Coach Saban's take on LSU

Head Coach Nick Saban

Opening statement:

"We are certainly happy to get back into a regular work routine. Bye weeks are great. We certainly had some good practice and had some opportunities to get some people rested and healthy, as well as to work on fundamental improvement with a lot of our team. I think that everybody out there probably thinks that there is some special formula or some special magic that, when you play in games like this, that you go do different things to get ready for the game, but the most important thing is that you prepare for the game and that your players are focused on playing their best football, knowing that they are going to play against good football players and a good football team."

"Every game is important, so every game we prepare for in a way that is most beneficial to our players being the best players that they can be, most prepared that they can be. When you look in games like this, most of the time things come down to how you execute, what kind of fundamentals you play with, how many mental errors you make, how you take care of the ball, how many turnovers do you make. I don't think any player needs to feel like they need to do anything different or special. They just need to do their job with tremendous effort, tremendous toughness and a lot of discipline.  (They need) to execute so that their particular unit has the best opportunity to do what they're doing with total respect for the people that you're playing against because they are very good for a reason."

"These are two good teams. This game, for the last four years, has had significance in our division, our conference and, in some cases, on a national level. I think everybody is aware of that, and that is not something that I think you use in how you prepare for a game like this between now and Thursday. We have a lot of respect for this team, in playing against this team, as well as what they have been able to accomplish as a team. Les Miles has done a fabulous job there of not only recruiting a lot of talented players, but also doing a very good job of developing those players and being able to execute and having a lot of success in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams."

"They are very, very good, and it doesn't take long to see why they are an undefeated team. They have played on the road against Oregon and Mississippi State, and played well. They have balance on offense, and the ability to run the ball. They've got a good offensive line. They've got really good runners, and skilled players outside. They have two good quarterbacks who both play a little bit different style and get utilized a little bit differently, but both guys are very capable of beating you in terms of what they do well. They've been able to run the ball effectively and make big plays down the field in the passing game because of the skill guys that they have. Defensively, they are in the top five in just about every category. They play about eight different guys up front on defense and rotate a lot of guys in there. They are very talented front guys, very deep in terms of what they do. They have great team speed at linebacker and probably an exceptionally good secondary. They are a very, very good defensive team.  They are, I think, first in our league in special teams in terms of the job that they do in their kick coverage teams as well as their return game. This is a very, very good team all the way around, and certainly we want to prepare and play our best football in games like this."

"It's an opportunity that our players have created for themselves by what they've done. They should look at this game as an opportunity for them to accomplish some of the goals and aspirations that they've set for themselves early in the season."

On the LSU defense and how it differs from Alabama:

"I don't know that they're that much different than we are. I mean, they play a 4-3 when they're in a base defense and we play a 3-4, but they're going to stop the run. They do a good job of pressuring, playing eight-man fronts. We'll play double sink. They'll cover you man-to-man if they need to. They do a good job of playing nickel and dime. Some of their dime stuff is odd in nature, just like some of what we do is, and they've got good players that play in these specialty positions that do a really good job of executing for them. (Tyrann Mathieu) really does a good job as a star when he becomes the nickel back, and then they play six [defensive backs] a lot on third down, so there are some similarities, in terms of how they match up personnel, and I think philosophically and how they try to play the game, even though it may be a different system of defense. They are going to try to stop you running, pressuring to affect the quarterback, do a good job on third down, and that's why they've been successful because they are able to do those things fairly well."

On LSU's ability to create turnovers on defense:

"I think as a team, this is one of the things that you have to say is a phenomenal statistic for them. Their turnover ratio is off the charts, in terms of their defense and their ball-hawking style of play. They have lots of guys on defense who can make plays – (Tyrann Mathieu) is one, [Maurice Claiborne] is also one. They have some guys up front, but they have only had one turnover on offense the whole year, and have one of the best turnover ratios in the country because of their ability to create turnovers with their defensive style. They do a good job of rushing you up front, and you have got to do a good job of blocking them, too, when you throw it. They're good all the way around, and they have a lot of playmakers on their defense, and that's why they have lots of turnovers."

