Tuesday, January 2, 2018

College Football Playoff Alabama Media Teleconference

Nick Saban 

Well, first of all, our team is really excited about having the opportunity to play in the National Championship game. It's certainly a reward for all the hard work that the players and coaches have done all year long to give themselves this opportunity, and obviously playing against a really, really good fantastic Georgia team that has great balance and has played well on both sides of the ball all year. Kirby has done a fantastic job there. I do think, if you're asking me to make a comment about this turnaround, it's very difficult to come from a bowl game and just have seven days to prepare. I mean, they're coming from the West Coast; we're coming from New Orleans. Then we've got to be someplace else on Friday. I mean, this is -- I think that some kind of way, somebody has got to think about the players a little bit when it comes to these games and not just what's convenient for the media or TV or whatever.

I wanted to ask you about Kirby; what led you to hire him the first time you hired him? And what led you to continue hiring him for jobs?

Well, Kirby was young, and I think really what -- I like hiring young guys and helping them develop in our system and teaching them what we do. He was a secondary guy, and we were looking for a secondary coach. Some of the other coaches on the staff knew him. Will Muschamp and Derek Dooley recommended him highly. I was very impressed with him from day one. He was very bright. He learned quickly. I would hire him anytime, anywhere, on any staff based on the body of work that he did over the nine or ten years that he was with us. He did a fabulous job.

Obviously a lot of things have changed on the recruiting landscape, but what's the biggest thing you've maintained in your approach when you're trying to deal with bringing out-of-state talent into Alabama? 

Well, first of all, our philosophy really hasn't changed. We want to do a great job of recruiting our state, and then we want to do a great job of recruiting a five-hour radius from Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama. But then we also want to recruit the best players in the country that have an interest in our program, and our program is all about creating value for players, whether it's helping them be more successful in life through personal development, academic support, developing a career off the field or developing a career on the field as a football player. That philosophy really has not changed, and it's really what we work at.

On Jalen Hurts, seems like sometimes it's pretty hard to judge a quarterback based on stats because he didn't have great stats last night but seemed in command, running the offense well and making good decisions. Is that your take on his performance last night? 

Well, I think Jalen did a good job of controlling the tempo of the game, and I think that every player on our team would probably say that there were things that he could have done better in the game. You know, Clemson has got a really, really good defense. They put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. I think all in all, he handled it pretty well. But there were some things that I think we need to do better offensively, and I think that's a team thing, not just a quarterback thing.

How determined was he? What was his attitude kind of after the Auburn game when there probably were some other things he would have liked to have done better? 

Well, I think the entire team was sort of trying to reestablish the identity and didn't feel like we played like we wanted to play at Auburn, and I think everybody had to take ownership of that. I think our players did. I think that was more of a team thing than any one individual.

Is there any update on Anfernee Jennings, and if he's not able to play, who will you play at that outside linebacker spot? 

Well, we don't have complete medical information on either one of those guys. They're being evaluated today in Birmingham. You know, we'll let you know when we find out that information probably tomorrow. But you know, we have Christian and Terrell Lewis and page 1 of 6 Jamey Mosley has played before and some of the guys that had to play when the other guys were out got some valuable experience, so that's where we would go.

Obviously you've been in the league a long time, you're the dean, and you've always known Kirby better than anybody. Are you surprised at the rate at which he's gotten Georgia into this position, or is this kind of what you expected? 

Well, Georgia had a pretty good nucleus of players there. I think they won 10 games the year he took over. Now, he has done a fantastic job of bringing those players along, getting those players to play with discipline, getting them to play together. They play hard. They're very relentless, and I think this last game was sort of a reflection on the attitude that he's been able to instill to overcome adversity and come back in a game like they did against Oklahoma. They're playing extremely well, which is a reflection on his ability and his leadership to get everybody to buy in to doing things the way he wanted them done so that they could play at a very high level, and they certainly are. They have a lot of good players, and they're all playing at a very high level, and I think that's a compliment to the coach and the coaching staff.

Last evening after the win, you continually used the word ferocious to describe your defense's effort. When have you been more impressed with a team's preparation turned into an effort like that? 

I think there's only one that I remember, and that was when we played LSU in the championship game in New Orleans in I think it was 2011. I thought the defense played with sort of a ferocious, relentless sort of I-won't-be-denied attitude in the way they competed in the game. But I'd say those two probably rank up there with the best, best of them.

Bradley Bozeman told me earlier this week that Jonah Williams is maybe one of the fastest learners he's ever been around in terms of picking up stuff with the playbook. I was curious, is that something you saw in him when you were recruiting him? 

Well, Jonah is a very intelligent young man, and I think he's got all the right stuff when it comes to his disposition toward being successful, paying attention to detail, doing the little things right, and a combination of that and being a very intelligent guy, I think he's very aware and plays with a lot of intelligence out there, and he's a fast learner. I think that's helped his development, and that's probably why he was able to play so effectively for us last year as a freshman.

