Saban: Coker, Bateman ‘Need to Improve’ At Quarterback [VIDEO]
If you wanted a firm announcement Monday, you're going to have to just wait and see.
Because when Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked about the team's plan at quarterback between Jake Coker and Cooper Bateman heading into its Southeastern Conference opener against Ole Miss on Saturday, his response was more ambiguous than an actual definitive answer.
"I think both guys need to improve, and we evaluate this on a day-to-day basis," Saban said during his weekly noon press conference. "We’re going to make the decision based on what we think is best for our team. If it’s to play two guys, it’ll be two guys. If we think one guy is going to give us a better chance in this game we’ll certainly play that guy."
Last Saturday, in the team's 37-10 victory over Middle Tennessee State, both Coker and Bateman split reps at quarterback for the second straight game to begin the season.
Coker, who has started in both of the Crimson Tide's games so far this season, played only in the first half against the Blue Raiders, completing 15 of 26 passes for 214 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
Bateman played exclusively in the second half -- minus Alec Morris handing the ball off three times to run out the game clock with less than two minutes to go -- finishing 11-for-17 passing for 98 yards and also threw a touchdown and an interception.
While the pair's performances were collectively down from Alabama's season-opening 35-17 win over No. 20 Wisconsin, Saban sought out the positive after watching the most recent film.
"Both guys did some good things in the game," Saban said. "They’ll see when they watch the film and probably feel this way, there’s a lot of things they could have done better."
Saban's Alabama quarterbacks comments can be found around the 9:32 and 11:10 marks in the above video, which documents Monday's press conference in its entirety.
For a full transcript of his comments, scroll down below.
Near the bottom of the page, you will also find player interviews from Monday.
"Well, in reviewing the last game, we were a little inconsistent. It's always good to win, but...We did some good things in the game, but we're a little inconsistent in the way we played on both sides of the ball, so we have a lot of things to work on, lot of things to improve.
"And I think the key thing that the players and everybody needs to understand is playing a team like we're playing this week, it's going to be necessary for us to play better in this game, execute better, be more consistent. Have better fundamental execution. I think the best way to do that is to focus on preparation each day this week. What are you doing on Monday, what are you doing on Tuesday, what are you doing on Wednesday, what are you doing on Thursday and really get it down and carried into the game with good focus.
"We had some outstanding performances. You got the players of the week, Kenyan (Drake) and Derrick (Henry) and A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed and Tony Brown, (Michael) Nysewander and Maurice Smith on special teams.
"We don’t really have any injuries to report. We’ve got a couple of guys that will be in black (non-contact) jerseys today, but I don’t think anybody that will be out for this game.
"Ole Miss certainly has an outstanding team. They’ve got a lot of experience returning, like 18 starters or whatever. Obviously, when you score over 75 points a game, you’ve got a pretty dynamic offense in a lot of ways, they’ve got a lot of good players, they’ve got a great scheme. They do a really good job of executing, and they play fast. And they’re leading the nation in a lot of categories when it comes to offense.
"I think Chad Kelly has done a really good job for them. They’ve got a really good runner in No. 6 (Jaylen Walton). They’ve got really good receivers. (Laquon) Treadwell is probably as good as anybody in the country. Really good receiving corps.
"Their defense, they’ve got seven starters back. One of the best defenses in the SEC. Giving up 12 points a game so far this year. They’re one of the best defensive teams in our conference as well. This is a very, very good all around team. Certainly going to be a challenging game for us, but we’re looking forward to playing in the SEC, playing in our conference. The conference opener for us. If you’re a great competitor you love to play in games like this. This is certainly going to offer as many challenges as anyone could hope for as a competitor."
(2:48) On Cyrus Jones' confidence, growth and leadership in the secondary.
"I thought Cyrus played most consistently for us last year. I do think that the more a guy plays, the more experience he gains. He’s played very well for us so far this year. i think he has a good understanding of what we expect from him. He’s done a good job so far in the return game for us as well, and he sets a good example in terms of how he works and what he does. I think that’s been a positive for us with some of the younger players in the group."
(3:26) On looking at last year's loss at Ole Miss in preparation for this game.
"I don’t think there’s any question about it. One of the most important things that we always do, especially when it’s the same staff, is you always look at what did they do last year? How did they play you defensively? What did they try to do offensively? Sort of evaluate, and we do this after we play the game, what we did well, what we needed to improve on. That’s the first thing we get out this year when we play somebody, is try to figure out how we can do those things better and how we can make those adjustments. I always think that’s a big part of planning."