On if there are any LSU players that stand out as a bigger challenge:

"I think the thing about this team is how they play as a team. I mean they have a good offensive line. Their offensive line does a good job working together in unison. Their defensive front is physical, strong and fast on the edges. They have really good speed at linebacker. They play eight different guys up front. It's hard to tell when (different players sub in). They're all good players. Their offensive line is big. Their runners are physical. They can run it downhill and get it on the perimeter on you. They've got seven or eight different guys that do pretty well up front for them on defense, and they rotate all those guys, and they all do a good job for them."

On his birthday:

"It's hard to think about birthdays. You know, the players had a little birthday party, and they all signed this jersey – number 60, with my name on the back. I held that thing up and I said, 'Saban and 60.' First of all, I wasn't thinking about age. I was thinking about 'I'm a skill player.' There's no way I can sport this 60. I have got to have a lower than 50 number of some sort. That's how I feel, and that's how I think."  

On the historical significance of the game against LSU:

"What I feel is what's been accomplished by this point by both teams, to have the opportunity to make the game what it is. The consistency of performance on both sides, especially what our team has been able to do in terms of their performance throughout the year to create an opportunity like this for themselves. It's fun to play in games like this. It's probably what great competitors look forward to. But I also think it's important to be able to stay focused on what you need to do to play well. You can't drain yourself emotionally, because of all the things that are happening surrounding the game. You've got to be ready to play the game when the game comes. To do that, you got to do a good job in preparation, in terms of how you rest, how you practice, how you focus, how you study – all those things remain of utmost importance in any game that you play, but especially in game like this when you're playing against very good teams."

On what it takes to be a playmaker:

"I don't think there is any question about it. I think that guys that make plays, make plays because they're very instinctive and they react quickly to what happens on the field. I always use the baseball analogy that you can teach a guy to swing a bat and he can have a great swing, and you can teach him what the strike zone is, and all that, but you can't decide for him whether it's a good or a bad pitch to hit when it leaves the pitcher's hand. That comes from some kind of athletic intuition, instinct, whatever it is, and that ability to see and react quickly, is something that's always going to put you in a position to be a playmaker and to make plays. No different than a guy that's a really good hitter. Every hitter has a bat, and every hitter has the same opportunity and probably has the same training, but some guys do it a lot better than others because they can make the decision of what pitches are good to hit and when to hit them."

On how the roles of LSU quarterbacks Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson change the game plan:

"I don't think it changes much at all. I think style of play on offense is a little different, and I'm not sure it's because of the quarterback, as much as it is because the kind of team they have, and how they choose to play as an offensive team. They're going to run the ball downhill on you, and when you put them all up there, they're going to try to throw it over your head and make big plays. Then they've got their specialty packages where they utilize, and do a good job of utilizing a lot of specialty players. When (Jordan Jefferson) come into the game, he's a guy that can do some things as a running quarterback. With (wide receiver Russell Sheppard), they've got a package of things he's going to do, and (tight end DeAngelo Peterson) is a very good receiving tight end, so they've got a lot of different types of players who can make plays, and they utilize their skill level, and you have to be very aware and conscious of where those guys are, and what they're going to do, and what they like to do when those guys are in the game."

On the strengths and weaknesses of special teams:

"Well I've already mentioned the fact that they're very good on special teams. I think at times we've had some inconsistencies in kickoff coverage, and I think that's something that we have to do a really good job of in this game, this particular game. Our kickoff coverage, at times, has been very, very good, but it has just been a little bit inconsistent in some games. Our return game has been very good for us at times, and I think that that's something that can really enhance field position, but as you know, these guys have made lots of plays running fakes – punter running the ball. They did it to us last year once and have done it to some other folks. (They) did it to Florida for a controversial non-touchdown. They've faked the field goals before. I think a critical thing in special teams in this particular game is not only to try to create opportunities, in terms of what you do in special teams, but make sure you're sound in how you're playing so that you don't compromise your ability to defend anything that might do, in terms of fakes."

On kickers Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley:

"I think those guys have done a pretty good job all year. I know that everybody looks at statistics, and we've talked about Cade maybe being a little more consistent in terms of his kickoffs – certainly more capable, very capable of doing what we need to do in the kicking game. He's made some long field goals that have been good. Shelley is a very consistent performer. He was having some back problems for a couple of weeks there, that I think might have affected him a little bit, but he's healthy and in good shape now, and shouldn't have any issues moving forward." 

