Fresh off the heels of Alabama’s exciting win over Texas A&M this past weekend, head coach Nick Saban opened up this week with his weekly Monday press conference praising the character that the team showed in coming from behind early to win Saturday. He spoke glowingly over the game the offense had, but regarding the defense said that they gave up far too many plays and were losing their technique, leading to the big plays.
The focus going forward, Saban said, would be generally improving as a team because he doesn’t feel that they are where they need to be at this point. The most important thing will be discipline in trusting that the way the coaches say to do it will be the right way according to Coach Saban.
Cornerback Deion Belue, who was injured early in the game, will be “day-to-day” according to Saban and will be “questionable” for Saturday’s game against Colorado State (6:00 PM on ESPN2). Beleu’s injury has been rumored as possibly turf toe. Anthony Steen, who missed the final Alabama possession due to an injury, is listed as “probable” for Saturday. Steen is expected to miss no more than a day or two of practices.
Saban explained pretty well the problems covering A&M receiver Mike Evans. He said that last year John Fulton was the one that mainly covered him and did well. He said that they “jammed” (hit the receiver at the snap of the ball to get him off his route) really well last year and it seemed to affect him. The corners just didn’t do a good enough job of jamming him this time around, according to Saban. He said the other technique they tried to use was playing a little softer with a man underneath and a safety over the top, but against that type of offense it’s hard to do because of Manziel’s ability to run.
Saban then went on a tear about “obedience,” and how that was the biggest problem in coverage. Players simply not doing their job rather than trying to do other things.
“If you’re supposed to be looking at your man, and you’re looking in the backfield,” Saban said, “that’s not gonna get it.”
Cornerback Cyrus Jones was able to make a big interception against A&M but was also abused by Mike Evans at times. Saban said he is very encouraged by Jones, but that he’s a young player and mistakes will be made. Saban was critical of both the corners and safeties, saying that at times the corners weren’t doing what they were supposed to be doing and at times the safeties weren’t in the right place as well.
Saban was asked about Geno Smith’s lack of playing time, and said that Geno has to beat someone out to earn that playing time. Smith lost his spot after the suspension, and according to Saban, Jarrick Williams is playing well enough to keep the “star” position so far.
“Nobody has a rite of passage just because you played in two games last year,” Saban said.
Saban sounded very pleased with the tight ends, saying that Vogler is playing very well and OJ Howard is maturing at the position. He also was pleased with the physical blocking of former offensive lineman Brandon Greene now at tight end. Saban also praised Jalston Fowler’s game, saying that he felt like Fowler was “a bit tentative” in the first game coming off of his injury last year, and that he gained confidence over the bye week and played with a lot more confidence in the game.
Saban wasn’t pleased with the lack of pressure the defensive line put on Manziel during the game but said Ed Stinson and Jeoffrey Pagan did play well and the others got better as the game went on but also tired out near the end. He said this will be a game they will be able to learn and grow from.
Regarding the very controversial targeting penalty on HaHa Clinton-Dix, Saban wasn’t too hard on the officials, saying that it’s a lot harder for the officials trying to make those calls while a team is using that fast hurry-up offense. He did say that it doesn’t make sense to him (or anyone with common sense) that you can review whether or not the player should be kicked out of the game, but not the penalty itself.
AJ McCarron, Vinnie Sunseri Speak to Media
AJ McCarron spoke to the media before practice about the showdown with his former offensive coordinator, Jim McElwain. McCarron said that they were very close, but he is approaching this game like any other game regardless. In regards to the Texas A&M game, McCarron said he and the offense felt like they needed to score every time they touched the ball because of the type of offense A&M has and how they score in a matter of seconds.
Vinnie Sunseri also spoke to the media and refused to take the credit for his huge interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter.
“All credit goes to Jarrick Williams; he made a great play (he tipped the ball Sunseri intercepted), I was just there to catch the ball and run it in for him. He had the great coverage, he batted the ball into the air, I was just the recipient of the ball. All credit goes to him. He had a great game.”
Linebacker Denzel Devall was willing to give Sunseri credit that the humble safety refused to take himself.
“Oh man, the Italian Stallion. Vinnie is a great guy, a great player. He’s a tough guy to bring down, as you can see.”
- Alabama returned to practice today and the expected players (Norwood, Steen, and Belue) were wearing black, non-contact jerseys. Norwood and Belue could both be spotted on the sidelines working with trainers. Norwood was seen working out with elastic bands while Belue rode a stationary bike.
- Backup lineman Kellen Williams is getting Steen’s reps while he is out but he will likely be back to full participation early this week.
- Quarterback AJ McCarron, tight end Brian Vogler, and left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio were named offensive players of the week for Alabama, while linebacker CJ Mosley and defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan were named the defensive players of the week. Kicker Cade Foster, punter Cody Mandell, and returner Christion Jones were named special teams player of the week. The SEC also named McCarron the SEC Offensive Player of the week as well.
- Alabama revealed today that the September 28th showdown with Ole Miss will kickoff at 5:30 PM on ESPN.