I wanted to ask about obviously not only did Kirby work for you for so long, but he obviously recruited a lot of the guys that you have. Do you feel like it gives him any kind of advantage because he sort of knows tendencies, and I know it's been two years removed, but do you think that gives him any kind of advantage or helps him out in terms of preparing for you all because he knows you guys so well? 

Well, I can't answer that. You know, I think it always is helpful when you know the other team's personnel. But systematically, especially on the defensive side of the ball, I don't think we're all that different in terms of what we do. So I really can't answer that. I think you're probably better off asking him.

When you look at the kind of game, talking about the guys up front, not only did they make the plays as far as the interception, but what would you say about the overall performance in being able to control that inside, the Clemson run game? 

Well, I thought our front guys played as well as they have all year in that game. They were very aggressive. They struck blockers out of their hips and controlled the line of scrimmage, and that enabled us to play the way we wanted to play in the back end, to be able to cover some of their passes and disguise and hopefully make it a little more difficult for the quarterback, and I think because of that, we got pretty good pressure on the guy, as well, rushing four guys. So I thought our front played as well as they had all year.

You mentioned the quick turnaround for both teams; would you like to see two weeks between the semifinal games and the final? 

No, not necessarily. I just think that it's a little bit different when you're playing in the season and you go to a game on Friday, you play on Saturday, you come home after the game. The players are kind of off on Sunday or some people do it differently and give them off on Monday and then you start the new week on Monday. But when you go to a bowl game and you're there for a week, it's really kind of hard to pack up and leave at 1:00 in the morning to get home. We spent the night and had to come back this morning, and this is like a regular Sunday preparation for us. I do think it's a little quicker turnaround for the players, and obviously a pretty quick preparation for both teams, as well. I don't think you need two weeks. I think just an extra day, just put a travel day in there.

About two SEC teams making the final, do you get a lot of satisfaction in that, the perception nationally that maybe the league was a little bit down this year?

Yeah, you know, I'm proud of the SEC, and I'm proud of the competition in our league, and I'm proud of the good teams that we have in our league. I certainly think that Georgia has an outstanding team, and I think that there were other very good teams in our league. You know, sometimes your team gets affected if you lose a quarterback like Mississippi State or something like that. You know, I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for the competition in our league, and I don't think there's any question about the fact that Georgia is maybe the best team in the country right now the way they're playing. It's going to be a real challenge for us to be able to stop them and be able to move the ball against them and play effectively.

How hard is it to maintain good relationships with former coworkers, former coaches that worked under you in this competitive coaching business when it can be kind of cutthroat in the recruiting business? 

Well, you know, look, you don't have to dislike somebody to compete against them. I have a lot of respect for all the guys that worked for me and the guys that did a great job for us when they worked on our staff. I'm happy to see them doing well wherever they go, and when we have to play against them, I'm sure they're doing everything they can to beat us for their team and their players, and we're going to do the same with our players. It's not personal. It's not personal. It's just you don't -- Dabo and I are very good friends, and he never worked for me, but we -- we certainly know each other really well. He played at Alabama, and there's a lot of guys out there that we've had to play against in the past. It's not personal. I mean, it's just -- I don't dislike the guy that you play against. You compete against him and do the best you can and want to do the best you can for your players on your team.

You mentioned about helping to develop young coaches in your system. I'm wondering about Glenn Schumann, kind of a behind-the-scenes guy with you over there, what you remember about his contribution to your program? 

Oh, he did a great job. Schu is a really bright guy, learned very quickly and made a great contribution in terms of his input, his knowledge, his work ethic. And I know even though he wasn't allowed to coach players, they all had a tremendous amount of respect for him, as well.

What do you make about your success against former assistants when you've gone up against them? 

Well, I don't think the game is about the coaches. I think it's about the players. And I think in most of those games if the other guy had the players that we had, they might have beat us. So it's not about the coaches. I mean, I didn't catch any passes. I didn't make any tackles last night. I didn't do any of that. I mean, the players did it all. You prepare the players the best you can, but we've had pretty good teams around here, and most of the guys were going to rebuild programs, so maybe we're a little bit ahead of them, and if they had had our team, they'd have probably beat us.

You recruited Jake; I think he was committed to you at one time. What do you remember about him as a high school quarterback? What did y'all see in him, and what do you look forward to seeing from him in this game? 

Well, we thought he was a fantastic player, very instinctive, very smart, makes great choices and decisions, doesn't -- always puts his team in the best play that they can be in. I think he does a lot of check-with-me's, which for a freshman quarterback probably demonstrates his knowledge of the game and preparation and intelligence. He's always been a -- was a fantastic passer and remains that way. We thought he was a great player. We had him in camp, and we were excited to have him be a part of our program, but we also understood when Kirby went to Georgia and Kirby was recruiting him that there was a chance of that happening.

There's talk about kind of you changing things up in practice this week, kind of reducing some of the workload on some of the players. Can you just talk about the mindset going into it, why you made that little change this week compared to maybe in previous years? 

