Oct. 17, 2011
"Okay let's recap the game. Obviously the result not what you are looking for, especially on the scoreboard. Let's start with some positives. I really felt like our team competed and competed hard against a great football team. You look at the first half at the thing that matters the most against those types of teams and that is the line of scrimmage. We were 65 percent efficient in the run game, which is an incredible number. Our goal is really 55 percent when you are running the ball pretty good. We didn't have many throws, but we nine yards an attempt throwing the ball. On defense, we were 63 percent efficient for the running game, which meant they were 37 percent efficient running the ball and we were 5-of-6 on third down. That is when we were down 10. Then you say what happened? It was the two turnovers. We were minus-2 in the turnover ratio. We gave them a touchdown as a result of it and we didn't tackle a guy on the hitch route. When you look at those numbers there are some encouraging things.
"Then you look at the second half and go what happened? Probably three big issues: one they changed quarterbacks and went to the quarterback run game, which we were very prepared schematically for it but just really struggled to tackle that guy in space. We had a lot of guys around him and he just maneuvers around for yards. I mean, just look at his per-carry versus their running back per-carry and there is a significant difference. It was hard to tackle that guy, and then we didn't win on third downs like we did the first half. Some one-on-ones where they threw it and caught it and we couldn't stop it. And then some penalties that were ridiculous. A couple of late hits they weren't really bad, but they got called and they we got a face mask. So those three things allowed it to be what it was.
"Then on offense, we had an 11-play drive the first time we got the ball and we lost seven yards on a second-and-10 and that killed us. The second time we got a short field and we had some communication issues. So I would probably add a fourth element right in the second half that didn't have anything to do with LSU. So we've got to improve on it.
"Players of the week, we had two on each side. On the offensive side we gave it to (Tauren) Poole and (Zach) Fulton. I thought Tauren ran his best against a good team and Zach represented the offensive line because I felt like all five of them really showed more physicality in blocking than they have since they have been here and that's a good sign. Malik (Jackson) and A.J. Johnson on defense. A lot of production. And then Anthony Anderson on special teams doing a good job for us.
"There are no real injury updates, which is good.
"Alabama, I guess this is Nick's (Saban) fifth year. It's his best team, probably as physically a dominating defense as I've seen in the modern era of football and I know that is strong statement. But I believe it. You catch yourself watching them, not studying them. They've given up seven points a game, 38 yards rushing a game, 184 total yards a game. And in this era, doing something like that - it's a combination of everything. Incredible talent at every position, great coaching and just a relentless, physical dominating style of play. Heisman Trophy runner. You look at their three running backs and every one of them is averaging six or seven yards a carry. Of course their return game on special teams. It's a great football team. Like I told the team you only get 12 days to compete, 13 if go to a bowl game. We have to relish the opportunity to play against this type of football team. It should appeal to our competitive spirit and we need to focus on, No. 1, eliminating the penalties and mistakes that have nothing to do with the opponent. And No. 2, building on some of the positive things we saw in the LSU game and trying to improve on some of things we didn't do so well. That is where we are."
On differences in this Alabama defense from its 1992 defense
"Well I didn't really study that team the way I have this defense of Alabama. You see probably prototype size and athleticism at every position. That is No. 1. You see experience, they are all back from last year. I think all 11 guys are juniors and seniors, so there is a lot of experience. You aren't going to fool them. There is no play that is going to get them. Of course, the scheme is very good. I just think their mentality - when they go to hit you they don't go to tackle you, they go to punish you. I know it's still halfway through the season and some teams might be able to go out there and really hurt them, but at this point they are pretty good."
On the importance of third-and-manageable against Alabama
"You don't want to get in third-and-long against them and we didn't want to get in that position against LSU either. That means you have to create and find ways to make positive plays on first and second down."
On Trent Richardson
"First of all, you look at him and he's physically imposing. He is thick, you look at his legs and he has been gifted physically. He has an ability to play low to high, so he is always playing with power. And he is always square to the goal line even though he is moving right to left. He is really good. He is a good football player."
On Matt Simms being hard on himself
"I think it is fair to say that he didn't play as well as he is capable of playing and made some mistakes that really hurt us in the game. He knows that. We need better play out of the quarterback position for us to compete against some good teams, and really that is to compete against anybody. If you can't get good quarterback play you aren't going to beat anybody. You know there are a lot of examples out there on that."
