and understand the timing it takes to be able to be effective and efficient in the passing game. Again, I think it is a combination of things. I don't think Greg (McElroy) held on to the ball too long in this game trying to create things. The pocket collapsed on him a little bit and he needed to get rid of the ball, we didn't always have people open where they should have been, so we need to do a better job in all regards."

On how he would grade the special teams at this point in the season:
"I think we have done reasonably well on special teams. I was concerned early that we weren't getting a lot of production in punt return, but in the last couple of games we have made some plays on punt returns and certainly had our best game in the last game changing field position reaching our goal of making a first down (10 yards) average on punt returns. Kick return has been better than in the past, from a statistical standpoint, in terms of drive start. I think kickoff coverage has been better. We haven't had the big negative play in special teams so far, which I think is something you have to continue to work on all the time, so that you do control vertical field position. Our specialists can be a little more consistent, but I think they all have promise and have done a good job to this point."

On the scoring average rising in the SEC this season in comparison to past years:
"I think there are some really good offensive players and I think there is a lot of diversity in the style of offense that you now see in college football and I think that probably contributes to some degree to the ups and downs that you see in college football, because the learning curve for the players week in and week out probably is more diverse than it used to be, because there is a little more continuity in what people did. Lots of people do lots of different things. Every week we think we're going to get to play regular defense and every week we seem to play six or eight snaps of what amounts to be regular defense and the rest of it is some sort of spread or wide out. I think that sort of wide open style certainly lends itself to more opportunity for the offense, but I think it also makes it more difficult for the defenses to prepare and play well against all those different things."

On how the team is doing from a physical standpoint:
"I think our players are doing a pretty good job. I think having an extra day off last week helped us a little bit, it may have hurt our execution a little bit by not practicing on Monday. The two days off I think helped the players a little bit from an intensity standpoint. Today we are going to cut back what we do by about 10 minutes or so, but I think when you don't practice on Monday you miss all the kicking game stuff and you miss all the basic stuff that you do. I think we are a little bumped up today and in a couple of days we'll be fine. I don't think that is from not having a bye week, I think it's from playing a pretty physical game."

#4 Marquis Maze, Wide Receiver
On how much pride he takes in helping out the team offensively and on special teams:
"I take a lot of pride in it, mainly because I'm a small guy so to get myself out there I have to work harder than most people."

On the energy he brings to the team:
"I have a passion for the game because I love it so much, so it's more exciting for me every time I get a chance to play."

On taking some big hits in the game:
"Most of the guys, we take pride in getting back up and not showing the opponent that they hit us hard or that they hurt us, so we take pride in that. It's also great that we have a strength and conditioning program like we have. Those guys get us ready for those type of hits."

On whether the offensive struggles of late have been frustrating:
"It's a little frustrating because we want to score every time we get the ball, but there are things we have to work on during the week."

On what he would say to people blaming quarterback Greg McElroy for the offensive struggles:
"I don't think it's his fault because we've got 10 other guys on the field with him so everything has to work for everything else to work well on offense."

#57 Marcel Dareus, Defensive Tackle
On the Alabama/Tennessee game:
"It doesn't matter what Tennessee's record is.  When we come to play Tennessee they're going to bring their ‘A Game' every time we play them, it doesn't really matter.  Alabama-Tennessee is a real big rivalry game.  They play hard every time we play them, just like last year.  We couldn't say anything about their record but when they come to play us they put on a fight. We really have to be prepared this year for whatever they have, whatever kind of trick plays and how hard they're going to come.  We have to play hard just like they do and overcome whatever they have for us."

On the intensity of the game Saturday against Mississippi:
"We really wanted to turn it up last week.  At practice we tried to turn it up, we fought through a lot of pain because a lot of people were injured and we were to the point that doesn't even matter. We're here to play good football, play the best football we can play and go out there and give it our all.  We can't go out there and half step like we did the game before (South Carolina) so we just had to go in and play the best game we could play."

On the importance of the defense stepping up when the offense struggles:
"As a team, we're going to tell the offense, ‘Regardless, we've got your back. No matter what we're going through, we're still there for you.' We're going to give them everything we have if we have to go out there and make extra plays and do extra things to try and get the ball back, force fumbles, get interceptions, rattle the quarterback's cage a little bit, whatever it takes to get the offense back on the field so they can get their rhythm, we've got their back and we tell them every game, every day, every practice and every snap."

 #75 Barrett Jones, Offensive Lineman
On Alabama's rivalry with Tennessee:
"It is a great rivalry to me, especially being from Tennessee. It is a game that I had been to many years before I became a part of it. I think it is a really special game, one that a lot of fans around here, especially some of the older ones, mark even before the Auburn game. We know it is a really important game."

On if he gets a hard time when he goes back home:
"I am from Memphis, which is only about three hours from here, but it is about six hours from Knoxville. There is more of a Mississippi and Memphis emphasis there, but I have a lot of friends that go to Tennessee, and they give me a hard time. It is going to be a lot of fun going up there."

On why he ended up at Alabama and not Tennessee:
‘Tennessee was one of my top schools, but I just felt like this was the right place for me. I really felt like Coach Saban had the program heading in the right direction, and I wanted to be a part of something special."

On how the team is feeling physically:
"It's no secret that the SEC schedule is extremely grueling, but it's something that we have really trained and worked for. I feel like we're pretty prepared as far as being physically fit. It will be great to get a bye (week), but I don't think we're extremely tired or anything. I think we'll be able to come out and give great effort this game."

On the importance of having a bye week:
"It's just a chance to rest up and get some players back that have been banged up. Those extra few days off from practice can really help you get over the hump, especially with small injuries like ankles and things of that sort."

#12 Greg McElroy, Quarterback

On if the offense has been frustrated the past few weeks:
"I think everyone is a little frustrated. I think we are capable of better things. We just have to start clicking on all cylinders. The opportunities are there, we just need to start doing a better job as a team of capitalizing on them. The only way to do that is to have better execution in practice."

On if he thought the offense would be clicking better at this point in the season:
"It is a different team, and the season is a roller coaster. You are going to experience highs and lows, great achievements and some pretty miserable defeats. We have to understand that we have to stay even keel and approach each week as if it has a life of its own and do our very best to capitalize on the opportunities given to us this week."

On the criticism he has received this season:
"Quarterbacks are always going to get a lot of blame. That is the nature of the position, and I understand that. Being the quarterback at Alabama, you are going to be the target of a lot of criticism, and that is fine. That is the nature of playing football here. You have to take it in stride and not let it get to you. I have definitely experienced a lot more criticism in seasons past as opposed to this season. I just have to continue to try to improve and not let it bother me."

INFORMATION SOURCE: University of Alabama Athletics

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