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Nick Saban Bye Week Press Conference Transcript

Derick E. Hingle - USA TODAY Sports

Alabama head coach Nick Saban held a shortened news conference on Tuesday after practice. The video can be found at RollTide.com and the transcript is below.

Saban: “Just to wrap up the Tennessee game, I think most of what I said before sums it up pretty well. It was a little bit of a survival game for us. I think our players were mentally and physically tired. We didn’t play with a lot of juice in the game but we showed great grit and determination and competitive spirit to come back and win the game. We made a lot of really good plays in the last five and a half minutes of the game. The great drive on offense, the defense getting them stopped in the two minute (drill). So the players certainly showed that they wanted to come in first and it was important for them to win and in the end, they did the things that they needed to do to do that. But there’s a big difference in wanting to be first and really wanting to be the best that you can be. The focus for us this week, and to get the kind of performance that we’d like to have, is we want more players to be playing their best. The analogy would be that if you could run a 10.9 100-meters and the guy you run against runs an 11.5. If you run an 11.4, you wanted to be in first but you’re not being your best. So there’s too much inconsistency when you don’t play at a high level all the time. Too many negative plays, penalties, which are lack of focus and discipline. We had some mental errors on defense, had some turnover opportunities that we didn’t get, had more missed tackles than normal. So most of the problems we created ourselves, it’s like friendly fire so no one is really satisfied with where we are. Everyone’s working hard to try and get better. I was pleased with the attitude and effort we had today in practice to try to get better. I think everyone is motivated by either fear of failure, incentive or ‘I want to be the best.’ But the really good players usually have a lot of talent but they have the burning desire to want to be the best. We just need to get more guys playing at a higher level and that’s our responsibility as coaches. If we didn’t have the juice we needed to in the game, that’s my responsibility too. Focus right now is to try to get our players to improve and to rest. That rest doesn’t just come from not practicing. It comes from how you take care of yourself: how much sleep you get, how you eat, how you hydrate, how you get treatment if you’re injured, how you get healthy. So there’s a lot of things that we need to be focusing on to be ready for the next challenge when that comes. Eddie (Jackson) practiced a little bit today but we think he’ll get better every day and be back in a day or two. Ronnie Harrison is going to be in a boot for a couple of days but we think that by the end of the week he will be okay. Dominick Jackson, same injury that Cam (Robinson) had last year against Tennessee and had the same procedure done on it. Cam was able to play against LSU, I don’t know if Dominick will be able to or not. That’s going to be day by day probably and see how he responds. That’s pretty much it.”

Q: Through eight games, how would you assess the offense? Specifically, how the passing game has come along, considering all the new pieces.

Saban: “I see improvement. I think we’ve had to overcome a lot of adversity and obstacles in the passing game. Losing Robert Foster early on, who was a very good player for us, certainly affected our depth. Calvin Ridley sort of got thrown in a little before he was ready and he responded really well. Ardarius Stewart had his best game in the last game in terms of his production and his performance. Jake (Coker) has made steady improvement. We’re not totally satisfied by the consistency with the passing game in terms of the whole ball of wax. In terms of protection, there’s too much pressure on the quarterback, too many sacks. We were better on third down in this last game but that has been a bone of contention for us. (We need) more consistency in the redzone, scoring touchdowns. We do quality control when we have a bye week. What do we want to improve on in defense, offense, special teams and then we go to work on it. We do the same thing with every individual player, ‘this is what you need to work on,’ so we have a chance to get better. I think we’re making improvement, we’re making progress. Are we where we’d like to be? I still think there’s room to grow.”

Q: I know you mentioned the quality control. What is the schedule for the bye week, aside from practice the next two days? In your time as a coach, how has your approach to the bye week changed or has it really always been the same?

Saban: “We used to practice more but I don’t think you get a lot of quality practice time if you practice more than this. I think the rest is probably more important, mentally as well as physically. Our guys haven’t had a chance to go home or anything since the start of fall camp at the beginning of August. So when you give them Friday, Saturday, Sunday, they’ll have a chance to do that. Maybe go back and watch their high school games or whatever. I think at this point in the season, less is more in some ways, in terms of trying to get rest, recovery, healed up. Three practices is really what we have in the course of a normal week. We usually just walkthrough on Friday and then we play the game on Saturday. So basically they’re missing the walkthrough and the Saturday. But we’ll practice tomorrow and Thursday and then on Monday.”

Q: You have uncharacteristically given up a lot of tackles for loss. Do you have your finger on why that might be and how will you address that this week?

