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January 7, 2017
Q. Just asking about Deshaun Watson.
JEREMY PRUITT: You know, he's made all the throws. Very athletic. He's been in the system a long time. Great leader. You can see that. I had the opportunity when I was at Georgia, played against him as a true freshman, I guess the first college game he ever played, but the guy is a tremendous athlete, great competitor. We've got our hands full with him.
Q. They have so many weapons all over that offense. How balanced is Clemson compared to other teams you've faced all year?
JEREMY PRUITT: They have a really good offensive line. They do a nice job there. They have a really good tight end who can stretch you down the field. He's a good blocker. Got playmakers on the outside. You know, the running backs, No. 9, really good competitor.
Q. Some people call your defense potentially the greatest of all time and you've been around this game a long time. How good is the defense you're coaching this year?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, we've got good football players. We've got guys that like being around each other. Good competitors. We've got one more game. We'll see how we finish.
JEREMY PRUITT: No, I think that's good recruiting. The coach has done a good job recruiting playmakers, guys that handled the ball in high school. I think it's important when you're recruiting defense guys that you get guys that are used to happened willing the football.
Q. Have you noticed any difference with the offense -- is there a change?
JEREMY PRUITT: No, we focus on us, not the other team.
Q. Watching last year's film, you obviously weren't here, but what did you notice about what he was able to do?
JEREMY PRUITT: You know, actually I was here. I had left Georgia and I was here during the playoff just watching, observing. I was observing. And you know, when I was at Florida State, we played against Clemson. I was at Georgia, we played against Clemson. They are very similar.
And you talk about Watson, the guy is a playmaker, tremendous leader. He can make all the throws. He can hurt you with his feet. He can extend plays. Really puts a lot of pressure on the defense. Stretched them vertical and horizontal.
Q. Is he as good a quarterback as you'll face?
JEREMY PRUITT: I would say he'd be up there. He's a really good player.
Q. What do you think of his NFL prospects?
JEREMY PRUITT: That's not my job. I'm just worried about stopping him on Monday night.
Q. Are you going to try to keep him in the pocket? What are general rules for slowing him down?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, hopefully we can find a way to create some negative plays. The thing about it is these guys are really good on third down. They can drive the football and they can score big plays. They have a tremendous amount of playmakers on the outside. Leggett, the tight end, can stretch you. We are going to have our hands full.
Q. What challenges does Mike Williams present specifically?
JEREMY PRUITT: He's a big guy, fast guy. He really competes for the 50/50 balls. He goes and gets it. Looks like a power forward out there playing. So got really good competitive spirit about him.
Q. What have you seen in the development of Watson from last year when you saw him as freshman to where he is now?
JEREMY PRUITT: I'm sure he's like all college players, high school players. Thing about it, all players are better their third and fourth year than they are when they are a freshman. So I'm sure the experience, learning the offense and things like that. But he's got poise. Don't seem to get rattled. These guys have been behind in several games and they have just continued to fight and that tells you a lot about them.
Q. Beginning of the season, other teams had to try to find a way to move the ball against your team, so they have thrown the football quite a bit. Did you feel that the secondary really got better as the season progressed, because your team is so hard to run against?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, in college football, the ball gets spread around. There's so many snaps. It's hard to just keep people contained for 60 minutes, you know. So you've got to do a nice job of kind of weathering the storm.
And I think we did that. Our guys in the secondary, we've had some -- we've lost some good players back there, and we've had to move guys around but they have done a nice job all year.
Q. How is the play of Anthony Averett this year for you?
JEREMY PRUITT: Yeah, Anthony's done a good job. He's a guy that's got some age on him, his fourth year in the program. He understands the system. He's a good athlete. Got good instincts. He's done a nice job.
Q. Rashaan Evans, what do you think of his skill development throughout the year?
JEREMY PRUITT: You know, going into this season, Rashaan Evans, we considered a starter, him and Shaun Dion both. We felt we had three guys that were starters, and he did get injured. And he's played a lot of ball.
But he brings a unique kind of skill set. He can rush the quarterback and good blitzer, so he can cover guys. His thing, he just lacks a lot of experience.
Q. What are some of the teams that you've seen play well against Clemson that have done well defensively, what have they done?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, the first thing, they have been able to stop the run. You have to stop the run if you're going to beat these guys. Try to make them one-dimensional. Keeping them cutoff. Eliminating explosive plays. But that's anybody. That's not just Clemson. Got to control the quarterback.
Q. Coming in this year -- in general, what allows this defense to sustain itself?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, if you're asking about this defense, I think these guys are unique in the fact that there's good football players, but there's good football players on every team. And they have the -- our guys have the ability to sustain and do it over and over again. To me that's the thing that makes them unique.
You know, people can do things right or do it good. Every team can do that but these guys have found a way to do it over and over and over, and they have got a challenge to do it for one more game.