Well, we had a little different schedule. The game was one day later. It has been on New Year's Eve. So we really only had four practices after Christmas, which was a normal week. So we didn't do any less work. We just spread it out over five days, I think. And sort of front-end loaded it a little bit so the players had a little less to do later in the week. We had practiced -- I think we practiced 12 total practices for that game. I think the players get a little tired of practicing sometimes and just wanted to change it up a little bit for them.

Your personal relationship with Tony Brown, obviously given his situation with his father, your own situation, what's it like seeing him succeed and the game he had this last game, and as a senior just step up the way he has? 

Well, you know, Tony has done a really good job for us, and when he has the right mindset, page 3 of 6 which we work really hard with him to try to keep him in the right place, he's done a really, really good job for us on special teams as well as a defensive back, and he did a nice job last night in the game in both those areas. We're proud of the progress that he's made, and hopefully he'll be able to continue and play with that consistency.

Da'Ron Payne

Da'Ron, what did you see from both Raekwon and Isaiah last night, and how well do you think you guys played as a whole in the defensive front? Coach Saban just said that was probably the best you guys have played all year. 

Well, I knew those guys, they were pumped up to go out there and compete. They had a really good week of practice, and they had their mindset straight when they went out there, and I was just excited to see them go out there and ball.

Da'Ron, Coach said that that was about as -- one of the most intense defensive efforts he's seen. How motivated were you guys given the way the last two Clemson games had gone and how proud this defense is? 

I think our defense, we had wanted to prove ourselves to the world because I think we felt a little disrespected, and I think all my fellow teammates, we just went out there and just tried to prepare and just listened to everything Coach had to say and just tried to do everything the right way. I think as a defense, we just went out there and executed the game plan and just tried to get after it.

What kind of challenge do you see -- you haven't faced too many running back tandems like Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. From what you've seen on TV or film, how good are those guys? 

Oh, they're some excellent backs. I think as a defensive front, we're just going to keep trying to create a new line of scrimmage up front and wreak havoc in the trenches and as a defense just like we did this week, keep being focused and just follow Coach Saban's game plan.

I know that Kirby was, I believe, your main recruiter or one of your main recruiters for Alabama. I was just curious what was it about your relationship with him or your connection with him that helped you sort of pick Alabama? 

My main recruiter was Coach Cristobal.

But it was Kirby who delivered your offer I thought, right?

I don't -- I really don't know.

Da'Ron, three-part question: Number one, how often did you guys practice that play? Two, how successful were you in catching it? And three, how much did you practice the toe tap that you did there because it looked like you had practiced that before? 

We practiced the play a couple times coming into the game. What was the other questions?

How many times did you catch it, and did you practice the toe tap? 

Oh, I caught it every time they threw it to me in practice, and the toe tap, I think that just came natural.

Jalen Hurts

Jalen, just how would you assess in terms of your play, obviously spreading the ball around, how would you assess your play, and did you know Payne had those kind of feet to keep his feet inbounds on a play like that? 

I think we did a good job offensively. Obviously there are some areas that we can improve, do a little better job of executing and just doing the little things right. But obviously we did enough to get the win, and Payne does have great hands and great feet.

I'd like to ask what you thought about all the criticism that the SEC was down this year, now that you've got two teams in the finals.

Well, I always say everything happens for a reason. Regardless of what's been said, I think everything happened the way it was supposed to happen, and I think we have two really good teams playing for the National Championship.

Did you think the league was down at all?

I don't think the league is ever down. I mean, we always have a lot of talent in the SEC, a lot of guys capable of making those -- a lot of teams capable of making long runs and having good seasons, so I think it's a very competitive league.

My question is for Jalen regarding the Georgia defense. I don't know how much film you guys have had a chance to look at, but what have you seen out of them that you guys are really preparing for in practice this week?

Well, you know, just off the top of my head, I can tell you that they're fast. They play really physical. You know, kind of try to have the same mindset that we have defensively, and they do it well. They're really good, and we're going to have to be ready to play against them.

Jalen, obviously we saw up on the stage last night you and Nick with the hats backwards and all that. I was kind of curious, how much does that speak to how he's evolved as a coach and just his relationship with the players, that he's more comfortable now than maybe he was just even a year ago doing something like that?

I think he's gotten comfortable, I page 5 of 6 guess, kind of being able to connect with his players. I actually asked him, I asked him if he liked the way my hat was, and he said I looked like a gangster, so he didn't want to wear his hat like that. But Coach Saban has always been one to evolve and be able to connect with his players and build a great relationship with his players.

Jalen, I'm pretty sure you've noticed that media and fans and everybody on social media have liked to kind of analyze your performances, whether you were really good or whatever. How critical are you? Do you kind of watch what you do good or do you watch what you do bad? How do you evaluate your own performances, especially last night's?

Well, I'm my biggest critic. I've said it plenty of times before. Nobody can be more critical on me than I can myself, and the biggest thing is just being able to learn from experiences and being able to fix them in the future. So like every game, we try and learn from the mistakes and get better at them and not make them again.

Does it amuse you at all or bother you that you're so analyzed by people that probably don't know what's going on around you?

That's probably the nature of the beast. It comes with it, and my job is to win football games here and handle things the appropriate way.

No comments:

Post a Comment