(4:14) On his conversation with Kenyan Drake last week about slowing things down when he gets the ball on offense.
"I just thought after the first game Kenyan was trying to make a big play every time he got the ball. He was really trying hard, maybe too hard. That was effecting his decision-making, whether he should bring the ball out of the kickoff and how he actually ran the play as it was designed, to press the hole and get out of it what you can get out of it. The big plays will come. You have to let the game come to you and I certainly think he was a lot better in this last game, and hopefully he’ll be able to build on that."
(5:00) On O.J. Howard's performance through two games this season.
"O.J. has done a really good job. He had a great camp and has been productive for us two games in a row in the the passing game. I think it’s important for us to continue that because he is a little bit of a mismatch player most of the time. He’s a very good athlete, a very good receiver, and he has improved his blocking. And I think that’s helped as well."
(5:30) On the differences in Ole Miss' offense this season with Chad Kelly at quarterback, compared to Bo Wallace last year.
"It’s conceptually pretty much the same offense. They’ve always been a team that likes to do quarterback runs. He has run the ball a few times and he is a very effective runner. When they bring the next quarterback in, No. 2, they’ve done a little bit more of that. That doesn’t mean they won’t do it with Chad Kelly, he has done some but maybe not quite as much as Bo Wallace did it a year ago. But throwing the ball, executing the offense, he’s done a fantastic job."
(6:11) On what Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche brings to the table on both sides of the ball.
"First of all, he’s a really good athlete. He’s an instinctive football player. He’s got great size. He’s quick. He can pass-rush. They put him over on offense and you see his athleticism. He could be a really good tight end if they wanted him to be. He’s a very diverse player, in terms of his physical skills, but also the kind of instincts and athletic intuition he has."
(6:58) On how well he thinks Alabama's nickel defense will work against Ole Miss.
"They play some regular formations, but they’re quite a bit spread out. You have to match personnel when they have three receivers in the game. 17 is a bit of a mismatch player for them, the tight end, who is a very, very good receiver and an athletic guy. They kind of use him on the line, in the backfield, as well as out as a wideout. These are the things you have to adjust to. It’s pretty hard to play these guys if you don’t play nickel."
(7:47) On game planning for Ole Miss LT Laremy Tunsil, who may or may not be able to play against Alabama.
"He’s a very good player and played some very good football against us in the past I don’t really know his circumstances in his situation, I don’t know if he’s going to play or not going to play. As for the defensive linemen what to study its not going to change their scheme whether he plays or doesn’t play. It doesn’t change their plays, it doesn’t change who gets the ball. It doesn’t change the runs. It does change a little bit how an individual might play against him. So those individuals need to look at that, and if he plays be ready for it."
(8:42) On where he thinks the team's secondary lies overall so far this season.
"I think we’ve played better in the first couple of games. I don’t think we’ve played against the quality of receivers that Ole Miss has, so this will be a challenge for them. Two of the guys played against these guys last year. They obviously need to do a better job this year than we did last year. They make a lot of big plays and they made a lot of big plays in the first two games. It’s going to be really important that our guys understand that we’ve got to not allow them to make big plays. That’s a challenge in and of itself with the skill level that they have."
(9:32) On the decision to start Cooper Bateman for the second half against MTSU, as well as how both Bateman and Jake Coker performed in the game after watching film.
"Both guys did some good things in the game, but I think both guys need to...they’ll see when they watch the film and probably feel this way, there’s a lot of things they could have done better. Obviously we threw too many balls that the other team could have intercepted. They intercepted a couple but they could have intercepted more. Taking care of the ball is the No. 1 concern, but managing the offense, getting us in the right protection, getting us in the right play, especially in third-down situations, these are things that we need to do a much, much better job of. If we do that there are a lot more plays to be made out there. I think both guys need to play better."
(10:30) On Ole Miss' defense overall.
"Ole Miss’ defense is very, very good. Their front is very active. They’re very quick, and I think it’s going to be a challenge for us because we did not pass protect real well last week. We had issues with speed pressures in the first game. We’re going to have to do a much better job in that regard against what it probably the best front we’ve played to this point, no doubt."
(11:10) On the plan for the quarterback situation against Ole Miss.
"I think both guys need to improve, and we evaluate this on a day-to-day basis. We’re going to make the decision based on what we think is best for our team. If it’s to play two guys, it’ll be two guys. If we think one guy is going to give us a better chance in this game we’ll certainly play that guy."