Q. Is it significant that a lot of your players have already --
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, one thing about it, what's happened in every game these guys have played up to now will have no outcome on this game. You know, but I do think playing against Clemson before, will probably benefit our guys, and it will also benefit their guys. At least both teams will kind of know what they are getting into.
Q. More dangerous inside or outside the pocket?
JEREMY PRUITT: I'd say he's dangerous as soon as he gets on the field.
Q. What did you see before you got to Alabama, what stood out to you about what they do? Were you studying any things you wanted to do yourself?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, you know I worked here six years before; right?
Q. When you were away, watching it, as well, when you were coordinator at Florida State, what were some of the things that stood out? I guess is there any kind of secret?
JEREMY PRUITT: I don't really know your question here.
Q. Is it just doing the basics, like you said, what everybody does, but doing it well?
JEREMY PRUITT: I think Coach has his plan that he likes to do. You know, there's not a whole lot changed since I left. There's been some changes.
Q. Has it really kind of stayed the same?
JEREMY PRUITT: Sure. Yeah. Very similar.
Q. What did you learn about Clemson's offense in the last week that maybe you didn't know before? Nationally they have been known as a pretty potent unit for the past couple years.
JEREMY PRUITT: Going back when I was at Florida State, we played them. When I was at Georgia, we played them.
Getting here last year during the playoffs or during this game last year, so I guess you take '13, '14, '15, this will be the fourth year in a row that I've kind of been involved with them. So I have some familiarity there. The guys on the staff there, a lot of them were coaches at Alabama when I was a player.
I feel like there's a lot of familiarity there for me and for them.
Q. Is there an offense that you have faced year that's comparable?
JEREMY PRUITT: To these guys? Well, starts with the quarterback. There's not anybody out there like him. You know, this guy's very unique. And they have got weapons everywhere. They play with a lot of confidence and they don't ever quit. They have been behind. They have played in some tough games and they persevered. So this will be the best team that we've played by far.
Q. Has it helped having a quarterback that --
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, I will say this: During spring and fall camp, you know, Jalen does bring a different dimension. So probably some experience there and having to play against him, it shouldn't hurt, that's for sure.
Q. Kind of motivating -- did you think of that, in meetings even a little bit more focused than normal?
JEREMY PRUITT: No, I don't think it's going to take that to get them motivated. Our guys have been, every week, to me, have played at a high level and I expect them to play at a high level this week.
Q. Last year's game, won the championship giving up 40 points -- is that in the back of your mind; that you want to have a better defensive showing on Monday night?
JEREMY PRUITT: No, the bottom line is we just want to find a way to win the football game. And last year's game will have nothing to do with this year's game.
Q. What's your feeling on the talk of this being the best defense of all time; is it rattling in your brain at all, or do you block such talk out?
JEREMY PRUITT: No, we're focused on improving every day, and that's kind of what we've done all year is worried about us and we'll continue to do that.
Q. What have you seen in terms of them improving this year?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, we had some guys that were very inexperienced. You know, everybody for gets there were seven starters that were lost off this team last year.
So we had to replace seven starters and a lot of backups. So to create depth, we've had to replace -- there's a lot of unknowns for us, and there's been a lot of guys that have stepped up and provided some depth over the last 14 games.
Q. You talked about creating depth and putting in new players, it's harder than it looks.
JEREMY PRUITT: Absolutely. And it happens everywhere. Every year, there's going to be a bunch of guys that graduate or leave and somebody else has got to step up and fill in.
And this time last year, I mean, I'm setting there, I don't know who, maybe Mississippi State or something, I'm watching tape, getting ready to prepare for them and I'm sitting there, and I freeze the tape and there's nine guys on the field on that certain play that wasn't here now.
It will be the same way next year. So just got to -- people have to step up and that's the beauty of this game.
Q. The play everyone talks about, the Superman play --
JEREMY PRUITT: You know, Jonathan, he's a really good competitor. He likes to play. He likes to practice. Smart guy. Understands what he's going to get before he gets it. What he does, I mean, out there on the field, he's pretty relentless.
Q. There's no -- even as a coach with a trained eye --
JEREMY PRUITT: There ain't no doubt, yeah.
Q. Did you watch the replay of that?
JEREMY PRUITT: Oh, yeah. It's a unique play.
Q. The defense seems to be chasing, they say they want to be the greatest defense ever. Is that a healthy thing?
JEREMY PRUITT: That's not really kind of how we approach things. We pretty much approach things one day at a time, one play at a time. So no, that's not been our focus.
Q. He said he wanted that to be the legacy --
JEREMY PRUITT: Who said that?
JEREMY PRUITT: I'm sure he would like that to be. But that's not what we're focused on out there at practice.
JEREMY PRUITT: No, you can't do that.
Q. But there's not -- some teams who put up numbers before the season -- did you have anything like that?
JEREMY PRUITT: No. We'd like to get three turnovers a game.
Q. Can you talk about Clemson's wide receiver and the challenges?
JEREMY PRUITT: They have got several really good football players out there. It's not just one: Mike Williams, Deon Cain, Scott, Ray-Ray. They have got some difference-makers out there and then you have Leggett at tight end.
