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July 29, 2005

Mike Shula


MIKE SHULA: Good morning to everybody. It's good to see everybody again. It's an exciting time of year. I know you guys are excited to get going and just as we are. We hope you have had a good summer. We had hope you have had a good offseason and you got your batteries recharged. I know we have and this offseason started for us as every other offseason has just with our preparations with our winter workouts. In January our recruiting, I think our coaches did an excellent job with our recruiting class. We're excited about the 25 freshman that we will have in here next week. We go to camp next week. Our student athletes report next Monday night. We have had a lot of things happen in the offseason. We have had good winter conditioning. We have had an offseason full of rehab. Our coaches have again done an excellent job recruiting, not just in January, finishing up with the signing class but the May recruiting. Our students, our freshman for the first time this year, the NCAA has allowed us to have freshman in and we have got probably 90% of our freshman in summer school and we're excited about that. I think it's going to benefit every school and every freshman coming in just because of the comfort level. Now, when fall practice starts and school starts, it's going to be much higher than it would be at any other time but more importantly it is a chance for these young men to come in here and get started, get going on the right foot as far as school goes. I know how important that was for I did it myself when I was there and just to get a jump start and to stay ahead. We have got some young men that came in and did it a couple of years ago that are right on schedule, in fact probably ahead of schedule to graduate in four years. I think that has been very, very important for us. The offseason is also some of the other things taken place, we have opened up some new facilities. The latest one for us has been our 52,000 square foot academic center we reopened Bryant Hall which was a dorm way back when I was there as a player is now an academic center and really in my opinion second to none in the country. Coach Moore has spared no dime in that area, just because he knows how important that is for us recruiting-wise and for our student athletes while they are here. Especially nowadays as we have all covered and learned, in the academic reform with the APR rates, all those types of things that are going to be so crucial for us and for our student athletes to maintain that academic excellence and the academic standards to graduate, to stay eligible, to stay on the field and to represent yourself and your university well as a student athlete. We're excited about that. Right now with 25 freshman coming in we will have -- that will put us at 77 scholarships, so we're gaining ground there. This is the first year we can be back in four years. We have the ability to be back to 85 scholarships. Obviously we won't get there, hopefully we will get there at this time next year, we have got 15 seniors on our team right now. But along with those numbers, I think and our recruiting class we talked the other day as a staff where we will see a minimum of eight true freshman on the field this year and again that's a minimum. That's a conservative number. Last year when we only could sign 19, we only had 19 signees, we played 11 true freshman and two junior college players. So 13 of the 19. What made us nervous last year seeing a lot of these young guys on the field, percentage-wise we won't have quite as many on the field, yet eight is a pretty good number to have as we rebuild our numbers up with our scholarships and I think again I will go back to our coach doing an excellent job in the recruiting area for the last two years we feel like we have had two good classes. Now we have got to continue to coach these guys up and make them the best players they can and we're going to do it at an earlier pace than probably most schools with them being on the field as true freshman last year and this year too. Other numbers as far as our staff, something I am very, very proud of, by mid-December when we graduate, when we have our graduation in December when we looked at it last time, we will have 13 graduates on our football team by mid-December. So 13 guys with degrees playing on our football team. That's exciting number for us. There's still work to do for sure, finishing up with summer school. John Deaver (phonetic) has done an excellent job. He's our director in our academic center of making sure these guys are getting themselves qualified if they needed some work to do over the course of summer as well as throughout the year. With that in mind, our APR rate which was listed as one of the lower rates in the conference and maybe in the country, I guess when they came out in January, February has increased since then. Whereas others as we have seen in the paper has gone down, ours has gone up. I am proud of the way our guys have worked hard and our players understand the importance of this. They are getting the handle on