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Head Coach Nick Saban and select players - Tennessee week


Head Coach Nick Saban

Opening statement:

“There’s nothing really new about the last game other than the fact that I think the real key in the game was the way we won on the line of scrimmage, on both sides of the ball. We were able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and that was probably the difference in the game. I think the key for us is attention to detail, to get the little things right and corrected so that we can improve as a team and get some of the things corrected that we didn’t do exactly right. That’s going to be the key to us continuing to improve as a team. I liked the competitive spirit of our team, the readiness to play in that particular game. The most important thing is doing that with some kind of consistency. Consistency in performance is the key to success. We have to use every opportunity we can to improve so that we can do that.”

“We had some outstanding performances. Trent Richardson, obviously, was the SEC Player of the Week or offensive player of the week and had a fantastic game. Watching the film, the one run he made, the long one for a touchdown, there was a lot of guys who hustled and made a lot of blocks. They had us at the line of scrimmage, but he made a guy miss and it was a fantastic second effort on his part. AJ did a really good job in the game. Chance Warmack really played well up front. Defensively, Mark Barron and Nico Johnson did well. Special teams Dre Kirkpatrick and Vinnie Sunseri did well.”

“From an injury standpoint, we have a couple guys that probably won’t go full out today and are a little nicked up, nobody that we don’t expect to be able to practice tomorrow or throughout the week though. I told you after the game that Anthony Steen had a little concussion. Those things we test and when he gets back to normal, that’s when we will kind of let him go. We don’t think it’s that’s bad, but you never know how guys respond to those things.”

“I think that this game coming up is a game that’s really important from a tradition stand point to the University of Alabama. It’s important to a lot of people around here. Rivalry games are always games that you have to be ready for. I think we played this team two years ago here in a very similar circumstance and had to block two field goals to win, one being at the end of the game. Derek (Dooley) has done a really good job with this team. They have had some misfortune this year in terms of personnel, but they are really doing a good job, I think, with the players that they have in every phase of the game. Offensively they are very productive. They have a good passing offense, one of the best in our league. They have a good runner, who is the only runner that got over 100 yards against us for a while. They are creating more balance in their offense now that he is back. Defensively I think they are much improved from where they were a year ago. Their statistics kind of bear that out. They are a year older and they have some young guys playing, but those guys are really good players and they’ve done a really nice job on special teams. We have a lot of respect for this team and what they can do. We need to take care of our business so that we can take care of business.”

On the impact of the Heisman Trophy to the football program:

“I don’t think anybody was thinking about it. I don’t think anybody cares about it. I don’t think Trent [Richardson] cares about it. I think if you ask our players, and I don’t think about it either, it’s about ‘what do we have to do to help the team be successful? What do I need to do? What can I do?’ Our thoughts are completely different than your thoughts. Completely. So I don’t even know how to answer the question, to be honest with you. Trent is a great player. He’s one of the best players in the country. Whatever awards they give at the end of the season, he certainly should be considered for any and all of them that he qualifies for, but for right now, we’re thinking about what we need to do right now. We’re not even concerned about that stuff.”

On the progress Quarterback AJ McCarron has made after seven games:

“AJ’s played well for us. I think he’s improved in every game, and he’s done a really good job in managing the game. He did a great job of managing the game this week in terms of getting us in the right plays, getting to the line of scrimmage, showing good leadership. I think the players have confidence in him. We’re executing better as a group, and he’s certainly doing his part. We’re going to have to continue to be able to do that, but not turning the ball over, making good choices and decisions, having balance on offense, which is certainly something that is important to us being successful. He’s done a really good job.”

On how much the offense has progressed with AJ McCarron’s maturation:

“I think the offense is doing great. They’ve played better and better in each game. I think they’ve bailed us out on the road. Giving up big plays early on defense, and getting behind in games, and the key to those games is being able to control the ball and showing the maturity to come right back down the field and score. I think those things are critical to being successful. Some other time it might get turned around, but I don’t see our defense any more successful than our offense at this point. I think there are things that we need to improve on in special teams and there are certainly things that we can improve on offense and defense, but I think what makes a good team is you have strength and balance in both those areas, and I feel like our team has developed that way this year.”

