“Well, I thought we had a much better day today, it was good to get outside. Players had a good focus, good mindset. We’ve really been trying to emphasize this week, discipline, self-control, paying attention to detail, doing the little things right. I think if you’re ever going to have peace of mind as a player or a person or anything that you do in your life, knowing that you tried your best to do it right is what gives you that. We’re certainly trying to get that done with our players in terms of their personal behavior, their academics, as well as what they do on the field. People who can’t do that kind of get a little distorted sometimes and that’s not going to help us be who we want to be and do what we want to do. So creating the right habits goes a long way. If you walk a lot, it’s good. If you run a lot, you become a good runner. Practice the right way, become a better player. But I think there’s also a mindset in terms of discipline, choices, decisions that you make that also conditions you to have the right habits so that you have a better chance to play with more consistency and that’s something that we’ve really been trying to focus on this week.
“We have lots of respect for Arkansas, Coach Bielema ,the job he’s done there. Their style of football is tough, hardnosed, downhill. They can score a lot of points. They’ve scored a lot of points on several occasions. They’re really sound on defense. We’re going to have to do a good job of executing to be able to accomplish what we’d like to accomplish at homecoming, which is a big tradition for us at the University of Alabama. Also looking forward to seeing Coach Stallings and he’s team back for the 25th anniversary of their national championship. So it’s an exciting weekend for us and we hope we do well.
“Brandon Kennedy… had to practice indoors yesterday and he had an ankle injury that required some surgery. So he’s going to be out for an extended period of time. Not sure how long at this point.”
Arkansas has some uncertainty about who they’ll play at QB. Does that alter the gameplan?
“Well typically when I get asked this question, it depends on the style that the quarterbacks play. Allen is a great passer, very athletic, quick, can make all the throws. The second guy is a little different style. I’m not sure they’ll change their offense but when he has played they’ve done more quarterback runs. This guy is like 6-7, 270 pounds. In fact when I first started watching the film I thought he was a Wildcat quarterback that was a tight end. But as he’s played more, he has a good arm and he can throw the ball effectively. So the guy is a pretty good player. We don’t know if they’ll change styles with him as a quarterback. So we have to prepare for some things that they could do with him, but we can’t really change because we don’t really know. We’d be defending a ghost if we tried to figure it out. We can’t really figure it out. We may have to adapt in the game. But it wouldn’t be unusual, most times for us, whoever we play does something a little bit different for us. It wouldn’t be unexpected if it happened this week.”
What does a guy like Ronnie Clark and his perseverance do for the team?
“I think that’s an interesting question because in this day and age, we have a lot of guys that we really try to sell on the fact that they have to work to develop and they’re not going to have instant self-gratification for everything they want to accomplish the very first day they come here. Guys like Ronnie Clark, I think, set a tremendous example. He’s been here for 5 years, been through two Achilles surgeries. Never been a star player but gets to play here and there a little bit. But there’s not a more willing soul on our team to do whatever he needs to do for the team. He needs to go to scout team and be a running back, he’ll do it. He needs to get in goal line and be a fullback, he’ll do it. He’s got a great attitude. Does everything like you’d like a guy to do.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on in this country right now about respect, somebody doesn’t respect me, I don’t respect them. But there’s no one that has any more self respect, which I think is the most important thing, which I think means ‘My character, my standard, how I do it, it’s not about how somebody else does something,’ than Ronnie Clark. He has tremendous respect in leadership. Even though he’s maybe not the best player on the team, maybe he doesn’t play as much as other guys, and maybe he’s not even a start, but when it comes to having the right heart to a competitor to contribute to the team, nobody does it better.”
How would you describe the on-field persona of Anthony Averett and Levi Wallace?
“Say that again?”
The on-field persona of those two…
“I guess I have to back up. I mean, I’m from West Virginia, so what exactly does persona mean? Is that the same thing as per-sauna?”
“Oh, OK. (WINK)
“Well, both guys are kinda different. They’re kinda quiet leaders, they go about their work. They don’t say a lot to the other guys. I think Levi, as you know, the players think he’s quite the technician because he tries to do everything exactly right and really focuses and works hard on those things and I think that goes with a guy who’s come up the way Levi has come up. Because he was a walk-on, had to do everything right, had to be an overachiever. So he had to learn to overcome things and work hard to do that. So he’s learned to overcome adversity and do that. And Anthony never played defensive back before so he went through two or three years of sort of learning the position. And he’s become a really good player for us and a really good cover guy. Both guys are a little different personality-wise but in their own way they’re good competitors and do a really good job and it’s really important to them to do well.”
Da’Shawn Hand’s progress?
“I can’t really make that call. It’s a medical decision. I know he’s doing well. All reports are positive. He won’t play in this game and we’ll take it week-to-week from there. But I really can’t tell you that.”
