Saban Press Conference
Alabama head coach Nick Saban opened up Arkansas week with his weekly Monday press conference today.
Saban was pleased with the way the team competed against Kentucky even with the drops and fumbles, which he said were things they had to clean up this week. Saban was pleased with the way the team responded and continued to compete despite the setbacks early. He said that the key thing for this team is to continue to develop an identity.
Saban called Arkansas one of the most challenging teams they’ve faced so far this season, citing their running game as the biggest difficulty. He said that despite who they’ve played this year they have been able to run on everyone.
Nick Saban called freshman A’Shawn Robinson “a great all around athlete” and noted how he was a great basketball player in high school in addition to being a great football player. He said that he has gained confident and gotten better every week and that he’s a big powerful guy that has the ability to push the pocket on a quarterback. He said that some of the older players have enhanced Robinson’s ability by helping him improve over the year.
Regarding the early fumbles Saban feels that it was simply technique noting that one of the fumbles happened because of the player (Kenyon Drake) trying to switch hands as he ran with the ball while the other one happened because the back (TJ Yeldon) was carrying the ball a little low trying to get extra yardage. Saban said that it was uncharacteristic of Alabama’s running backs but it’s something they will work on this week.
Nick Saban said that Alabama still hasn’t played its best game yet and there are a lot of things they can work on to continue to get better. Some of the examples he gave were that they haven’t been able to force enough turnovers on defense have allowed too many big plays on defense at times and the offensive line needs to continue to improve. “That would be an easier question to answer if you asked me “what don’t we need to improve on?” because there are a lot of things we need to improve on,” Saban said.
Saban commented on HaHa Clinton-Dix’s suspension saying that Dix is trying to help his teammates by working hard on the scout team during the suspension but players have to deal with the consequences when they make mistakes. He said that he hoped this would be a learning experience not only for HaHa but for the entire team.
One reporter got a chuckle out of Saban when the reporter asked Saban if he was completely mentally spent after a game with the way he passionately coaches hard the entire game. Saban said he tries to approach it by treating every game like a challenge and staying focused on the very next play each time. He said that when you become “results oriented” that it sometimes puts too much pressure on everyone and what they try to do is keep everyone focused on the “process” of getting to where the team needs to be to have the success they want.
Sophomore safety Landon Collins earned more praise from Saban as he believes Collins is getting more comfortable with his new position at free safety (Collins has spent most of his time at Alabama practicing at strong safety and money). He said that Collins knows the assignments and it’s now just about reacting to everything correctly and that only comes from getting more experience.
A reporter from Arkansas asked about freshman running Altee Tenpenny and Saban called him “fast and explosive” and he said that freshmen always have high expectations of what they want to do as freshmen, but the reality of what a freshman has to do to get better at the position is sometimes more than they anticipated. He said that Tenpenny has done a good job at that but like most freshmen he has a lot to learn and the more experience he gets the better he will get. He said that the team is very pleased with his progress so far.
Regarding Arkansas’ blowout loss last week Saban said they try not to look at the result and says that Arkansas still ran the ball effectively and if not for a couple of turnovers the game may have been completely different. He said that the team has complete respect for Arkansas’ players and coaches and that this is a completely different challenge for the team because they’re much more run oriented and uses more traditional big packages (two tight ends, fullback, etc.) on offense. Saban put over how well freshman Alex Collins has been effective for Arkansas and said that he runs “downhill” and is very powerful.
Saban praised Anthony Steen, who was named the SEC Lineman of the Week this week, and said that he has been very critical in the improvement of the offensive line. Saban also said that Amari Cooper played fast in the game and was able to be a big more productive and it will be big for Alabama to have him back healthy.
When Tide quarterback AJ McCarron spoke to the media before practice he had some praise for third string quarterback and walk-on Luke Del Rio who McCarron called a “really smart kid” and said that he throws a good ball and that he felt he would be a “heck of a player in the future.” McCarron joked that he has to hide from Del Rio at times because he’s always around him at practice trying to learn as much as possible.
McCarron laughed off questions about the dropped passes this past week and said that he joked on the sidelines by getting on to the ball boys asking them what they put in the footballs to cause all the drops as the receivers watched. He said they started laughing and at times like they he tries to cut joke to try and make “everybody relax” rather than scream at them.
The Crimson Tide returned to the practice field on Monday afternoon as preparation for Arkansas begins.
Starting center Ryan Kelly made his first appearance at an Alabama practice, at least during the media’s viewing periods, since injuring his knee against Ole Miss. Saban has not yet addressed the likelihood of him playing Saturday, but would probably be asked about it later in the week. Kelly was wearing a normal white offensive jersey rather than a black, non-contact jersey and seemed to be moving well.
Freshmen quarterbacks Parker McLeod and Cooper Bateman are playing the role of Arkansas starting quarterback Brandon Allen (864 yards, 8 TD, 5 INT) for the practice squad. Allen made his first career start last year against Alabama with Tyler Wilson out with a concussion.
Freshmen running backs Altee Tenpenny and Derrick Henry were wearing the number of backup Razorback running back Jonathan Williams (564 yards, 4 TD) who is more of the bruising back for Arkansas while Alvin Kamara wore the number of starter Alex Collins (720 yards, 4 TD) who is the more electric of the two.
Cornerback Eddie Jackson, who did not play Saturday due to his ankle injury that he suffered against Georgia State, looked to be running and planting fine on the ankle.
Suspended free safety HaHa Clinton-Dix continues to work normally with the defensive backs as he has throughout his suspension.
As is done every week, Alabama released the players of the week from the Kentucky game and offensively both guards Arie Kouandjio and Anthony Steen were named Offensive Players of the Game along with receiver Kevin Norwood. The Defensive Players of the Game were linebacker CJ Mosley and defensive end A’Shawn Robinson. Mosley has been one of the defensive players of the game every single week this year and Robinson leads the team in sacks. DeAndrew White, Altee Tenpenny, kicker Cade Foster and Christion Jones were the special teams players of the game. Anthony Steen was also honored by the SEC this week being named the SEC Lineman of the Week.
Today the SEC announced the TV schedule for October 26th and the Alabama vs. Tennessee game has been set for a 2:30 PM (central) kickoff on CBS. This will be Alabama’s first appearance on CBS since the Texas A&M game earlier this year.