On if last year's loss to LSU provides more motivation for this year:

"Not really. I lose sleep over about every game, even the ones that we win because you never play perfectly. There's always areas that you have concern about, and you maybe you analyze how and what you did, how you prepared for certain situations, what you could have done differently, but I think that happens with everybody, a little more so, when you're not successful, and you don't have success in a particular game. I don't know that there is any added motivation, or if anybody is sitting around thinking about what happened last year. I think everybody's kind of looking forward to the opportunities that they have right now. I think there are certainly lessons to be learned anytime you play a team, year in and year out. Maybe all those things that you learn effects how you prepare for the team in the future." 

On what running back Trent Richardson needs to do to succeed against LSU:

"I think it's not going to be just about him. I think how we control the line of scrimmage, or how we try to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball is going to be critical. I think our key on offense has been that we've been able to create balance by our ability to run the ball effectively, as well as make plays in the passing game. I don't think that will be any different in this particular game. I think any time a team can make you one dimensional, you're at a little bit of a disadvantage, so how our offensive line handles their front people, their different looks that they give you – the eight-man fronts, their fire zones and blitzes, and how we get a hat on a hat, and how our runners can perform, in terms of establishing a good running game. Trent's an all-around good player. I think people just look at how many yards he gains when he's running the ball, but he's a very good pass receiver. He's also an excellent blocker in pass-protection when he needs to be. I think that's got to be the approach that everyone takes in terms of 'How do we execute as a unit?' Because when you play against good people, if you don't execute, and you're only as strong as your weakest link, so if one guy isn't executing, then that can affect the entire performance of that particular unit on that play. Everyone is going to have to be focused on doing their job well for Trent Richardson to be able to do the things that we would like for him to do in the running game as well as the passing game."  

On if there are special instructions to the team to control feeding into the hype around the game:

"Well you can give them all the instruction that you like. Just like we all have children that we give instruction to when they go out on a date, but you never know for sure whether they're going to do it or not. I'm sure there are some players on our team who pay very little attention, and there are other players who could get caught up in that type of thing. You know it's your goal that the players can stay focused on things that matter, in terms of their preparation, so that they will play well in a game and stay focused on that right now, and not be so result-oriented, in terms of what they want to accomplish, but to focus on what they need to do be able to accomplish. I think there is a fine line in there, and that's been our message to the team, and it will continue to be." 

On if his history with LSU makes the game more special and if the loser of the game should be considered for the national title:

"First of all, my time at LSU was a special time. I think that the memories of the friends that we have, and the accomplishments that we were able to make, and the improvements in the program we were able to make. Not just in terms of the football games that we won, but built an academic center, created some other things that have helped the program long-term. Those are all special memories. It was more difficult when players that you recruited or coached were still playing, and you had to play against those guys, and that's not true now. I'm focused on our team, our guys, what they need to do, how they need to do it, so I really don't think a lot about that. There are a lot of personal relationships that we have with a lot of people because of the association that we had with LSU in the past, and the older you get – everybody knows I'm getting old, you kind of cherish those relationships, and really respect them, and appreciate them a lot. I'm happy to say that a lot of those things don't get affected by this game and what happens in this game, so on the other side of the coin, all I can say is, I think, clearly, both teams that are playing in this game have established the fact that based on the body of work to this point that they are some of the best teams in the country. The fact that we have to play at this time, because of conference, our division and our schedule, I think everybody should view that game as 'these are two of the best teams playing,' and how that game effects the future should not be relative to who just won and lost, but actually the quality of the teams."

On the development of the defense:

"I think the markers along the way, probably were the successes, as well as the mistakes that were made and sort of the development of the players who are out there playing, because they're playing better because of the knowledge and experience that they gained when they were young players, sort of maturing into what they are now. And I think that knowledge and experience, confidence that comes with that, are all things that have got them to play with a little more consistency. Make less mistakes. Play better together as a team. Have a better understanding and awareness of what they need to do for their unit to be successful, and that's probably how they've evolved. Unfortunately, some of the best lessons you learn, are sometimes the mistakes that you make, and those are the best opportunities that we all have to learn and improve is not necessarily the successes, but sometimes in the failures. I think our coaching staff has done a good job of teaching our players and they have improved and developed and how that's helped us get better."

