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January 2, 2018

Jalen Hurts

Da'Ron Payne

Grapevine, Texas

Q. Da'Ron, what did you see from both Raekwon and Isaiah last night, and how well do you think you guys played as a whole in the defensive front? Coach Saban just said that was probably the best you guys have played all year.
DA'RON PAYNE: Well, I knew those guys, they were pumped up to go out there and compete. They had a really good week of practice, and they had their mindset straight when they went out there, and I was just excited to see them go out there and ball.

Q. Da'Ron, Coach said that that was about as -- one of the most intense defensive efforts he's seen. How motivated were you guys given the way the last two Clemson games had gone and how proud this defense is?
DA'RON PAYNE: I think our defense, we had wanted to prove ourselves to the world because I think we felt a little disrespected, and I think all my fellow teammates, we just went out there and just tried to prepare and just listened to everything Coach had to say and just tried to do everything the right way. I think as a defense, we just went out there and executed the game plan and just tried to get after it.

Q. What kind of challenge do you see -- you haven't faced too many running back tandems like Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. From what you've seen on TV or film, how good are those guys?
DA'RON PAYNE: Oh, they're some excellent backs. I think as a defensive front, we're just going to keep trying to create a new line of scrimmage up front and wreak havoc in the trenches and as a defense just like we did this week, keep being focused and just follow Coach Saban's game plan.

Q. Jalen, just how would you assess in terms of your play, obviously spreading the ball around, how would you assess your play, and did you know Payne had those kind of feet to keep his feet inbounds on a play like that?
JALEN HURTS: I think we did a good job offensively. Obviously there are some areas that we can improve, do a little better job of executing and just doing the little things right. But obviously we did enough to get the win, and Payne does have great hands and great feet.

Q. I know that Kirby was, I believe, your main recruiter or one of your main recruiters for Alabama. I was just curious what was it about your relationship with him or your connection with him that helped you sort of pick Alabama?
DA'RON PAYNE: My main recruiter was Coach Cristobal.

Q. But it was Kirby who delivered your offer I thought, right?
DA'RON PAYNE: I don't -- I really don't know.

Q. I'd like to ask both of you guys what you thought about all the criticism that the SEC was down this year, now that you've got two teams in the finals.
JALEN HURTS: Well, I always say everything happens for a reason. Regardless of what's been said, I think everything happened the way it was supposed to happen, and I think we have two really good teams playing for the National Championship.

Q. Did you think the league was down at all?
JALEN HURTS: I don't think the league is ever down. I mean, we always have a lot of talent in the SEC, a lot of guys capable of making those -- a lot of teams capable of making long runs and having good seasons, so I think it's a very competitive league.

Q. My question is for Jalen regarding the Georgia defense. I don't know how much film you guys have had a chance to look at, but what have you seen out of them that you guys are really preparing for in practice this week?
JALEN HURTS: Well, you know, just off the top of my head, I can tell you that they're fast. They play really physical. You know, kind of try to have the same mindset that we have defensively, and they do it well. They're really good, and we're going to have to be ready to play against them.

Q. Jalen, obviously we saw up on the stage last night you and Nick with the hats backwards and all that. I was kind of curious, how much does that speak to how he's evolved as a coach and just his relationship with the players, that he's more comfortable now than maybe he was just even a year ago doing something like that?
JALEN HURTS: I think he's gotten comfortable, I guess, kind of being able to connect with his players. I actually asked him, I asked him if he liked the way my hat was, and he said I looked like a gangster, so he didn't want to wear his hat like that. But Coach Saban has always been one to evolve and be able to connect with his players and build a great relationship with his players.

Q. Jalen, I'm pretty sure you've noticed that media and fans and everybody on social media have liked to kind of analyze your performances, whether you were really good or whatever. How critical are you? Do you kind of watch what you do good or do you watch what you do bad? How do you evaluate your own performances, especially last night's?
JALEN HURTS: Well, I'm my biggest critic. I've said it plenty of times before. Nobody can be more critical on me than I can myself, and the biggest thing is just being able to learn from experiences and being able to fix them in the future. So like every game, we try and learn from the mistakes and get better at them and not make them again.

Q. Does it amuse you at all or bother you that you're so analyzed by people that probably don't know what's going on around you?
JALEN HURTS: That's probably the nature of the beast. It comes with it, and my job is to win football games here and handle things the appropriate way.

Q. Da'Ron, three-part question: Number one, how often did you guys practice that play? Two, how successful were you in catching it? And three, how much did you practice the toe tap that you did there because it looked like you had practiced that before?
DA'RON PAYNE: We practiced the play a couple times coming into the game. What was the other questions?

Q. How many times did you catch it, and did you practice the toe tap?
DA'RON PAYNE: Oh, I caught it every time they threw it to me in practice, and the toe tap, I think that just came natural.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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