The following is a transcript of The Crimson Tide's press conference regarding the first game of the season against Michigan.
"Well I guess everybody gets really excited when it's game week. I think you always keep in mind the fact that, or at least we do as coaches, sometimes you lose sight of the fact that all the things you do when you are involved in it day in and day out for the last nine months, all the way back to February with off-season programs, lifting weights, spring practice and summer conditioning. You really do all those things. Fall camp is to prepare you for the season. Obviously the most important game in preparing yourself for the season is the opening game. Our team has a done a really good job and had a good attitude about all the things we've asked them to do in terms of the work ethic. They've had a good attitude of coming back."
"In any first game, regardless, your team changes each year. You have a certain amount of guys that are going to go play in the game that don't have the same knowledge and experience that maybe the guys that you played last year had. The only way that you can get that experience is by playing in the games and learning from those types of situations. That's the one thing that we are going to do the best job we can to try to prepare our players for, especially the places where we have new players playing that maybe don't have the experience, so that we can overcome some of that in terms of the learning curve and what we have to try and accomplish as a team."
"This is a very challenging game for us. Michigan has a very good team. They are very well coached. They really do a good job on defense with the scheme that they have and the way they play you on third down. It's a little bit pro style. Greg (Mattison) came from the Baltimore Ravens, so they have a good package. Their players do a good job of executing. They play smart and don't make a lot of mistakes. Offensively, they have as significant a player (Denard Robinson) as we've played against maybe since Cam Newton in terms of the quarterback position and what he can do in the game and how the offense is sort of built around and features him as a player. They have a lot of good players, but he's the guy that whether it's a zone replay or a quarterback power or a pass play, he makes a lot of significant plays in the game that impact the game by what he does. He's extremely fast and he does a good job of executing their offense. He's become a better passer each game and each year. That's the real key. These guys are sound and solid on special teams and they have their specialist back. This is a really good team that we are playing. We are excited about having the opportunity to play in a game like this. I think our players are excited about the season opening and trying to create an identity for who this particular team is."
On Denard Robinson's passing:
"He is very good at throwing the ball on the run. He has always been good at that. They move the pocket a lot, run a lot of boots. He is kind of a dual threat when he does that because when he breaks contain he puts a lot of pressure on the defense as a runner, and he throws the ball extremely well on the run. I think that where he has improved the most is when he is in the pocket, becoming a more consistent accurate pocket passer and still having the ability to extend plays with his feet. A lot of times, different than some guys who are athletic, he extends the plays and makes big plays throwing it. He doesn't just take off and run like some guys do. He extends the play and keeps his eyes down the field. He has gotten pretty good at doing that and has gotten a lot of big plays doing that. I would say that those are the two areas that he presents real issues and problems for you and puts a lot of pressure on the defense."
On the team attitude after last year's accomplishments:
"I think that this team is different from the teams in the past, in a lot of different ways. Everyone is going to say that if the team does not play well, that it is because they feel entitled. I can tell you that from everything that they have done from how they reported to fall camp to conditioning tests, being the top that we have ever had, the work ethic and all that, if this team is not successful it is not because of the character and attitude of the team. It will be because of the lack of experience the team has is certain positions, and they may make too many mistakes to win. It will not get compared that way I am sure, because this team has done everything the right way. Some parts of the team we have good players and good experience, in other parts of the team we will be playing with young players. How rapidly those guys mature and can execute without making critical errors in the game, if we go play a great game but make one or two critical errors and they make great plays on them we have an entitled team or we have a team that made one or two critical errors that cost them the game. I do not feel like I have seen any part of this team that has not showed that they have the right character and attitude. It is a whole different thing to create consistency in that identity and to be able to have the resiliency to overcome adversity when things don't go your way. That to me is a maturity issue. This team has done what they need to do in order to be prepared for this season and I am pleased with that."
