Everything Nick Saban said after second spring scrimmage
ByCharlie Potter 20 hours ago
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama head coach Nick Saban spoke to reporters during a press conference following the Crimson Tide's second spring scrimmage Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Below is everything Saban said in his sixth press conference of the spring.
"I think the big thing that we really try to look for in the second scrimmage is the guys that have played around here and been good players know how to compete. They’ve been in big arenas before. They have mental toughness. They play with discipline. We have high exceptions for how those guys play, and those guys don’t disappoint us. And they didn’t disappoint us today. But the big thing we wanted to see today is we have a lot of young players on our team that have a chance to contribute to the team and play winning football. I think the biggest thing that we’ve been trying to emphasize with them is the mental part of the game is so important. Your ability to focus, mental intensity. Your ability to prepare properly, so you know what to do, how to do it, why it’s important to do it that way. And we were anxious to see more guys able to go out there and play with the kind of intangibles that would allow them to play winning football. Now I haven’t watched the film yet, but I wasn’t totally pleased with the way some of those made improvement and came along. Look, it’s a work in progress. So wherever they are, we’re going to keep working with them to try to get them where they need to be, but we were hopeful that we would make a little more progress."
On Freddie Kitchens at coaching clinic
"Freddie Kitchens made an interesting statement when he spoke to the clinic, and I actually shared it with the players today. We have about five choices in our life: We can be bad at what we do. We can be average at what we do. We can be good at what we do, which is probably God’s expectation for whatever ability he gave us. We can be excellent. Or we can be elite. All right? And everybody has a choice as what they want to do and how they want to do that. But if you’re going to be excellent or elite, you have to do special things. You have to special intensity. You have to have special focus. You have to have a special commitment, drive and passion to do things at a high level and at a high standard all the time. It doesn’t matter what God-given ability you have, that probably can make you good. But without the rest of it, I’m not sure you ever get excellent or elite. And that’s the part we’re trying to get to."
On scrimmage injuries
"We only had Jedrick Wills sprained his ankle today. We don’t know the extend of the injury. We’ll do an MRI. He didn’t come back. We didn’t expect him to come back. We wouldn’t let him come back. So we’ll see what the deal is when we do an MRI and all that probably on Monday. But no other significant injuries to report."
Just in general, how would you assess the way the quarterbacks played today?
"I think the quarterbacks played OK. We turned the ball over a lot more today. But I think we had some what I call bad interceptions off of people’s hands, tipped balls, things like that that certainly they count as interceptions but sometimes they’re not all the quarterback’s fault. We had a couple other not as good as decisions as we’d like. But they made explosive plays on offense. I thought the first group on both sides of the ball played fairly well. But after that, we got a lot of work to do with the depth that we have on our team."
On young inside linebackers
You mentioned depth and young players, what did you see from the inside linebackers today?
"It’s hard for me to be specific until I’ve watched the film. I saw some guys flying around. I saw some guys miss some tackles. I didn’t feel like we tackled really well, especially the second team. First team did a pretty good job. But people weren’t running their feet on contact, trying to cut tackle, trying to butt people to the ground. And I think they’re finding out if they don’t tackle them correctly they’re not going to get them on the ground. Not when you play against good players. I think there was improvement there, but certainly the whole idea of playing defense is to tackle the guy with the ball. So you can do everything right, but if you don’t tackle the guy with the ball, that’s why you’re out there."
On DJ Dale, Justin Eboigbe
I wanted to ask you about some of the guys on the defensive line -- DJ Dale and Justin Eboigbe. What have they done to impress you out there?
"Both guys have made really good progress. They’re very good athletes. DJ is playing some with the ones at nose. He’s got good initial quickness, good power, strikes, seems to be pretty conscientious, shows a little maturity about being able to go out there and do his job. I think some of the other guys have certainly shown us that they have ability. I think when they get in a competitive situation, they completely just dumb down. They can’t focus. They’re supposed to slant, they don’t slant. So, it’s really -- you can see the talent, you can see the ability, but they’ve got to develop confidence when they hear a call that this is what I do and trust in that and believe in that. And right now in practice, it’s starting to happen. But the next step is we’ve got to get it in a competition situation."