this just like how important it is to stay eligible and stay in school as well as obviously for them to go get their degree to make their parents proud and all of us proud. We have increased it. We still need work to do but we feel very, very good about where we're at with that rate. Our support, particularly my support from our administration, specifically speaking Dr. Witt (phonetic) and Coach Moore has been unbelievable. I can't thank Coach Moore enough for all the things he's done for me personally and for us as a staff. Especially with the recruiting area, with these facilities to be able to raise the kind of money he's raised and provide us with the facilities that are perfect for Alabama and really help when recruits come in and come into our campus, it's been very, very important to me, especially my personal relationship with him and I have leaned on him in a lot of areas too because of his experience. I'd be dumb not to. And his coaching experience and leadership has been very beneficial to me as a head coach. A little example of how proud I am of our players, this summer I ran into a teacher at school, a teacher actually who has children that goes to school with our children -- they are that coach a lot of you know about. She kind of -- I saw her in the hallway, she came up to me, she taught at the university and she had taught Ken Darby. She said Ken changed her perception of student athletes -- she had taught at two other universities prior to this university and she said Ken changed her perception on student athletes from what she had been experienced to in a positive way and what a great student example he was for others in class and the way he handled and conducted himself in class. I think those things are important when you hear one-on-one in a hallway, it's important for me to express that to you. It's important for me to express that to Dr. Witt and Coach Moore because we all hear so many things, the negative things about student athletes that are covered and are highlighted during the course of the season, in the offseason. I think that's one of the stories that will stick with me for a long, long time makes me feel very, very proud. I know she's right on when she talks about Ken Darby because I know what he's about. Let's talk a little bit about our rehab. I mentioned earlier we have had offseason of rehab, particularly the big three so to speak with Brodie who is here today, has done a great job representing us, but he's pretty much out of the rehab mode. He's into increasing his strength and conditioning and really looks as good as he ever looked since he's been here. We have got to monitor him, he's at full go right from day one of practice. We have got to make sure we monitor his -- until these guys actually get out there and go and participate and practice and the team and the type of cuts that are unrehearsed as of a different from what they are during a rehab session, that we have got to make sure we stay on top of that. But he seems to be to be fine and ready to go. Ken Darby, I mentioned him with his sports hernia has really been probably ahead of schedule with his rehab. Looks to be 100%. Again he's another guy that we have got to monitor. That's a tough position because those guys need just like Brodie, they need as many reps as they can get just so they can get into a nice groove and feel good about themselves and get that confidence up, we have got to do that and not give him too much where we have a setback or we think it's going to hurt his injury. Right now he's ready to go for training camp. Again, we probably won't give him as many reps -- don't tell him this -- as we have in the last couple of years or we have our starting backs the last couple of years. Tim Castille tore two ligaments last year, worked as hard as anybody and to come back from it, he's a guy that we have got to make sure we monitor him and just get him with his confidence level back. As far as what percent he's healthy, et cetera, hard to say if he's 100% right now, but we're going to, you know, basically our approach with him during the course of fall practice will be we're going to give him as much as he can take in each and every drill and go from there, monitor it. If during the course of two-a-days he needs just to practice one time a day we will look at. We have done that with some guys last year that we know, guys will be able to handle that. He has worked very, very hard in his rehab. I stood up here last year, talked about competition, how we have created more competition last year. Well, as much as we improved in the competition area from our first year to last year, we have improved that much or more in that area going into this year. We are still going to be young, I think, one good way to measure that right now, now our depth chart, on our offense line as far as our third group, on the off line is four of those five guys are true freshman that we recruited this year that we think are going to be eventual starters. We couldn't say that our first two years -- I am not sure we had a third line our first year, probably had half of a line last year going