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January 7, 2017

Steve Sarkisian

Tampa, Florida


Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: You know, I don't think I could have foreseen four months ago when I was contemplating doing TV to get into this situation. But very grateful and humbled and honored that Coach Saban and the entire Alabama Crimson Tide family entrusted in me to do the job.

Like I said, I don't think I could have foreseen it four months ago. But today and this week, it's about doing the job and getting these players who have worked so hard for months that have put themselves in this position to play in this game to do the best job I can do to help them.

Q. Is it like riding a bike?
STEVE SARKISIAN: We'll find out Monday night (laughter).

But the reality of it is, I've within been doing this a long time. I've been fortunate in my career to be around really good coaches and been mentored by really good coaches. Being part of the program for the last four months, seeing Lane work, being around the office, game planning, working with the coaches, it's not just so foreign where I'm just coming in from the outside and trying to pick up from where they've left off. They've been around this thing.

When you start calling plays, you start calling plays. You don't get caught up in everything going outside, you focus on what's going on in between the lines. That's the mindset I'll have.

Q. What are some of the game-week tasks you did not have to do as a head coach that you have to go back to '08 to jump into now?
STEVE SARKISIAN: Well, I think for me what was fortunate, when I was a head coach, I was very much involved offensively. I still called plays. I did all the game planning scenarios and those types of things. For me, that hasn't been the biggest difference. It's been in this last four months where I haven't made those final decisions that you make as a coordinator. What ultimately are you going to run in those first third-and-short situations. What are you going to call when you're on the goal line. What's that first call.

You make suggestions when you're in my situation throughout the week. But when you're calling those plays, you got to make those calls. You got to trust in your preparation, you got to trust in the coaches that are around you, the input they give you, then you try to put the players in the best position you can to go make their plays.

Q. Are you nervous?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I wouldn't go with 'nervous'. I'm excited. This is what I love to do. I've been doing this a long time. I've been fortunate to have coached in some big games in my career. Obviously this is another big one. These guys have earned the right to be in this game. My mindset is just putting them in the best position to be successful.

Q. The backup quarterback, you expect him to be ready. Are you making those calls?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I think what was helpful was when Lane had initially taken that job to go to FAU, coach and I spoke and made the decision that I would become the coordinator the next season. It made the transition a little easier because I was already going down that road as far as what next spring would look like, next fall camp, what I wanted this offense to play out like.

When the decision got made, it made it a little bit simpler. It wasn't just all at once. It was kind of a natural transition for me.

Q. What is your relationship like with Jalen?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I have a really good relationship with Jalen. He's a kid who loves football. He's a gym rat. He works at the game. Those are the kind of guys I like to be around. They make my job easier.

I think it's a good one. I think we've worked well together this week. Ultimately I think we'll work really well Monday night.

Q. What is your day like in terms of what your allowed to do compared to what you were used to doing before?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I think it was challenging prior to this, being in the analyst role, because you still get to work on the game plan side of things. You still get to work with the coaches on giving suggestions and tips when we're watching the tape.

But it is frustrating as an analyst when you go out to practice and you're not coaching. I mean, that's what you love to do. But in my situation, when you're not allowed to do that, it's a lot of note taking. It's a lot of watching coaching, watching the other guys coach.

To get this opportunity to be back on the field, I feel like I was almost like a bottled-up ball of energy, where I could get back on the field and do what I love to do.

So for those guys out there that are analysts right now that have coached before, I feel for you. I understand what that is like.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Well, for me, I think the biggest thing has been this was a new system for me. There's some carryover that Lane had brought with him that we had had from years ago. Lane and I hadn't coached together for almost 10 years, so there was some carryover. But the reality of it is what I learned is the system in that time. I really tried to dive into it because I wanted to be able to speak the language.

I always liken it to if you live in the States, and somebody puts you on a plane, you got to go live in France. Sooner or later you got to start speaking French or you're not going to be able to eat, you're not going to be able to do the things you need to do.

I tried to do that, learn the language, speak the language, understand the system so I could be the best help I could be in the role that I was in.

Q. Was it weird at all when Nick made the decision? Anything between you and Lane at that point?
STEVE SARKISIAN: No. I mean, I think Lane did a heck of a job here. Let's not kid ourselves. He did a heck of a job in his three years. He and Coach Saban came to the decision. I didn't really have time to analyze the feelings of everybody and the situation of it.

I felt like I owed it to these coaches, I owed it to these players, I owed it to our fans and everybody at Alabama to do the best job that I could do. That's what I've been trying to do over the last week.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: I think the biggest thing I discovered in me is I'm a good person. Not perfect, like none of us are. But the reality of it is, I also learned that I love this game. I love coaching football. I love being around these players. I love being around the coaches. I love all of college football. I love game day. When you get to go to that stadium, I really like to try to take it in. I think it's important that we just don't gloss over that kind of stuff. Enjoy the moment.