On running back Trent Richardson’s 76-yard touchdown run:

“I really was sort of amazed at not only the ability to make the run, but also the tenacity and toughness that Trent played with the entire game, and he’ll be the first guy to talk about the offensive line, and probably all of the other yards that he gained. He gained some on his own, but they did a good job blocking those plays. They kind of had us on that play, and he made a great individual effort to make people miss, and that’s what great players do. You know they kind of make plays above and beyond. He certainly did that on that occasion.”

On if the defense needs a nickname:

“No, I don’t have any nicknames for them. I just want them to play better, not give up a 65-yard and a 59-yard pass in the beginning of the game, get off the field on third down. Eliminate the big plays, and continue to play the way we’re capable of playing and stay focused on what we need to do to improve as a team. I mean that is something that I guess people like you should be doing. I’ve got to give nicknames to stuff that we do during the game, so the other team doesn’t know what we’re doing. That’s about the extent of my imagination to come up with names.”

On if the personality of the defense if different than other defenses:

“I think there is always a combination when you have a good unit – offense, defense or anything. First of all, you got to have some togetherness. There’s got to be some chemistry. I think that we probably have that as a team, but certainly on the individual units on our team and on our defense. I think there’s also got to be a certain amount of physical toughness, sort of a competitive spirit, attitude, whatever, which I think is pretty good with this group. They’re all kind of responsible for making sure they do their job. You’re only kind of as strong as your weakest link, and I think that they have a lot of pride and everybody wants to go out there and try to do their job the best that they can. I think all the other players expect that as well, and they work hard. They’ve worked hard, and I think our team has worked hard.” 

On offensive guard Chance Warmack’s progress over the past seven games:

“Well Chance has played better and better and better each week and probably just had his best game. He’s a very physical player. I think that our offensive line has really sort of improved, and as they’ve improved, we’ve improved as an offensive unit. Chance is a big part of that. We’ve just got to keep those guys going in the right direction, and I think we can have success offensively based on our ability to control the line of scrimmage and protect the passer and not let the other team affect the quarterback.”

On if there are things AJ McCarron is asked to do now that he was not asked to earlier this season:

“Whatever we’re asking him to do, he has been able to take it, and I think [Offensive Coordinator] Jim [McElwain] has done a good job of how he’s fed what he is capable of doing and that’s sort of accumulated as the season goes on. He’s done a really good job of it, but you know, we’ve got quite a few experienced players around, which I think is also helpful. There is a pretty good personality in that group. There’s good leadership, lots of stability, and I think that has been helpful, but I also think AJ has helped with his maturity, his leadership and the confidence of the other players around him have gotten in his ability to have the poise to do the things that he has been able to effectively do on a pretty consistent basis.”

On how wide receiver Darius Hanks and other return men handled Mississippi’s rugby-style punts:

“Well we didn’t make a lot of positive yards. I think when you put two guys back there, it’s not what you gain, necessarily, in terms of on the plus side, but what did you not lose because we counted over 20 yards per kick in the rugby-style, hitting the ground and rolling in field position. Twenty-plus yards per kick with people’s inability to get the ball fielded, and at least what we did that, and the reason we put Hanks back there, is because he’s a baseball player and you guys know I sort of favor baseball players and their judgment of how to play shortstop and all that kind of stuff. Not that it’s any reflection here, but he would make good judgments and decisions about being able to play the hops and play the ball and all that kind of stuff, and he did that. We saved a lot of field position by being able to get the ball fielded, even though we only had 12 or 13 yards in positive returns. We even had some opportunities that we could have had more yardage, but we saved a lot, so I was pleased with that part of what we did in the game.”

On what can be done to minimize the risk of punt return errors:

“Well we signal on the back end. The returner tries to signal to the guy with the guys running down the field who have their back to the ball to get out of the way. I disagree with the rule change that you used to be able to make that signal and still advance the ball. Now if you make that signal, you can’t advance the ball. Because it can’t be verbal, it has to be some kind of a hand signal. I don’t really agree with that. I mean a fair catch is a fair catch. Any other signal is defensive guys, people covering the kick ought to go cover the kick.”

On the contributions defensive lineman Nick Gentry has made:

“Well Nick really gives us a real presence inside in pass rush. He’s very quick and explosive. For the 15 or 20 plays he plays in about every game, his production has been really, really good. I think he complements the other players that we have extremely well. The things that he does well, some of our other guys don’t do quite as well. Those kinds of difference are what help us to be able to put together 18 or 20 guys that play a lot and contribute a lot on defense in different situations in the game, and they complement each other well. He has done a really, really good job of giving us a presence inside in pass rush. Some people think he’s not big enough to do that, but his quickness and explosive power has been a real asset for us.”