So they have got plenty of playmakers, and then they have guys in the backfield that can do things with the ball in their hands. So unique guys out there.
Q. Opportunism with the defense, getting turnovers --
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, we start every practice with a turnover drill, some form of turnover drill and it's always against our offense. So trying to find a way to get the balls out and those guys protecting the football. We do it every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and done it since I've been here.
Q. Sometimes you see a team go four or five weeks and haven't got an interception, and others have a lot. Is that chance, or is that preparation?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, I think you've got to be in the right place. You know, there's one thing about it, if you're close to a wide receiver, then you've got a chance that the quarterback is going to throw the ball. That gives you an opportunity.
But then you have to have guys who can finish on the ball. That's important. And I think that's a lot to do with recruiting. You've got to recruit playmakers, and Coach has done that.
Q. Someone just talked about the process, players buying into the collective -- is that what you look for?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, I think the reason that a lot of guys come to Alabama, No. 1, is our players do a great job recruiting other players. Guys wouldn't come to Alabama if they wasn't happy. If you go on a visit somewhere, the players tell you all you need to know, and our players are heavily involved in recruiting.
Q. Your defensive run is pretty hard to overcome for any other team, not impossible, you guys have to do your job, but it presents a challenging obstacle. What do you see Clemson having done in the past that they might do to either get through your defensive line or try to go around it?
JEREMY PRUITT: What they will do next year? I'm sure they will do what they did to get here. You know, they have been here two years in a row, so they are doing something pretty good.
We didn't really slow them down last year. I wouldn't see them doing a whole lot different than what they have done in the past. That's usually with a good teams do.
Q. When you watch film of Watson, what does he do so well that makes him different?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, he's a unique talent and they have got a really good scheme on offense. They spread the ball around. He can make all the throws. He can hurt you with his feet. He keeps his eyes down the field. So when he's extending plays with his feet, he can still shoot the ball down the field, and they have got playmakers everywhere and they do a nice job up front covering people up.
Q. When is he the most dangerous?
JEREMY PRUITT: When he comes on the field.
Q. How valuable is it --
JEREMY PRUITT: I got that question a while ago. I think that it's probably good for both teams. Been on the field with each other and kind of get an idea of what you're kind of getting into.
Q. How similar is their scheme, same offense with different players plugged in?
JEREMY PRUITT: I would say it's very similar to what they have been doing. Just like all staffs. They are going to find little wrinkles for each year and each week and they do a really nice job.
Q. You played a quarterback, Josh Dobbs. Looks awful similar and you shut down. How similar are those two quarterbacks, Watson and Dobbs?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, it's two totally different offenses. Two totally different offenses. Clemson's really throwing the football well and they can kind of do it all. So I don't think it's fair to compare those two guys because they are not in the same system.
Q. Same type of player, though?
JEREMY PRUITT: I'm talking about Deshaun Watson. That's who I'm worried about. Deshaun Watson is -- he can run the football, he can throw the football, he can make all the throws. He's a great leader. You can tell the kids rally around him. They have gotten behind in a lot of games and have rallied back, which tells you a lot about their character.
Q. As a play caller that's had some success against them, what was it worked for you in those games? Was it what you were doing, the players?
JEREMY PRUITT: I guess if you're in this business, over the years, everybody's going to coach against everybody, play against everybody. So I don't know if there's anything that was unique in those games. Just we played better for that particular time.
It's kind of -- when I was at Georgia, I think in the first half, they scored 21 points on us and had 275 yards. You know, so really wore us out. In the second half, we kind of got the better of them. But none of that will have any bearing on Monday night. I think I could probably draw on some of the experiences there and they could, too. So we'll see.
Q. Deshaun, that was his first game, and he threw that touchdown pass over the linebacker's head.
JEREMY PRUITT: About 42 yards on a line. Ain't made that call since.
Q. So that kind of told you, that kid's pretty special.
JEREMY PRUITT: Yeah, he's really talented. Really talented. And he had poise then, you know. Just kind of looking back, I remember then, just thinking, this guy is going to be a player.
Q. What separates Jonathan Allen from other players?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, he's a really good competitor. Obviously he's got physical talent but great kid. Studies the game. Very mature. Works hard every day. Just, you know, kind of eats, sleeps and breathes football.
Q. They say he brings it to not only every game but every practice.
JEREMY PRUITT: He does. He's a really good competitor, good teammate, good leader.
Q. When his teammates see that intensity, how important is that for the rest of the team?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, I think that's part of being a leader. It's how you can affect the people around you, and you can do it in a positive way or negative way and Jonathan does it really well in a positive way.
Q. This is not the traditional Bowl trip. What makes for a good experience from this city for you, to where you're not going out and having activities? What makes for the right preparation in this sort of setting where you're more condensed? Is it just having everything run seamlessly?