I think sometimes when you get in the midst of it as a head coach, you can get lost in all of that. This season, I've really tried to take it in and enjoy the moment, see the joy that these players get to have, see them struggle through practice, then make those subtle changes that they were struggling on on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, then actually go out and do it the right way on a Saturday. The satisfaction that they get and their position coaches get, I think those things are big.

Q. Did it feel like cramming for a final a little bit?
STEVE SARKISIAN: Today, the closer we get to the game, that stuff occurs.

Like I said before, I'm embracing this more than anything. I would be remiss if I didn't exhaust myself in the preparation standpoint. Like I said, to put our players in the best position to go do the best job they can do Monday night, because they've earned this. They've worked extremely hard. I just want them to be in position to go be the best player that they can be Monday night.

That's our job as coaches to do so.

Q. What are some of the challenges that the defense presents?
STEVE SARKISIAN: First of all, Brent Venables is a tremendous defensive coordinator. They do a lot defensively, schematically. They attack you. They find the things that you do well and they try to minimize those things and take them away. They do a tremendous job of recognizing formations and attacking the formations that you like to use.

We need to be sound. We need to understand what they're trying to do. They're athletic. They've got an extremely athletic defensive line. They knock balls down on the line of scrimmage. The two interior defensive tackles have 17 and a half sacks between them. So they can pressure the quarterback. Then with the multitude of coverages they have in the back end, the athleticism that they have, they pose a lot of challenges.

They've got active linebackers. Boulware is extremely smart, a heady football player with a high football IQ. He diagnoses things quickly. Does a really good job of blitzing when he's on a runningback, and they try to create those matchups.

We've got our work cut out for us. We're going to have to play good football Monday night.

Q. Will you be on the field?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I'll be on the field. That's where I'm comfortable. I've always called plays from the field. I'm comfortable there. I think it's important for me to have the one-on-one contact with Jalen on the field, see his demeanor, really talk through things.

I always appreciated that as a player when I was playing. Norm Chow was my offensive coordinator. My first game in college, I remember at BYU, Norm was in the box. We were having dialogue. Things didn't always get conveyed the right way. It's the old telephone game.

After that, he came on the field. I appreciated that one-on-one interaction where we were exactly on the same page. So that's what I'm comfortable doing. I just think it's the right thing to do, especially in the short-term situation that we're in.

Q. What was the 11 months like between the end of USC and getting hired at Alabama?
STEVE SARKISIAN: The biggest thing for me, like we touched on, I really found out I love this game. I've been doing it a long time as a player, then as a coach. When you're not around it, when you're not in the locker room, not showing up, going to work every day, when you're not in spring ball, when you're not in the little kids' summer camp in June, when you're not in training camp, you're not planning for training camp, those are things I dearly missed.

This season, being in the role that I was in, I wasn't able to be on the field coaching and doing those things that I loved to do.

I think more than anything, it really gave me a point of reference that, you know, I love coaching football, I love being around these players, these coaches. I love the preparation. I love the schematics. I love the emotion of the game. To have this opportunity again, I'm very grateful for.

Q. How are you doing now?
STEVE SARKISIAN: Life is good. Life is good. Like I said, I'm grateful to Coach Saban, the University of Alabama, the family we have here, the support that they've given me, the trust that they've given me in this situation to go out and do what I love to do.

Q. At what point during that 11-month stretch do you think you had things turn around personally?
STEVE SARKISIAN: It's a process. Everything's a process in what we do.

The reality of it is, I'm at this point today. I'm at this point today with a tremendous opportunity. For me, guys, I don't want to take away from what this really is about. This is about our team. This is about our players. This is about the job and the situation that they've put themselves in to go out and win a national championship. To do it for a second consecutive year would be an amazing accomplishment. That's where my focus is.

Q. Specifically how are you handling the substance abuse issue?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I'm doing great. I appreciate you asking, yeah.

Q. When were you told about this change, by who, and what was your reaction?
STEVE SARKISIAN: It came from Coach Saban directly a week ago. My reaction was, it's time to get to work.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Quite honestly, in this profession, nothing really surprises me, especially my career and the way it's all kind of gone down. Nothing surprises me at this point.

So when the news came, I shifted right into coach mode, which is where I'm really probably the most comfortable. It was just time to go to work, like I said.

My focus has been on, from the moment I was told, what are we doing from that moment until that ball gets kicked off Monday night to make sure our players are in the best position to be successful.

Q. A week ago Sunday?
STEVE SARKISIAN: It was the following day.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: No, we flew back into that next day, then really it was the following day when I actually got information.

Q. So Monday?

Q. What did you say exactly?
STEVE SARKISIAN: That's really probably more for Coach Saban to discuss. Some of the meetings we have as a staff, some of the meetings we have with players, are best kept. That's the situation that we're in.

So the reality of it is, things got changed. I was asked to do the job. I'm going to do the job.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Well, again, putting together a game plan that is conducive to the strengths of the players on our team. Practicing those issues that could come up. Clemson obviously poses a lot of issues defensively. Then developing the confidence within the players and the coaches that this is the plan, we can go out and execute the plan, we can do it fast, we can do it physical, and go out and play.

