The competition will get a little stiffer this weekend when the Tide will welcome in future SEC foe, the Texas Longhorns.
The marquee non-conference matchup is sure to draw the eyeballs of the college football world as Coach Saban matches up against one of his former assistants, Steve Sarkisian.
As the Crimson Tide began to prepare for the Longhorns on Monday, Coach Saban would speak to members of the media and discuss his team ahead of the pivotal matchup. Below is everything Saban had to say:
“Just a review of the last game. The players played hard in the game, competed well in the game. I thought we played more physical, executed fairly well for the most part. But as in all first games, there’s an opportunity to correct things that we didn’t get quite right. And I think that it shows a lot in terms of how a team is approaching the season in how much you improve from the first game to the second game. And so the players having the right mindset relative to the challenges that we have internally on our team to get better is important to being able to get those things fixed.
“I think that games like this are something that players certainly look forward to. It’s great that Jalen (Milroe) got recognized as the SEC Offensive Player of the Week and Caleb (Downs) the Freshman of the Week. But both of those players who played well and obviously got recognized for it, also have to continue to look at the things that they did well and build on those things. And hopefully, that confidence helps them in the future. But also stay focused on doing the things that they need to do to improve in terms of their consistency in performance and execution. I don’t think there’s anybody on our team who doesn’t have something that they can actually improve on relative to their performance last week.
“Texas, I think everybody knows Sark is a really good coach. They’ve got a really good team. They’ve got a veteran team returning, with 10 starters on offense, six on defense. Really good skill players on offense. Really good quarterback who can throw the ball effectively. They make a lot of explosive plays. Worthy’s an outstanding receiver. They’ve got good running backs. They’ve got a really good tight end. They’re very good on defense. They play really good up front. They’re physical. They played extremely well in the first game. And they were excellent on special teams. So this is a really good team all the way around, and it’s going to be an opportunity for our team to sort of, you know, where are we as a team? Where are you as a player?
“You’re going to play against a really good player and that usually says, where am I as a player? This is going to be a good barometer for us to find out where are we as a team. We’re going to focus on doing a great job of trying to get our guys to prepare to play a great game and do a good job in terms of execution. I know it will be an exciting game from a fan’s perspective, and we love that atmosphere and environment that they create. But I think one of the things that’s really important for players is can you stay focused on what you need to do and not get affected by a lot of the external factors.”
On Jaylen Key and Malachi Moore
“They’re both day-to-day. It’s probably too early to tell what their circumstance will be. It’ll probably be a couple days and we’ll figure it out. But I don’t think either guy has long-term issues, but it’ll be interesting to see how they progress this week.”
On Emmanuel Henderson
“He has a hip injury. It’s gonna probably be a few more weeks before he gets back into the swing of things but hard to know exactly when. They’ll do some re-checks on him here in the next week or two. He was having a great fall camp, doing a great job on special teams and made a lot of progress as a receiver, so we’d love to get him back.”
On Caleb Downs
“I think Caleb played really well. He plays fast, he’s physical; I think that was a really challenging game, especially from a young player to have to play with all the formations and adjustments that we had to make, and I think he handled it really, really well.”
On if he looks back at last year's game with Texas
“I think you’re always looking at what a team does technically and it’s always most interesting to see what was their philosophy of what they did technically to, whether it was play defense against you or attack you offensively or what they did on special teams. So I think you use that information as a history of maybe what you might see again, and other things that they did periodically that change. So I don’t think you’d look back on the game from a psychological standpoint as much as you do a technical standpoint.”
On Kendrick Blackshire
“He got into the game, played fairly well. I think that the big thing we work on with Kendrick is consistency and performance. When he’s locked in and focused he plays really, really well but you got to be able to do it all the time so that you develop the kind of confidence, trust in yourself and your teammates that you need to be a consistent player overall. But he played well in the game when he got a chance to play.”
On the interest in changing to home-to-home games
“I think that one of the reasons that we did neutral-site games was, from a scheduling standpoint, it was a way to get a quality opponent on the schedule early on, which I thought had a lot of benefit in terms of your team developing in the offseason, looking forward to that game. Probably the Clemson game that we had the second year we were here probably did as much to sort of ignite the program in a way. But then after you do that for a while and you start having success, and fans are going to playoff games and bowl games and different things, they don’t have the same significance. Then to have more quality home games for the fans to see becomes a little bit more I think important. I think that’s kind of in a nutshell is sort of why we transitioned back to this. Not to say that if we had an opportunity to play a game somewhere in the future we would, but I think that changes also with conference realignment, and what can happen in the future. So there’s a lot of factors that go into it.”
On secondary depth and communication
“I think it’s really important all the time. That’s one thing that we’re constantly harping on is to get good communication. Specifically about (Trey Amos, Earl Little II and Kristian Story), some of them played really well. Some of them have things that they can improve on and sort of didn’t play with the poise that you need to play with; maybe a little anxiety in the first game, whatever. But we need all those guys to continue to develop and play well because right now (DeVonta Smith) is already down and we got two other guys that are not able to practice at least today, maybe someday in the near future. So it’s important that we develop young players and these guys have a chance to develop confidence which I think that just the fact that they got to play the game should help them to some degree, see what they need to improve on as well as build on the things that they did well.”
On the feeling coming out of the tunnel for a game
“To me, it’s always exciting, the challenge of playing a game. It’s especially sometimes challenging when you play on the road, and everybody’s against you. And it’s also a great feeling when you play at home and a lot of folks are for you, and the enthusiasm’s great. The players are excited about playing. It’s what you work for all week long. I’m usually a little nervous, sort of leading up to that. When we go out on the field, it kind of all goes away and you start focusing on, OK what’s next? Here’s the coin toss. We’re going to kick off, or we’re going to receive. And then it’s one play at a time, and all that kind of goes away. But it’s exciting. There’s no question about it. Certainly, the great atmosphere we have in Bryant-Denny Stadium contributes to that excitement when we’re playing at home.”
On turnover battle against MTSU
“Well, we got two turnovers. We had a third ball on the ground that we probably should’ve gotten. We didn’t turn the ball over, which is a real plus offensively or on special teams. You always want to have a positive turnover ratio, so we’re +2, so that’s a positive thing. I thought there were times where we could’ve had a little better ball security, which we will point out to the players. There were some other opportunities where we maybe should’ve gotten some balls out. When you’re emphasizing turnovers and not turning the ball over, those are always things you’re trying to focus on.”
On Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson
“I thought both guys handled the situation well. They executed fairly well. I think it’s a good opportunity for both of them to be able to learn from some of the things that they did, get some really good game experience. I thought they both did a good job.”
On Deontae Lawson
“He’s a bright guy. He’s a signal caller. Didn’t disappoint us at all. In the game on Saturday, we were getting a lot of multiples, lot of different things. But he did a good job. He had a good game. He played well. He was productive, so I think it’s important that we keep getting that type of performance because linebacker’s such an important position in setting the front and stopping the run, but also getting out on run-pass and being able to match the patterns the way you need to. He’s certainly a bright guy and has been able to do that extremely well.”