Here’s the full transcript of Nick Saban’s time with the media on Saturday after Alabama’s first spring scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Quarterback Jalen Hurts threw four touchdowns, Calvin Ridley caught eight passes and Saban discussed where the defense stands midway through spring.
“I thought there were a lot of good things out there today for the first scrimmage. The number one goal for any team, any new team as you rebuild a team is for that team to take advantage of trying to create an identity for themselves and have a clear vision of who we want to be and how we want to play. We always talk about being a team that nobody wants to play. I think that comes from guys playing with relentless competitive spirit, trusting in the process of how we do things and what we do so you can play together as a team and be fast and physical in what you do and take care of the ball and finish plays. The guys that run with the ball usually end up having a better chance to make plays than guys that don’t, whether it’s on offense or defense.
“I thought the transition on offense was pretty smooth on offense with the things we were doing, the carryover of things we’ve done from the past as well as the new things that we did. I thought we were much more effective passing the football today. A lot of big plays, a lot of explosive plays throwing the ball, especially play action passes. I think all the quarterbacks did a fairly good job and they all got a good opportunity. So defensively, I thought there was a lot of good hitting, a lot of good tackling. I think a lot of the young players made a lot of mental errors, but that’s OK. I think that’s why we put them out there. They’ll learn from the mistakes that they made and we’re going to have an opportunity to get some of those guys better. It’s pretty obvious to me that we don’t have enough respect for the deep part of the field in the back end, especially past the first team because we gave up quite a few explosive plays with the second and third secondary when they were in there. But all in all, I was really pleased with for the first scrimmage, the way things went. We have a lot of things to work on and a long way to go, but I like the attitude of the players in terms of how they went about what they were doing. There are a lot of things we need to do. I would say if there’s one thing we need to improve on, it’s just consistency in performance. A lot of good things, but a lot of things that we need to eliminate and get better at.
How did Jalen do? You had a checklist you wanted to see last week.
“He did a good job. He completed over 50 percent of his passes. I think he had four touchdown passes. I thought he did a really good job. I don’t think he threw any interceptions today, so that was good. He has a good understanding of what we’re doing and did a much better job in the pocket and did a really good job with play action passes.”
What did you see from the running game?
“I think that’s something we definitely need to continue to work on. I don’t think we got enough movement up front. Look, we’re playing against ourselves. So if we really ran the ball good, we’d would be saying ‘Look over at the defense.’ If we gave up too many big plays, we’d be saying ‘What’s wrong with the defense?’ We didn’t give up too many big plays. It was mostly some of the younger players that did it. I think we have to do a better job up front of getting movement on people, finishing plays and finishing runs.”
Where did Minkah Fitzpatrick play?
“He played at safety today. He played at corner for the first six or seven practices, we moved him to safety the last couple of practices and he played at safety today. Trevon Diggs played left corner and Anthony played right corner.”
You said you didn’t have respect for the deep part of the field. What went wrong in the secondary today?
“Well, We have a lot of young players in the secondary that are freshmen playing and they don’t know what they’re doing. That’s what went wrong. It didn’t go wrong, they just don’t know any better. Did you know everything now that you know now when you were a freshman? First semester in college? I’m assuming you went to college, right? So you learned, right? We’re encouraged by what these guys are doing and we just need to keep working with them and it’s their first time out there, a lot of anxiety, not certain about what they’re doing and not playing with a lot of confidence. That’s really to be expected. It gives us all a starting point of where they need to go and what they need to do and I’m sure they’ll learn a lot from it. We’re excited about having the opportunity to work with them.”
I was going to ask about freshmen too, but I think I won’t. How did the running backs perform today? Damien, probably the first one?
“We don’t really have a first one. We don’t have a depth chart. We have what we call a rep chart, which means that we put people in positions and rep them in practice that way. Bo did not scrimmage today. BJ Emmons did not scrimmage today. Damien Harris sprained his foot but did a good job in the scrimmage all day and then we held him out. I don’t know what the prognosis on that will be. I don’t think it’s anything real serious but it may keep him out for a few days. Najee played a lot. Brian Robinson played a lot. Which is good for them. We’re trying Chadarius Townsend at receiver. Josh Jacobs had a little thigh bruise, we held him out but probably could have scrimmaged today. All those guys are guys that can make a contribution to our team and we’re looking for ways that we can use them.”
You mentioned Trevon Diggs at corner. How’s he looking?