That comes with preparation. That comes with being diligent in our work. That comes with obviously, like you would every week, look at the defense, what are their strengths, their perceived weaknesses, how can we attack them, then putting a really clean plan together so these guys can go out and play at a high level.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: I just feel like my thing is, when I put my head down at night this week, I want to make sure we covered the things we're capable of covering. You're not going to tackle every single thing every single day. It's being mindful of what we're trying to get done the following day, making sure we're covering those things that evening so when the morning comes, we know that this is what we did last night, we can revisit it, now it's time to get the players ready for practice.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: The analyst job came up, I was planning on doing TV this fall. I just had never had an August in my life that I can remember that I wasn't at training camp. I actually went and visited a few places this August and looked at some things, just wanted to see how other people did things.

One of my stops was Alabama. Had a great visit with Lane and with Coach Saban. The talks kind of were in play after that. When the job opportunity came, I felt like this would have been a good spot for me to come and learn a different way of doing things.

I was fortunate to work with Pete Carroll for a lot of years. There's a lot of similarities between Nick Saban and Pete Carroll, but also some differences. I felt like this one was a good one to take advantage of, come and see what Lane was doing offensively. So I jumped at the chance.

Q. Where else did you visit?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I visited the Atlanta Falcons, University of Florida, the Tampa Bay Bucs actually. Hit a few different spots. When this opportunity came, I felt like it was a good one to try to take advantage of.

Q. A couple players have said that practice went faster and smoother. To what do you attribute that?
STEVE SARKISIAN: In my opinion, you get what you emphasize as a coach. You get what you want to try to get done.

I felt like that was something we could address. Not trying to recreate the wheel here, but there's certain things you try to focus on and you try to get better at. That was one of them.

I appreciate the players responding to the things that we asked for.

Q. A lot has been made the last week about the fact that Lane's voice was the only one that Jalen has heard all season, making a big deal out of it. Is that really a big deal?
STEVE SARKISIAN: It can be if I don't make my voice heard this week. I've been fortunate in my career to have worked with some pretty good quarterbacks and have had some pretty good success working with quarterbacks.

I just went back to the basics with what I knew in coaching that position, my communication with that position. I think the response from Jalen has been really good. But ultimately you'd have to ask him how he feels about it.

Q. Coach said that Jalen was frustrated after the Washington game. Is this the first time he's had to have his confidence repaired this season?
STEVE SARKISIAN: There's been moments. There's been moments where it hasn't been perfect for him. It's a credit to him. His demeanor is tremendous. You go back to his first play of college football against SC when he fumbles on the zone read play.

His demeanor's really tremendous for a guy who is a true freshman, the environments he's played in on the road, Ole Miss, LSU, Tennessee, the SEC Championship game, a college football semifinal playoff game.

I don't know if 'repaired' is the right word to use, but I think it needed for him to bounce back. He was in a great frame of mind to do so. He just wanted to get back and get to work as well. We were on the same page from that standpoint.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Not a whole lot, quite honestly. I'm not allowed to interact with the players that way. I just kind of observed from afar, got a read on his demeanor, what he was about, then tried to play to his strengths as I came into the role, tried to communicate with him in a way that I felt was conducive to him to be responsive to the things that I was saying.

Q. He probably didn't know you.
STEVE SARKISIAN: I think he knows me now (laughter).

Q. Did you get a chance to watch the Rose Bowl and see the emotional reaction?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I caught the tail end of that game. I started watching from the second half on. Quite honestly, for USC and those players, those coaches, the people there, I couldn't be happier for them and more proud of the work that those players put in. What a great moment. What a great college football game to be part of. That setting, I've had a chance to coach in that game numerous times. I'm really happy for those players, especially the seniors. Those guys have been through a lot. To finish their careers the way they did, I couldn't be more happy and more proud of them.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: I can relate to them. They've been through a lot. There's been a lot of expectations on a lot of those players when they arrived. To finally have that moment to end their career or end their season is something that they'll cherish and will last a lifetime for them.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: No, I knew I'd coach again. I wasn't worried about that. I knew I'd coach again. It was just a matter of when and where.

Q. (Question about limited time.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: I'm sure things are going to show up in a way that aren't perfect. That's football. You design plays. They call a different defense than you want. Knock on wood, we don't have an injury. But a guy goes down at a position, a backup has to play at that spot.

Things are going to come up. That's football. That's part of the game. How we respond and react to them is probably more important. That's where our composure, our demeanor as a staff, ultimately as players, as leaders on the team, our response to those things is what's going to be important.

I'm anticipating things happening. How we respond is what's important.

Q. Have you counseled at all with Lane this week?
STEVE SARKISIAN: We've talked. I don't know if 'counsel' is the right word. We've talked. Like I've said, I've got great respect for Lane. He's a friend. My job is to help this team finish a goal they set months ago, do the best job I can do to finish it.

Q. (Question about interactions with Nick Saban on the sidelines.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Coach is an competitive guy. I've been fortunate enough to be on the headset and hear some of the interaction. The end of the day, coach's goal is for our players to play well and for us to play well as a team.

As long as we're aligned in those same two things, we'll be fine.

Q. Given the recent struggles in the passing game, productive running game, what do you see as a balance?
STEVE SARKISIAN: Every game is different. Every game is different. When you get into ballgames, you play to the flow of the game. How your defense is playing, the things we're doing well, what the defense is giving us and how we're trying to attack.

But ultimately you always want to strive for balance. You strive for balance. But every game's different. You do what you have to do to win the game. You do what you need to do to win the game.

We'll see how the game plays out Monday night.

Q. What has the response been from Alabama fans? Have you gotten handwritten letters?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I'm sure I have. I'm sure I've gotten things. Like I've said, I've exhausted myself in preparing our players. It's not about pats on the back. It's not about atta'boy's, way to go, welcome to the family, all those things.

I know we've got great support here. The Crimson Tide family, like I said, has welcomed me with open arms. But my focus has been on the game and these players.

Q. There's only so many hours in a day. What is your start and finish time?
STEVE SARKISIAN: Relatively normal. We start at 7:30 every day. You get done when you need to get done. When you get your work done, you get your work done. Again, that's a credit to Coach Saban.

For me to be the best I can be, it's not about sleeping three hours every night. It's about getting your work done when you get your work done, getting your rest so that you're fresh and in a great frame of mind when we see the players the next day.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: I don't know. I guess the biggest thing is, did I have a voice in the office? Sure, I had a voice. But ultimately Lane was the decision maker, the position coaches. They were the ones in charge of their positions.

I just tried to offer the advice I could offer, some of the experiences I had, expertise I had at different things. But they were the decision makers. I was just there to offer some advice.

Q. It's been a number of years since you were not the head guy of a football team. Is it a little bit unusual feeling, 10 years ago when you were at USC?
STEVE SARKISIAN: A little bit because when I was there, Coach Carroll was such a tremendous head coach. You wanted to learn. You wanted to take in all of the knowledge and information that he had.

I feel like that's the same scenario that we're in today. Coach Saban's an amazing head football coach. That's part of the reason I chose to come to do this analyst job that I did. That's part of the reason I chose to stay as the coordinator here, is to continue to take in so much of the knowledge and expertise that he has as a head coach.

In the coaching world, I'm still very young. 42 years old, I'm very young. I believe I'll be a head coach again. So this experience that I have here with Coach Saban is one that I'm just trying to take in as much as I can take in.

Q. What's an example of something you picked up from watching Nick operate?
STEVE SARKISIAN: The whole process. I know sometimes that is thrown around a little loosely. But there is one. It does hold true. Even this week, we've got a routine, we've got a plan in which we do things. We're sticking to it. The players understand it. They're locked into it.

That's just one little nugget. Here you are, here is a guy who has coached in how many national championship games. He knows exactly what we need to do to get ready to play this game. There's not a lot of discussion. This is how we're going to do it, then you fit your plan off of what he's already had set.

Q. How is that different from the way you ran your program?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I think as a young head coach, when I got started, I took the job at Washington at 34 years old, coached my first game as a head coach at 35. I can remember back, we weren't perfect. You aren't perfect. You're still trying to find your way as a young head coach.

You look back, there's some things I really liked that I did. There are other things that I probably would have done different. I don't know. I'd have a tiger at practice when you go down to play LSU like I did.

What you learn from a guy that's done it for so long is you figure out the way you want to do things. You have belief in what you do. You convey that to the players. When you have belief, that message is received a lot better from the players.

That's been a good piece of what we've been doing since I've been here.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Yes, yes. Logistics where we would game plan together. Lane would call plays from the press box. I ultimately would send the plays in and call those plays. The majority of it, we were on the same page, so it was a good feel for what we were doing.

That's why I think this scenario's pretty good for me, because I have an idea of how Lane calls plays. This isn't going to be trying to recreate the wheel. We've got a system in place here. We're going to do the things that we do well, put our players in the best position to be successful come Monday night.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: It was more in between series stuff that was talked about. It wasn't so much at that moment. It was more in between series or before the play. Hey, I want this type of play, that type of play.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Just trying to learn. Just trying to be a sponge. We probably experimented with stuff, maybe sometimes too much. You look back, God, I don't know why we ran that, why we did this. It was a tremendous experience. I owe a lot to Coach Carroll for giving us that opportunity.

Q. You said earlier you're sure you're going to coach again. Given what you went through, how could you be so sure?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I think when you step away, you realize what you love, it's not there, you realize, Okay, what do I need to do to make that happen. You put in the work to make that happen.

Like I said, I'm young in the coaching profession. I'm still young in the coaching profession. I've been able to accomplish a lot. I've been able to do some really good things in this profession, coach good football teams, build good football programs, back from Washington to SC. I look at those teams today, see a lot of those kids I was able to recruit go on and have really good college careers, win a lot of games, get drafted in the NFL.

I know what I'm capable of. With Coach Saban, I'm looking at it from a different angle because he's got a little bit of a different approach. I'm thankful for that.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: That part of it is probably for a different time. Today, this is about what are we doing to win the game Monday night. My job is to take the experiences that I've had as a coach, put them into one week to get our players prepared to play, take a system that we have in place, look at the demeanor and relationships that I have with the players on the team, and again, put them in the best position to be successful.

Q. What are the parallels between Coach Carroll and Coach Saban and what are the differences?
STEVE SARKISIAN: They both love defense, I can tell you that. They both love defense. They both take pride in playing great defensive football. It shows. I've been lucky to call plays on teams that were tremendous defensive football teams. This team isn't a whole lot different. We play really good defense. We're sound. We're hard. We're tough. So that part of it.

Then they have their own beliefs. They believe in what they do. They convey it to the team. The team understands it. It becomes them as well. It becomes the characteristics of the team. We play to those strengths.

I think that's probably the biggest similarity, is they know what they believe in, and they coach to what their beliefs are.

Q. Differences in management styles?
STEVE SARKISIAN: You know, I think obviously the differences are probably a little more subtle than you'd think. But more importantly, they've got a style in which they want to do things. They've got a mechanism of conveying those messages. They both do it really, really well.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Well, my daily duties previously as an analyst, we'd still watch a lot of tape, still try to game plan, then offer up as much advice as I could to the game plan, then to the coaches. Then it was more sit back and analyze how we were performing.

My interaction with the players is probably the biggest thing that's changed. Ultimately making those final decisions on what do we want to do on third down, in the red zone, what do we want to do with personnel groupings. The biggest one of them all is calling plays on Monday night.

Q. How do you think the players are adjusting?
STEVE SARKISIAN: Probably a bigger question for them individually. So far so good with me. They've been great. The staff has been great. Coach Saban's been tremendous. The players have been really responsive to the things that I've tried to ask of them to do this week. In my opinion, they've given me what I've asked for them to do. Then ultimately now we have to go perform Monday night.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: I lean on the experiences that I've had. Like I said, I've coached some pretty good quarterbacks in my day, had great relationships with those guys. So I'm not trying to come in and be overbearing. It's about developing a relationship. It's about having some quality one-on-one time. It's about him understanding my personality and making him feel good about the game plan that we have.

I think that process has gone really well. I think Jalen ultimately is going to be the one to answer that question when you ask him. Then ultimately our performance Monday night will hopefully speak for itself.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: I need him to be him. I need Jalen to be him. Like I said, I think Jalen, for an 18-year-old true freshman, has amazing composure. I go back, and again, I was watching this game on TV, that first play against SC when he fumbles the ball, his first college football play, he comes right back in and leads them down for a touchdown the next drive. I think that speaks for itself. That guy has an amazing composure for an 18-year-old. He's going to need that composure Monday night.

It's not going to be perfect. No game ever is. And considering the environment, his composure is going to be critical.

Q. What have you learned about the process with Coach Saban?
STEVE SARKISIAN: That there is a plan in place, there is structure, and you stick to it. You believe in it, trust it, and then you keep moving forward.

Q. Has there been one particular difference?
STEVE SARKISIAN: That's for you guys to have an opinion on, not me.

Q. Now that you've seen Nick up close, have you unlocked the secret that seems to separate him from everybody else?
STEVE SARKISIAN: No, I haven't (laughter).

I think coach is a tremendous head football coach. I think he's got a plan. He's organized. He coaches his coaches. He coaches the players. He motivates the players. He's got great demeanor about himself. Never too high, never too low. He's got really good focus. Then he conveys that to the rest of the staff and the team.

I think that is unique.

Q. Wouldn't you like to be able to do that, too?
STEVE SARKISIAN: That's what we all strive for. That's why I think this is a great experience to see it firsthand from him.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: I don't know. Like I said earlier, I think that's for another discussion. This isn't about me, as much as it can be because of what's transpired over the last week. This really isn't about me. So I think that's for another time.

My focus today is on our team, on these players. They deserve the best Steve Sarkisian this week. They deserve the best Steve Sarkisian Monday night because of the time and effort they've put in to get themselves to this point. That's really where my focus is right now.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: No, and I understand the question. I'm not trying to discount that. I just feel like to answer questions about me wouldn't be fair to them right now.

Q. (No microphone.)

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: I've been with him for four months. This isn't like I flew in on a plane and I just took over this week. I've been here for four months. I've worked with Lane hand-in-hand. Like I said, he's done a tremendous job here for three years. He did a tremendous job this season with a true freshman quarterback, a really good job of coaching football.

I've been in those meetings. I've been on the headsets, heard him call plays. So we've had some discussions, which is more private discussions. But I've been able to see it firsthand. So there wasn't as many questions as if I had just flown in for this week and had to call plays.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: No, I think I have to call them the way I would call them. If not, it just wouldn't fit right, it wouldn't feel right. There wouldn't be the flow to the game.

We'll have a good rhythm, a good flow in the game. We have to create that on our own through execution, through our game planning, and then through the changes and things that we have to make throughout the ballgame.

Ultimately, I've got to call what I feel. I can't try to call it the way somebody else would, or it would never come off right.

Q. How is the rest of the offensive staff?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I think it's been really good. They've been supportive. They've coached their players the way I would have expected them to coach them, the way they coached them all year. We've had good dialogue. We've had a good game plan. We've had to make some changes throughout the week like you would in any other week.

Those guys have been really good in supporting the move. Onward and upward.

Q. What does it say about Nick Saban that he's extending this second chance to you?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I think so much about Coach Saban. One of the things I've learned is he's a really good person. As much as we see him up in front of you guys, his demeanor on the sidelines, the focus, the laser focus that he has. He's a good person. He recognizes coaches when he sees them. He's willing to work with people.

I think to me, I'm very grateful and thankful that he thought that much of me to be able to put me in this position to do the job that I believe I'm capable of doing.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Well, probably the 2009 Rose Bowl. We were playing Penn State. I had already taken the head job at Washington. Coach Carroll was still getting after me in that game in the Rose Bowl. I was thinking to myself, I'm a head coach, too, now. But not in this game I wasn't.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: I don't know (laughter). Sanchez is probably doing something he wasn't supposed to be doing, but...

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Because even as a head coach, I was calling plays. I'm used to game planning. I'm used to being very involved in the offense. I was a very hands-on coach, very much like Coach Saban. Even as an individual I would coach as a head coach.

This wasn't where I took a CEO approach as a head coach. I was very involved, called plays. Like I said, even this season I've been on the headset. I've heard the rhythm of the offense, how the substitution patterns go, those types of things.

I really feel like there's going to be some moments. I'm not naïve to think we're not going to have a couple glitches. But like I said, how we respond to those glitches is going to be key.

Q. Does it feel like you've been gone a year and a half or longer?
STEVE SARKISIAN: No, like I said, because of the past four months being around it.

Q. You talk about being fluent in the language. Are you fluent in the language? Can you repeat that in 40 seconds between plays?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I actually think being a no-huddle team is helpful. You don't have time to overthink it, overanalyze it. You have to get on to the next one.

A credit to coach. In our practices we have periods where it's not scripted. You have to call it. Monday night won't be the first time I have to do it. I've been doing it all week.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: I don't know if it was being a fit or not. I will say my first stop was Atlanta, and I took one practice. As soon as I got out on that field with Dan Quinn, that staff, I knew is where I need to be, this is where I want to be, this is what I love doing. Football's in my blood. I knew right away. Man, I love being around it.

I don't know if I want to be wearing a suit and tie sitting in a booth calling a game. I love being on the field.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: I don't know if 'doubt' is the right word. I was always intrigued, thinking, man, being part of the media, the game ends, you don't win, you don't lose, you just kind of move on to the next one. I was kind of envious of you guys.

But when I got back on the field, I realized that this is what I love to do.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: We had dialogue. We had phone conversations. We had done actually a couple Game Day shows, in-studio shows together, but not a true relationship that way. But we did interact some, yes.

Q. Did he have to sell to you the job or did you have to sell to him you were ready to get back?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I don't know if it was selling either way. It was just making sure it was a good scenario for everybody involved. You know, as much as I was coming to offer some expertise and advice to help the offense, I wanted it to be clear to him that I was coming to learn from him, too. This was going to be somewhat of a two-way street.

That's exactly what it was. I couldn't have asked for a better experience in the previous four months in the analyst role. I think that's actually probably helped the most transitioning into being the coordinator and calling plays Monday night.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: From a timeframe, it didn't take very long. I appreciated his approach to things. I appreciated how he motivated the players, how he coached the coaches. It didn't take long.

Q. What has been the most challenge part having to switch roles?
STEVE SARKISIAN: Just really probably the time management of it all, getting back into scripting practice, getting back into ultimately making decisions. Like I said, when you're an analyst, you can offer up advice for plays in certain situations, certain scenarios in the game. As a coordinator, you make the final call. So just transitioning back into that.

I don't know if 'difficult' is the right word, but that's probably been the biggest change.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Do I have one? I don't know. Like I said, my focus has been on the game. It really hasn't been on what next year's going to look like or next spring or any of those things. When coach said this is the direction we were going to go in, I shifted right to, What do we need to do this week to ensure our players are in the best position to be successful Monday night.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Quite honestly, no. That wasn't my intention when I came. My intentions were to learn, to come in and be part of a really good program, a successful program. To be around Lane who had done so well, who had transitioned some offensively from where he was years ago to what they were doing, what they were planning on doing. I saw in training camp what they were doing.

The whole experience to me was about coming and learning, offering up some things I could offer. Then when this thing became a reality, making a decision for myself, Is this what I want to do moving forward. When this decision was made, I was in with two feet and away we went.

Q. This is unprecedented. I can't think of any other situation in this sport that this has happened. What does it say that nobody questioned it?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I think so many times with coach, we give him too much of a conservative approach at times. I don't, but I think sometimes the perception of him is that.

Actually, he really is an aggressive mannered coach. He'll do things aggressively. He likes to play the game aggressively. He likes to coach aggressively. I think this is just another example of that.

However all this played out, the end of the day, he was willing to go with this move. He entrusted in me the faith in me to go do it. Like I said, I'm humbled, I'm honored that he did. Away we go.

Q. When a team loses, you can't wait to get out on the field the next time. Your last game was calling plays at Washington.
STEVE SARKISIAN: Clay was calling it at that point. Clay called that season, those five games that season that I was there.

Q. The last time you called plays in a game?
STEVE SARKISIAN: The Holiday Bowl against Nebraska.

Q. Before you went to go visit those teams, how were you spending your time at that time?
STEVE SARKISIAN: Still studying the game. I'd actually spent a little bit of time with Jon Gruden. He stepped out of the game as a true coach. What do you do? You develop a routine. You still study film. You're still looking at the NFL. You're looking at old cut-ups.

Like I said, I knew I was going to coach again. I just wanted to be prepared when this moment came. So I stayed involved in studying the game and working at the game.

Q. Were you still in L.A.?

Q. Where you still seeking getting help at that point?
STEVE SARKISIAN: There's been some other questions, I don't mean to be rude about it. I think that topic, that discussion is for another time. I don't want to lose focus and sight of this isn't really about me from a personal standpoint. This is about our players and our team and the work they've put in to get to this point.

My job is to be the best Steve Sarkisian this week to these guys in position to go out and achieve something that they've worked extremely hard for months.

That's where my focus is right now.

Q. You can't say if you're still getting help?
STEVE SARKISIAN: That's for another discussion.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: I think what it's done, like I was saying earlier, as much as Pete and Coach Saban are different, in that Coach Carroll had media and fans at practice, Coach Saban the media is there for 15 minutes and there are no fans at practice, they're the same in that they have a belief. This is what they believe in. This is how they want it to go. This is what they envision. Then they coach and they motivate to those beliefs.

It's different, but it's the same. What it's done for me is it gave me a perspective of when you believe in something, and you do it that way, you coach to those things, regardless, here is two totally different ways of doing things.

When you do it that way, and everybody in the building - players, coaches, staff - understand what those beliefs are, what the culture is, everybody gets onboard. That's been the biggest thing for me is reinforcing. When you got beliefs, that's the best way to attack things.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Well, I don't know. I don't know how many interviews analysts do at other places. That one's hard for me to answer.

Q. After Jalen threw a season low in yards, what did you work on all week with him to get ready for this game?
STEVE SARKISIAN: Well, I think the biggest thing is, like I said, trying to put together a game plan that is conducive to his strengths, that is conducive to the strengths of our players on the team, the schemes on our team, and then coaching them. Trying to put him in position to be successful so that come Monday night he can play fast, he can play confident, he can make really good decisions and throw the ball accurately on time, make the proper checks, do all those things that are needed in the game, not get caught up in the moment.

Q. Are you excited for Clemson's defensive front?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I don't know. I don't remember facing a team that the two defensive tackles combined have 17 and a half sacks. I don't know if 'excited' is the right word. Motivated. It's a great challenge. Coach Venables is a tremendous defensive coordinator. They're an athletic, fast defense. They do a lot. So it's a great challenge.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Yes, I did. I was at home.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Oh, of course. You look at a lot of film in a game like this. That game is definitely one of the games we look at.

Q. Players have said from changing from Lane to you, it was a smooth transition, but there were changes. What are some of the changes?
STEVE SARKISIAN: Without getting into particulars from a schematic standpoint, I think more than anything I tried to be me. I tried to be upbeat, tried to be positive, tried to get us to play with good tempo, good energy at practice.

Where those changes are exactly, you know, I guess that's in the eye of the person that's viewing it. I didn't go in specifically saying, I'm going to do this differently than they were done before. I just went in doing what I believe in. Some of those things were natural changes. Some of those things were more subtle changes.

It wasn't going in trying to be different. It was going in trying to do the best I could do to put our players in the best position to be successful.

Q. How much does this mean to you?
STEVE SARKISIAN: Oh, man, I'm so grateful, so thankful, so humbled. To be at the University of Alabama, Coach Saban, the staff. The family here has been unbelievable. Support. Just welcoming me in, trusting me to do this.

Just humbled and honored that I get this opportunity. Like I said, that just transitions to I just want to do the best job I can do. I want to put our players in a really good situation so they can have the success they deserve. They've worked so hard to get to this point. I just want those guys to go out and do the things that I know they're capable of doing in a great setting for college football.

To be part of this is very humbling.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: I just watched it at home. I was happy for Lane. It was a great offensive game plan a year ago. They made some really good adjustments at halftime. It was an extremely exciting game. It was one of those games that you get a little white-knuckled. When you don't have control of it as a coach, you want control when you watch games on TV. That's probably the hardest part.

But it was a great game to watch. Deshaun Watson, Clemson played a great game. Coach Swinney had them ready to go. Coach Saban, the on-side kick, there were so many plays in that game that were so exciting as a fan, which is really what I was at that moment. It was great.

That to me is why I love football. I'm a fan of college football, as much as I am a coach. I love the game. That's how I watched the Rose Bowl the other night, that second half. As much as I was pulling for SC, pulling for those players and coaches, what an exciting game. I mean, Penn State looked like they touched the ball and they scored a touchdown in the second half. It was amazing. Then for Sam Darnold to fight his way back in that game. For Matt Bouwmeester to make that kick in the end, that's college football. That's what I love. That's kind of how I watched the game a year ago.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: No, for sure. I mean, that part never goes away. That coaching aspect never changes. That always remains the same. You still are looking for those subtleties. You're looking at things. Oh, I wish they would do this. Oh, that's a great call here or there. You just get involved in the game. The emotions are still high, even when you're sitting on a couch.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Probably not, no, especially not four months ago when I was thinking I was going to go do TV. Like I said, you get put in a position, you got to go. You don't have time to think about the what ifs, the other things. You just dive in, get going.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Well, I think the players have been really locked in and focused, like I said. They've worked a lot and hard to get to this point. This week has been no different.

Calvin has been the same. My job is to get our play-makers the ball. We've got a lot of them on offense. Clemson is going to present things to us. They're going to push us in a direction one way or another of who is going to get those balls, run game, pass game. I'd be remiss not trying to get Calvin Ridley the ball. He's a heck of a talent, a heck of a player.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: I've been fortunate in my career. I've coached a variety of different quarterbacks. When you go back to Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart. John David Booty. Mark Sanchez. Those guys were more pocket-type passers. Jake Locker, when I went to Washington, they were a spread team. He was a zone read running quarterback. I had to kind of mold my offense with what they had done to fit that. Then Keith Price. This isn't too foreign to me. I've been down this road. I think it's kind of a natural fit, quite honestly.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Those guys, they got too much time on their hands to go online and look stuff up (laughter).

You know what, what I will say is this. When I played, I loved playing. I loved the game. I loved playing. I was probably a little emotional when I played because I loved playing.

I don't have a problem with the players enjoying playing either. That's how I coach. So hopefully that resonates with him, that we get a chance to go play in this game Monday night, and that we get to enjoy the experience.

Q. What is different about Nick Saban's system?
STEVE SARKISIAN: I don't know if it's so much different. I think good coaches have beliefs in what they believe in, in what they think is important to the success of the team. Coach is no different. He's got a belief. He's got a structure in place that he believes in. He gets the people in his organization to buy into what those beliefs are. He motivates them towards those beliefs. Then you go out and you have to execute those things.

I think more than anything is his consistency rather than what's different. He's consistent in his approach to what we do.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Sure. I knew what to expect. I knew what the week was going to look like. I knew what practice was going to be. I knew the timeframes of meeting schedules. It wasn't going to be something brand-new. We were going to stick to what we do.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Well, I think they coach really well. I think they don't have limitations. They play the run, they play the pass. They pressure the quarterback. They get after the football. They're a complete defense.

But he coaches a complete defense. We are not one-dimensional. I think that's what makes us unique.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: I will say I've really enjoyed the game day atmosphere in the SEC. Having a chance to play at Bryant-Denny Stadium has been tremendous, to enjoy that. To go to LSU, to go to Ole Miss, to go to Tennessee. Those have been fantastic experiences for me. The fans, the pageantry of college football in the SEC is something that I've really appreciated.

Q. Were you nervous having to do this today?
STEVE SARKISIAN: No, I wasn't. I look forward to seeing you guys. Quite honestly, I missed you guys.

You know, I wasn't. I knew what this was going to be about. I'm not foreign to it. You have an idea of what the types of questions are going to be. You just be honest and forthright and you focus on the things that I think are important for this game.

The focus is on the game and on our players. It shouldn't be about me. I'm just here to do this job the best I can do it for this week.

Q. (Question regarding dynasty.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Again, that's not a comparison for me to make. That's your guys' job. That's what you get paid to do. I almost did that, but I decided to get back in this seat instead of being back out there with you.

Two great teams, two great programs, two great head coaches that are obviously two of the best ever in college football.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Well, hopefully, like I said, we can utilize all of the weapons that we have on offense. O.J. happens to be one of them. We've got great wide receivers. We've got good runningbacks. For us to be the best we can be Monday night, it's utilizing all those pieces on this offense to get them the ball.

Q. (No microphone.)
STEVE SARKISIAN: Well, they're a little bit different this year. We just got to try to take advantage of the teams and the schemes that they have so that we can be the best we can be.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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