#75, Barrett Jones, Offensive Lineman

On his weekend of rest during the bye week:

"It was great. I really enjoyed the week, having some time off, getting to go home; it was awesome. But now we're getting geared up and getting ready to go."

On whether people were asking him everywhere he went about the game against LSU:

"Yes they were. Everyone I saw this week said, 'Got a pretty big game this week' and I replied, 'Yeah, we do. That's a bit of an underestimation.' So yeah, it was hard to escape."

On how hard it is to treat this like every other game:

"It's not that hard, we play a lot of big games around here. What he means by that is that we approach this game the same way we do every other one because at the end of the day it's about how we execute. When we turn on the film after the game is over, it's going to come down to what we did. So that's what we're focusing on just like any other game."

On how deep LSU is on the defensive line:

"Yeah they're really deep, that's one of their strengths, definitely. They play hard for four quarters and I think that's a big reason for it, how deep they are. I know specifically at D-End, I know they have four really good D-Ends, really they have four starters at D-End.  So that's definitely one of their strengths."

On guarding against the defense making big plays against them in the fourth quarter:

"I think it was just a lack of execution. If you look at it, it wasn't like they just overpowered anybody, we just didn't execute on certain plays. When you don't execute, negative plays happen. We definitely want to stay away from negative plays, that's a big point of emphasis. We want to keep it in manageable situations."

On whether revenge is a big factor in this game:

"No, I don't think so. We want to win every game, and I think LSU is the next person standing in our way, but I wouldn't say 'revenge'."

On how the injury to Cyrus Kouandijo affects his preparation this week:

"I think we definitely lose a little depth there but we're going to prepare just as we have every other week."

On whether LSU will try to key on Trent Richardson and force the game into AJ McCarron's hands:

"That's a good question, we'll see. I think AJ's ready. He's been playing really well the last few games, and I think there have been a few teams that have tried to do that over the last few weeks and tried to play man on the outside, or cover one and make him throw the ball, and he's done it. If that's the case, I expect him to have a great game."

On where AJ McCarron has progressed the most this season:

"I would say leadership. He's really just stepped up and become a leader for this offense. We love that, we feed off his energy and leadership. I think the best offenses in the country have a quarterback who's a leader and I think that's important."

#4, Marquis Maze, Wide Receiver

On whether he's glad the bye week is over and they get to prepare for LSU:

"Yeah, I'm glad that it's here. Getting back to football, the break was fine for the body, but it's time to get back to business."

On whether he was anxious last week about the game:

"No, I don't think I was. I just took it as a bye week. Now it's time to focus and get ready for this game."

On why LSU has been so good forcing turnovers:

"They have a lot of playmakers on this side of the ball. They've got (Tyrann Mathieu). He blitzes a lot and forces a lot of turnovers, so I think we have to game plan around him to be successful."

On whether they feel they've been successful at protecting the ball when hit:

"I think so. We haven't had many turnovers as far as fumbles. I think this week we have to focus on protecting the ball more."

On whether he's thinking about holding onto the ball or does anything special to protect it:

"No, not really. I just know I can't fumble so I just hold it as tight as I can."

On whether people comparing LSU's secondary to Alabama's gives him any extra motivation to go prove himself on the big stage:

"Yeah, it does because that's all they've been talking, about LSU's secondary and how good they are. But I feel like I go against the best secondary every week. I think it's a challenge for me, the other receivers, and the quarterback."

On whether Alabama's secondary does their best to swat the ball away in practice since they don't tackle:

"Our secondary is always swatting at the ball, linebackers too. That's what Coach Saban has those guys doing."

On what the attributes of a playmaker are:

"I think it's just the plays that they make to help their team: forcing fumbles, interceptions, guys able to go the distance on those plays too.

What about on offense, guys on your team:

"We have a few, those guys just catch the ball, or run the ball, and make big plays or explosive plays."

On whether AJ McCarron is ready for a game like this:

"I think so. AJ has been confident in himself and the players are confident in him, so I think he's ready."