On players stepping up and making plays when they have the chance
"There always are plays you can make. You have to try and make it easy on Matt, but at the end of the day the quarterback is going to have to make plays. It's unavoidable."
On Simms and the run game being more fluid
"Matt helps you in the run game. It's one of his strengths by trying to get you in good looks. He gives you a better schematic advantage. He has an ability to recognize fronts and know what to run and where to run it. When you are a good running team, that is what you have to do. You can't just call a play and hope it works. You have to be able to count it, so he helps us in that. It doesn't mean you are going to get yards, but it gives us an advantage. There are some times you call a play and you have no chance if you don't have a quarterback who can get you out of it."
On Simms having more capability to check into correct running plays
"I think that is fair to say. Matt has the capability of doing it and we try and shape our plan around our players. Sometimes that slows Tyler down and then it starts affecting him throwing the ball when he is sitting there using all of his energy trying to figure out what to do with the run. And Tyler knows that . I think it is experience. Some guys see things more naturally than others and Tyler when he drops back in the pocket, he naturally sees things that a lot of quarterbacks don't. Conversely, Matt sees things in the run game that Tyler doesn't."
On a signature Nick Saban team
"He has evolved every year a little bit schematically, but the core of what he does has not changed. He has evolved vastly from where he was 10 years ago, especially with all the 3-4 (defensive looks). He has a lot more flexibility with his defenses but the basic principles are the same. He's going to stop the run, and play very aggressive `deny the ball' defense on the back end. He's going to make you try to generate some big plays by throwing over his head, knowing that if you do that you're at risk of getting your quarterback splattered. That's just what he does. The one thing that has been consistent since about 2002 is having a lot of good, talented football players."
On how involved Saban was offensively during Dooley's time on the staff
"More philosophically. I can't speak on what he has done at Alabama, but it's philosophical. He knows what he wants his offense to look like. He is always going to have a physical running game and I would say he is involved philosophically and situational."
On working with Matt Simms after having a rough game against LSU
"We were committed to Matt (Simms) last year, and when he wasn't performing we tried to objectively say what he did well and what he didn't do well and that we needed to see improvement. That's all we can do here."
On poor starts by the team in the second half of SEC games this season
"I don't think it has had much to do schematically. I would say it if I thought that it was. I think there is a level of physical and mental stamina that our team does not have right now that will come with time and experience in learning how to sustain those physical kinds of games for 60 minutes. I think it does take its toll. In the first two games, I think it was more composure issues. (Against LSU) I thought we were much more composed. We got in the hole 14-0 and it started looking bad in the second quarter, but nobody panicked and that was the first time in an SEC game that that's happened. And we went 10 plays for 80 yards and scored. I was proud of that. I think early on, composure was the issue. Certainly in the Georgia game frustration was the issue. Last game I think it was the changes that happened that appealed to (LSU's) athleticism. We just struggled to tackle the guy. We couldn't get them into second-and-long and we had several third-and-fives that in the first half we would have won but couldn't win (in the second half)."
On Alabama being special because it's a rivalry game
"All these games are big games to me. I love going around the Big Orange Caravan, OK? They say, `Coach, we only care if you beat one team: Alabama.' OK, then I go to the next guy and he says, `Coach, I only care if you beat one team: Georgia.' Then you go to the next guy, "I only care, you can lose them all, just beat Florida.' All right, and when you add it all up it's all 12 to make everybody happy. And hey, the rivalries are important but we have several of them. I don't want to minimize the Alabama one because it's a special one, but it also helps if we were playing a little bit better. That would probably generate a little more interest in the rivalry."
On the team coming out flat in the second half of games
"No, I didn't sense that at all. The first time we got the ball we went 11 plays, drove it down to the 3, we checked to an option and we lost seven yards because we're supposed to run to the sideline and not stop. So if that's because we were flat, then I'm missing something. That was the issue there and we only got the ball twice. On defense, I didn't think it was an issue of being flat at all. We had the same spirit but what happens is your spirit starts getting hit a little bit when they go on two drives that eat up a quarter-and-a-half and two football fields. I don't think that had anything to do with it. I don't think we've been flat in any of the second halves. I think it has to do with frustration and composure early on, and then this week was a little different. You know, we're playing some good teams."