into training camp. Our numbers are getting better. We need to create competition for starting positions as well as for probably more so for playing time. I am proud of our kids, the way they have worked in spring practice over the course of the summer with the volunteering workouts with Coach Johnston. I am proud of the way our staff has worked together, communicated well. It's a staff that we haven't changed since we have been here other than Coach Johnston that communicates well and I think is really good for these players and our student athletes to help them grow in every area they can. Personnel wise I have already talked about some of guys on offense. I think our receivers which at this time was a big question mark last year; now, I think one of our strengths on our offense with Tyrone Prothro. DJ Hall. Keith Brown, Matt Caddell, Ezekial Knight is a guy that is coming on strong, really had a good spring practice for us. At the fullback position along with Tim Castille, probably the guy who probably had the best offseason so to speak going back to spring practice has been Le'Ron McClain, he looks great right now. He's going into his Junior year. He's more than halfway done with his degree. And he's ready to go. The freshman backs behind Darby, we will probably see two of the three guys that are on campus right now in school, we will have playing time early and often probably to go home. Coach Woods has done a great job with our running back situation where we have rotated guys in and where we have kept guys fresh that way. I see us doing that the same way this year, especially with Ken and making sure we don't give him too much too early. The off line spot, Chris Capps and Cody Davis will compete for the left tackle spot, Antoine Caldwell called we will left guard registered freshman, felt good about him, his chances as being our starter and also playing winning football four us. J. B. Closner anchors our offensive line, he's one of our true leaders on the offense and he's a senior this year. The right guard spot Mark Sanders competing with Justin Moon with B.J. Stabler for that spot. Mark is a senior right now. If he had to play today he'd be our starter. Right tackle, Kyle Tatum this time last year never played offensive tackle other than spring practice. Now he's got a year under his belt and did a nice job for us last year. We expect better things from him this year. Behind him Drew Davis competing at that right tackle spot. On the defense side we've got a lot of leadership. While I am talking about leadership we have got more leaders -- I have said this a couple of times -- more leaders on our football team now than we have had the first two years combined. A lot of it is on defense, got more experience, more returning starters on defense. On the defensive line, Mark Anderson, speaking of rehab, he injured his knee a couple of weeks ago, he should be ready after the first week or so of fall practice. We don't think he will be ready for the Tennessee game. Wallace Gilberry has done a great job, he will be stepping into a starting role at the other defensive end side. Rudy Griffin and Jeremy Clark, Justin Britt will be guys that we will be looking for in that defensive line rotation to come up in the defensive tackle position, to come up and play well for us. They have all got experience from last year. Chris Harris and Keith Saunders are guys on the defensive end, backups, that we think will be important for us to come into that rotation, I think is crucial for us defensively. Linebackers, got basically three returning starters, Juwan Simpson, done a good job, Junior this year, Freddie Roach will be in the middle. DeMeco Ryans, one of our true leaders will be starting at (inaudible) linebacker. We need to get more depth behind him with guys like Terrence Jones, Demarcus Waldrop, we have may have some young guys in that area that may see some playing time. Secondary four returning starters with the two corners, Anthony Madison and Ramzee Robinson who have been great leaders for us. Roman Harper who is here today, another leader to us. Charlie Peprah, guys that have all played quality reps for us, they ranked No. 1 defensively in the nation last year in pass defense. They are going to have to prove themselves all over again. Let me mention, going back to, defensive backs, another guy very, very productive playing for us, Simeon Castille and we'll push those guys for starting position just like we did last year. In the kicking game we're losing two seniors so it's still wide open, we want to try to make a decision. I have said during the course of the summer if we had to punt today, Jeremy Schatz would be our punter. If we had to kick, Jaime Christensen would be our kicker. We have got some other guys competing in those areas. Got some true freshman coming there that will also compete. Ideally we find out who those guys are and let them know that they are going to be our starters so they get confidence but that's what competition is for and we want to put them in positions to compete to find out who our best guy is. With that, I'd be glad to take some questions.