JEREMY PRUITT: This is a business trip for us. So we're not looking --
Q. Everything on time.
JEREMY PRUITT: We're not looking for any activities. The only activity we're looking for is on Monday night.
Q. So just having everything run on time and on schedule?
JEREMY PRUITT: Yeah. I guess.
Q. The guys talk about the sense of pride they getting able to provide points for the team. Can you talk about just that sense of pride and just talk about how much these guys enjoy being able to just kind of chip in and be able to help on the offensive side, putting points on the board?
JEREMY PRUITT: Can you repeat that question? Because you were kind of all over the place there.
Q. Sorry. Was just asking, as far as the defense was concerned, these guys love putting points on the board. Can you talk about the sense of pride these guys have in terms of just being able to provide that extra -- that extra support for the team?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, I would say that as a defensive player, any time you score a touchdown, it's got to be fun. Ryan Anderson scored one last week. I asked him, I said, "It had to be Pop Warner since the last time you scored."
No, so a lot of guys on our defense played offense in high school. They are used to having the ball in their hands. Some of our defensive backs are punt returners or kick returners. Yeah, I would say it is. We have a goal to get three turnovers every game, and if you can score on defense, that's great.
Q. Being from north Alabama, what does it mean to play a part in this game?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, it's very special to me. Growing up in Rainsville, it's kind of where I'm from. In Alabama, you're either Alabama or you're Auburn. My family's Alabama. It means a loot to me just to be a part of the University of Alabama. It's very special.
Q. And how much do you take away in your teachings to your guys here from your time in northern Alabama as a kid?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, I think part of being a coach -- one thing about me is I got into education. When I went to college, I didn't say, hey, I'm going to be a college football coach. Probably people don't realize, my first job, I was a K through third grade P.E. teacher. I had done that for three years and then from there, I was a high school coach.
I think it's important in our business that we have a positive impact on our young people. So I know in our room, we talk about a lot of other things besides football.
Q. Did you ever think when you were a high school coach and you said, starting out like that, did you ever think you would be at this point?
JEREMY PRUITT: No. I mean, this is -- I mean, think about it now. I'm from Rainsville balance am a. Just remember what I said: I was a K through third grade P.E. teacher. I was out there with five-year-olds and six-year-olds.
I never thought I would have an opportunity, No. 1, to coach at University of Alabama, much less be in a National Championship Game. And I think now, this is going to be the fifth one that I'm going to be coaching in, so very blessed.
Q. How important is a defensive touchdown in an Alabama win?
JEREMY PRUITT: To be honest, there's not been one time that in practice, we say, hey, let's score on defense. We kind of focus on, you know, what's the personnel, what's the call, what's my assignment, what's my alignment, what's my key, and then play hard from there.
We don't focus on that. If it happens, it happens.
Q. How has it been coaching Reuben?
JEREMY PRUITT: I tell you what, Reuben has been a great leader for our team. Loves to practice. Loves to practice. He's been like having a coach on the field and having his experience, he's done really nice for the young kids that we have in our room. But great leader, great ambassador to the University of Alabama and just a great competitor.
Q. Having slimmed down --
JEREMY PRUITT: You know, I get that question about slimming down. I didn't know these guys slimmed down. But if that helps, it helps, I guess.
Q. The role that you have with your defensive analysts, how does it help you -- somebody described it to me that those analysts -- what's his role with you?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, we have a couple of guys that -- you know, somebody's got to break the film down. The way college football is, is if you've got good players and you've got an opportunity to have a good football team, so you've got to recruit.
The only people that can recruit, is the full-time coaches, so while you're at, for instance, we get done playing Florida in the SEC Championship Game. Well, immediately, we're on the road recruiting. Well, somebody's got to be breaking down Washington, Ohio State, Clemson. Somebody's got to be doing that so when we come back in, we get going. Those guys do a job kind of from all the breakdown standpoint and the football part. So when you walk in, they hand it to you and say, hey, this is kind of what these guys do.
Q. Is there anything in particular that you ask for that maybe -- besides from a breakdown, when you work with the guys for a full year, does he know your tendencies and have an idea of what you're looking for?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, yeah, you've got to give them a plan. Everything in our organization is defined, so everybody knows their role. They have it laid out for us when we come back.
Q. When you left Florida State for Georgia --
JEREMY PRUITT: You know, I had an opportunity to go work with Mark Richt. Really enjoyed my time at Florida State. Will Friend, I don't know, is offensive line coach there at Georgia at the time, and Mike Bobo, both now at Colorado State, are two of my closest friends.
We always talked about one day, maybe we'd have a chance to coach together and we did. We did for a year. Obviously Mike got a great opportunity at Colorado State, and I think we open, or we play them next year. They have been giving me a hard time about it. I didn't even know we played them. Yeah, that's one of the reasons.
Q. A lot of people say Nick Saban is maybe the greatest football coach of all time. When you retire, will you take any great pride of having worked for maybe the greatest coach of all time?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, I'll say this. I've had an opportunity to work for three really good head football coaches. When you talk with Coach Saban, you talk about Mark Richt and you talk about Jimbo Fisher. And then as a player, I played for Boots Donnelly; I played for Gene Stallings. I've been very blessed to be around a lot of good coaches in my time.