#65 Chance Warmack, Offensive Lineman

On why the Mississippi game was his best of the season:

“We all said we needed to do well, and I just wanted to do well. Like we do in every game, every situation. It was just another game for me. I just always want to get better as a player and get better for my team.”

On how difficult it was when the coaches were shuffling players around on the offensive line:

“You know, we all got used to each other, whether it was Barrett (Jones) or me or (William) Vlachos or anybody else. Whether we swap in and out, we’re a cohesive unit as an offensive line, so it doesn’t matter who starts or who doesn’t.”

On whether the offensive line has come together of late:

“We’ve been mixing. I spoke with Barrett Jones earlier, and I feel like we’re coming together as a group. Ones and twos, so that’s good.”

On what it’s like having Barrett Jones playing outside of him:

“Barrett’s a really good person. Not just player, he’s a really good person. He always answers any questions I have to ask him. I can go up to (William) Vlachos as well, D.J. (Fluker), (Anthony) Steen, just everybody looks out for me and I just appreciate it. Barrett’s a good dude, an all-around good guy.”

On what challenges Tennessee presents:

“They’re a good team all-around to me. We’ve been watching film on them since yesterday; I got to see their defense. Good offense too. I think they’re a good team. We definitely have to do a lot of things to get ready for them. Throughout the week we’re going to prepare for them.”

On how long it took for him to realize just how important this rivalry is between Alabama and Tennessee:

“I mean you come in as a freshman, and they’re already telling you about the rivalries, so you already know what you have to do to get ready for Tennessee as a team. It’s been like this for a long time, and you just get used to it. I’m just looking forward to the matchup.”

On how the loss of Anthony Steen (concussion) could affect the continuity of the offensive line:

“The good thing about that is that everyone on the line is mentally and physically ready, regardless of who it is; whether it’s me, or Alfred McCullough, Steen, Barrett Jones. We’re all knowledgeable of each position so that if someone has an issue, we can work through it.”

On whether he feels they mix it up in practice enough that they will have continuity no matter what the combination of players on the line is:

“Definitely. I trust everybody, whether it be with the ones or the twos or the threes. Anybody can go in and play for us. I’m really confident in whoever goes in.”

On pulling into the hole in front of Trent Richardson on one of his touchdown runs and finding only a defensive back there:

“That’s what I live for man, that’s what I live for. It was just an exciting game. Whenever I get a chance to pull a lot, I try to get real revved up for it. I always enjoy blocking for my running backs. The offensive line loves doing that. Whatever I can help my team do, I’ll do.”

On what it’s like to block for Trent Richardson:

“Trent’s a good guy. He’s like a little kid in the huddle, always laughing and smiling. You can’t not block for a guy like that. He’s a really good guy, always telling us what we need to do or work on, a really good leader. Whatever questions I have for him or making an adjustment, he’s always willing to help.”

On whether he can feel when Trent Richardson hits the hole (opened by the line):

“I can feel it. I can feel him coming. You can feel 230 pounds coming up your back.”

On how it feels knowing how they block for Trent and he’s been getting a lot of hype and talk:

“It’s just crazy. We’re in the same class so we’re like family, you know? Family within family. I saw him come in and get recruited just like me. For him to get all these accomplishments makes me feel good as a person, not just as a player. I’m rooting for him and I hope he gets whatever he deserves.”

On whether he ever wonders how Trent Richardson can be such a powerful back when he’s so friendly in the huddle:

“The secret behind all of it is to have fun and enjoy the game, and that’s what he does. He doesn’t worry about the exterior things. He just wants to have a good time, and we’re all laughing then.”

#99 Josh Chapman, Defensive Lineman

On the personality of the defense:

“The guys kind of see that we have the chance to be a great team and great defense. It’s just that we have to get rid of some of the little things that we do wrong like giving up the big play, but we bounced back and guys kind of fed off that big play and not let it bother them. The guys responded to that big play well.”

On Nick Gentry getting more playing time and his feelings about it:

“I mean to me, Gentry and me go away back. He’s a great player and a great guy, a guy playing behind me and beside me. It’s fun being there with him, and he’s like the brains of the operation. He knows a lot of things people can do. He teaches a lot of the young guys. He also, when I come off the field, he tells me things he sees out there that I know I wouldn’t’ be able to see. He has those eyes as a coach and a player.”

