TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — On Wednesday evening, Alabama football coach Nick Saban spoke to the media for the final time before his team heads to Starkville to face Mississippi State.
The Crimson Tide experienced its first loss of the season last Saturday at Texas A&M, and this week the program looks to get back on track in its pursuit of the program's 19th national championship.
Here is the full transcript from Saban's final press conference ahead of Mississippi State:
Nick Saban Transcript - Oct. 13, 2021
"Well, I think the most important thing we keep trying to emphasize with the players, which they’ve done a pretty good job of, is responding the right way to try to improve and do things in a way that’s going to help them create value for themselves and help them create value for the team. If you don’t create any value for Alabama, you don’t create any value for yourself so everybody’s gotta focus on, finishing. I think, it’s a cue every day when you practice you get tired, you get lots of reps, that when you start to get that way, that’s a cue for you to finish. You’ve got to finish plays, you gotta finish games. We certainly didn’t finish the last game, the last five minutes of the game was not what we needed it to be so that’s something that we have to continue to work on.
"Playing at Mississippi State, every game we’ve ever had over there has been really, really difficult. Their team is playing really well so this is going to be a real challenge for us and we’re going to have to bring our A-game, play our best against a lot of really good players on both sides of the ball. It’s always a difficult place to play with the cowbells and all that but we’ve been in two, couple difficult circumstances so far this year so hopefully we can continue to improve how we manage that."
Observations with leadership on team?
"Well, I certainly think that we need leadership. I think every organization needs leadership, need people to set a good example, need people to care enough to serve others to help them set a good example. So you get a critical mass of people that are all buying into the same principles and values and the same standard. As much as I can talk about it as a coach, I think it always gets reinforced to a great degree if you have peer intervention where you have your peers are constantly preaching that same message and holding people to the same standard so that’s something that we want to continue to develop and I think something that will help this team continue to develop."
How do you prepare for a team like Mississippi State who throws the ball quite often?
"Well, when they throw the ball, I don’t know I think it’s pretty close to 80% of the time, almost on every down. You have to change the way you think. The old fashioned, gotta stop the run on regular downs and play the passes. You’ve gotta kind of change to, we’ve got to stop the runs but we’ve got to play really good pass defense on every downs because a lot of their passes are control game, get the ball out quick, short, gain five, seven, catch and runs so you’ve got to break on the ball and tackle well. It’s a little different mindset that your team has to have and your signal caller. But that’s the way we practiced all week so the players should be getting it and I think we’ve got a good idea of what they’re going to do it’s just going to be a matter of how our guys execute and be able to get consistent enough performance down in and down out not to give them big plays and to try to be able to deny the ball when we need to so we can get off the field."
What spark does WR Jameson Williams provide for the offense?
"Well, I think really he’s done extremely well, he’s got great speed. He’s a vertical threat on every play. I thought he played really well last week. I think he had seven catches or whatever, a big play touchdown, couple touchdowns but a big play touchdown on a double move, he’s added a lot. I mean, our receivers have got to be very consistent in terms of the way we play. We can’t afford to miscommunicate, we can’t afford to drop balls and he’s been a real positive spark for us."
Take it personally when the defense doesn’t meet your standard?
"I’ve always got competitive fire because I respect what it takes to win. I respect what it takes to prepare to win. And I try to do it every week, and I try to get the players to respond to it each and every week so that they have the best chance to create value for themselves and they go out and play. And when players don’t play well, they don’t create value for themselves and they don’t create value for the team.
"And we made too many mental errors, didn’t tackle well early in the game. And I think all that starts with your mind-set in terms of the intensity that you have, the focus that you need to be able to go out there and compete against good players in tough environments. That’s as difficult a competitive environment as you’re going to be in. What defines great competitors is people who can be their best when their best is needed. I think people evaluate that and look at that. That’s something that I’m always trying to help the players have the best opportunity to do. Now, I have pride in performance, too. Not just for the defense but for our whole team, and it’s very upsetting to me when the defense doesn’t play well because I feel like it’s my responsibility and I should be affecting people.
"I’m talking about players and coaches and everybody in the organization in a way that our team is well prepared so that they can go out there and play well. I’m kind of a perfectionist when it comes to that, and it’s really, really tough when you don’t feel like you got things done the way you like for them to be done."
Finishing: mental, physical or combo of both?
"I think it starts with your mind-set. You going to do what you feel like doing or are you going to choose to do the things you need to do push through difficult circumstances and difficult times and stay focused. And when you do that, then you develop a greater capacity to do it. So it starts out mind-set but then you become physically more able and capable to sustain because you had the mental toughness to push yourself to the next level.
"I mean, it’s like blowing up a balloon. The first time you blow it up, it’s really, really tough. Then you let the air out of it, it blows up to that point pretty easily. But then when you try to take it beyond that, it gets very difficult again. So it’s the same thing with how you sustain, how you focus, how you finish. You develop a greater capacity to do it so then it becomes easier. But when you give into it, it never becomes easier, and then when you have to do it, it’s very difficult to sort of be able to get done."
Drew Sanders injury update?
"He’s not available this week. He’s out there in pads every day but it’s not safe for him to use his hand yet. So he’s not going to play this week."
Thoughts on Ja'Corey Brooks on special teams?
"He’s been one of the real positive freshmen that have contributed on special teams, that realizes the importance of learning how to play on special teams. A lot of other guys don’t take it serious but he’s an outstanding job for us on teams. He loves to play. He’s a really good competitor. Just likes to play. And we need more guys on our team to be able to contribute.
"We need for our younger guys on our team to be playing on special teams so a lot of the older guys who are playing more plays in the game don’t have to play. Because those guys are really good special teams players. Josh Jobe is a really good special teams (player). Jordan Battle is a really good special teams player. B-Rob, very good special teams player. Well, they served their time. Now they’re playing a greater role and playing all the time so we need other players to understand. And those guys all learned how to do it when they were freshmen.
"JaCorey Brooks has done an outstanding job of that. We have several other freshmen who have contributed extremely well on special teams. But we need more of it."