“I think that November is kind of the time of the year when you really need to play your best football if you’re going to accomplish the goals that you have. It’s great that you put yourself in a position to be able to accomplish the things that you can accomplish, but I think that November is the month where you have to be at your best and be your best as a football player. I think everybody has to be working hard to do their job and maintain focus. Practice, preparation, as well as when the game comes, be ready to go for 60 minutes. I think one of the things that gets very difficult for players at this time of the year, because of the grind of the season, is nobody really feels that great. I don’t think that’s unusual. It probably would be what every team would say right now. The people who recover properly, rest properly, get the right sleep, eat right, have a lot of positive energy and confidence about how they do what they do and what they need to do to be able to do it well, and I think everybody has to sort of accomplish the ‘Am I going to do what I feel like doing?’ or ‘Am I going to choose the things that I need to do to accomplish the goals that I have?’ I’m sure you all have heard of ‘The Obstacle is the Way.’ There are a lot of obstacles out there that are created by the other teams that we have to play. So we can’t be the obstacle ourselves by not being positive in terms of what we have to do to prepare, overcome adversity, get new players to play, whatever it is, we have to be very positive about doing that.
“Starkville is a really tough place to play. Every game that we’ve played there has been a really physical, hard-fought game. They have a great atmosphere. They have great spirit. It’s going to be a very challenging game for us. We have to be able to handle and manage this and the better the preparation, the better the opportunity we’ll have to do that.”
How did Minkah look this week in practice? Is he as close to full health as he can be?
“I’m not a doctor. One of the most difficult things to do is to coach injured players, because you ask me if I think he’s close to full health. Again, did you ever see that series on TV called ‘The Good Doctor’ where the guy is really smart and he figures out things that nobody else can figure out? I’m not there. I’m not there. If I was, I’d be working in that hospital probably. He’s done well in practice. He’s worked, he’s got his reps, so he’s going to be prepared to play in the game. We’ll make a decision based on whether he thinks he can do his job when the time comes.”
What’s your working relationship with Greg Byrne been like?
“I like Greg a lot. Very easy to work with, easygoing, very well-organized, very supportive. I think he’s trying to do things that he can to promote a lot of positives throughout the athletic department, the organization, the university, our fan base and constituency of people who support the program. Cultivating a new generation of supporters for Alabama football, Alabama athletics. I think he’s done a great job so far. I’m very pleased. I’ve been pleased with everybody that we’ve had. I loved Mal, I loved Bill and I love Greg. I haven’t had any problems. They’ve all been really good to me and we appreciate it.”
An update on Nigel Knott’s status? We saw him on crutches.
What’s the biggest improvement you’ve seen in Raekwon’s pass rush abilities?
“I think Raekwon has just developed more confidence. When he’s out there, I think uncertainty in players always creates apprehension in playing fast, getting off the ball quickly. The more experience guys get, the more repetitions guys get, I think the more confidence they get, and when he plays fast he’s a very effective player. I’ve seen a big difference in the confidence that he has in pass rush as well as the confidence he has in doing his job. I think he’s played better and better throughout the season in all aspects of the game.”
Last two 4-quarter games you’ve played, A&M and LSU, you’ve played 19 games on offense. Is there a point of diminishing returns in personnel and how many players you use? How do you decide that?
“Is the fact that we played 19 players a good thing or not a good thing? I don’t really know. I didn’t know that. So because we won those two games, does that mean we should just play 19 players in this game? Or is there some…
“Look, we have a meeting every week, before the week starts, whether it’s based on injuries, whether it’s based on depth situations, whether it’s based on performance, maybe an issue that a player is having, whatever it might be. These are the guys we’re going to coach and get ready to play in the game. And we know exactly who we’re going to play at right tackle, left tackle, left guard, right guard, center. We know that in skill positions how we’re going to alternate guys so that we keep guys fresh and play more guys at those positions. That’s what we’ve done. I don’t keep a head count of how many guys actually end up getting to play. Some guys you don’t like to rotate a lot, the offensive line being one. We rotate tight ends. We were rotating the tight ends more before Miller got hurt. I don’t know if there’s a formula for it or if it’s good or bad. I usually think the more players that you play, the more depth you have on your team, probably the better team that you’re going to have. I think you all have heard me say that my old coach, Coach James, who I absolutely love and is probably responsible for me being in this profession at all, used to say ‘If you look at the bottom 40 guys on your roster and determine how good they are, that’ll probably tell you how good of a team you’re going to have.’ I know you’re just looking at the top 19, but…” (shrugged and didn’t finish thought)
Tony Brown’s development? He played more with Minkah out.
“When Tony can stay focused on what he’s supposed to do, do the right things, make good choices and decisions about what he does and stay focused on it, he can be a very effective player. So consistency in performance comes from that and that’s what we work to always try and get from him. That’s what we’ll continue to do. He’s probably going to get more opportunities in the future to play. I’m hopeful that we’re going to spend every bit of time that we can with him to try to do things the way he needs to do them so he can be successful. I think he wants to be successful. We just have to help him do it.”