On how personally the team takes it when the other team comes out and gets a big play:

“We take it personally but that’s also a big play. Let’s get rid of it, and respond to it. We kind of responded well.”

On how many shutouts this defense should have at this point:

“If you go back and eliminate the plays where we did things wrong, we should have shutouts all the way through, but it’s about going out and playing Alabama defense, and playing to our standards.”

On what it’s like on the sideline after the opposing team scores a touchdown or a field goal:

“To us, it kind of bites, it’s kind of bitter to us. You don’t want to give up anything. I mean that’s the kind of mindset that we have, and I like that. You gain a yard or 15 yards we’re going to feel the same way.”

On the goal line stand against Mississippi:

“Every snap we try to play to our standard, no matter whether it’s late in the game or early in the game, we’re just going to play Alabama football for 60 minutes.”

On whether he hopes they come out more focused than they did in 2009 against Tennessee:

“Yes. I mean Tennessee is a great rival. It means more, not just to us, but to the state and the people who played here at the University. I mean it’s a great rivalry and I love playing in this game.”

On whether the intensity is up a notch in rivalry games:

“It is. You know you aren’t just playing for yourself or your team. You’re playing for all the guys who have been at this University and in this program, for the entire state.”

On whether guys from the state of Alabama have a better understanding of the rivalry than the out of state guys:

“I mean they do, but the out-of-state guys sense the rivalry also. It means a lot to this University and the state.”

On Chance Warmack’s progress:

“Chance is a great player. The guy, when he came in as a freshman, I kind of took him in. The guy likes to learn and he likes to work. He’s a great player, and I always tell him the things he does wrong. I hate going against him. I don’t like giving the lineman props or anything because I feel like I always win, but the guy gets after me a lot. He’s out there fighting every day.”

On Tauren Poole, who ended Alabama’s streak of consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard rusher last year:

“I mean he’s a great running back. There are a lot of great runners over there, great offensive line. They’re a great team. Running backs are one of their strengths, and we just have to go out there and play our game.”

On whether he thinks this defense is better than the 2009 defense:

“Both defenses have been great. I’ve been part of both of them. We just have two different teams, and we’re just trying to be us.”

On whether this defense has a different personality from the 2009 defense:

“I mean, not personality, it’s just different people believe in different things. We’ve got different guys, just trying to go out there and be a great defense.”

#35 Nico Johnson, Linebacker

On the ’09 game against Tennessee:

“The last thing I remember about that game was being in my stance and thinking we could lose this game. That’s the last thing I remember. I don’t remember anything before that.  That’s pretty much about it. We blocked the field goal and we were fortunate to keep our season going undefeated.”

On the game against Ole Miss being as good as you’ve played:

“I don’t think so. We still had a lot of mistakes on both side of the ball. We are going to come to practice today and correct them and go from there. I don’t think we’ve played our best ball yet but we are shooting for it.”

On the game against Ole Miss being the best Nico has personally played:

“I had a lot of mistakes believe it or not. I was just flying around and having fun. That’s pretty much about it, just having fun.”

On it not being the best game even though the team had 14 tackles for a loss:

“It was just high intensity. We had a lot of intensity. Everybody was flying around and enjoying the atmosphere that was going on down there. Executing wise were weren’t that perfect. But as far as that, it was fun.”

On if the second half turned into a home game:

“I wouldn’t say a home game but we want to pretty much try to take their will second half. Like I said before we want to show everybody that we can play 60 minutes. That’s one thing we came out and preached all week that second half and fourth quarter we were going to finish strong.”

On leading the nation in just about every major defensive category and if it stings to give up big plays:

“It’s like a slap in the face because we work so hard to keep our opponents under 13 and try to get that goose egg. To give up a touchdown on a mental error - I could see if they earned the touchdown then yeah we could live with it but giving it up on a mental error is discouraging. It happened and it happened before earlier in the season but we have to roll with it, settle down and get after it.”

On how many shutouts the defense believes it should have at this point:

“I don’t think anybody should have scored on us, honestly. As hard as we practice and as much film as we put it we know our opponents inside out. Like I said, giving up a touchdown on a mental error is not acceptable here. It’s kind of discouraging.”

