All Southeastern Conference football coaches participate in the weekly SEC teleconference (not at the same time, but in equal time periods of 10 minutes each). Alabama Coach Nick Saban spoke about last week’s win over Texas A&M and moving forward beginning with this week’s game against Colorado State, coached by former Tide Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain.
Bama will host the Colorado State Rams at 6 p.m. CDT Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
Here are the points made by Saban:
“The big focus with our team this week is we need to improve. Obviously we played a very good Texas A&M team, did a lot of good things in the game, and they have an especially good team and did some things that we need to do better.
“And that's got to be our focus right now, and know that games like that are great for the fans but they take years off your life as a coach. It was a great win for us and we have a tremendous amount of respect for what they did.
“Playing against Jim McElwain, who's a former assistant, is always sort of a special challenge. The guy knows a lot about what we do and that kind of thing. But he's done a great job with his team out there. They've played extremely well so far this year and had a couple of tough losses.”
On Recruiting Outside The South:
“Our recruiting philosophy is we really want to do a great job in our state, we want to do a great job in a five-hour radius of where our school is. And then we do some of what we call over the top recruiting all over the country _ Texas, California, Ohio, Washington D.C. area _ you know, wherever. So that we give ourselves an opportunity to maybe recruit a few players that we think complement those that are in our area or may even be some of the top players in the country. That's always kind of been our recruiting philosophy, and we'll probably continue with that in the future.”
On Ricky Williams (former Texas star who played for Saban at the Miami Dolphins) as a coach:
“I think Ricky Williams would be a great coach. I know that people talk a lot about Ricky Williams for a lot of different reasons, but as a player to coach, the guy was as good a player as you could ever have on the field to coach. I mean, he played hard every down, he was a great competitor.
“I remember standing on the sidelines with him in Miami and I had him and Ronnie Brown and they were alternating.
“He's like a little kid in Pop Warner football, trying to, 'When are you going to put me in coach?' He loved to play. He was a great competitor. He's a very smart guy. He's very bright. I think he'd be a really good coach.
“Certainly when he gets experience, having him on our staff someday is certainly something that we would consider.”
What did you like or not like about your defense in the 49-42 win over Texas A&M?
“We didn't start very well in the game. We gave up 14 points in the first seven minutes of the game and then we gave up 21 points in the last eight minutes of the game. I guess in a nutshell you'd say I didn't like the way we started and I didn't like the way we finished. But in between they scored seven points, so there were some good things that we did. But we obviously gave up way too many plays.
“We didn't do a very good job of handling No. 13 (wide receiver Mike Evans) in the game, who had a fabulous game and is a very good player. We didn't pressure the quarterback (Johnny Manziel) very well and affect him like we wanted to in the game. But the players played hard, they persevered, and I think after being behind 14-0 in the game, I think they really kept their poise and played better.
“There was a lot of good things in the game but obviously some things we need to improve on. You can't give up those kind of big plays and be a good defensive team.
What’s the hardest part of handling the Manziel-Evans duo?
“Both guys have tremendous strengths. No. 13 is a mismatch problem because of his size, and he's got great hands and he's got great ball skills, especially catching the ball up in the air.
“But the way you've got to play the quarterback is a tough way to go when you rush four guys unless you have some dominant rushers.
“You'd like to play split-safety coverages on 13 and put somebody over and under him, but when you do that you can only rush four guys. When you rush five guys to try to contain the quarterback, now you're in single coverage on him.
“It's the combination of both guys' strengths that make a difficult matchup.
What is the status of injured cornerback Deion Belue (turf toe)?
“He's day to day. He hasn't been able to practice so far this week but he is making progress. We have, I think five corners _ whether it be John Fulton, Bradley Sylve, Cyrus Jones and two freshmen _ and we're allowing all those guys to compete. At the end of the week, we'll see which one of those guys can play the best and those are the guys that we'll put out there in the game.”
Do you remember a game in which you gave up so many yards and is your defense aware they have to get better?
“I think they knew. I think they have a lot of pride in their performance and certainly are trying to get better and play better.
“The game that comes to mind for me probably is at LSU when we played in the Sugar Bowl against Illinois. I forget the score of the game but it was really high-scoring. A little bit similar to this. You get a little bit ahead in the game and it becomes a pass-fest and you give up some big plays and the next thing you know, the other team scores 30 or 40 points and you're very disappointed. Sort of the type of the game contributes to that as well. That would probably be the other one that I remember.
“That was the last game of the season, but we certainly improved after that and will continue to do so.
“Our guys have just got to play better fundamentally in terms of what they do and do it on a more consistent basis.”
(It was the 2002 Sugar Bowl and LSU won 47-34), LSu won its first BCS bowl)
Offensive numbers are up in the SEC. Is this the new normal?
“I think every year, you've got different strengths and weaknesses relative to the various teams in your conference. This year we have some really high-powered offensive teams. There's a lot of returning, good quarterbacks, which it starts with that. And then there's a lot of explosive players on offense and maybe there's not as many dominant defensive players, or (there's) matchup issues that some of the teams can create for the defense that lends itself to them being able to be very productive offensively.
“I just think it's the circumstances of this particular year relative to the number of good quarterbacks and good offensive teams that we have in our league.”
Your offensive line seemed to perform better in week two.
“I thought they did a fabulous job. They controlled the line of scrimmage. We were able to run the ball, have balance. We didn't get a lot of pressure in the pocket. The quarterback was able to operate, we made some explosive plays running and throwing and really controlled the tempo of the game pretty well. I was really pleased. It all starts up front. I think those guys did a really good job. I still think that there's things that we need to improve on, and I hope everybody's focused on making those improvements.”
Rain is forecast this weekend. You had a weather delay at Missouri last year. Does that experience help?
“I think that we anticipate those kind of situations. We have wet ball practice. You do the best you can to prepare your players to go into those circumstances and not be affected by them by the previous experience that they've had. Our guys have done that pretty well. I don't know how this team's going to react.
“I think there's some misnomers about rain. I think it's a lot harder to play pass defense in the rain than it is pass offense. Some people think, 'Well, I can't throw now.' But I think it's a lot harder to play pass defense when the field's bad. We don't alter what we do a whole lot but we cannot allow the circumstances and the conditions that we play in to affect how we play.”