Q. With your experience in the booth and pro football, what is your thoughts on instant replay?

MIKE SHULA: Instant replay, I think it's going to be good for the game. I know it was for the NFL. A lot of doubt, there was, I remember when it first started in the NFL, there was doubt if it was going to be productive or help the game. It ended upper being a very positive thing. Listening to the -- now last year the Big-10 experimented with it first and went through it they were very, very pleased. Just talking to the officials in that area, talking to the coaches and how the things went, especially towards the end of the year after they ironed out some things, we're looking forward it to. I think anything that can enhance the game and make this game better and make obvious to an official that has to make a split-second decision, make it obvious like it is to everyone else who has an opportunity and the luxury of showing this on replay to make that available to our officials, is only going to help our game. I think we have got just listening to Bobby Gaston, I think we have and Commissioner Slive, we have got a real good procedure, probably the best that there is available on the way. We're going to go about it to save time so to speak. That's one of the negatives that if there's been a negative on instant replay, is the time that it's consumed during the course of the decision-making so hopefully we will cut that down and it will help our game.

Q. Could you talk about the injuries Brodie has had overcome the last couple of years, how that's affected you guys if you think he's --

MIKE SHULA: Hopefully it's an injury-free season, knock on wood. He had some tough luck over the course of his career starting in high school, with injury in high school, his first game which was our first game as a staff, he hurt his shoulder, his opposite shoulder, played the whole year with a bad shoulder. I guess it was his sophomore year. Never said a word about it, never. Nobody is tougher than Brodie as far as injuries go. Last year the unfortunate injury of the knee injury early in the season. It's been tough. With injuries you don't like to use that as an excuse as a head coach or as a member of the football team, but when your starting quarterback goes down it's tough. We feel like we have got better depth there now with John Parker Wilson coming in and getting the experience he had had over the course of spring practice, he will compete with Marc Guillon for that job. Got a couple of freshman coming in that we're going to look at. But yeah, we all hope that Brodie stays healthy because we think, I think he's a guy that can do some great things for us this year. As far as what his ability is, he has got tremendous arm strength, he has got very good touch, probably the best thing about him even though the way I have described it, his arm, is his mentality, his personality for the position. I think he's probably as good a guy -- I know I enjoy talking with him during the course of the game, the bigger the situation gets, I think, based on his sophomore year, and I know now two years more experience, I think it's going to be I think the more, the slower his pulse is going to get. That's the kind of guy you want to have as your leader, as your signal caller.

Q. Have had a lot of problems with people getting in trouble, you haven't had a lot of that. Talk about just how you approach that and how you deal with it?

MIKE SHULA: Well, first of all, let me just say this: You don't see us laughing or making any kind of remarks on any of the other schools that unfortunately have had some problems. Whether or not it be in our conference or out of conference, it's a difficult thing. It is a scary thing. You are dealing with a lot of young men just that are on their own for the first time. What happens is when they come in here they are going to get hit with the same message day in day out, during the course of the season. In the offseason you can continue that through the spring practice but then once spring practice ends you really don't have that much time where you are allowed to be around these guys. I think we have got real good leadership in that area where you have to have guys just to come in and help some of these younger guys or if someone else is getting out of line say, hey, you are out of line right here. I think we have got that on our team, not just if they find themselves or their teammates in a situation where they don't need to be in, not just to themselves, walk away, but get their teammate out of there, things like that. Surround yourself with good people. We have been lucky that way with our leadership. For the first time this year we're starting our program with Winning With Character, character education program. We're going to install it. Our players doesn't even know it yet. We met with Randy Thrash (phonetic) and Dr. (Inaudible) last week on it. I know Georgia does it and a couple of other universities do it. It gives us a chance to be around these guys during the seasons and offseason and talk about things other than football. Hopefully because of that communication and the ability to do that, that will help us in the area that we have talked about.

Q. What is the plan with Brodie in terms of practice; will he get the full speed contact before the first time? How are you going to handle it how you are going to get him ready?

MIKE SHULA: He won't be our quarterback. We have talked about him -- he needs to make up some of that time he lost during the course of spring. The time he lost in the spring were the team reps, the scrimmage reps, he had had plenty of 7 on 7 reps, passing reps. We have got to probably increase those reps and yet not do it too much. We need to give him as much work as we feel he needs to get him ready get himself ready. But we have got to be smart about it. We take precautions with all of our quarterbacks, probably, especially him this year as far as if -- obviously we got guys competing defensive linemen trying to win jobs trying to get to the quarterback we got off linemen trying to keep guys off the quarterback so they can hold onto their starting position but we have got to be smart about it too when so nothing accidentally happens during the course of fall practice.

Q. Your team always has high expectations, but how do you battle now, you talked about the depth and getting back from the scholarship losses, with the lack of depth compared to where you'd like it to be and the expectations seemingly getting higher how do you battle those two, especially the expectations?