On whether he feels like there are a lot of options that take the focus off of him:

"Yeah I think so. I believe those guys are going to make a big difference in the game. I know sometimes they'll roll their coverage to me and those guys are going to have to make plays and I have confidence that they will."

On whether they've watched film on LSU yet:

"Not really. We watched a few clips of them yesterday but we really haven't. We will today."

On what he remembers from last year's game:

"We made mental errors and it cost us in the end. I think that it was a great game. It was a good game, there's a lot of respect out there for each other, between both teams."

#99 Josh Chapman, Defensive Lineman

On LSU liking to run the ball between the tackles and what you feel about this week:

"I love a team that tries to come in and run the ball. Stopping the run is one thing I love to do and by doing that you can dominate the line of scrimmage and make guys one-dimensional."

On if things feel different on campus this week:

"It does. People have been waiting for this game for a long time. There's a lot of hype, but the hype is not going to help us out on the field."

On if it is like an Auburn week:

"We've got a lot of guys that have been here for years. The hype is going to be there, but we've got to focus on what we have to do. We have to put that behind us and go out on the field and fight for 60 minutes."

On what he thinks when he hears LSU:

"LSU is a great team. They always have been. They always play hard and try to run the ball. They are going to try and run the ball until you stop it. We live for games like this. Being in the SEC, it's a great matchup. We are ready for it."

On the national argument of which defense is better:

"They have a great defense. They also have a great offense, and we have a great offense and a great offense. It's just about going out there and playing at our standards and not anybody else's standards. Our standards as a defense are knocking guys back at the line of scrimmage and stopping the run."

On other teams getting attention and how Alabama and LSU are blue collar teams that just go out there and run the ball and plays defense:

"That's just football, going out there and running the football and trying to stop the run. Like Coach (Saban) said, if you take the scoreboard away, you find out at the end of the game who wins by people's demeanor."

On the margin of victory for both teams:

"I haven't really been paying attention to that. My thing is stopping the run and those guys like to run the ball. I put that on my shoulders to stop the run. The main thing is you've got to go in there and knock the guys back. We've got a great defensive line that knows how to make plays so that's what we are going to try to do."

On what it's like to play for Coach Smart:

"He's a great coach. The guy is energetic and he loves to come after you. He's always out there and ready to play. He prepares us well. From walkthroughs to watching film, the guy sees stuff on the film that he tells me that I never think about doing. The guy is a great coach."

On preparing for two quarterbacks:

"They have two great quarterbacks; a run and a pocket quarterback. The thing about our guys is that we try to keep them contained and keep pressure on them and try to affect them."

#3 Trent Richardson, Running Back

On how you keep from turning over the ball in a game like this:

"We just have to have that will that we aren't going to turn the ball over. We have to make sure we protect ourselves and make sure we protect the ball at the same time."

On LSU's Tyrann Mathieu:

"He's a tremendous player. He's got a nose to the ball. He's a play maker and you can't take anything from him."

On LSU's defense:

"Their defense is pretty good. It reminds me a lot of our defense. They don't back down for anyone. They are going to come for me. It doesn't matter who we are playing, they are still going to come for me just because of the hype people put on me. I'm sure they are going to try to stop the running game early. That's why we have a good quarterback."

On everyone in the country watching this game:

"We are going to play like it isn't a big game. We just have to play like it's a regular game, which it is. They're not going to do anything we've never seen before, but they are going to be smash mouth coming at us. We've got to play like it's our last."

#30 Dont'a Hightower, Linebacker

On his 2008 recruiting class and what the first thing is that comes to mind

"A lot of power. Coach Saban said it a couple years ago, this class means a lot. We helped build up this program and be the foundation. A lot of guys have been through the bad our freshman year going to the Sugar Bowl with Utah. We've been through the good in 2009 winning the National Championship. We've had a lot of great guys come through like Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Marcell Dareus, Mark Barron, and Robert Lester. There are still guys around here now. I feel like that recruiting class was really special."

On whether he looks around and wonders where everyone went:

"Sometimes, but like I said there's still Mark Barron, Robert Lester and Courtney Upshaw. They are still around here so it still feels pretty special."

