Watch Nick Saban Speak To The Media For The Final Time Before Ole Miss [VIDEO]
When Alabama takes the field Saturday, Nick Saban knows the team that will accompany it will be up for the task of playing the Crimson Tide.
Fortunately for him, he feels the same way about his own team.
"We've had a good week of preparation," said Saban, addressing the media for the second and last time of his twice-weekly press conferences Wednesday. "I really liked the way the players approached this week. We talked earlier in the week about everybody needs to focus on what they need to do to play better, to get better and to focus on what they had to do that day, that time and that course of the week to prepare for the game."
Alabama, ranked No. 2 for the second straight week in both the AP and coaches polls, will have its hands full Saturday in its SEC opener.
No. 15 Ole Miss (2-0), coming into Tuscaloosa for the third time in the past four seasons, currently ranks third in total offense (634.5 yards per game), including the top-ranked scoring offense (74.5 points) through two games this season.
Among its offensive personnel, quarterback Chad Kelly, a junior college transfer, leads the nation in pass efficiency (234.0) and yards per pass attempt.
Defensively, the Rebels own what Saban called "one of the best defenses in the SEC" earlier in the week, with eight returning starters from a defense that finished 13th in total defense last season, just behind Alabama.
"This is a very, very good team that we're playing," Saban said. "Coach (Hugh) Freeze has done a great job there, not only in the schemes that they play, but the kinds of players, how physical they are, how hard they play. They've got really good players, so this is going to be a really challenging game for us."
Last season, Ole Miss upset then-No. 1 Alabama, 23-17, in Oxford, Mississippi, its first in the series since 2003.
The Rebels, in 62 previous meetings with the Crimson Tide, have never held a winning streak longer than one in the series. Alabama leads the all-time series, 51-9-2, including a 25-1 mark when playing as the home team.
As a head coach in the SEC between his current run at Alabama and his prior stop at LSU, Saban owns a 12-1 record in SEC openers.
Saturday's game kicks off at 8:15 p.m. Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will call the game on ESPN, with Heather Cox as the sideline reporter. ESPN's "College GameDay" will brodcast live in front of Bryant-Denny Stadium in the morning.
On the radio, Eli Gold and Phil Savage will handle the call on the Crimson Tide Sports Network, with Chris Stewart working the sidelines. Tide 99.1 and our sister station, 95.3 The Bear, will carry CTSN's coverage in Tuscaloosa.
For a full transcript of his comments, scroll down below.
Near the bottom of the page, you will also find player interviews from Wednesday.
“We've had a good week of preparation. I really liked the way the players approached this week. We talked earlier in the week about everybody needs to focus on what they need to do to play better, to get better and to focus on what they had to do that day, that time and that course of the week to prepare for the game. So that we can focus on playing better and improving fundamental execution, which really is what leads to better execution. Poor fundamental technique usually leads to poor outcomes.
“This is a very, very good team that we're playing. Coach (Hugh) Freeze has done a great job there, not only in the schemes that they play, but the kinds of players, how physical they are, how hard they play. They've got really good players, so this is going to be a really challenging game for us.
“One of these games, like I mentioned before, if you're a great competitor, you love to have the opportunity to play in a venue like this in Bryant-Denny Stadium, ESPN GameDay here, TV game, against a division opponent that is one of the better teams in the country, at least ranked in the top 15, and certainly deserve every bit of that the way they've played the first two weeks.
“We don't really have any injury updates, there's nobody that's really injured right now. So we're just going to focus on what we need to do the next...tomorrow we'll polish up what we got to do, the mental practice that we need to have to be ready to play a better game this weekend.”
(1:53) How has Dominick Jackson come along in pass protection?
“Well, that's something we certainly need to improve. We had some issues last week, and, I think, he's very capable. We've got to do a better job confidence wise of getting him to trust and believe in the technique that he has to use to be successful. That's going to be important for us because, I think, we've got a really good run blocking team.
“So, pass protection is something I think we need to improve on.”
(2:30) How has Adam Griffith looked this week and is it possible to over-coach a guy during a slump?
“Well, you know, the only thing we talked to Adam about is what he needs to do to, sort of, get in his stride and rhythm, and have confidence in what he’s doing.
“When he kicks extra points, he looks confident and does great, and I think mentality, he has to get that same confidence when he’s kicking a field goal. Sometimes, it’s really not any more difficult. I think we’re trying to help him do that. I think he really understands what he has to do like a guy who’s a good golfer and understands what he has to do it correctly. I think it’s being able to go out there and duplicate that with confidence, that’s the most important thing.
“We’re not trying to change what he’s doing or how he’s doing it, but just to get him to do it the way he can do it. I’ve talked about this before: When you’re a kicker, you’ve got to have an assassin’s type attitude. You go out there and you’ve got one shot. You got to make it work. If it doesn’t work, you’re going to be in trouble.
“And that’s the kind of attitude and approach that you have to have mentally, and that’s what we really need to get back to with him.”
(3:59) What have you seen from their defensive line and what are some of the challenges that those guys pose?
“Well, they’re really good. Very active players, very athletic players. The one player that they lost was very, very quick. The guy who’s taken his place is a little more of a power guy, but the rest of those guys upfront, they are really, really quick, very, very athletic. Really do a good job of penetrating and getting off blocks and being disruptive with their movements. Good pass rushers off the edge.
“So, they provide a lot of challenges. Their linebackers are fast and athletic, can jump over quick when these guys clear the gaps up front, and that’s a real challenge to finish blocks. I mean, it really is and it’s going to be a challenge for our guys.”
(4:54) The vertical passing game hasn’t really developed too often so far. Going against an offense like Ole Miss where they’re probably going to have a couple of big plays, how do you get that going and what’s been the issue that you’ve seen on film?
“Well, the No. 1 thing we need to do is, I don’t think we tried to do a lot of vertical passing game. I mean, we’ve taken a couple of shots, but really not what I call vertical passing game when you’re trying to attack the middle of the field and really get down the field, we haven’t done that a whole lot.
“And when we have, the quarterbacks haven’t had a chance – it’s only been a few times – it hasn’t been there. So, I think the object is not to allow Ole Miss to get all the big plays they’ve been having. I think that’s a real key to the game for the defense, and not just assume we’ve got to make those kinds of plays on offense to win the game.
“It’s always nice when you make explosive plays – I think taking care of the ball and making explosive plays will have a lot to do with the outcome of this game – so it’s important for us not to give them a bunch and for us to get some, but they can come in a lot of different ways. They can be big-play runs, they could be short passes that turn into long runs. There’s a lot of different ways that you can make explosive plays. It doesn’t always have to be in the vertical passing game.”