MIKE SHULA: I think it's all realization and perception for us. I think our expectations are high. They should be higher this year than they have been the first two years. They should have been higher. If they weren't, they should have been -- they were for me and I know for our staff. But we want guys on our team that -- on our staff, myself on our football team that are going to expect more out of themselves than anybody else is, and that means a lot because expectations in this room, expectations outside of this room are extremely lie for the University of Alabama. That's one of the reasons why I came back because I want to be at a place where expectations are high. I want guys surrounded by me that have the same type of mentality and expectations. We balance that with the depth. We realize just numbers wise we're not where we need to be. We're going to have some younger depth, but I think that just -- we can use that as motivation - there's nothing better when you know you can coach a young guy up and get him on the field so to speak, when maybe a head of time and have him performed at a winning level. But I think as far as the perception goes we have to make sure we're realistic and not making drastic decisions, one way or another for certain reasons based on last year's results or based on what other people, outside influences. We have got to make sure we understand the whole situation, why this happened, why it didn't happen, how can we make it happen. How can we get rid of the problem if it is a problem and go from there and attack each thing individually and you know, it's a week to week -- this season ends up being a week to week season. You are only as good as your last game; then you have got to forget about it as soon as you play it win or lose - attack that game on why you did the things you did well. How you can continue to those, how can you fix the things you didn't do well.

Q. What is your opinion on the BCS voting procedure and the new changes that have been instituted in that procedure?

MIKE SHULA: There's still as I have been reading up on it and staying informed with the procedures and where we're trying to lock things down, the biggest thing is we all want what is fair for everybody. Whatever the best way to do that's in an unbiased situation we have got to strive for that. I think that -- again I don't have as much experience as a lot of these other guys that have answered this question with the way this thing has evolved. We have tried -- I know the NCAA has tried to do that. That's why the computer rankings the coaches' poll and all. That this year we're doing some things differently with the coaches' poll. I am not in the coaches' poll so, but where the votes are being public and things like that, but whatever we can do and there's guys are going to make those decisions that have a lot more experience than I do to make this thing as fair as possible where we can get the two best teams playing for the National Championship as well as the other teams to get into the BCS, you know, where -- it's so important for every university to get into that for a lot of reasons obviously. Whatever we can do to do that and I will support as I am continuing to be educated in those areas.

Q. I have seen your name on the dreaded hot seat list in the preseason magazines things like that. Is that fair do you feel like Alabama this year is in position to compete for the SEC title again?

MIKE SHULA: When I took this job my name was on the hot seat from Day 1. That's how I look at it. (Laughter) if you don't -- I am not just talking about being here, anywhere. So I don't worry about that. If I do then I am not worrying about what I need to be concentrating on and that's helping this football team improve. What is fair, what is not fair, I know this: When you win games people are usually going to say good things about you and your football team. When you lose games they are probably not going to say good things about you and your football team. Those are things that we can't be worried about that. We have got to again get back to what we have to concentrate on, what we have to attack and how we have got to help our football team get better week in and week out.

Q. Now that the trials are over with even though the university had nothing to do with it, is that era officially in the past and ramifications continue to affect your program?

MIKE SHULA: Well, I don't -- as far as the ramifications affecting our program, the only thing that's affected our program has been the scholarship loss and things like that and basically now we can sign 25, we can sign 85. As far as -- I can only speak for pretty much myself our staff and our football team as far as how we can put that behind us. I think basically our football team has I don't know if it was ever in front of us. I think that our football team since I have been here has done a great job of concentrating on what they need to concentrate on and when Tennessee week comes then we're concentrating on Tennessee and doing whatever we can to go beat Tennessee. Probably more so because of the history and the tradition of the rivalry that goes back a long, long time. There's a couple of schools them being one of them that we have got a huge rivalry with. You know that week you don't have to motivate your players, they are going to be up for that game so to speak. That's the reason why. I think our guys have done a nice job of that. I know there's been a lot of attention in the media, and with our fans and I would expect our fans to do whatever they can to defend us. Our guys have done a great -- a great job just concentrating on what needs to be concentrated on the playing field.

Q. Obviously the way you called the game changed after Brodie went down last year. What does he allow you to do this year that you weren't able to do with the guys last year?