On if Justin Worley would get playing time only because of an injury to Matt Simms
"I'm not ready to speculate on all that. Matt's our quarterback, he's played one game, so I just think it's a little premature right now."
On if Tyler Bray needs surgery
"What they are doing is putting a plate in today, which was not unexpected. It doesn't really delay anything but they have to let the swelling go down. The plate is in only so the bone doesn't heal crooked, if that makes sense. They're doing that right now; they should be done with it."
On if that procedure is similar what Dontavis Sapp had performed
"I don't know; I have no idea. I wasn't worried about Sapp. He's a linebacker; he doesn't need his thumb the way - so I didn't really grind on the details. It's true. Was it his thumb? It's probably the same. Gerald Jones had a plate.
The plate's only to help the healing, because the scar tissue heals but it can move. And if it moves and then it heals, then you have a crooked thumb - and we certainly don't want that with our quarterback."
On progress of the wideouts in addition to Da'Rick Rogers
"It hasn't been like we hoped and we need to keep developing them. Zach (Rogers) went out there and didn't play his best game, and Rajion (Neal) made a nice catch. Rajion is showing some signs, and he got a lot more snaps. He made a great play down the field and we need him to keep coming on, so he's going to be important. Devrin (Young) as a specialty guy is helping us, and we need DeAnthony Arnett and Vincent Dallas to keep growing. The freshmen kind of hit the freshman wall over the course of the year, and then they come back out. Then they hit it again and they come back out. It just takes them a little - you've got to keep bringing it."
On concern for ball security with Neal after the Georgia game
"Yeah, I do. But he's got less of a chance to spit it up when we throw it over everybody than when we give it to him behind everybody - so that's our strategy in controlling it. Throw it over all the defense and then you can't fumble, we hope. If we give it to him back here, then they're all coming after him."
On Young and the return game
"He's giving us a spark. Three games, now, we've hit a return. I kept telling you guys all last year the key is getting a good returner. I hope we can keep it going. He's got a lot of confidence. He got hit harder than he's ever gotten hit last week and he acknowledged it.
"It's so typical, and I'll tell the story. The first play of the drive, we're going to have him in at tailback. And it's the head coach's curse because the minute you think something negative, it happens. So I told Jim (Chaney), `Get another play ready, just in case.' So he runs and gets killed on the kickoff. And I'm going, `Is he OK, is he OK?' He hops up, he looks a little woozy but we go ahead and call the play. You don't have a lot of time. (Tauren) Poole comes running off and then we break the huddle and I say, `Is he OK?' And he goes, `Coach, he's not OK.' He says, `He looked at me and said, `I ain't ever been hit that hard before.' So we lost eight yards on the next play.
"Those are those things where we should have gotten him out of the game but it's way over there and you've got to change the play. But he's doing well. He's a confident guy, he's fearless and that's what a returner does."
On if Young is making good decisions
"Not yet. His best decisions are when he's caught the ball and is running. That's when he makes good decisions. All that in-between part, we've still got a little growing to do. There were a couple of times (on punt returns) playing the 10 and the ball bounces just a couple of feet from him. If it hit him, it would have been a disaster. There are just a lot of little technical things he can improve on that's going to come in time."
On what makes Nick Saban a good teacher of coaches on staff
"Darwinism. He makes it very demanding and the strong survive, and the strong learn from it. I survived. But he's good because what he does is he demands perfection in everything you do every day. If you're not, he doesn't say that's OK; he points it out. So a lot of people struggle in that kind of work environment because you've got to have a lot of confidence to get criticized. But if you do, you can really grow and develop. I appreciate what he did for me, I do. I never probably would have grown at the pace I grew professionally without that kind of environment. It's human nature. You don't naturally push yourself to grow without pressure, so he creates that kind of work environment."
On if Saban has changed any over the years
"I think he's changed quite a bit over time, I do. I don't think the demands have changed, but you'll have to ask those guys. I notice it. He grows too. All of us grow as people and we grow as coaches. He and I had a great relationship and we still do. So even in a tough work environment, there was never a time where our relationship was at a bad place. I always respected him and appreciated the opportunity he gave me. Here I was three years into coaching and coaching wideouts at SMU - he didn't have to give me that chance. So I felt obligated to give back."