On the purpose of this type of game:
"We had Penn State where it was the second game and not the opening, in every other circumstance, whether it was Florida State or Clemson or Virginia Tech and now this year, we have had an opponent that we have played in a neutral site game and a national exposure type game so to speak. I think that the players look forward to that, and the fans look forward to that. I think that it is great for the off-season program and the development of your team. It really gives the players something to look forward to in the first game. It gives the fans a lot to look forward to in the first game. It is great for college football to have these kinds of games. We enjoy playing in them, and it will be very challenging for us. It will show us where we are as a team."
On recruiting against tradition rich-schools:
"We had a tremendous amount of respect for Michigan when we were there (Michigan State); we also had a tremendous amount of respect for Notre Dame when we were there. One was 56 miles away and the other was 70 miles away. They are very tradition-rich programs and very well coached. I think that our league now in general has a lot of that. We have a tremendous amount of respect for our in-state rivals. A lot of our division rivals are not that far away; we have a tremendous amount of respect for them. We have to sort of compete against them in recruiting as well as on the field. All of those teams are very good teams and very good programs. I think that the focus has to be on what you have to do to be successful and continue to be successful, not really what you did but what you are doing now and how you need to continue to do that to build so that you can maintain some level of consistency. Whichever school you are, I don't think that it creates an advantage unless you work hard to be able to execute the things that you need to do to continue to be good."
On Dee Milliner and Deion Belue:
"Two things when you play against an offense like this, most people think about the secondary and think about the pass defense but really run support issues, how you keep contain, how you have the cut back guy, how you have the alley guy, how you have a second contain guy. The decisions that those guys make on leveraging a blocker and the ball, those things all can lead to big plays as well. Dee has done really well. Deion has done a very good job for us. I think that the issue there is creating the depth that we need past that. John Fulton has had a pretty good camp. It's the entire secondary as a whole that we are going to be playing. A couple or three guys in most situations in this game because there is going to be a good bit of nickel that have not played, and I think that they will be very good players. I also think that their experience or lack of, the impact that that has on their ability to play will certainly determine how well they play."
On Robert Lester:
"Robert has been a really good player for us for two years now and continues to be more vocal in terms of his ability to communicate and run the secondary, make the checks, not depend on somebody else to do it for him and show leadership. I can't say enough about how this is an example of a guy who has worked hard and had all of the right stuff, in terms of perseverance, resiliency in overcoming adversity, as a player. He continues to improve and not get frustrated. He has become a very productive player for us. We hope that he can continue to play and not have issues or problems or injuries. Robert has turned out to be a very good leader, and the secondary has the understanding. We are hopeful that he is going to have a fantastic year for us."
On the development of the pass rush:
"I think that we have guys that have ability in pass rush. Adrian Hubbard is a guy that is very difficult to block and can be a very good pass rusher. I think that the same thing sort of exist with some of these guys, especially when you play against a quarterback like this (Denard Robinson). Decision making, leveraging the quarterback, pushing the pocket, not losing contain, staying on your feet, guys like to jump and try to bat balls down. This guy will pass fake you like Michael Jordan and take off running, and you will say how did that happen? Those kinds of decisions are very important when you play a guy like this. It is not just about pass rushing. It is about pass rushing and making good choices and decisions about how you rush the guy and still be in control of what you are doing so that you can kind of be in control of what he is going to be doing. It will put a lot of pressure on the defense if you push past the quarterback; he is not the kind of player you want to play with 10 players. If you lose contain then you are playing with a lot less we lost all four rushers basically. I am pleased with the pass rush. I am pleased with the guys that we have. I think that we can generate a lot of pass rush, but I think experience, knowledge, being smart about how you rush a buy like this is really important. A lot of it comes down to decision making."
On the new rule:
"I think that it is a good rule because it is about player safety. There are a lot of examples, in fact when Steve Shaw came in and visited with our team and showed a film of all the times last year that guys helmets came off, and they continued to play the play. Some guys were injured and some guys pretty seriously. Maybe what could have been could have been a lot worse. This whole helmet thing has gotten a lot more common with guys losing their helmets. I think in a lot of cases because they don't buckle them up correctly. When I played we just had one chin strap, they have one now that has four buckles on them. A lot of the guys just want to buckle two. If you do that and your helmet gets pushed around in a certain way, you are going to end up losing your helmet. I think that is when a player is really at risk. I think it is a good rule for player safety. I hate it if a guy has to come out of a game in a critical time because his helmet came off, but at the same time I would rather not see a guy ever get injured because his helmet came off. Especially if it was something that he could control by how he fit his helmet or how he buckled it for his own safety. We had some last year, which is amazing to me, is that the same guy's helmets come off. Now what does that tell you? Either it does not fit properly or they are not wearing it properly."