Q. I know a lot of the offensive pieces are similar from last year to this year but how is it maybe been a little bit different preparing for this Clemson offense than last year's?
JEREMY PRUITT: I really wasn't here for the preparation last year. I just kind of observed. So I really can't answer that.
Q. What about in terms of what you've just seen on film or watching as a fan last year, Deshaun Watson, how his game has maybe evolved from last year to this year?
JEREMY PRUITT: You know, he was a great player last year and he's even better this year. So I'm sure just with the experience he's gained as far as playing other teams and playing in this game last year, you know, and he played extremely well.
But Deshaun's been playing football at Clemson, seems like forever and played at a high level.
Q. But you would have been there for his first game?
JEREMY PRUITT: First game at Georgia, yeah. Somebody said the first touchdown, I remember it, too. It was like a 42-yard strike like right down the middle of the field and we had the guy covered about as well as you could cover him. Not many guys could make that throw and he made it then. I remember after that game, we're like, this guy is going to be really special.
Q. Is it wild thinking back to that -- Watson came in and he was like, I don't want to say a gimmick, but it was just kind of like, oh, this guy has flashes out of the backfield and to see where he is now and the intangibles now, what is it, when you look back on that game and see how far he's come?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, I think you could see it then and they probably knew it, or they wouldn't have tried to create a role for him the first game he ever played.
But he's an extremely talented young man. Seems to be a great leader. Can make all the throws. Great athlete. He's got good toughness, too, just watching him play.
Q. How is it having to prepare for a guy that just has those intangibles, to say, we can do everything preparation-wise, but he's the kind of guy that can make a play out of nowhere? How is it having to prepare for a guy like him?
JEREMY PRUITT: It is what it is. He's going to make some throws against us and we're going to make some plays against them. So hopefully we'll make more than they make.
Q. Can you talk about the competition within each other in practice and why that's been so successful all season long?
JEREMY PRUITT: You talking about offense and defense, or?
Q. When I asked them about that, they said that's been one of the best things for them.
JEREMY PRUITT: Yeah, I think our guys, for a team, our guys really enjoy being around each other. It's a very close group. And they do, they compete against each other, challenge each other. And they don't take any days off. So it's a unique group.
Q. It's kind of impossible to say Alabama -- can you ever improve on what they already have --
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, for me, when it comes to just coming back to Alabama, that was easy. That's where I'm from. Played there. I coached there with Coach Saban for six years before. That was a pretty easy decision. Especially me being two hours from home; my wife being three hours. Pretty simple.
Q. Do you talk to Kirby during the year?
JEREMY PRUITT: Me and Kirby been texting this morning about recruiting. On the way, we were texting.
Q. But you sat in on the defensive meetings last year after you came over, right?
JEREMY PRUITT: I did. Some. Some. Just listening. But also, to just kind of get an idea, if anything had changed, so it would help the transition.
JEREMY PRUITT: Reuben is a really good leader. And we've got a bunch of good leaders on our defense. These guys are very close and they have a positive impact on each other. They have got a high standard for themselves and everybody else in the group. They try to hold each other to that standard.
JEREMY PRUITT: Reuben's tough. Reuben's tough. He's kind of got an edge about him. Likes to compete. Likes to play. Likes to practice and wants everybody to do it the way he does it.
Q. Is what you're doing this year any different from what Alabama was doing last year? Is there anything more of something or less of something?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, I think if you looked, probably in the last ten years and I'm just going to draw on my experiences because that's all I can. But everywhere I've been, you know, and seven out of those ten has been with Coach Saban. So each year, you kind of have to take the players you've got, because your team's different every year.
So I just don't believe you can go out there and say, you run this defense every year, okay, because some years you've got better D-tackles, some years you've got better corners, some years you got better linebackers.
I think that's part of being a coach. You have to figure out what your team is and what they do well and you don't ask them to do things that they can't do. I think that's very important.
This year, I would say our team is probably a little bit different than maybe some of the teams in the past.
Q. Having been there so long, the consensus seems to be that Alabama has always been good defensively, but maybe never this fast. Is that accurate?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, one thing that's happened is the game's changing a little bit. You know, I think about ten years ago, when we all first got there, back in 2007, you know, there was very few teams that were spreading the ball out. You know, it was a little more condensed game.
Now it's almost like first and second down is third down now. You've got to have guys who can play all three downs, and probably because of that, I think probably everybody's kind of changed their philosophy a little bit on recruiting, the type guys that you've got to recruit.
Q. Given the success this program's had, what does it say about --
JEREMY PRUITT: They haven't been what?
Q. That it still --
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, I think that's kind of who we are. The one thing that's -- we say it all the time. Anybody can do it one time or two times. And I'm not talking about win the championship. I'm just talking about maybe executing a play, you know, or playing your technique the right way.
