Nick Saban had his regular Monday news conference today, and here are some of the highlights:
–Opening comments: “After looking at the game, I don’t really have any different feelings about it. I thought we competed very well. We got off to a really fast start, which was important offensively; first couple of drives, blocking a field goal, big momentum swings in the game. I think at this time of the year though, when we didn’t do things as well as we would like, it came back to a lot of the fundamentals that are pretty basic to being able to execute at your position. I don’t think things like that can go unnoticed at this time of the year.
“Guys have to develop good practice habits in terms of what they do and make sure they are still focusing on the process of what they need to do to play well. We had some guys that had some really good performances offensively. Chance Warmack, who is SEC Player of the Week, Michael Williams and T.J. Yeldon had very good games defensively. Denzel Devall and C.J. Mosley, and special teams John Fulton, Christion Jones, Cyrus Jones and Cody Mandell all did a really good job in the game. From an injury standpoint, we have a couple guys like always that will be a little slow today. AJ (McCarron) and Amari Cooper, probably, but we look for them to progress pretty rapidly through the week and be ok probably even tomorrow.”
–On LSU: “This is a great team and a great program we are playing. I think the most important thing for us to do is focus on preparing to play our best football. It’s always what’s important when you play good teams. It’s to do a good job in preparation and have a good understanding of what you want to do. When you are playing on the road, it takes a special focus to be able to execute and do the things and stay tuned to what you have to do to be successful. These guys have obviously been pretty successful at home.
“They’ve got the longest running streak in the country. Les Miles, to me, has done as good a job as anybody in our league ever has in terms of what he’s been able to accomplish and the consistency they’ve accomplished as a team through the years in his eight years at LSU. This year’s team has great running backs, and they are still able to run the ball very effectively. Winning on the line of scrimmage in this game, both sides of the ball, is one of the most important factors in the game. They are a ball hocking, big turnover type of defense that creates a lot of negative plays for you. They still have really good explosive players on offense to make big plays down the field, so if you are trying to load up to stop the run, you can create problems for yourself.”
–On Kenny Bell’s ability to stretch the field: “Kenny has great speed, and we certainly like to use him in that capacity. He’s got a history of being able to do things like that, and I think for us to be able to do things to create explosive plays with the players that we have is critical to being successful and creating a kind of balance on offense. Having the threat to be able to do that is helpful to the other parts of your offensive team. Kenny made a great play in the past game. AJ (McCarron) made a great throw and beat a really great player on that particular play. Hopefully we will be able to continue to do some things like that with all of the explosive players that we have. Kenny’s been a guy that can get on top and has finished some of those plays for us. We need to continue to do that to be successful.”
–On the Tide kickers: “I think both of those guys have improved. They’ve gotten better each year. Cade (Foster) is a lot more confident and has confidence in the technical aspect of what he needs to do to be successful. He’s had more consistency in his approach to being able to do that. Jeremy (Shelley) has always been pretty accurate and continues to be that way. He has good maturity and good leadership. Cody Mandell had a really good game in the last game. He’s more consistent than he has been, but that’s still what we are always working with, to try to get that consistency out of our punting.”
–On whether game manager is a negative connotation for a quarterback: “To me, you can’t be a good quarterback unless you are a good game manager. You have the ball in your hand every time, and you are making some kind of choice and decision what to do with it. Whether you hand it off, what play you hand it off on or where you throw it in the passing game. You have to process a lot of information quickly and make quick decisions. I don’t think it’s fair to AJ (McCarron) because I’ve said he’s a really good game manager for us that it’s like, that means he doesn’t do anything. He does everything. I don’t think you can be a good quarterback unless you are a really good game manager. That’s the ultimate compliment to me. You have to have the ability to make plays, but we’ve certainly been able to make a few with our quarterback this year, and I think it’s going to be important that we continue to be able to do that as well.”
On the familiarity of playing LSU for the third time in a one-year time span: “I think every year is a different year. They have a little different team, little different players – the way they’re going about what they do. They are very effective in what they do, but I think anytime you play somebody in your division or in your conference and you play them every year you sort of develop a history of (the things that they like to do), and I’m sure they do as well. You feel like you can do a little better job in preparation, because you have that knowledge and experience, going in to what you have to do. Saying all that to say this, just about every time these guys have played us, they do something a little different. So, you also have to be prepared to adjust in the game as well.”
–On the improvement in the touchdown to field goal ratio this year from last year: “You obviously want to score a touchdown every time you get the ball in the red zone. I think red zone efficiency is very, very important to being successful – scoring touchdowns in the red area is very, very important. It’s our goal defensively to be 60 percent effective in the red zone. It’s our goal offensively to be 90 percent effective in the red zone. We have made improvement, but it’s pretty obvious that when you score touchdowns it’s worth twice as much as a field goal, so that’s always the goal every time you get there. We have made some improvement and we want to continue to be able to improve in that regard as well.”
–On Eddie Lacy: “Eddie has been a really good player for us. We have always had two backs; it’s sort of a philosophical thing that we like to have two backs. I think durability is such a critical factor in running backs that if you play one guy all the time it enhances his chances of not being able to continue to play at the same level. It’s always been our goal to play two guys – not always equally, but fairly equally to where both guys have a better chance to sustain the season at a high level and are productive throughout.”
–On handling preparations for a game of this magnitude and what he learned from last year: “If there was anything that I would say about last year’s game it is I think there is such a thing as being too ramped-up for a game. Everybody has a place and a recipe and a formula for how they play their best. That is obviously the goal for every week that you play. Now, when you play in games like this everyone would say that it is really critical that you play your best in a game like this. The formula and the recipe for that doesn’t really change. Even though you would like to change it and put some more sugar in the cake to make it taste better, it usually makes it taste worse.”
On Denzel Devall: “Denzel Devall has been a guy that we have played a little more, and now that he has a little more confidence, knowledge, experience or whatever you want to call it in what to do, we played him some in nickel situations and he does have some pass rush ability. He helped us in the last game and he was active in the last game. We want to continue to use him in a role that he is comfortable with.”
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