Everything Nick Saban said after Alabama's first preseason practice

On3 imageby:Charlie Potter08/03/23

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Nick Saban First Fall Camp Press Conference - 8.3.23 | Alabama Football

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama held its first preseason practice on Thursday afternoon on the Thomas-Drew Fields. Shortly after the two-hour workout, head coach Nick Saban spoke to local reporters at the Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility. Below is everything Saban said Thursday. 

“One of the things that I’ve talked to the team about is there’s a lot of things to be learned from our season. What every season comes down to is a play here and a play there. The problem is, you never know when those plays are coming up, so you’ve got to be prepared to play every play, regardless of the circumstances and the situation of the game. You’ve got to execute, you’ve got to get 11 guys to execute. So who you are, what you do, sort of defines you on Saturday. That can be a good thing if you’ve prepared and created great habits in terms of what you’re going to do. But you can also get exposed if you don’t do the things you need to do and look at the game itself as a challenge. Not something to fear, but actually an opportunity to be able to go out and have success.

“I think we’ve had a good offseason. I think we’ve had a good summer. That’s something we want to continue to build on. I don’t really care what you do in the summer — when you put a helmet on, when you put spider pads on, things are different. When we put shells on, things are going to be different. So this is a process that players have to go through. I think the key to the drill is, can you continue to stay focused, pay attention to detail, sustain when you don’t feel 100 percent, when you don’t feel great, when you get a little sore, when you get a little tired, because you’ve got to twist yourself so you can get to the next level and that’s what we try to get our players to be able to stay focused on. We certainly have the kind of circumstances to help them do that. The kind of conditions we had out there today — it’s something that will test your mettle a little bit. And that’s probably a good thing at this time of the year.

“From a personnel standpoint, Thaiu Jones-Bell had some medical issues. So he’s on a medical this year. I think everybody worked together, except Jamarion Miller will be out for a couple days. He’s got a strained quad.

“Other than that guys, look. You’re going to ask me about the quarterbacks every day. Every day I’m going to tell you the same thing. Everybody’s getting reps at the position. Somebody’s got to take the bull by the horns. Somebody’s got to separate themselves. When that happens, we’ll tell you. Will be glad to tell you. When we’re going to take the cake out of the oven, we’re going to tell you when it’s time. But until then, there’s really nothing to talk about, nothing to say. Not a whole lot of sense in asking about, because we want all the guys when they’re in there, you play the position like it’s yours. Like it belongs to you. You’re out there competing. You’re not looking over your shoulder, you’re not looking at what somebody else does. You’re playing like you’re the man. That’s what we want each guy to do and see who can do that with the most consistency. So it’s important. You’ve got to be processed-oriented. You can’t be outcome-oriented right now, you’ve got to be process-oriented because that’s what you want to help your players to have the kind of consistency is you need to play winning football at the position, which is ultimately what we’re looking for.

On the progress of the inside linebackers…

“I’m happy with the group. Deontae Lawson played really good football when he played last year. He was injured a lot of the time. He sat out the spring, got his knee worked on a little bit. He’s had a good summer. He’s got leadership, he’s got a good understanding of the defense. Jihaad Campbell has made really good progress. We’ve got lots of competition at the position. I’m pleased with the way these guys are progressing. They’ve made a tremendous amount of progress. We’ve had a lot of guys out in the spring that — both outside ‘backers, one inside ‘backer — so it gave guys a lot of opportunity to get a lot of reps there. So we’ve got those guys back, we’ve got a little bit of leadership and I like the experience that we have in the group.”

On what he’s looking for at left tackle…

“I think just because a guy is a left tackle, he doesn’t have to do all the things that an offensive lineman has to do. He’s got to be assignment-oriented, he’s got to work the guys next to you in terms of how you’re blocking — whether it’s run or pass. But I do think, as you guys have all pointed out, that when you have right-handed quarterbacks, obviously the left tackle is a little bit more important. But we’re always going to try to scheme things so that if the other team has a significant pressure, we have ways to help guys. But I think pass blocking is important. But I think being a complete player at that position is important, too. You’re moving on the run, being very assignment-oriented, not making a lot of mental errors so that you can execute and play winning football, down in and down out. That’s the same at every position.”

On what he’s seen from the tight ends…

“The tight end group has made really good progress. CJ (Dippre) has been a really good addition to that group. He’s got maturity. He’s got experience. He’s got size. He’s got good hands. He’s pretty good in the passing game. He’s a pretty decent blocker. Amari (Niblack) has really made a lot of improvement. He’s kind of a mismatch player a little bit in the passing game, which is a good thing. All the other guys are progressing nicely, as well. That group has come a long way, I think, over the spring and summer.”

On longtime athletic trainer Jeff Allen…

“… Jeff Allen is a really, really important part of the program. He’s got a great personality. He’s got the trust of the players. He has stayed here. I think he came here right after the first year we were here and has been a really important staple for a long, long time. I think the medical staff is so important in this day and age because the players need to be able to trust those people. Jeff Allen does a fantastic job. Dr. Cain does a good job. Dr. Andrews does a good job when he comes around. I think that’s one of the real pluses for our program is the quality of medical staff that we have. We have great facilities, so they’ve done a fantastic job. Jeff has done a great job. He’s an asset to me, too, because he has a great feel for the players, where they’re at and what we need to be doing. So that input is really valuable, as well.”