But in the course of a game, you may have 50 snaps, 70 snaps, 90 snaps and who can do it over and over and over. I think that's what makes players unique. And when you do that and you do it every Monday, every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and it becomes a habit.
So when that there's 100,000 people in the stands or it's ten degrees or it's a hundred degrees, you kind of create the right habits and you do it over and over and over. To me, I think that's kind of unique about this group; they have kind of done that.
Q. What's the biggest challenge that you see your players face transitioning from high school to college football?
JEREMY PRUITT: I'm sorry. What now?
Q. What's the biggest challenge that you see your players face on transition from high school to college?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, to me, I'd say the first thing is if a kid is good enough to go play college football, that means he was probably one of the best players on his high school team. But when he gets to college, most of the time, a freshman is not the best player on the team.
So I think it has something to do with a little bit of maturity and really expectations. I think that's the big thing is, you know, to me, I try to tell these freshman is, you're going to be a better player when you're a senior than you are as a freshman, okay, so let's not put unrealistic expectations out there. Let's pick out some goals to improve on each week and focus on that, not the end result.
Q. If you could give advice to yourself as a high school student, what would you say?
JEREMY PRUITT: As a high school student? To me, go to class every day. Go to school every day. It's one of the first things I do as a recruiter. When I'm looking for a prospect, I want to see his transcript. Obviously you have to look at their grades, but I want to see their attendance, all right, because somebody's going to class every day, that's not missing school, is probably somebody that's accountable.
Q. How difficult is it to game plan for Deshaun Watson, because he does a lot of different things?
JEREMY PRUITT: You know, he's very unique. He can make all the throws. You know, and they have got playmakers everywhere. They are good up front, very well-coached. Good tight ends, good runners. It's not just him. There's a lot of good players, but he is unique in the fact that he can extend plays. You know, you can cover him, but he may get out of the pocket and break run, or he may extend the play and you have to cover him for longer, or they may have quarterback-designed runs. When they start doing that, it's like playing with 12.
Q. How difficult is it to game plan against the receivers? They really exposed Ohio State with regards to the deep pass.
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, I think they have got really good playmakers out there. The guys compete really hard for the 50/50 balls. They have good schemes. But I think it starts with them about running the football. They have got really good runners, and then Deshaun is a good runner.
So they kind of put pressure on you. If you're going to be able to stop them, you've got to get some folks up there in the box, which creates one-on-ones for them. And then they have a quarterback who can make all those throws and then you have guys that can go out and stretch you. They have got good scheme. Got good players.
Q. Are you surprised the way they dominated Ohio State in pretty much every aspect of the game?
JEREMY PRUITT: You know, I don't know much about Ohio State. I've studied Clemson. They were here last year and they are here again, so they have been dominating a lot of folks.
Q. Obviously offense and defense, how do you see that playing out --
JEREMY PRUITT: I don't know, we'll see. That's why we play the game.
Q. When you looked at them on film -- what pops out at you?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, their very well-coached. They cover people up. Very rarely, you don't see them make mistakes. There's no bust up front. They do a nice job protecting the quarterback. So you can tell they are very well-coached and they play hard. They play hard.
Q. How good is it to be here again, playing for a National Championship?
JEREMY PRUITT: That's why you do it. That's why you do it.
Q. Are the best two teams here, in your mind?
JEREMY PRUITT: I would say so. Won the most games. Got here.
Q. What has impressed you the most about Minkah's development?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, one thing is, he started off the season playing corner. Last year he played star. Now he's playing safety. So that tells you his versatility as a football player.
You know, so he's learning, really a new position. He's never played safety. He's continued to develop and improve each week.
The big thing is, he's bought in. When he came here, they didn't recruit him and say, hey, Minkah, you're going to play safety. He came here to play corner and play star possibly. But based off the injuries we've had, to get our best players on the field, that's what he's done and he's done it well.
Q. After 2015, how coachable has he been throughout the year?
JEREMY PRUITT: He said, let's go. He's unselfish. He's a team guy.
Q. You're a Tennessee Valley guy, and your dad a long time a head coach. You coached under him obviously before here. What's one thing you learned from your dad, the coach, that you can really take with you today?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, I would say my dad's consistent. What I'm talking about, with the players. He knows how to treat people to get the most out of them, and I think it's important. If you treat kids the right way, they are going to play hard for you. I think that's probably one of the biggest things I learned from him.
Q. You have a father/son relationship, a football relationship. What do you guys talk about this week heading into a game of this magnitude?
JEREMY PRUITT: He got in last night and we went to grab a bite to eat and it was like 10:30. He said, "What you going to do?"
I said, "I'm fixing to go watch film." I said, "Do you want to go?"
And he said, "Yeah, let's go."
But I said, "All right, I'll call you." But when I got to the room, my one-year-old wasn't in the bed yet. So I had to take care of that. So I didn't get to watch film but I'm sure we will the next couple days.
