NICK SABAN PRESS CONFERENCE 10-19-15

OPENING STATEMENT:
It was certainly a tough, hard fought game. I was proud of our players for the way they responded. I thought we did some good things up front on the offensive and defensive line. The big thing that I think we need to focus on is to not have the kind of breakdowns and mistakes in the game that gives the other team momentum. To me, the focus needs to be on how do you stay locked in and focused on what you need to do to execute.
I think this game coming up, the Tennessee game, is special to a lot of people in the state of Alabama, because of the tradition and the rivalry that’s existed here for a long, long time and the history that the game brings. So it’s most certainly a special game to us and to our team to get ready to play a very good game against a very good Tennessee team.
Butch Jones has done a really good job. They’ve gotten better and better every year and could arguably be undefeated or a one-loss team this year. Two teams came back and beat them late in games. They came back and beat somebody when they were behind 24-3 -— and that’s a pretty good team. They’ve got good players.
Offensively, they’re very, very good. Quarterback does a good job. The offensive line does a good job. They’re nationally ranked in a lot of categories. They’ve got two really good running backs — Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara have both done a great job for them. Joshua Dobbs, the quarterback, is a very diverse guy playing the position, running and passing. They’ve created a lot of issues and a lot of problems and scored a lot points this year.
Defensively, they’ve got a couple of guys nicked up. But they play hard. They’re physical. For the most part, they’ve been hard to score on. That’s something I feel that when we can control the ball, that’s going to be a key in the game. It’s really important to how we play against this team. This team is very sound and solid with their specialists and on special teams. This is the best team they’ve had in a while.

ON INJURIES TO DRAKE AND KELLY:
Kenyan Drake will practice today. Ryan Kelly is under concussion protocol. When he is normal, which he is very close, we’ll allow him to resume activity. That’s not going to be today, unless something changes between now and practice. It’s not that bad right now. We feel like he will be OK in a few days. But the medical staff has to make that decision.

ON PLAYING BETTER ON
THE ROAD THAN AT HOME:
I never thought it was an issue until this year, but probably the three best games we’ve played this year have all been on the road, whether it was Wisconsin, Georgia or this past game with Texas A&M. I think it’s a matter of what I talked about before, being able to stay focused on what you need to do to do your job play-in and play-out. Just because you’re at home, whether it’s family, friends, the atmosphere, the distractions that can create, as a mature competitor you can’t be affected by external factors. I’ve looked at our team and I’m like, ‘We play different when it’s 28-6 than we do when it’s nothing to nothing.’ There’s not supposed to be a scoreboard. You’re supposed to have enough killer instinct to keep playing at a high level and executing and doing your job. So it can’t be the scoreboard, it can’t be playing at home, it can’t be the fans. All those things should be positive things that enhance your chances of competition, affects the other team. Something that we’ve just got to continue to address and try to get the players to focus better and do a better job.

ON WHETHER LOSING TO OLE MISS HELPED THE TEAM’S FOCUS:
I can’t speak about that. I think our team is improving. I don’t think that, as a group of competitors, anybody here is satisfied when they don’t have success. I don’t think that it’s something that, even though it’s human nature that you don’t respond properly when things are going well, you have to have something bad happen to have people change and do things that they could’ve done way before something bad happened. I’m not saying that’s the case with our team. I know we have a lot of competitors on our team that are not satisfied with that performance. We have tried to get better. But my point of emphasis is where we are now and what do we need to do to get better. Those are the things I’ve talked about here today in terms of being able to focus and playing with more consistency. Don’t want to create momentum for the other team by not staying focused in the game and not doing what you need to do to play your best through sixty minutes of football.

ON WHAT MADE BAMA’S PASS RUSH EFFECTIVE VS A&M
I think they passed the ball a lot. They weren’t able to run it. We created a lot of passing situations, which lets us play the kind of defense and lets the players pin their ears back a little back and us to make calls that enhance pressure. We’re fortunate to have some pretty good guys to execute and do a pretty good job in that regard. I think when its second and five, it’s hard to rush the passer. When its second and 10, it’s a lot easier. When its third and eight, it’s a lot easier. We created a lot of those situations in the game and were able to affect the quarterback because of it.

