Alabama had head coach Nick Saban, C Antoine Caldwell, and S Rashad Johnson present today at SEC Media Days.
Head Coach Nick Saban
In his opening statement to the media today, Nick Saban was straight with them about the team's play in 2007. Citing that "consistency in performance is the key to being successful," Saban said last year's team didn't play with that consistency.
"We were inconsistent up and down, played up to the good teams, down to the bad ones. We were inconsistent within games. Had big leads and weren't able to keep them. We didn't finish games. We didn't finish the season." Saban viewed the Tennessee game as the lone complete game the Tide played last year.
As far as the consistency, Saban said many things contributed to the inconsistent play of the team. He said that "judgment and discipline need to improve" for this team to play consistently. Saban was referring to both on the field and off the field.
Saban was asked about the comments made by LSU head coach Les Miles last Sunday and had nothing to say on the point. "Well, he told the truth. He told it like it was. We need to earn the respect. That's what we're trying to do."
Alabama head coach Nick Saban was not directly asked about his team's rough offseason, but he did give his team a compliment. "We have 25 to 30 guys that are doing extremely well in the program, have made a lot of personal choices that have enhanced their chances of being successful in the future."
When asked about the incoming recruiting class, Saban wasn't shy at all when discussing their contributions. He looks for a "lot of young players to make a contribution" this season. Saban went as far to say "several on offense" and "five to six on defense."
"We're going to play the best players, and if they're freshmen and the freshmen can go out there and play with consistency and performance and do their job better than someone else, we have no issue with those guys being the performers that will give us the best opportunity to be successful as a team."
With the incoming recruiting class being extremely hyped, Saban said he is finding ways to try and keep his incoming guys grounded. Saban said he wants to remove the expectations from recruiting services from the minds of the freshmen and wants them to have "expectations that they create for themselves, that they define and work for, and not be affected by things that happen outside."
When asked about John Parker Wilson, Saban described his off-season as "outstanding." "I think it was contributed largely to having a great bowl game, kind of restored his confidence."
Saban said he felt real good about JPW's off-season progress as well. He cited a "new offensive coordinator, a little more diversity, a little more quarterback friendly," as real reasons to see a much better QB on the field this year leading the Crimson Tide.
With JPW going into this third season with his third different offensive coordinator, Saban was asked whether or not this may have affected his performance on the field. "I think it probably didn't help him much when he had to do it. Now that he's done it, I think it's helped him tremendously. He's adapted extremely well, you know, to our current coordinator. I think he can have an outstanding year if he can just stay on task here."
The Crimson Tide head man was asked to give a timetable for when Alabama will return to the top. Saban gave his favorite answer of "it is what it is," and one that may become his new favorite, "we are where we are. We're going to continue to build a program that our fans and supporters can be proud of."
Concerning the Clemson game on August 30, Saban seemed excited about the tough opponent to begin the season. "There are a lot of positives in it. We need to create an identity for this team. I also think that's gonna help us down the road in our competition in the league."
Saban thinks the game will be exciting for the fans. He also addressed the possibility of playing Virginia Tech and says that the game is not totally out of the question. "We are trying to work around scheduling conflicts."
The Alabama center was really excited about his decision to return and to be on this version of the Alabama Crimson Tide. "I feel like we were going to have a really good season and there were relationships that I was going to miss. I feel like the money will always be there, so I just wanted to come back and be a part of what we're trying to do here."
As for the confidence he sees in this team, Caldwell says this team has "the best confidence level and the most talented team at the school" in his five years at Alabama. "I feel like we have a legitimate shot to compete for the SEC West."
Caldwell is confident in the team and how they have bought into "The Process." He says the point is to have a good practice day after day to complete a good week to be competitive.
As far as last year's team, he thought there were some problems in the team. "I think the guys are buying into it now and that makes a big difference. Half of the guys last year didn't get it. They still wanted to do their own thing."
The Alabama center was very high on the incoming class as well. "They are the most talented, hardest working group to come in. Coach McElwain, the system that he's brought, is more friendly, easier to learn, than what we've had here in the past. The younger guys have been in here this summer working with it, so I think they'll be more comfortable when fall practice starts next week."
The Alabama safety was very vocal about being more comfortable under coach Saban now than during the first year. He sees "a lot better understanding of coach's philosophy."
Johnson also talked about his role as a leader on this team, being a returning elected team captain. He feels it's "very important" that his voice is heard about what is expected or what needs to be done. Johnson also enjoys the thought of "more players than coaches speaking up" in practice.
Johnson was also high on the freshman class. He said that the freshmen are competing already. "We have a lot of confidence in those guys, and we've already seen the way that they've come in and worked this summer...those guys are all about winning, and it means a lot to us that they've come in and started working like everyone else."
He mentioned two freshmen specifically, Jerrell Harris and Julio Jones, who can make an impact this season. Rashad thinks Julio "is a great player. He is working hard. He will do great things this year." As for Harris, Johnson thinks he has "the potential to come in and play. He could physically play for us, but it depends on how quickly he grasps the mental (part of the game)."
When asked about his career at Alabama, moving from a walk-on RB to an All-SEC safety, Rashad was very humble. "In high school, I was always a running back. I played defense in high school, but it was always catch the guy if he breaks." He said he never envisioned he would be an All-SEC DB and that you never know what God has in store for you. "Humbleness is definitely something that helps you reach greatness."
When asked about the prospects of this team, the Alabama senior was very realistic. "We have the possibility of being great. It just all depends on how we learn things when we come into camp."