Saban: “Most of it is what I talked about before: mental errors, lack of communication, not blocking the right people. It’s more what we’re doing incorrectly than it is what the other team’s doing something that we can’t handle. Those are the kind of things I talked about. Too many negative plays, too many penalties, and most of it were creating because of lack of execution and inconsistency. So we need to do a better job of that. Some of it’s fundamentals and when you don’t take the right footwork, you don’t get your second step on the ground, you’re not in the right position to block your guy. All those things enhance the chances of it not working out very well.”

Q: You’ve been supportive of assistant coaches pursuing better things in the future. How do you handle when you have assistants’ names being thrown out there as potential candidates for other jobs in the middle of the season?

Saban: “Well first of all, I think that every guy that works here does a good job because he’s motivated to try and get the next opportunity. So if I did see that it affected his focus while he was doing the job here… I went through this at the Cleveland Browns. I think that the quality and character that we have in the coaches we have here, really do put the team first and care about the players. I don’t think they would sacrifice doing a good job for the players or the program, in terms of the pride they have for their performance because they were more focused on something else. I went through this when I went to Michigan State. We have four games left with the Cleveland Browns. I took the job, but I totally focused on what we had to do and we had the best defense in the NFL and we won a playoff game. Then we lost in the second round. Jim McElwain, when he took the job at Colorado State, he came back and coached the national championship and we won. I never questioned his focus or loyalty in terms of what his job was or what he was doing. I’m happy for our coaches to be recognized and have the opportunities. When the time comes, I’ll do everything I can to help them and I think they all know that. But at the same time, their job right now is to stay focused on our team and what we’re doing. I think they all understand that. How we finish will probably affect how their opportunities get enhanced.”

Q: With all the hype that surrounded the 2011 game, “The Game of the Century”, was there any distractions and did you learn anything from that with how to handle games like that?

Saban: “That’s not the only game we’ve had like that. We had quite a few games like that. What we try to do is to get the players to keep the main thing the main thing, which is how you play in the game. That’s the most important thing, not the hype surrounding the game. It’s your preparation: it’s how you practice, how you prepare for the game, how you focus when the time comes, having the discipline to do your job well so that your team has the best chance to be successful. That’s what we want our players to do. Can they all do it? Does it have an effect on them sometimes? I can’t tell you that it doesn’t but that’s what we try to do and that’s what we’ve always tried to do.”

Q: How much has it benefited the defense as a whole to have so many guys been able to affect the passer?

Saban: “It’s a combination of things. We have some guys that have experience. We have some guys that have ability, that are young players that we can put into a role, that have affected it. Whether it’s Tim Williams, Rashaan Evans, Ryan Anderson. It’s helpful that we’re able to play more guys and stay fresh, and to have fresh guys in there on third down. We’ve even had the luxury to take Reggie (Ragland) out on third downs if he is tired in the game. We’ve had some good defensive teams around here before and we haven’t been able to do that. That’s important. It’s been very helpful this year in terms of the pass rush we get and how we’re able to affect the quarterback.”

Q: Is there any difference in your mind from a guy being internally motivated or being externally motivated? Or is it just whatever works for each individual player?

Saban: “Well if you’re internally motivated, I think you have a burning desire to accomplish something, you have a goal that’s important to you. You’re going to try and be the best you can. If you’re externally motivated, that means you’re sort of doing it for what you get out of it, which is incentive. So that means if it’s not a big game, or you’re not going to get a lot out of it, or you’re not going to get your picture in the paper, that means you’re not going to play good. I think I’d rather have the guy that it’s really important to him and he has a burning desire to do it, to be the best there is. And to not be affected by the external factors because if the external factors aren’t there, what’s the motivation? So how can you trust the guy, how can you count on him? Or do we have to create a Halloween type atmosphere to try and get the guy externally affected so he’ll play good.”

Q: Reuben Foster had a good game on Saturday. How have you seen him grow up this season and in recent weeks?

Saban: “Well Reuben has played well for us. He’s showed a lot of maturity and consistency in his play. He and Reggie (Ragland) both had really good games in the last game. Both of them had a lot of production. He has a lot of understanding of what he’s supposed to do and he’s got a lot more confidence in doing it. So far, he’s not had some of the issues he’s had in the past in terms of injuries and couldn’t get on the field and practice. He’s done really well and he’s been an important part of what we do, especially when we play nickel.”

Q: With Dominick being out, who are some of the guys filling in at right tackle?

Saban: “Well Brandon Greene is the backup right tackle so he would play right tackle. (Ross) Pierschbacher could play right tackle or left tackle if we needed him to. Korren Kirven is also a backup tackle. So I would say it has to come from that group of guys but Brandon Greene is a guy that we have a lot of confidence in, he’s been the right tackle all year. If that is the case, he wouldn’t be able to play as much at tight end.”

Caleb Turrentine is a contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.

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