On what makes Alabama different:
"There is a tremendous tradition here. There is a tremendous amount of passion from the fans that has gone on for many years. All of that is sort of common for the SEC in our league as a whole. I don't really know why that is. Maybe it's because there were not a lot of professional sports in the south east back in the old days and everyone sort of grew up relating to their college team. I think that people do relate to their college teams and their college programs here, whether they went to the school or not more than other parts of the country. I think that is what makes it special here in Alabama but it is also what makes it special in the SEC. When it comes to the rest of it, as a coach, you have to do what you have to do. You have to stay focused on the process of what you need to do in order to be successful. You can't think about all of that stuff. Those are external factors. The better you can manage not allowing that to affect you so you can focus on what you need to do in order to help your team play the best they can play is probably the most important thing that you can do as a coach. That is what we really try to do. It is difficult sometimes but it is what we need, try, and want to do for our players' sake. I want our players to be able to do that too. I think they can be affected by the passion, the tradition, and all of the external rather than focus on what they need to do in order to be the best players they can be."
#35 Nico Johnson, Linebacker
On how the time has passed quickly for the opening week:
"Honestly, it went by fast. Just thinking about it yesterday, we had in the locker room, a little piece of paper that had how many days until the game. It seemed like yesterday was like 52 days, and now it's six. I am glad it's here because I cannot wait."
On Michigan's quarterback Denard Robinson:
"He's superfast. He doesn't get credit for how good he really is. He is a good athlete, and he really is a better passer than people think he is. We just need to take advantage of every opportunity we get and try to contain him. He's so good that we are going to try to have to do everything, and try to click on all cylinders."
On [sophomore running back] Blake Sims giving the defense different looks as the scout quarterback in practice:
"Blake has given us a really good picture. That's what is going to help us out in the game. We are just going in [to practice] today and all the way until Thursday, and just do our best and see what we have then."
On whom Denard Robinson reminds Johnson of:
"I don't think I have ever played against someone like him. He's fast, he is able to throw – he is good at what he does. I think he reminds me a lot of the Virginia Tech quarterback [Tyrod Taylor] from when we played them my freshman year. I think he is a better athlete than [Taylor]."
On Michigan's running game:
"Their running game is pretty good. Their running back, who knows if he is going to play or not, but just watching film they are pretty good. They don't get credit for a lot of things that they do well, so we are going to go into the game like we did all of last year and just take advantage of every opportunity and respect them to the fullest."
On playing a team like Michigan:
"You learn a lot playing against a good team early [in the season]. You learn a lot, instead of getting down the line and learning those lessons you need to learn. Playing Michigan, we are going to learn a lot and who knows what it is going to be, but I know we are going to learn something."
#83 Kevin Norwood, Wide Receiver
On if a sense of urgency ensues because of opening with Michigan:
"I can tell you practice will be different. That's one thing that we do, we practice hard for our opponents and we make sure we are prepared mentally and physically."
On a neutral site game:
"Road games are always challenging. It's all really the same, but there is no feeling like a home game."
On seeing Cowboys stadium:
"To tell you the truth, I have that stadium on my phone. I've been looking at that stadium for months now. Like I said, it is something we have been preparing for."
#92 Damion Square, Defensive Lineman
On if containment is the number one goal against an offense like this:
"No doubt about it. You don't want that guy to make plays happen, try to stop his feet and stop keep him in the pocket and do a good job up front, so that the guys in the secondary don't have to worry about coming up and breaking coverage."
On Denard Robinson's intangibles:
"We know that he is fast, we have seen that on ESPN, watching the Top Ten, week – in and week – out. He is a guy that the players know of, he has an exceptional arm, he makes throws that need to be made for his team and he extends plays and makes big plays, a lot. That's what we want to come in and stop, big plays."
