Saban: “Well, we had a good practice today. It wasn’t quite so hot out there today and we didn’t get chased back and forth inside. We set the record for going in and out yesterday. I don’t think we’ve ever moved in and out as much as we did yesterday, which I’m sure you know the weatherman got chewed out for that, whoever that is around here. We didn’t have that issue today and it went really well. As I said this morning, the focus is on improvement. Especially with younger players. We need to have more players play. We have opportunities created by injuries on special teams. We have opportunities created at various positions on defense. We have to develop more depth on our team. That’s been the really focus for us. Right now, there’s nothing really new on injuries. We’re sort of proud to be involved with this First and Goal Awareness game, which is all about curing kids’ cancer, which we certainly are happy to be a part of, institutionally and as a program. They’ve raised over $11 million since 2005 for pediatric cancer, and that’s something that I think is very important for our young people. We’re excited to be back home, playing at Bryant-Denny Stadium. It seems like it’s been a long time. I can’t hardly remember the last game that we played here. It’ll be great. I’m looking forward to it. I’m hopeful that we have a great crowd that really shows their appreciation for our team and their efforts and how hard they played in the last game and support them in this particular game.”
We saw several freshman WRs Saturday. What did you think of them and the receivers as a whole?
Saban: “I think we have to get more guys involved in the passing game. I think guys have capabilities, and the only way they’re going to develop confidence is if they have a few more opportunities. We talked before about the technical aspects of the passing game, whether it’s protection, whether it’s presence in the pocket, route running, timing, all these things need to improve. But I think those guys have a tremendous amount of potential. I think if we’re going to have an explosive offense we’re going to have to have other receivers develop, and I certainly like the progress that those guys have made and the maturity that they’ve shown. But I also think they’re a little more capable of being a little more consistent. But I think it would help them a lot if they got a few balls and got some confidence in what they’re doing as well.”
With injuries at LB, how will that affect your ability to play base?
Saban: “We’ll still play base. We’ve got other guys that we’re working at those positions. We won’t have a choice but to play base in some of the games that we have down the road. We have to use this time to develop the players that we have. I think Anfernee Jennings and Rashaan will both be out for this game for sure. Hopefully we get them back soon after but that’s going to be a day-to-day decision, probably. I don’t think either guy can practice tomorrow. Typically when a guy can’t practice on Thursday and hasn’t practiced all week, I think it’s tough to play them in the game. That’s probably going to be the scenario with those guys. We’ve got some other guys that are getting valuable experience. I think it’s going to help in the long run in terms of the depth and the experience that these guys gain. I still have confidence that we can play base defense.”
We saw Coach Locksley return. Is he going to coach on Saturday? How has he been received by the team?
Saban: “We’re doing everything we can to support him and his family. I think the funeral arrangements are going to be after the game, so I think the plan is for him to leave right after the game. I think the service will be on Monday. I don’t know all the details. I told him that he certainly wasn’t expected to be here. He could be and spend as much time as he needed with his family. He said ‘It’s helpful for me to be here, it kind of gets my mind off of things.’ So we’re happy to have him and be around us and support him in any way that we can.”
Can Da’Shawn Hand and LaBryan Ray help out at outside linebacker?
Saban: “Da’Shawn Hand doesn’t play outside linebacker. LaBryan Ray is a guy that has never played it. He is a guy that we’re looking at at that position. We’ll see how he develops. There are certain ways we can play our defense where we only need to play one outside linebacker. So if we need to do that we certainly can do that. We’ve done it before in the past. When you’re in the NFL you’ve got 53 guys on your team. When this happens, you have to figure out, how do I adapt not only personnel-wise, but systematically and scheme-wise, because you don’t have 85 guys on scholarship. You have to go get somebody off the street who really doesn’t know anything about your system or your scheme, so you have to adjust and adapt the scheme so the players can play. We want to get the best players on the field that we can. We’re confident that these guys can do a good job for them and we’re going to continue their development.”
How did you think Brian Daboll did in terms of managing the game?
Saban: “I think Brian did a good job in the game. I don’t think we did a good job of executing. I talked about the money that we left on the table, however you want to way it, in terms of the plays that we didn’t make, whether it was a breakdown in protection, a missed read, a missed execution. If all 11 guys don’t do their job, the play usually doesn’t work very well, especially if it’s a pass. Everybody has to protect the right guy. Everybody has to run the right route. The quarterback has to deliver the ball to the right guy. There’s a lot more things that can go wrong when you throw the ball. We had some big games in the passing game that we did not make because people didn’t do what they were supposed to do. People usually give the quarterback more credit than he deserves when he does well, and they also criticize him more when he doesn’t. But sometimes it’s not all on him. We need to do a better job overall of executing some of those plays so that we can make more of explosive plays on offense. When you’re a play caller, a signal caller, things work when you execute. I thought that we learned something about our team. There’s things that we can do differently and better. We’ll all grow and learn from it and do better this week.”
Wanted to ask you about the proposal about the transfer policy, taking away contact restrictions and maybe not having to sit out. Your thoughts?
Saban: “I haven’t read all the proposal, I just got something yesterday about it. I don’t know all the legalities of it but I don’t think that things should be a one-way street. I don’t think they should be a one-way street for the institution or the program, that a player doesn’t have the opportunity to explore other options if that’s in his best interest. But I also think that the institution shouldn’t be obligated to a guy when the guy isn’t obligated to them to some degree. So we’ve always had a rule where everybody has the opportunity to transfer but they have to sit out a year. So that sort of is their obligation to the institution.
“We’ve also made a graduate policy which is supposed to be for academic reasons, where a guy can go to another school while they graduate and they didn’t have the graduate program, but that obviously is not why guys transfer, graduate transfers. We have graduate transfers here where they have the same degree program as where they went. So it wasn’t for academic reasons. Do I think that other schools should be able to contact players? I have never talked to a player on another team, all the time I’ve been a coach. I don’t think that any program should. I think it should be a rule of civility that we all have professionally that we don’t tamper with other people’s players. They have rules for that in the NFL, I think we should have rules for that in college football.
“So I think there has to be some kind of balance in terms of players still being able to have opportunities to do other things, but there also has to be a balance in the obligation that both parties have to each other. How can you sort of plan a roster or your recruiting or your team if everybody is a free agent at the end of every season? And every player that doesn’t have things going the way he wants them to go, all of a sudden says ‘I’ll just go over here and play over here. I want to do everything I can, we want to do everything we can to help our players be successful in every way. But making commitments to things, understanding the developmental process that goes into getting an education, continuing to develop as a person that can have success in life, and to develop as a football player at this level is something that takes a little bit more patience and a little bit more time sometimes than people realize. We try to help them the best that we can to develop in all those areas. I don’t know the proposals, but I would be one for balance and how it would affect all the parties.”
You’ll make $11 million this year. Are you worth it?
Saban: “Probably not. But I don’t really do this for money, never really have. I started out in this profession making $8,000 a year, and that was after two years of being a graduate assistant and making nothing, going to graduate school and working, loading trucks at night and my wife worked in the registrar’s office. We were happy when my dad brought us a case of peas, so we could have a side dish when we’re eating. We worked hard through the years. I don’t think it’s up to me to determine what the value is or what the market is for coaches, or what value I have created here for this institution and this place. I think those people made those decisions. We haven’t asked for anything. We’ve been treated extremely well here. We certainly appreciate it. I appreciate our administration. I appreciate our athletic administration for the way they’ve supported the program and helped us be successful, and I’ve been very thankful for what they’ve done for my family. But I’m not the one that determines what you just asked.”