On running backs Jase McClellan, Roydell Williams…

“I actually think there’s four guys in the running back room that have really done a good job. Jase has been a really good leader. Roydell has always set a really good example. He’s a good special teams players, as well as a good runner. Loves to play on teams, loves to do whatever he can to help the team. Jase has really stepped up and set a good example. And the two young players, Justice (Haynes) and Jam, have done really, really well, too. Of course, we have a new addition, the new freshman (Richard Young), but he’s probably a little bit behind the other guys just from a learning standpoint. But I like all those guys. I think they all have great attitude, and I think that’s one of the strongest positions from a depth standpoint on our team.”

On defensive back transfer Jaylen Key…

“I think we needed a couple of versatile guys in the secondary. I like the two guys that we were able to add. Jaylen is learning the system, but he is an instinctive player. He does have good size. I think he can play in the deep part of the field, and I think he can play in the box. I think that he’s learning, but he’s got a great attitude and he’s smart. And I think the experience that he has, because he has played before and played some games at this level in the SEC, will really help him develop. I think he’s gonna be a guy that can really help us and contribute. I’m not sure exactly what role yet. We’re moving a lot of guys around to different positions, but we’re trying to find the best five guys to sort of play the best spots in the back end.”

On quaterback Tyler Buchner, his ties to Tommy Rees…

“Tommy knew the guy better than anybody could know him. I mean, he coached him for a couple years. The guy was injured last year, so he didn’t get as much experience. I think he started two games and played fairly well, so we got the opportunity to see that. But Tommy knows him better than anybody else could. I think you always know a player when you coach them. You know what his strengths. You know what he needs to improve on. I still think that he’s probably getting comfortable with the system. There’s some new terminology in it. And I think he’s probably still getting comfortable with the players around him because the other guys have been with those guys a little more. But I do think there’s really good competition at the position.”

On the challenge for D-linemen to pressure quarterbacks…

“Defensive linemen to me have to have lower body explosion and initial quickness, be able to strike and attack up front and not catch blocks so that you force the offensive line to make a decision about how they’re going to block you. I think the tendency is guys want to sit back and read, but I’d rather them, you know, strike and be aggressive and get across the line of scrimmage and close the distance on the guy that’s blocking them, play a little more aggressively up front, take gaps, cut gaps. I think that also helps you when a guy sets to pass, you’re already attacking him so you can get into him. Get your hands into him quickly. So it’s important to be able to move your hands and use your feet at the same time if you’re going to be a good pass rusher and you’re going to be able to get off blocks and disengage. So that’s something that we always look for, can a guy finish on a quarterback? And lots of times you see guys, they have a good pass rush, but then they can’t get the quarterback on the ground. And there’s a lot of really good athletes playing the position. So that’s really challenging for a guy to be big enough, strong enough, physical enough to play in the defensive line and still be athletic enough to finish on a quarterback.

“So those are some of the qualities that we look for. And you’ve got to be tenacious. I mean, you’ve got to be instinctive too. Everybody asks all the time, What is instincts? Well, when do you get off a block? You get off to too soon and the back cuts. If you get off too late, he’s gone. So like I told you guys before, you can teach somebody how to swing a bat, you can teach them what the strike zone is. You can’t teach them it’s a good pitch to hit from the time it leaves the pitcher’s hand to get to home plate. They’ve got to figure that part out on their own.”

On the core tenets he wants to hammer home in fall camp…

“Well, I think I kind of mentioned this earlier when I talked at SEC media day about talent is not enough because at some point in time you’re going to meet the person that has the same amount of talent that you do. So if you don’t have the right mindset to go with that talent, which means you’ve got resiliency, you’ve got work ethic, you’ve got perseverance, you can overcome adversity, you’ve got discipline to pay attention to detail, do the little things right so that you can execute at a high level all the time. So you want to take advantage and bring your talent to fruition. But I also think having humility is something that’s important because if you have humility, you know there’s a better way. So you’re always looking for a better way.

“So you have tremendous gratitude for the people who are trying to teach you, whether it’s your parents, your teacher, your coach, whoever it is. And you have great relationships with those people and you can self-assess and, you know there’s a better way. And that’s how you improve. And I think qualities that, you know, we need to continue to develop on our team so that we get everybody buying into the principles of values and what it takes to be successful. But it’s what I said before, you got to do it every play. You know, when you look back on the season, like I showed the guys a film yesterday of, okay, here are some good plays we made in crunch time and won close games and here are some plays we really messed up in crunch time and it hurt us in close games. So what are you going to learn from that? But you’ve got to be able to execute and you’ve got to be able to play your best when your best is needed. So that’s what great competitors can do, and that’s what we want to try to continue to develop on our team.”

On JUCO transfers Malik Benson, Justin Jefferson…

“I think both guys are sort of developing nicely but I think the biggest issue with most guys is understanding what to do so they can go play fast all the time. I think there’s still a little apprehension — and Malik is probably a little further along than Justin because at least on offense, I know what I’m supposed to do. On defense, you’re reacting to something. So not to be able to understand what your assignment is and how to react to that, I think, takes a little longer. But I think both of those two guys can make a contribution to our team.

“I want to ask you all something, because I’m really interested in this. You ask me questions all the time. So we had a media training session yesterday. How’d I do? Did I do better because I sat through media training? Aight, thanks. I appreciate it.”

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