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Time To Get Excited, Says Saban
Alabama opens the 2013 season against Virginia Tech Saturday at the Georgia Dome with kickoff at 5:30 p.m. EDT (4:30 central time). Here are Coach Nick Saban comments following Wednesday's practice:
"I think it's time to get excited about playing a game. I think it's time for everybody to get excited about playing a game. This is an important game. You can't have a good season if you don't get off to a good start and don't have a good first game. I think our players need to get excited, I think our fans need to get excited. I think we're playing a quality opponent that definitely has something to prove in terms of what they experienced last year. They've got a lot of good returning players. I think our team needs to realize, I've said it all along. You do what you have to do every day to prepare yourself because everybody will want to play in the game when the game comes. The question is did you do all the things you need to do to be responsible for your own self determination and accountable to do your job for the rest of the players on the team. All of the guys that have done that are confident. They're ready. They're ready to go. Some of the guys that have not done that, they're starting to get exposed. The good news is they've got a little more than a couple of days to get ready to do what they have to do. Most of these players are young players that don't understand what you have to do to be successful.
"I hope our fans and our leadership on our team and everybody in the organization is excited about the mental intensity we all need to have to beat good football teams in big games. These games, playing in these neutral-site games, have a history of giving our team great momentum and a great start and great exposure. Our fans have always demonstrated great enthusiasm for this game, these games. I think it's going to be very important that we show the same thing in this particular game. The history of these games have made a significant impact on the success that this program has had. We obviously want to go there and get ready to do a good job against a very good team. We'll just keep on working.
"We really don't have many injuries or anything like that to announce. Derrick Henry is 21 because of special teams. Too many guys in the same single-digit numbers. You can't operate. You can't have two guys in the game at the same time with the same number on. You have to do it by seniority and he was a good sport about being willing to change and doing whatever he had to do for the team.
On various subjects, Saban said:
On offensive tackle Cyrus Kounandjio:
"Cyrus has always been very athletic and has always been a very good player. I think he's gotten a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger. These guys psychologically as they mature, they understand how they can take the standard a little higher and they're capable of doing even more. I think Cyrus has always been a really good player but he's a guy that's now driven to be the best player that he can be and he's worked really hard and I think his knowledge and experience now is also very helpful to him. Number of games he's played and the confidence that he has. I think he trusts and believes in what he's doing. All these things contribute to a guy that was already a very good athlete becoming a very very good player."
On exploiting Virginia Tech's young secondary:
"I don't know, we had Dee Milliner played here when he was a freshman. We've had freshmen play in the secondary before. Kareem Jackson played when he was a freshman and I don't think we lost any games. I think this is one of those things where you assume that the guy's a freshman he's not a good player. I don't assume that because we've had some pretty good freshmen play here. Trent Richardson played pretty good when he was a freshman. Julio Jones played pretty good. Amari Cooper played pretty good last year as a freshman. So what's to say they can't have a guy play well as a freshman? Why would you make that assumption? Was Mark Ingram any good when he was a freshman? I'm just asking. I'm asking. Just because the guy's a freshman doesn't mean he's not a really good player. It doesn't mean he's not capable of being a really good player, especially at a position like corner where if you have really good cover ability and you're instinctive, it's not like you have to learn what an offensive lineman has to learn to play -- be able to block every front, every blitz, every protection, every run play. It's different. So we're not making that assumption. If we think we see things in the game -- this is one thing, we've never seen those guys play before -- that we can take advantage of, we'll certainly take advantage of it."
Regarding the offense getting more publicity than the defense:
"I think we've played really good on offense here. We averaged 35 or something points per game last year. I thought we were pretty good on offense. Just because I coach defense doesn't mean we have to be a defensive team. I don't think we've ever played poorly on offense. We've always done a pretty good job on offense, and I'm happy that people are talking about our offense. We may have a different kind of team this year if we have a more explosive offense. I think it's going to be critical that the good players, whatever side of the ball they're on, need to play well. I think that sets a good example, sets a standard for everyone else and makes your team better. The worst thing that can happen is the good players on your team don't play great. Then you have lots of problems. So far the very good players on our team have had good fall camps and we're excited about seeing them perform on Saturday night."
What is Kenyan Drake's role?
"I think Kenyan Drake has a lot of ability. He can certainly contribute. I don't think he will contribute a lot in this game. I don't think he has a significant role in this game. We had to get other guys ready to do things, and they actually did well enough. I also think Kenyan Drake is going to be a guy that's going to be a contributor long term to our team and can be a very good player for us."