ON WHERE THE TEAM IS IN TERMS OF FATIGUE AFTER SEVEN STRAIGHT GAMES:
We try to control the workload so that our players can get ready to play each and every week. We gave the players two days off a few weeks ago so that they could get some rest and recovery. It goes back to how bad you want to do what you want to do. Everybody controls their focus. If you can’t jump, we can’t fix it. But we can fix your ability to focus. That’s something you choose to do. You can stay focused in this meeting or you can daydream. You can do whatever you want. So that is something you can get people to do. So if you assume you’re tired and assume you can’t focus, then you’re probably right. But if you can stay locked in and focused on what you want to do, then it’s not a problem, because most of that stuff is right here in your head. It’s not anything wrong with you physically. So I think we’re getting better. I think this is an opportunity for us to play better. We certainly need to in certain areas of our team and we need to focus on improving those things. Last week, we wore shells on Monday to eliminate some of the hitting to try to get our team through that. I think it’s, ‘How bad do you want to do something?’

ON JAKE COKER RUNNING OVER DEFENDERS:
He’s a tough guy. Why? Do you want him to run out of bounds. I’m just telling you, because sometimes I wish he wouldn’t take the hits, but I kind of like to see the other team’s reaction when he does that. Does it bother you when Derrick Henry does it? No. It doesn’t bother me either. I kind of like it when he runs over them. I mean, it’s the personality of the player. Jake’s a tough, competitive guy. He’s a big guy. He’s getting better and better every week. I don’t want to take his aggressiveness away because we’re fearful that something bad is going to happen. I just don’t coach that way.

ON HOW THE ONE-TWO PUNCH AT RUNNING BACK IS WORKING OUT:
Well, it’s going well for Derrick Henry. He’s having a great year and certainly done a fantastic job. We would like to get more players involved so that we can sort of spread out some of the load. I think we’d like to get Kenyan Drake more involved. We have other guys that I think can play running back, as well. But these guys have got to understand that they’ve got to be able to go out there and execute and do the job properly. Do it in practice, prepare themselves well and be able to go execute it in the game. We need more people to do that and I’d like to see it happen at running back, as well.

ON THE MATURITY OF
TENNESSEE QB JOSHUA DOBBS:
Well, he had a good game against us last year. I mean, we played the whole game against him except the first three plays, so maybe it wasn’t his team, but we had to play against him all day. He’s gotten better. You can tell he’s got a great understanding of what the expectation is for him and what he needs to do on offense. I think he’s, it looks like he’s a good leader. I’ve seen the players responding positively to him. I don’t think there’s any question about the fact that the guy is really playing well. I think he’s had a great year.

ON EDDIE JACKSON’S IMPROVEMENT:
Eddie’s made a lot of plays at corner. He can read run-pass, he’s very instinctive. Some of that stuff, you can teach guys what to do, but that part of it you can’t necessarily get guys in terms of how fast they can react in terms of what they see. I’ve used the baseball analogy with you before. You can teach a guy how to swing the bat and you can teach him what the strike zone is but some guys hit .350 and some guys hit .200. You can’t really teach them what’s a ball and a strike from the time it leaves the pitcher’s hand and gets to home plate. Eddie’s a very instinctive guy so once he learned what to do, learned how to apply it, he reads and reacts to things very quickly. I think that’s what gives him the jump.

ON WHETHER MINKAH FITZPATRICK WILL PLAY CORNER OR SAFETY IN THE FUTURE:
Right now he’s a corner. But as we’ve done in the past with a lot of freshmen, we try to minimize the multiples. There’s not a lot of carryover between playing corner and playing star in terms of techniques, what you do, repetitions, assignments. So we’ve played so much nickel that only in the games where we’re not going to play a lot of nickel — like the Georgia game — does he get any reps at all at the corner. But we have no reason to think that he can’t be a very good corner in the future. But I do think that he’s going to have to have some time to practice it and develop there. But I also think he could play safety if he wanted to be a safety. But corners are, you know, a little more difficult to find. He’s certainly been a good one for
us so far.

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