Q. Last year, what happened -- do you look back on that?
JEREMY PRUITT: No, I think it's a learning lesson for everybody that's a coach in this business, when you win ten football games and lose your job. You know, that don't happen a whole lot of places. But I think everybody's landed in good spots and you learn from it and look straight ahead. That's all you can do.
Q. On game day, what's going to be your message for the team?
JEREMY PRUITT: On game day, what?
Q. What's going to be your message before everyone heads out and kicks off?
JEREMY PRUITT: We kind of have our musts for each week, what we think we have to do to win the football game defensively so. We'll just go back over our must, and you know, it's pretty simple deal. They are either going to score a touchdown or we are going to tackle them.
Q. Keaton Anderson, moving from linebacker to safety, how has he taken that position?
JEREMY PRUITT: Keaton is a team player. He's a great special teams player. He was doing a good job for us at linebacker, but to kind of create some depth for us when we lost Eddie. We brought him in and said, hey, we've got to move you to safety to try to create some depth. He said, let's go. Hasn't looked back.
Q. When you see a guy like him, as much as he's contributed on special teams, you mentioned he's great at it; is he really jumping off the page when it comes to special teams players?
JEREMY PRUITT: He plays on our punt team. He makes all the calls up there. So he's the personal protector. He made a couple tackles on the kickoff cover team last week. He's doing a good job.
Q. Coming in and getting noticed, would he get more playing time in the future?
JEREMY PRUITT: I think that's anybody. When you come in, your expectations are, hey, give me an opportunity and I'm going to try do the best that he can, and that's what he's done.
JEREMY PRUITT: Reuben is a good leader. He's a good competitor. He has experience, you know, based off his age being here. He's done a really good job with our young kids and signed of setting a standard.
To me, I think that's one thing that's unique about this program and what Coach Saban has done, is kind of the older kids teach the younger kids and kind of hold them to a standard. And he's doing that now.
When Reuben leaves, Shaun Dion and Rashaan Evans will do that. I think it's kind of something that they pass down.
Q. What about Reuben this season -- this is why.
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, I would say, for one, they practice the right way. You don't get better tackling unless you go out there and practice. You don't get better driving unless you go out there and drive.
It's kind of, it is what it is. And these guys practiced the right way. I think that's important, you know, because when you get out there on Saturdays, the game is a lot faster than what you see during practice. You've got to kind of take the right angles. You've got to know where your help's at. These guys do it. They do it every day during the week, and I think that's unique about this bunch is they continue to do it over and over and over.
Well, they create the right habits. That's what's important about it. They create the right habits and I think that's created a lot of their success.
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, we have to find a way to affect him. Whether it's our pass rush lanes or getting our hands up to bat balls, disguises where you possibly might get him to hold the ball longer. Deshaun has got a lot of experience, very well-coached, well versed in what they do. So it's going to be a tremendous challenge for us.
Q. Seeing from another angle, the other side -- can you talk about -- inaudible.
JEREMY PRUITT: You know, Jalen, he's a unique athlete. Has a way about him, a calm about him. To me, I don't see him getting rattled. I watch him at practice going against our guys. Just kind of plays the next play. And he's kind of been like that since the day he got here.
I go back to this time last year, the first time, I didn't even know who Jalen was. I'm just watching practice. This kid comes in, and they say, hey, we want you to play Deshaun Watson on the scout team. He was an early enrollee, and that's not easy. I'm not saying the part about playing Deshaun Watson; of course that's not easy.
I'm just talking about the command of running the scout team. You don't even know these guys. They don't know you. You just walk out here the first day, you've got on your deal and they look, and he's got the command to do it the right way. To me that impressed me, just watching him and knowing what it takes to do that job, it's very unique.
Q. Mack Wilson, can do all these all these different things -- inaudible.
JEREMY PRUITT: Mack is a unique talent. He's played -- he's actually played Mike linebacker for us and he's played Will linebacker. We've got him now at Mike, and he's done a nice job. He's continued to learn and develop on special teams, and think he's got a bright future.
Q. Punting at all?
JEREMY PRUITT: Yeah, he's our punter, backup long snapper. It's kind of funny. I like watching him during pregame warmup.
Q. He takes it serious.
JEREMY PRUITT: Oh, he does. I watch him out there. I always tell my wife, don't bring my kid on the sideline pregame if Mack's punting.
Q. You played here and you were on the staff in the past for National Championship teams. Is there a different feel being the defensive coordinator heading into this game?
JEREMY PRUITT: Not really. You know, every role that I've had an opportunity to have in this organization, I've taken a lot of pride in it and doing it to the best of my ability. And same way now. No different.
Q. Do you like the fact that all the attention has been on the offensive coordinator the last couple weeks and you get to lay low and coach your guys?
JEREMY PRUITT: It's not been that big a deal, really.
Q. The other day, you had two or three people around you, and now you have around 50 -- must be the happiest guy in this place.
JEREMY PRUITT: Yeah, that's for sure.
