NICK SABAN PRESS CONFERNCE – OLE MISS WEEK
Opening statement:

I think the focus for us needs to be better execution as a team. When we have issues, when we give up plays on defense, when we have negative plays on offense, it comes from the fact that the fundamental execution is not what it needs to be. That’s something that we really need to improve on. I think we’ve got to make sure that we’re spending enough time in practice to get the fundamental execution that we need. I think this helps everybody play better.

We’re going to continue to work with the quarterbacks that we have and rep the quarterbacks that we have and try to get them better. Jalen (Hurts) obviously played the most in the game. There’s things that he could do better. There’s some things that he did very well. The emphasis, no matter who’s playing, is let’s get the better things more consistent and let’s try to eliminate some of the other things through better knowledge and experience so that we can, again, go back to the same thing, better execution. But I think that is something that is important to the entire offensive team, that if we all do what we’re supposed to better, that’s going to take a lot of pressure off of whoever is playing quarterback. I think that’s the significant issue right now in terms of how we improve on offense

We don’t have any significant injuries. Cam Sims (shoulder) should be back. I think we could have some guys in black jerseys today, but I don’t think it’s going to be an issue in the game.

Ole Miss, we’re certainly looking forward to the challenge of starting the SEC season. It’s a great challenge for us early in the season against a very, very good team. Playing on the road has its own challenges. This is a team that’s been a really prolific offensive football team. They’ve got a really good quarterback (Chad Kelly), a really good tight end (Evan Engram). A lot of other really good players. Young players that are really good players. When we have struggled in the past, we’ve given up explosive plays, which is something that their offense is constantly trying to create. It’s going to be important for us to play well in the back end (and) control the line of scrimmage so they can’t run the ball effectively

Defensively, these guys are very aggressive, very quick. Quick and aggressive front. Do a lot of movement. Always have against us. It’s going to be a challenge me for our offensive line and our up front people. That’s where it’s going to start in terms of us getting better execution on the offensive side of it.

They’re very well coached. Hugh Freeze has done a fabulous job there. I think this guy is one of the best coaches in our league. He does a great job with the players that he has. The fastball pace that they use offensively is always challenging. We’ve played against it a lot more. Hopefully our players are more adapted to it and will play a lot better.

 

On revenge games being material for motivation:

It’s not something I usually use as a motivating factor. To say that it’s not a motivating factor, I’m not sure that I’m psychologist enough to say that I know the answer to that question. But I think what I would rather focus on with our players is not the emotion of the game. There will be plenty of emotion for the game. I really want to focus on what do (we) need to do to pay attention to the details and the things that are right in front of me. We keep going back to the fact that everything we mess up, it’s not really what the other team did, it’s more what we didn’t do. We need to get more focus on execution, the process of what we need to do to get it right. Emotion doesn’t last in the game. Character, want to, commitment to what you’re doing, playing for 60 minutes in the game, playing one play at a time regardless of what happened in the last game, is the mindset that you want and I hope that the players understand that’s what we will need this week.

 

On what ArDarius Stewart brings to the WR corps:

AtDarius is a really good competitor. Plays hard. Plays with a lot of toughness. He’s very explosive as a player. He has had some opportunities and made some big plays for us.

I think the focus has to be with everybody playing with consistency and not just explosive plays. Not just big, little. We made a 70-yard play here and then we don’t have consistency, (which) leads to too many third and long (and) leads to shooting ourselves in the foot. That’s what the leadership on offense needs to focus on with the players. I think ArDarius is part of that group.

 

On how much of the inconsistency running the ball is the defense’s stacking the box and how much is the OL’s not getting movement:

I think it’s a combination of both. It’s a combination of fundamental execution. I think it’s a combination of them having more up there than we can block, but that if we block them right, we should have four and five-yard runs if we get good movement, if we have the right hand placement, if we step the right way. Those are all the things that I’m talking about that we need to do better. Is it easier to run when you have a light box? Yes. But regardless of what the box is, if you do it correctly and execute it correctly, you have a much better chance of having success.

 

On the key to having success in rematch games:

We didn’t do so well in the rematch game last year against these guys. Probably the worst game we played around here in a long time. Turned the ball over five times. Gave up three explosive plays on defense on mental errors. These are the things the emphasis has to be on. You make those kind of plays, you’re going to struggle. I think that everybody’s got to focus on, ‘I’ve got to do my job and I’ve got to do it with a lot of effort and physical toughness and being aggressive, but I can’t get so emotional that I make bad decisions about what my responsibility is and what my job is.’ That’s something that we have to do a better job of as a team. If we’re going to have success in our league, whether in this game or in games to come, it’s going to be important that we develop that.

 

On keeping the players on an even-keel heading into this game:

We just emphasize this game and the importance of things you need to do in this game. I’m not saying it’s like any other game. It’s the most important game we play, because it’s the game that we’re playing this week against a very, very good team. It’s important every week that you have the right sense of urgency, the right mental intensity, the right immediacy about, ‘I’ve go to do this right now.’ These are all, do you call them emotional or do you call them mindsets that get you to perform well? I think creating a bunch of anxiety with players is not the best way to go when it comes to being able to perform well. I think we were pretty anxious in the game last year and it sure didn’t help us to play very well. Hopefully we won’t have anxiety, (but) we’ll have high achievement motivation and go over there with a sense of purpose and be able to stay focused on that purpose for 60 minutes in the game.

 

On how Jalen Hurts went through passing progressions and on his decision making:

Some was good and some were things that we will learn from. That’s the big thing that we need to stay focused on as coaches, that we can use every one of these opportunities that he has to increase his knowledge and experience and be more confident in what he needs to do to improve. That’s certainly what we want to do on the things that he did well. We want to build on those. We want to correct the things he needs a little better understanding of. We’ll just kind of keep building on that.

 

On Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly:

He’s an outstanding passer. He’s very accurate with the ball. He knows this offense extremely well. He has the ability to extend plays. He’s a really good competitor. And he’s sort of a playmaker type guy. The combination of those things make him very effective in terms of what they do. It’s going to be important that we do a good job pushing the pocket on him. Not letting him scramble, run around. But at the same time affecting him where he can’t be as good a passer as he’s capable of, and you do that with good pass coverage as well as good pass rush.

 

On evolving defensively to play against fastball offenses:

From the very basic beginning, I think the whole rhythm that a defensive player has to practice with in terms of pace of play is completely different. The ability to adapt and adjust (and) communication is vitally important, because nobody gets the call in the huddle. Everybody has to get the signal from somewhere. So just about everything that you do is different. But I think the biggest thing is that, probably five, six, seven years ago when we struggled with some of these things, we were twitched in between. We’d play six teams that got in the huddle and we’d play six fastball teams, and so what do you become? I also think that since we’re now a no-huddle team, too, and part of the reason we philosophically went to no-huddle was because if we’re going to have to play against this all the time, it makes it easier to practice what you’re going to play against if you do it as well. So all of these things have contributed to the players growing up now defensively in a routine that is a little more accommodating to have to play against hurry-up offenses. But they’re still going to try to go so fast that you can’t get lined up and the defensive players can’t get the signal. They’re going to try to wear you out, but you’ve got to be efficient and effective in pace of play.

 

On the challenges of going on the road with a young QB:

It is a challenge. It’s always a challenge to play on the road. We will do everything we can to help these guys with noise and all the things that make it more difficult to communicate on offense. I think it’s going to be about the entire offensive team being able to do this around the quarterback. It’s definitely something that we will practice this week and get ready for. I don’t think that it’s something we can’t overcome and do well, but it’s something we definitely have to work on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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