On how tactful Saban is when critiquing
"He's very honest in his approach."
On how often you speak to Saban during the season
"Not a lot. I talked to him a lot more when I was at Louisiana Tech. If I do (now), it's really more on bigger-picture issues that might be going on. When I was at Louisiana Tech, I called him quite a bit and he was great. Now, it's a little uncomfortable for both of us during the season."
On reasons Ben Bartholomew has solidified the first-team fullback position
"Consistency, blocking, getting on his guy and running his feet - and he's caught a couple of passes, I think. I know he caught one (Saturday) and made a nice little play in the game. He's earned it and he's staying with it."
On Channing Fugate's status at fullback
"I don't know if something's happened. We probably expected - like most freshmen, they come in and show some things and you go, `He's going to be great sophomore year.' But it just takes some developing. I think more than anything, he came in and we probably had an unreasonable expectation on him and that allows us to get frustrated. Then we put Bartholomew in and he's performing well. Channing's going to be fine. He's still got two more years and the rest of this year. He's still getting into games. But it's why you need depth. That's what you want - you want competition at every position and the guys who play the best, play."
On the level of comfort with Brian Randolph in the secondary so Prentiss Waggner can play corner
"We may not have a choice but to do that. We need to play better at the corner position. We need to play better. We're going to keep moving it around. We put Prentiss out there in the game and he does some things a lot better, and then there's other things. He's getting a lot of snaps. Brian's got to handle the load at safety."
On recruiting smaller linebackers for speed versus bigger linebackers to stop power running teams
"I think you need a little bit of both. I definitely like bigger guys. The two teams dominating our league right now, if you don't have big guys you can't fight them for 60 minutes. Who was our leading tackler against LSU? (A.J. Johnson) Hmm, big guy. Big guys can go against big guys a lot better than little guys. Now, you need your little guys too when they put their little guys in and it becomes a space game. And A.J. gets exposed a little bit in space sometimes.
"You need a little bit of everything and you create roles for them. But if you don't have the mass to hold up, it just gets tough when you play those really good physical teams. And the other thing I've learned is big guys have less of a tendency to get hurt. When you get deep into the season - we've always tracked it. On the offensive line, the smaller offensive linemen tend to start getting dinged up more, the smaller d-linemen get dinged up. The pounding of the game over the course of 12 weeks starts taking its toll more on the little guys.
"I always love going up to these guys on the day after a game and I go up to some of the big guys, `How you feeling, man?' `I'm good, Coach.' I go up to the little guys, `How you feeling, man?' `Coach, man, I'm hurting.' So that helps. I don't think Alabama's had an injury this year. Now some of them you can't avoid. But I'm talking about ones that just happen from hitting and hitting and hitting and hitting. You're able to sustain it a little bit better, so there are a lot of benefits to it.
"Same thing at safety, having big safeties who have to go tackle runners. When you've got those 185-pound safeties, look what happened. He's laying out. What quarter was that, the second quarter? Prentiss, he's 180 pounds and has to go stick his head into a 220-pound running back, eventually physics takes over. F=MA (force equals mass times acceleration)."
On how recruiting balances speed and size
"Get a lot of guys. Eighty-five's a lot. You can't miss on guys. You have standards, is what you do. You have minimum standards that you don't want to compromise and you take some guys - if they are a little speed deficient, you take the size; if they are size deficient, they better be able to run.
"It's minimizing risk, that's how. How many red flags do they have as a player? And then you got to be careful about, OK, look at our linebacking group. If you got three who are all big guys or three who are all little guys, you go, `Uh-oh.' Every time you get a commitment, you're constantly trying to put together a class that has balance and has minimal risk and different risks. There's no real black-and-white answer for that. It's trying to just shape together a little bit of everything."
On the SEC and its combination of speed and power
"I think the biggest difference is really the speed up front. There are a lot of fast guys all over the country, now, there are. But the speed combined with the size, that's what you see. You watch and you go, `Boy, that was a good scheme there. They've got them outflanked there.' Minus-2. `Hey, here's a good formation. Oh.' Minus-3. That's what happens."
"All right? I appreciate y'all coming."