#42 Eddie Lacy, Running Back
On his health:
"I feel good; nagging injuries but nothing serious at all. The toe is good."
On if he is 100 percent:
"I really don't put a percentage on it, but I rehab and progress every day."
On T.J. Yeldon:
"He did pretty good. He came in, he did everything he had to do, and he did it very well too. He took on the role very well."
On Michigan's defense:
"They are good. They are big and fast, but we just have to come out and do what we have to do."
#65 Chance Warmack, Offensive Line
On fall camp to game week transition:
"It's been great. We've been watching film and getting acclimated to the defense they (Michigan) run."
On the biggest struggle for the offense:
"We need to come in and set the tone early. We need to start strong and finish strong. We need a good mindset."
On playing in Cowboys Stadium:
"I'm open-minded about playing in Cowboys Stadium and excited to be there for the first time. The more you play the more you get used to playing in big venues like that with large audiences and being on national TV. At the same time, it is just like any other football game; you try not to let it get to you to much. We prepare for the game like any other game."
On hitting someone in something other than crimson and white:
"I'm definitely excited about that. It's been a long time since we have gone against someone other than Alabama defensive players."
On how excited he is to see what this offense can do:
"I am very excited. We have worked very hard since the spring and will continue to work hard and get better."
#37 Robert Lester, Defensive Back
On the transition from fall camp to game week:
"We're done thinking about working on fundamental things. It's down to actually focusing on our opponents, game planning and watching what they like to do and what works for them. It's more exciting once you stop going against your teammates and actually go against somebody else. We are pretty excited about it."
On what he's seen from Michigan so far on the film:
"They are a very disciplined team. They are capable of making a lot of big plays. They are a very talented team. Just like anybody else that we play, we need to be on our game and execute what we need to do."
On what they've seen on film from Denard Robinson:
"He's a very fast guy and capable of making a lot of plays. I think one thing that he can do that we haven't played against a lot is that he can extend the play much longer and make a big play out of nothing. We need to play until the whistle blows. If we do that, I think we will have a great chance of containing the big plays. The average time of covering a receiver is probably four to five seconds and I don't think a lot of people understand that covering a receiver for longer than that can get exhausting and very difficult. We are going to challenge ourselves and we've been doing it in practice already, playing to the whistle and staying with the man your covering."
On whether he will have to do anything different for this game:
"Not necessarily. I'm going to do whatever it takes to make sure the secondary is in position and know the call so they can play their best football. I don't want people to think that everybody in the secondary is looking to me to have to the call and if I don't have the call, we aren't going to play the right coverage. If you see something, you are more than welcome to call it. I don't see everything. It's a team thing. We all communicate with each other to get the right call."
On playing at Cowboys stadium:
"My first year here, I played in Atlanta against Clemson on my birthday. Coming in with such a great game and this being my last season going out playing the first game in a big time atmosphere, it doesn't get any better than this."
#10 AJ McCarron, Quarterback
On how much more he knows about the Michigan defense than he did a week ago:
"I personally think I know a lot about them. I know what they like to do in certain situations. I know how they are going to play a lot of things. It will be exciting come Saturday to get out there and actually do it."
On if he gets motivation from the amount of publicity Denard Robinson receives:
"Not really. I don't really worry about everybody else. I just go out and do what I'm capable of doing and play the way I can."
On Michigan's third down defense being modeled after the Ravens:
"They just like to do a bunch of crazy things to try to confuse you. They'll spread everybody out, walk them around, show different one way, blitz another. They just do a bunch of different things. I feel like our coaching staff has done a really good job of breaking them down and what they like to do. I guess we'll see what else they have in store for us come Saturday."
On if this game being a season opener makes any difference:
"I don't think so. They're Michigan—they're not going to change what they do. Any time you play a big-time program like that, they know what they do, they know what they're capable of, they're going to do it, and [we] have to stop them. That's the way they feel, so it'll be a good challenge for us come Saturday, and it's something I'm looking forward to."
INFORMATION SOURCE: University of Alabama Athletics