On what it’s like on the sidelines when a team gets a touchdown on a mental error:

“It’s not like you think it is, just trying to keep everybody calm and let everybody know there is a lot of football to be played and we go from there.”

On this year’s defense compared to ’09:

“I don’t think you can compare because that is two different style defenses. Last year (2009) you had Rolando McClain and Javier Arenas. You had all of those good players. I feel like this D understands the D more as a unit than compared to ’09 D. So I don’t think you can compare those two.”

On the unit’s personality:

“Staying humble pretty much - just staying humble and never getting complacent and that’s about it.”

On having a well-coached defense and what you are supposed to do when Trent makes a move like he did at Ole Miss:

“Yeah pretty much. That move he made he pretty much does that every day in practice so it’s nothing new to us. We say all the time that somebody else got victimized. It’s not really that big of a deal.”

#30 Dont’a Hightower, Linebacker

On dealing with Chance Warmack in practice in terms of run blocking and being a power guy inside:

“Whenever we line up and do good-on-good during team run we try to look at the formation and see what’s going on but we always have to keep an eye on Chance. Chance is that one guy that you have to absolutely go full speed with. It doesn’t matter if he has a broken hand or broken leg he’s going to come hit you. Sometimes I feel kind of sorry for opposing team linebackers because they might not have seen it on film or they might have looked over it but I’m definitely sure some of those Ole Miss linebackers kind of have seen the effect of Chance when he comes through that hole.”

On this year’s defense compared to the ’09 defense:

“We try not to compare ourselves to anybody or overlook anything like that, but I feel like we have the same virtues as we did in ’09 – a lot of veterans and a lot of leadership on the defense. I feel like we are set right in that roll.”

On Tennessee being such a big rivalry that you have the same approach whether UT comes in 0-3 in the SEC or 3-0:

“Yes definitely because of this rivalry. The last couple of years we played those guys the first and second halves have come down to a big play. You can never overlook Tennessee or any SEC team regardless of their record because dealing with an SEC team you could lose any game throughout the year. Especially playing these guys since it’s a big time rivalry; those guys are going to come on with a lot of juice, so we’ve got to go out there and execute our game plan.”


On people back home in Tennessee giving Dont’a a hard time for playing Tennessee:
“A lot of my friends back home are Florida or Tennessee fans so I kind of get it throughout the year. They say they root for me but whenever I play Florida or Tennessee they have to switch sides on me. There hasn’t been too much trash talk from those guys back home because I feel like they respect me, respect the team and respect what we are doing right now.”

On imagining a year when Alabama and Tennessee didn’t play each other because of conference realignment:

“I don’t think that we would like that as a team or that those guys would either. Especially from a fan’s standpoint, I don’t think they’d like that either. This game brings up a lot. It’s a really good rivalry – maybe even better than the Iron Bowl. A lot of people never ask what your Iron Bowl record is but they always ask what your record is against Tennessee. This rivalry is a real big rivalry and definitely one of my favorites since I get to play against my home state. Hopefully we will come out this week, play well and get a W.”

On the defense having great statistics and if the offense gets enough credit for having sustaining drives and not turning the ball over to give the defense a chance to rest:

“I think some people kind of overlook our offense because our defense is playing extremely well right now but there is no part of me that’s ever doubted the offense at all. Those guys are always helping us out and giving us breathers, having 86-yard drives or getting three or four first downs before we punt. Our offense is playing really well and maybe the best it has played in a couple years.”

On Nico dismissing Trent’s run saying they see it all the time in practice and if Dont’a agrees:

“I said the same thing on camera. They asked if I was impressed with his run and I said no not really but I was joking of course. We kind of see it every day. The funny thing about that with Nico is that he is probably the one that always sees the big runs because Trent usually goes to his side with it and so he is the one always chasing down Trent. I am definitely glad to say that Trent is on our team because I don’t know how you would have a game plan for a guy like that and then have a game plan for guys like Eddie Lacy and Jalston Fowler too. I’m glad he is on the team.”

On AJ’s development when going good on good:

“You can definitely tell that he learned a couple things from Greg (McElroy). He is a great quarterback and he is definitely growing up on us. He has shown a lot of maturity taking hold of the huddle. I feel like he is actually one of the leaders that has had to step it up on offense because they were kind of lacking on leadership on offense. Ever since that third or fourth game I feel like he has kind of stepped up a lot and just developed as a quarterback that we know he can be.”



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