Q. Every defensive coordinator -- there has to be a security to know that you're still sort of shaping sort of the way you want it, but knowing there's a blueprint for you and you've been around this defense before. How has that been for you, coming in?
JEREMY PRUITT: I think the first thing is, is you need to check your ego at the door, you know. For me, I knew what I was getting into when I came here, and for three years, I've been doing it by myself. We've done it at a pretty high level.
But to me, it's about growing. It's about who you want to work with and having the opportunity to come back at Alabama and work with Coach, that was easy for me. And having somebody to lean on, you know. Because I tell you what, I'll be the first one to tell you, I don't have all the answers. Everything that I know in football, I've stole from somebody. It's been easy for me.
Q. Not having to reinvent the wheel, but coming in and sort of putting your handprint; obviously you guys have always played physical, but is there a fine line when you do that?
JEREMY PRUITT: No, to me, we have not changed, really, what's been done here. I do think that probably being a high school coach, and my experiences there, and the way the game is kind of changing, it's really going more towards the high school side than it is toward the NFL side right now. And the speed of the game and everybody going fast; well, I had a lot of experience with that in high school.
How you structure your calls to make it easier for the kids, so there's not near as much thinking. Really, coaching Kirby had already started that way, and it's not nothing that I brought here. I think that's something that's probably helped the guys a little bit, because we have tried to say, okay, this is what we're going to call, period, so you guys know, you know what I'm saying.
Q. So more instinctive --
JEREMY PRUITT: Yeah, this is what you're going to get.
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, this team, to me, is very similar to the one I coached at Florida State when it comes to speed, you know what I'm saying. We don't have as many bigger guys up front. We've got more guys that can probably play all three downs. I think that's kind of a tribute to Coach Saban, kind of changing a little bit of who he's recruiting and things like that. It's not that we are any smaller, but probably a little more leaner.
Q. Were you coordinator at Georgia when you played Clemson the first time and second time?
JEREMY PRUITT: Mm-hmm.
Q. So you played Deshaun Watson -- what kind of an advantage is that?
JEREMY PRUITT: I could say I was the defensive coordinator when he threw his first touchdown pass, 42-yard strike right down the middle.
Q. A lot of our listeners say that they feel like you're a more aggressive play caller than maybe Kirby Smart was. Do you feel that's the case?
JEREMY PRUITT: I mean, I have no idea about that. I don't know.
Q. Do you feel like you're aggressive, compared to other defensive coordinators, as far as pressuring the passer?
JEREMY PRUITT: I just know what we do. I don't know what other folks do, you know. So I don't think that's really a fair question. I don't know how I could answer that question, because I don't know what everybody else does.
Q. I apologize for asking an unfair question.
JEREMY PRUITT: I'm just saying, I wouldn't know.
Q. They asked about Deshaun Watson earlier, and facing Clemson before, can that helpfully in this game?
JEREMY PRUITT: Yeah, I think so. I think it helped both teams, really. I know for them, they will say, well, hey, this is how they tried to defend us last year, or maybe Jeremy done this when he was at Florida State or Georgia, and vice versa. I think that's just part of coaching. I think both staffs will kind of draw on their experiences there.
Q. When you have players that say they were upset last year, even in a win, because it was a close win, how encouraging is that as a defensive coordinator to hear your players say that?
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, I don't think last year's outcome in the game is going to have any impact on this year. We're just focused about getting our calls, getting lined up, what's our key, what's our assignment and going from there.
Q. A lot of the guys talked about how last year's National Championship Game was motivating for this season. Is that something that you encouraged or did you talk about that with him?
JEREMY PRUITT: I did not. I did not. I mean, this is a new team, new season. So we just started from ground zero and going from there.
Q. How do you feel as a coach, been fortunate to be part of some Championship Games with Florida State, Alabama; brief synopsis, kind of chronicle your experiences.
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, I've been very fortunate to work with good people and have good players. You know, it's important to have good players. One thing, us coaches are not out there making the tackles or interceptions. You have to good have good players.
But yeah, I've been very fortunate to be here. This is my seventh year now with Coach Saban, and the year at Florida State with Jimbo, and two years with Coach Richt at Georgia. We didn't win a championship there, but we had a good team. Yeah, I've been very fortunate.
Q. Normally you want to stop the run; do you still want to make Clemson throw it, or do you just have to play it as it comes?
JEREMY PRUITT: I would feel a lot better if they wouldn't run the ball. I mean, if you know they are not going to run it, it's a lot easier as a play caller. Yeah, you've got to make them one-dimensional.
Q. Have you played anybody like Clemson all year?
JEREMY PRUITT: As far as, what?
Q. What they do offensively with the spread and everything.
JEREMY PRUITT: Well, you could probably take Ole Miss and Auburn and Tennessee, the Combine some of it. And then they have their own twist with it, too. But it's kind of the same type of family, you know.
Q. How good is No. 4?
JEREMY PRUITT: Oohh, real good. Real good.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports