TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Nick Saban had his regular news conference Monday, and here are the highlights:
–Opening statement: “We aren’t going to spend a lot of time on the last game. I made comments after the game. The players actually competed well in the game. They played hard, had a good competitive spirit and we got to play a lot of players which are all positive things. Obviously there are some things that we could do better and things that we need to learn from to continue to improve.
“Players of the week were Anthony Steen, Chance Warmack and Michael Williams on offense, Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley on defense and on special teams Brent Calloway and Landon Collins. John Fulton is going to be able to practice some today. We have a couple of guys out there that may not be full speed today but we expect everybody to be ready to practice and be good by tomorrow.
“I want to make everybody understand that we are not in any conversations about anything other than the game we are playing. Unless we win the next game, we don’t have another game. We are trying to work our way into a conversation by how we play. We are not trying to hold a position. We are trying to create one by what we do and how we play. Everybody in this organization needs to understand that we are dismissing all talk about anything except playing Auburn. The Iron Bowl is a big deal. It’s a legendary game that people remember for a long, long time and still talk about games that happened in the past that had huge impacts and effects on the future of what happened. They are traditionally very tough games. It’s important that we play our best game.
“I also think that Auburn is playing their best football of the year. They can run the ball effectively. They have two really good runners. The new quarterback, Jonathan Wallace, started the last three games and has been very effective as a runner and a passer. They’ve got some good skilled guys outside. They have a talented front seven on defense who has some pass rushers. They play very well, probably one of the best teams we’ve played all year when it comes to special teams. We have a lot of challenges and a lot of things we need to do that we need to prepare well for this game, practice well for this game”
–On the wide receiver position: “It has been difficult at times because we lost a couple guys at the position. We are playing a couple of freshman; some of them playing very well, sometimes not as well as we like. They’ve been productive at times and we are satisfied and pleased with the progress that they’ve made but we want to continue to improve. We also like to get the guys that have a little more experience healthy enough that they can go out there and prepare for the game properly, practice like we need to practice so we get a little more continuity in what we are trying to do. Kevin Norwood is fine, so we will get him back this week. That was the most recent guy with an injury problem. Hopefully we will be a little better this week.”
–On the linebackers this year: “C.J. Mosley has obviously been the most productive guy at that position for us. We end up playing a lot of nickel and dime based on the kind of offense we’ve had to play against. He’s very productive in all those things. Trey DePriest and Nico Johnson have done a good job. They haven’t gotten as many opportunities because, again, it’s a little bit the style of offenses that we’ve had to play against. They will both get an opportunity to play this week.”
–On if there is a rotation between Cyrus and Christion Jones on special teams: “No there’s not a rotation at all. Christion Jones is going to be the punt return guy. I wanted to try to get Cyrus more experience at doing it. We didn’t take Christion out because he misplayed a ball.”
–On if Saban uses the results of the top-two teams losing this past weekend as a motivating factor for his team to prove that anything can happen: “I think what we try to stress to our players is to learn from your previous experience. What I see happening is, people get emotionally stressed out relative to their circumstances, which is where they are ranked, who they are playing and all of the sudden you get tentative and don’t play aggressively. You don’t prepare the same way, you are worried emotionally, which affects your ability to focus and you don’t play as well. None of these things are bad things — there is nobody taking anybody out and shooting them behind the barn, because we have an opportunity to play in this game. We have an opportunity to play in this game and maybe another game and that’s a good thing — that’s something that everybody worked hard to create.”
–On the decreased number of forced turnovers: “If I knew the explanation and could fix it, we would. We emphasize turnovers, we emphasized turnovers the same way in the first half of the season, which I used to get asked questions, ‘What are you doing different this year that you didn’t do last year when you didn’t get turnovers?’ We did the same things then that we do now and we got turnovers. We are doing the same things now that we did in the first part of the season and we are not getting turnovers.”
–On if Saban enjoys this week: “I enjoy coaching. I enjoy the challenges. I enjoy working with the players trying to prepare them. I look forward to the opportunity that we have created for ourselves. It’s what great competitors or people that like to compete really enjoy doing. That’s what you work for — to have an opportunity to win a division, win a big rivalry game, whatever the emphasis might be — that’s what we work for, that is what’s fun.”
–On AJ McCarron’s rebound after two sub-par SEC games: “I think that we have not thrown the ball as well in the last couple of games — I’m not talking about AJ, I’m talking about as a team. I think some of it is contributed to the fact that we haven’t had a lot of continuity at wide receiver, we have guys playing different positions. Amari Cooper was out at the LSU game and Kevin Norwood was out the last game. We just have had a lot of different circumstances going on and I think it’s important for guys to be able to go out and work together and sort of have an anticipation and expectation when you have to make quick decisions, process information quickly, people have to be where you expect them to be.”
–On T.J. Yeldon’s season so far: “T.J. has played extremely well for us at times. I think he has been very mature about the role that he has – the way he has managed it and handled it as a young player. He has done a really good job for our team, for the most part. Again, we talked about ball security, that’s for every player on offense and I think there’s fundamental things we can try to do to improve that.”
We have some video from the news conference as well. These are highlights, too, not including everything Saban spoke about.