“We’re pleased with the progress that he’s made. He’s much more natural playing at corner than when we tried to play him at safety. That’s where he played in high school. Long, he has good toughness. He’s a good tackler. Plays the ball well in the deep part of the field and did a good job of playing man-to-man. I don’t know what we’re going to do with him the rest of the spring. We’ll probably decide something after the end of this (inaudible) scrimmage.”
Defensive front seven. What did you see? What did you like?
“I think we stopped the run OK. I think the big thing we have to work on is pass rush, pass rush lanes, quarterback scrambling, quarterback running. Everybody is worried about getting the sack. They need to worry about forcing the quarterback, pushing the pocket in the middle so he can’t step up and throw the ball, can’t extend plays which means that coverage breaks down in the back and we make big plays. I would say that against the run we were OK, but past that I don’t have a great feel for it without watching the film.”
What did you see from the receiving corps today and Robert Foster?
“Robert did a much better job today. He was very engaged out there today. Made some catches. Calvin Ridley had a big day. I think he has like eight catches or something. Robert had three catches. TJ Simmons had seven catches. The backs had quite a few catches. I was pleased with the receivers. I think that’s one of the areas of concern where we need to make considerable improvement when I talk about consistency in performance. But most certainly, Calvin Ridley had a big day and Robert Foster was good.”
The right side of your offensive line, how does that look?
“Lester Cotton is playing right guard. He probably could play right tackle if we needed him to. Womack is playing right tackle and he’s making progress and doing a good job. Do we need to make improvements at the offensive line? I think probably at all positions, there’s no position on our team where we don’t need improvement. But those guys have been a pretty solid group so far, but again, if I was going to be specific, I think pass protection is something that we really need to improve on, being more physical in the running game and getting more movement up front are the things that I would say not just today but all spring long that we really want to emphasize with those players.”
This is the last time we’ll talk to you before the NCAA votes on its rule about summer camps. Could you tell us what your thoughts are?
“Basically, what I’m learning — of course I’m not the smartest guy in the world, nor do I spend a lot of time worrying about what other people do — I guess people don’t really have camps any more. We’re one of the few people that have an old-fashioned camp where we get 600 guys, you know, what are high school players at two different camps, two different occasions. So that’s 1,200 guys. We may have 50 guys in each camp that are really prospects. The rest of the 550 are just high school players who really want to get better, try to go and help their team, improve themselves and work hard. That’s the kind of camps that we have.
“I think when you pass rules that are basically, I guess for recruiting purposes, I guess the reason that a high school coach is not supposed to work a camp is that me might bring one of his players, or he might bring 20 of his players. All 20 of them may not be prospects, maybe none of them are prospects, maybe one of them is a prospect. Maybe none of them is a prospect. But, so, obviously that’s not going to happen.
“It’s a great experience for the young guys to be able to come to a camp and experience a place like the University of Alabama or any SEC school for that matter. My other concern is that the kids are still going to come to camp, the prospects, so who’s going to bring them now? If the high school coach doesn’t bring them, some third-party guy is going to bring them, and that’s what we’re really trying to eliminate.
“I don’t understand the spirit of the rule. I don’t really know why we’re doing it. I really don’t. I think sometimes we pass rules and don’t really understand the consequences, and there’s a lot of unintended consequences, and you think you’re solving one problem, but really in reality you’re going to create 10 more. I think it’s bad for football, I think it’s bad for high school coaches.
“We had a high school coach here the other day, I’m not going to mention any names, and his son’s a prospect and he used to be a college coach. So now he can never go work at a college, can never work a camp, we can’t come speak at clinics. We just had over a thousand coaches here at a clinic and had a great camp, which is the way that I feel we serve the high school coaches and have a chance to give back to them for all that they do in terms of the hard work that they do in developing players, helping us be able to evaluate players, giving us information about their players. I guess we can’t do anything. I really, I don’t get it. I don’t understand it.
“I guess we’ll have to try to staff our camps another way. We also have a little kids camp here, certainly not a recruiting camp. There’s not even any high school players in it, and we’re not even certain that we can have high school coaches work that camp. That might be under the same scrutiny that if they have any relationship with a prospect then they can’t work our camp. That’s the way I understand it, that’s the way our compliance understands it. I guess we’ll figure it out when the rule passes or whatever.
“I guess I’m just too old-fashioned. If people didn’t help me when I was coming up as a coach and visit with me, and help me grow and learn as a coach, I would never be in the position that I’m in, or have the success that we’ve been able to have, even when it was just being a position coach. So I guess it’s my respect for the profession and the paranoia that everybody has that somebody’s doing something because a high school coach comes and works your camp is pretty ridiculous, but it is what it is.
“Is that how we’re ending this?”
“Nice talking to you.”