On how a week like this compares to the Auburn week as far as No. 1 vs. No. 2, can they be compared:

"I honestly don't care who we are playing. It doesn't matter. I don't care if we are playing Air Force or LSU, Auburn or Clemson. It doesn't matter. We are going to come in during the week and do what we need to do. At the end of the day it always comes down to what we do, how we play and how we execute our game plan. It never has anything to do with the opponent."

On how exciting it is to play in a game this big:

"It's really exciting. You've been hearing about it ever since the Tennessee game. As soon as I got home I saw a commercial for LSU versus Alabama. We are really excited for it but we can't let that get to us. That's kind of what happened to us at the beginning of the Florida game, we got a little too excited and we let the first play go over our head. We are definitely going to be ready as far as the game plan goes. We are getting into meetings today around 2 p.m., and get working on that."

On LSU's offense this year compared to previous years:

"I don't think it's as different as people say. Jarrett Lee is doing a really good job out there this year. He's improved a lot on his deep passes. They've got three or four backs that they rotate into their running game. They are all pretty good and have different styles kind of like Trent (Richardson), Eddie (Lacy) and Jalston (Fowler) do here. We've watched film on them and they are pretty tough runners. I always look forward to playing against Ole Miss, Tennessee and LSU because they are more old school type teams. They like running the ball downhill between tackles."

On how it feels to prepare for two quarterbacks:

"It's more about how you adapt to the surroundings. You have to know different players. When Jordan Jefferson's in the game and he likes to run. When Jarrett's in there they aren't going to do as many quarterback runs. You just have to be aware of how they like to disguise those guys. You just have to know when they like to bring them in."

On what role the fans play when you are on defense and LSU is on offense:

"They did an excellent job at Tennessee. Even when our offense was on the field, they were so loud I couldn't really hear or know what Coach Smart was saying. I had to just watch what he was drawing on the blackboard because it was so loud. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the fans out there against LSU. It's always been a really good game but I definitely think we might break the scale on this one from our fans being so loud."

#37 Robert Lester, Defensive Back 

On how big it is to get the rematch back at Bryant-Denny after losing to LSU last season:

"We use the game from last year to look and see what all we messed up and if we can fix those things it can be a totally different game. Watching that game going into this can definitely determine the outcome big time for this game."

On how different LSU's offense is this year:

"We really haven't started on them just yet; we will figure that out this week. We still see some of the stuff they did last year though."

On the two quarterback system:

"Last year they played two quarterbacks and Penn State played two quarterbacks. It's just something we've got to get into the film room and study and make sure that we know what both of them like to do."

On playmakers on the other side of the ball:

"I pay no attention to who the coaches play. We have a big job at hand and we are focused on what we need to do to make sure we don't give up big plays. Having other factors at play just kind of throws us off and we don't want that to happen."

On the game last year:

"I remember they showed us things we hadn't seen. That was a factor in the game and it was able to get them the win. We're just going to fix those things that we saw from last year and hope that that's all we haven't seen." 

On the fourth quarter pass that put the game away last year:

"We just didn't execute what we needed to do. The safetys weren't high enough, it wasn't good re-routes. We just have to do the things we are coached to do and go out there and do it on the field." 

On LSU's reputation for trick plays under Les Miles in big games:

"We assign certain things to certain players to report on and we are going to trust that that player does his job and shares that with us before the game."

On AJ McCarron being ready for the game:

"I'm sure he's ready. It's a huge game and I'm excited and I know everybody else is excited so I'm sure he is too."

On if he ever envisioned a year like this for the defense:

"Last year I'm sure a lot of guys were nervous because it was their first time out there in that type of game. A lot of guys that started in that game are here this year and they are ready for it. Just like me, I'm not as nervous as I was last year. I'm ready for this game and I know what I need to do to prepare. I know that's what I'm going to do and I'm sure that's what they are going to do."

On how the two quarterback system affects the secondary:

"As long as we execute our game plan and we know what they like to do, it shouldn't be a problem at all."

On how they've improved defensively:

"The talent is there and is more comfortable. Coming in last year, a lot of guys were new and the defense was unsure. They are comfortable now to go out there and make the calls. The terminology and just knowing what goes with it is what makes it complicated."

INFORMATION SOURCE: University of Alabama Athletics