NICK SABAN’S COMMENTS // Nick Saban addressed the media in his weekly press

The players really played hard and competed well in this last game. The effort was really good. The toughness, the competitive spirit that we had in the game to overcome adversity, all things that I was very, very encouraged by and pleased with and proud of. The execution play-in and play-out fundamentally was not what we want it to be, not what we need it to be. Certainly, (those things) lead to a lack of consistency, whether you’re playing offense, defense or special teams. The fact of the matter is, we didn’t make as many errors as they made in the game, which was probably the difference in the game, whether they were special teams or whatever you might want to call it.

So I think the major goal for us it is, focus on the importance of improvement between the first and second game, which is always something that I think every team has a great opportunity to maybe improve as much as any time all year long during that time.

Some injury update, Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis will be out for the year. Both of them have season-ending surgeries coming up. Rashaan Evans and Anfernee Jennings have what I would call significant injuries that won’t be long term. We would just list them as questionable. So they will be day-to-day, but uncertain as to when they will be able to come back and play. We’re hopeful that that will be sooner than later.

We’re looking forward to coming back and playing at home. It’s a great opportunity for our players. They love playing in Bryant Denny Stadium. Our fans are always very supportive. The passion, energy and enthusiasm is always something that’s special in college football.

On another note, Mike Locksley, wide receivers coach and assistant offensive coordinator, family tragedy, his son (Meiko Locksley) was killed and I just want everybody to understand that our thoughts and prayers go out to Mike, (his wife) and the entire Locksley family over this tragedy. We’re going to do everything we can to support Mike and his family during this time of tragedy.

Fresno State, Jeff Tedford is one of the best coaches, I think, offensively, in the country. Was the head coach at Cal for many, many years. Won lots of games. Went to lots of bowl games. Fresno returns lots of starters — nine on offense, six on defense, a couple of specialists. Much, much improved team. They played really, really well and looked good in their opening game when they scored 66 points and shut the other team out. The quarterback is back. They’ve got a couple of good receivers. They’ve got good players on defense. This is going to be a different kind of challenge for us and something that our players have to respond to, because this is a much, much improved team.

On the injuries at OLB providing opportunities for young players like Dylan Moses: When we lose two guys, the next two guys have to step up. It creates opportunities for others the program. We’re going to have to take some of the younger players that we have and develop them more quickly. We lost these players. They’re both good players. They both made significant improvement. They both played well in the game, but this is an opportunity for somebody else to step up and be able to play at a high level as well.

On Jalen Hurts’ showing improvement in not bailing out of the pocket early: I think there were some times where he did a good job and stepped up and made some really good throws. There were other times where he instinctively maybe took off a little sooner than we would like. We’re going to review those things with him on the film. In fact, we already have. Hopefully, we’ll just get him to trust and believe in doing the things that he needs to do technically to execute the plays. Although! I thought his overall performance for the first game was pretty good. I thought some of the issues in the passing game were not quarterback-related totally. We had protection issues that were mental errors, not necessarily physical errors, which creates negative plays. When I’m talking about overall execution, that’s one of the areas that I would be speaking of.

On the play of OTs Matt Womack and Jonah Williams:

I think both guys did some very good things. I think overall our entire offensive line needs to be a little more physical. We need to finish blocks a little better. There’s a lot of little things that we can do better that we want to emphasize with all the players. So that is it going to be the emphasis. But it’s not just the offensive line. It’s every position on our team.

On the possibility that redshirt freshman Ben Davis will contribute at OLB: Well, we’ll see. He’s one of these guys as a young player who has the opportunity to show what he can do. This is a relatively new position for him. We’re going to have a lot of competition at that position. We’ll sort of see who develops and who can help us the most.

On Saban’s film evaluation of how Jalen Hurts performed: Look, it was the first game. I’m not here to protect the player. I think he would tell you there’s things that he could do better. I also think there were good plays that he made that we need to build on. I do think that there are some definitely some things that we could do better as coaches to help the players and that the players could do better to technically execute what they need to do so that we could make explosive plays. We had several opportunities to make explosive plays, and whether there was breakdown in protection or aborting the play too quickly, we weren’t able to make those plays. When you do that, you leave a lot of money on the table. I don’t think, by field position and the opportunities that we had in this game, we could ever walk away saying we were satisfied with the points that we scored in this game. The guy who distributes the ball is the quarterback, so we’re all responsible for that. We just need to do a better job of executing overall as an offensive team. I’ve said this many times before, if the guys around you are not doing a good job, quarterback is a tough position to play. We all need to improve and that’s what our focus is going to be on this week.

On the performance of placekicker Andy Pappanastos: We don’t ever expect anybody to miss a field goal, but we know Andy’s accuracy inside of 40 yards is very very good. He made all of those. A couple of longer ones he didn’t make. We think he’s capable of being even more consistent than maybe what he was in that particular game. We don’t want to miss any. But we’re also going to be very supportive and confident that if he hits the ball well, he can make all those field goals.

On the progress of Levi Wallace at left corner: There’s been competition at that position between those two guys, he and Trevon (Diggs), for quite sometime. I think Levi, at this point, because he’s been in system and he’s been in the program a long time, understands the system, understands and can make adaptations. I think he was a little more comfortable in the game, being a big game, the first game, all that. I think Trevon was a little nervous, a little anxious, (and) made a couple of mistakes early. But I think it’s important that both of those guys can play well for us, and that’s going to be our goal. But I thought that Levi did a really good job in the game.

On how Damien Harris played vs FSU: Damien played really well in the game, not only as a running back, not only when he had the ball, but he played really well without the ball and he played really well on special teams. Made a big play on special teams in blocking the punt. But was effective in other things he did on special teams as well. I was very encouraged and pleased with what he was able to do. When he’s been healthy, he’s been a very good player for us. I think it’s important for us to get other players at that position to play at that level as well. That’s certainly going to be our goal. Josh Jacobs may start practicing this week. Still can’t tell you whether he will be able to play in this game.

On if coaches prepare in fall camp for a rash of injuries: I think you always do that as a coach. I also think that you have to be careful that you’re not robbing Peter to pay Paul when you start moving guys around. When you’ve got a tremendous amount of reps invested at one position, then you move him to another position and you don’t have the same reps at that position, now you’ve created maybe two issues for yourself. I do think that there are guys on the team that do have position diversity that could move and play other positions, but I think we didn’t just lose outside backers, we lost an inside backer, too. Mack (Wilson) could play outside backer. (Keith) Holcombe could play outside linebacker. But if we move them now, we’ve created another issue at another position. We have some young players we think (could contribute). Obviously they don’t have the experience. But we’ve played young players here before. We won a national championship with Minkah (Fitzpatrick) and Ronnie Harrison playing when they were freshmen. We feel like some of these guys can make a contribution and we need to develop confidence so that they have a good understanding of what’s expected of them when the game comes.




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