It looks like Anfernee (Jennings) has affected the quarterback well since he’s come back…
“Well Anfernee Jennings was probably the one outside linebacker who had the most experience. Really strong, physical, good competitor, can pass rush. When the other two guys that we were really counting on both got hurt in the Florida State game and were out for the year… So he was kind of the lone ranger even though he missed a couple of weeks himself. And he has shown tremendous leadership. He has really helped the other guys that are young players that may not have played much this year develop and be able to play more effectively. But from a leadership standpoint, from a personality standpoint, from a competitive standpoint, I think he’s been one of our most consistent performers on defense. He can pass rush and he can play the run. He’s physical and he’s strong. And he sets a good example for the other players. We’re really pleased with him.”
Where have you seen Matt Womack improve the most?
“I think Matt is a smart guy that has really worked hard to develop the kind of strength and be physical enough to play. He’s a fairly athletic guy. I think the thing that we keep working with him on is to play with better pad level, play lower so he even plays with more power, and a little better leverage than what he does. But he has been a good performer for us and he’s played, and we’re happy and pleased with the progress that he’s made. Because he’s got some versatility as a player, he could play guard if we needed him to, that’s very helpful too as well. To help us get the best guys on the field if something should happen to someone, which we hope doesn’t, but could. So he’s done a nice job. Really good job.”
How has Brian Daboll mixed and matched personnel, and how has that increased focus of the players?
“I think that Brian has done a good job of utilizing the players that we have. Hopefully we can even do a better job. I thought there were a few guys that we would liked to have seen play a little more in the last game. We need to get Josh Jacobs involved a little more involved in the game. Najee Harris is a very good player, we’d like to get him involved more in the game. I think the young receivers are making nice progress. Jerry Jeudy, Ruggs, Smitty, and I think we need to play those guys more because I think in the long run, those guys getting better is going to make us better. So I think Brian has done a really good job.
“I don’t think we played particularly well on offense in the last game and there’s a lot of reasons for that. You have to give Texas A&M a lot of credit for that, and I think we need to make some improvement. We didn’t control the line of scrimmage like we needed to, we made some explosive runs but we didn’t make consistent runs where we controlled and blocked, we had trouble communicating on the line because of the noise, which was a bit of an issue, especially on the offensive line.
“So we’re focused on trying to get those guys to improve so that maybe we can utilize more skill players. I think that would help us. Damien Harris has been probably our most consistent guy, he and Calvin Ridley have both been very productive and have done a great job all year long but we need more guys to be able to step up and be playmakers when we need them. I think when Calvin went out of the game there was a little bit of an absence there, of guys who can step up and make plays. It actually hurt us with dropped balls, lined up in illegal formations as receivers, fumbling the ball in a critical situation that allowed them to get back into the game. Those players are capable and we have confidence in them and they need to be able to play with confidence.
“I think I feel sorry sometimes for some of our players who have a lot of pressure on them. A lot of anxiety created because they fear for their future. They’re not playing well enough, they’re not catching enough passes, they’re not doing enough to show somebody that they can play at the next level. They put so much pressure on themselves that it really affects their performance. We want everyone to have high achieve motivation, but low anxiety. Confidence, want to, but not a lot of anxiety and question marks and fear of failure. We need some of our players to just understand that ‘I need to play well on the next play’ and just keep trying to focus on that instead of being so result oriented, and worrying about something that’s going to happen three or four months from now.”
There’s perception that college football is getting more divided into the haves and have nots, and it’s widening. I was wondering what you think of that perception?
“I think it’s always been that way. When they play games, you know up when Rhode Island play whoever they play they have a picnic after the game. That doesn’t happen around here. We have 100,000 people, we have the SEC Championship Game, we trying to get into the playoff. But we all have the same rules. So maybe we should have a separation, maybe we should have a divide. Maybe we should have different governing bodies make choices and decisions for the Power 5 conferences versus other places.
“Look, I have a tremendous amount of respect for those other places, I played at one of those other places and I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it, it was a great experience for me and it gave me an opportunity to get an education. But I’m just saying it’s not the same. It’s not the same. We don’t have the same issues, we don’t have the same problems to solve in the future. And I think those things may be important to competitive balance. And I also think we should take the fans into consideration more in terms of the quality of schedule that we play, and change the way we decide who goes to bowl games. I mean I’ve been through all of this stuff before. We won’t change the schedule and play better teams because everybody has to win six games and go to a bowl game. So why can’t we do like the basketball tournament, just rank the teams and pick the best teams to go to the bowl games and then strength of schedule would mean something. Then we could play 10 teams in the SEC and two other BCS, Power 5 teams and fans would have great games to go to.”
Tony Brown’s status?
“He was able to do some stuff in practice today. His position is probably a little harder to play with a sprained knee. He can run straight ahead pretty well but the change of direction, starting and stopping, redirecting, those are probably the most difficult things. He’s actually made faster progress than I had hoped, so that’s very encouraging. Whether he’ll be able to do enough to have a role in this game, we’ll probably have to wait and see. If he can do a little more tomorrow, that would be even more encouraging.”
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