Here’s the audio and transcript of Nick Saban’s press conference on Wednesday. Alabama’s head coach talked about the early signing date and the Crimson Tide’s 15 signees as well as preparation for the Sugar Bowl against Clemson.
“We’ve had really good work so far as a team. I’ve been pleased with the energy and enthusiasm the players have had in terms of how they’ve gone about the work we did prior to practice as well as since we started practice. We practiced Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and today. I think it’s important that players have a vision of what they want to try to accomplish, the opportunity they’ve created for themselves and a vision of what they want to do. That’s everybody in the organization. Then everybody has to take ownership to try to do their job and be responsible for what’s expected of them, which goes for, the coaches, all the players. Then everybody has to have faith, trust and confidence in themselves and their ability to do it relative to the challenge that they have with the team we’re playing. They have to have faith, trust and confidence in their teammates.
“We actually started working on Clemson yesterday as if it were a Monday practice. We’ll continue to do that for the rest of the week. Friday will be our last practice day, and then we’ll be off three days for Christmas, we’ll practice here on the 26th, we’ll leave the morning of the 27th to go to New Orleans and we’ll practice there.
“From an injury standpoint, I’m sure everybody heard about Dylan Moses, a foot injury. Which required a pin in his foot, very similar to what Mack and Labryan Ray had, the same kind of injury. So he’ll be out indefinitely. Those guys all were out for three to four weeks before they could do much. Deionte Thompson had a lower leg bruise but he actually practiced today so it’s not a problem.
“From a recruiting standpoint, this is all kind of new for us, but the early signing period, I guess, is some kind of an indication of what kind of recruiting you’re doing. We’re very pleased and happy with the 15 players we were able to sign to Alabama today. I think there’s a lot to do to finish this class. We can only take 23 guys this year so we basically have eight spots left. I think these signees today represent a lot of hard work. The coaches did a good job. A lot of our players, the team we have here at Alabama, the academic folks, when these guys visit, our administration, all did a very good job. We’ve kind of identified our needs and hopefully we’ll be able to finish with a lot of good players who are left out there that are going to wait until February or maybe sign in the next two days, but we really can’t comment on that. Josh is going to give you guys a release on these 15 players, so that’ll probably give you the information that you need on each and every one of these players.”
In most years you like to have a quarterback in the class. Are you still looking for one?
“We have tried to recruit a quarterback and we’re going to continue to try to do that. If we can get somebody that we feel can be a positive in the organization, we would like to get a quarterback. I would always like to have four on the roster. That may or may not be possible. We’ll have to make that decision based on how recruiting continues to go.”
Looking at the running back rotation, how challenging has it been to divvy up carries. Could Damien Harris conceivably get the ball more in the semifinal?
“I don’t know. There’s only one ball. I’ve answered this question before. You’re asking me, do I think everybody is getting enough carries? Then you ask if one of the guys can get more carries. There’s still only one ball, and we’re only going to run the ball so many times. We’re going to have a plan for how we want to play the guys in the game. The guys that are playing well in the game usually get to play a little bit more and maybe they get a few more touches. We certainly have four guys that we’ve tried to have a play for and three of them have played pretty extensively and all made a significant contribution this year. We want them to continue to do it. What I talked about earlier, everyone taking ownership for whatever their job is in this game and whatever opportunities they get, we want them to be well-prepared so they can go out and do a great job and that would be the same case, whatever the role is for these running backs.”
Given how senior heavy the secondary is, how vital was that to address in this class?
“We still feel like we’re recruiting several other defensive backs. We’re probably going to lose five, maybe more, so we would like to replace that many guys. Whether that’s going to be possible or not, I don’t know. I know that we’re recruiting several other guys are very good players that may be able to contribute to it. We feel really good about the three players that we got today that are DBs. We think they’re all really good athletes, really good players. Jalyn-Armour Davis is a really skilled guy. Saivion Smith is here and practicing and we can see with our own eyes that he’s going to be a good player. Josh Jobe was one of the target guys we’ve had all year long. Like I said, there are still other guys out there that we think are very good that could help us in the secondary as well.”
Clemson lost as many key players as you did. What does it say about the stability to not lose a beat?
“We’re pleased with the way some of the guys on our team accepted the challenges of their new roles on the team. Those guys made progress and improved throughout the year and played very well for us, but we still have a tremendous amount of respect for some of the guys we lost and the great careers they had here at Alabama. From Clemson’s standpoint, they have really good players. They recruit well. And the guys that they’ve had step in on offense have done a fantastic job for them this year, starting with the quarterback. The receivers, the new running backs, those guys have all been very effective for them. They are almost as productive offensively as they were a year ago.”
How much does Saivion Smith’s experience help the secondary?
“I think anytime you get a guy that’s played in major college football games before, probably knows a little more about what it takes, probably has a little more maturity. I think that’s always probably a positive for a guy in terms of his readiness to come in and play. We’re excited he’s here and excited to have the opportunity to work with him even in this time, which is a little more difficult now that we’re working on an opponent, but he’s still out there getting reps and we’re still trying to coach him and teach him what he needs to know to make a contribution.”
How does the second half of the recruiting calendar look now after this signing day?
“I can’t tell you because I’ve never done it before. I just know there’s a lot of stuff going on here right now, trying to prepare for a playoff game, trying to recruit. The intensity of recruiting in December and the schedule is much more hectic and much more difficult relative to trying to see more players that you thought were going to sign at midyear, or sign early, maybe even if they weren’t midyear guys. It’s different. I would say now that we’re going to recruit the rest of this recruiting cycle pretty much like it’s been in the past. It’s just going to be a smaller pool of players. But I can’t answer the question because I have no experience with this.”
Deionte Thompson, what do you hope to see from him in this opportunity? What is his role and how does that affect Minkah?
“We’ll have to make a decision on that. We’re kind of looking at several different combinations right now, but we have a lot of confidence in Deionte. He’s really improved a lot throughout the course of the year in terms of his knowledge and experience and understanding of what’s expected of him. He has really good range. We need him to play well for us and we certainly feel like he’s capable of doing that. When he’s had the opportunity to play this year, he’s played well for us. I’m not happy that Hootie is not going to be here. He’s a senior and we’d love to see him compete in these playoff games but I’m excited for Deionte and the opportunity that he may have.”