MIKE SHULA: I still don't -- people have asked us over the course of the offseason are we going to see a lot of new plays and things, basically we're going to continue to do the things we have done. But we haven't really just run our offense the way we have really wanted it to run. And call it the way we really want to call it. With Brodie staying healthy, over the course of this year, we feel like we'll be able to do that. Our first two and a half games of calling plays this year was with him in there was very, very productive. We had real good balance. I think we're actually more pass to run by a little bit percentage wise, but it's something that I think we'll see some things differently not necessarily -- but we will still do it within our frame work. I think we have got more weapons around him too not just with Brodie I think we have got experience with wide receivers. We have got some young backs. We have got a Nick Walker (phonetic) who I forgot to talk about our tight end he's our starting tight end he's going to be a guy that we can get the ball to and has done a great job in high school of the I know he did. We're looking forward him being a registered freshman to come in and make some plays for us. Utilizing the tight end there and some of these other guys are going to be things that we haven't had the opportunity to do. When you lose your starting quarterback last year then you have got true freshmen receivers on the field with your second or third string quarterback there's a lot of things you do differently to, especially with a good defense and good kicking game to approach ways to win games.

Q. Leadership on defense you talked about. Specifically address with DeMeco Ryans has meant to your program on and off the field?

MIKE SHULA: He's been outstanding in all those areas. You wish you had you know, 85, 84 more of those guys. We're close. We have got some other guys real close, but if I had to pick one that if you say, hey, you want 85 of what kind of guy you'd probably say DeMeco Ryans. I think he has got over a 3.5 grade point average right now. I think he has got a chance to graduate in December, if not earlier. But he's one of those guys that again he leads by example, and he's not worried about what other people -- about what the popular opinion is, which I think is incredible for somebody his age. He's not worried about that and that says a lot and I think we're going to see his performance and all the things that he does and means for us we're going to reap the benefits hopefully this year.

Q. With some untimely injuries last year and No. 1 defense in the nation, and really a play away from winning the LSU game, how close do you really think you all are this year?

MIKE SHULA: Those are all things that we getting back to making sure we know the difference between perception and reality and we don't hit the panic button. Those are all things we look at as a staff and we did from week-to-week, we did when we went back through our self evaluation. How close? I think we're close. But close is a dangerous word. I think I may have said that last year here. Close can get you fired too. Close can get you on the hot seat if you don't think you are on it. But I think that we have got -- our comfort level is higher; expectations are higher; we've got good leadership on defense. That, to me, is a little bit scary too because -- any time-- you don't -- you don't want your guys sitting back and reading about how good they are because now there's a tendency to not work as hard as it -- as when people weren't saying anything about you. That's what so good about having Joe (inaudible) as our defensive coordinator there. We were so close in some games but we have got to find a way to finish games the way we didn't do last year against some really good opponents late in the season. That will be something that we're going to continue to talk about day in day out in training camp on how important it is -- each guy, make sure they go through practice with the attitude they got to get themselves better. Not just get through the practice, but get better.

Q. You obviously understand that criticism is second guessing; particularly from us, goes with the territory and not to mention the fans. Under the circumstances did you find yourself wondering if you should have pulled Brodie last year and will you look at a different approach this year based on his injury history?

MIKE SHULA: Under the circumstances and what we -- last year we talked about it -- probably wouldn't have done it any differently. We had a plan for it. We stuck with it. Now this year, knowing that -- you know, you have got a guy that unfortunately has been injured, you know, if we're in that same situation again that's probably what you are asking me, would we pull him? Yeah. Unfortunately -- but that's something you are going to go through -- we talked about that the other day, if we had the luxury of being ahead in a football game by two touchdowns in the first quarter, do you pull your starting quarterback midway through the first or three touchdowns, when is that cut-off point? Is it midway through the second quarter? I hope we have that luxury (laughs), but it's something that it was difficult to swallow for sure. That's my decision as a head coach and one that you take -- that I take responsibility for and -- but last year is over with. We move onto this year and hopefully we do whatever we can to keep him healthy and when he has a chance -- when he has got a chance to throw the ball away he does and when he has a chance to get down, he gets down. That's going to be hard for him to do because he's such a competitor. I think the main thing is that he's worked himself as hard as he can to get himself as ready as he possibly could to be very successful for us this year.

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