On players leaving early for NFL draft
As a follow-up to that, 10 years ago, you might have one guy, two guys leave after their junior years. Now, seven, eight, nine guys leave after their junior years. Do you see that on the field in spring practice? Is that a noticeable difference?
"I think there’s no question it’s different. But I don’t think it’s any different here than it is every place else. We’ve had this conversation, I think, before, but I don’t know. I don’t really look it. I’ve heard 135 guys, I’ve heard 142 guys went out early for the draft. I do know there’s some pretty compelling stats out there about guys going out early for the draft. I think in the last five years, not counting this year, there’s been 380 or thereabouts go out early for the draft, and 25 percent of those guys didn’t even get drafted. And another 25 percent weren’t on the team in three years. So, that means 50 percent of the guys that went out early for the draft had failed grades. But if you look at the number of guys that were first- and second-round draft picks, there were very few guys that had failed careers. Now, we have guys that have no draft grades, seventh-round grades, free-agent grades, fifth-round grades that are going out of the draft. And the person that loses in that is the player. If you’re a third-round draft pick, and we had one here last year -- I’m not going to say any names -- goes and starts for his team, so he’s making third-round money, which is not that great. He’d be the first guy taken at his position this year, probably, and make $15-18 million more. So, the agent makes out, the club makes out, and now they’ve got a guy that’s going to play for that kind of money for three more years, aight. And everybody out there’s saying, ‘Well, get to your next contract.’ Well, there’s obviously 50 percent of these guys that never get to a next contract. And that doesn’t mean all the rest of them got to one, either.
"So, it’s the culture and it’s the trend, and I’ve actually changed how I talk to recruits now. I tell every recruit that I talk to the reason that you’re going to college is to prepare yourself for the day you can’t play football. I think we have a lot of people way back in high school, aight, that look at college as a conduit to get to the NFL. And look, I am 100-percent NFL. I’m 100-percent guys have careers, aight. But people have to be smart about the business decisions they make relative to the NFL because it is all business. When people make emotional decisions, they’re going to have to suffer some really difficult consequences for themselves in the future because you don’t have to go out for the draft early. You can come back and play. We’ve had six or seven guys here that had second- or third-round grades that became top-15 and first-round draft picks and made a significant amount of money doing that, so there’s some really good examples of guys that did it that way. And look, I’m all for every one of our guys that went out for the draft. I’m going to do everything I can do to try to get them drafted as high as they can get drafted, aight, because once they say they’re leaving, what benefits our program is that they do great, and I want them all to do great.
"But I don’t think that -- not just our players. There’s a significant amount of players that are not making good business decisions about what they do. And yeah, it affects our team, but our team turns over more quickly. We just have to have more better young guys that can go out there and learn how to play and provide depth for the team. And it’s not going to be an excuse for what kind of quality we put on the field. We’ve just got to do a better job of coaching because you’ve got to do a better job of developing young players because they’re going to have to play more quickly."
On young running backs
Just want to know what you saw from the running backs, more so outside of Brian Robinson and Najee Harris. Some of the other guys that you’re trying to build your depth with.
"They’re making progress. I mean, do they have things to work on? Absolutely. Do they have the ability to make plays? I think so. Do we have some guys coming here that are going to get an opportunity to compete with them? I think so. But I think that’s one of the things -- we’ve got nine players coming on defense and three more guys coming in on offense, and all of those guys are going to get every shot over the summer and fall camp to be able to compete with the guys that are here. So, nobody’s going to be entitled to anything when it comes to next fall. I know that guys, all you care about is the depth chart. We don’t have a depth chart. Everybody’s going to compete, and hopefully, we’ll be able to get those guys to be able to play winning football at running back past the first two guys, as well."