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January 6, 2012
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone, Coach Nick Saban.
Coach, do you want to make an opening statement or go right to questions?
COACH SABAN: I made several opening statements. But we certainly appreciate the opportunity we have here in the Sugar Bowl playing against a very good LSU team.
We certainly appreciate the hospitality that the Sugar Bowl committee and all the folks that have worked so hard to create, the hospitality that we've been offered here in the city of New Orleans, which is a great city. And this is a great competitive venue, and we certainly appreciate the opportunity that we have to participate in it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Much has been made how this is a home game in a sense for LSU. It's also a home game in a sense for Ms.Terry given her background here in Louisiana. How have you been able to‑‑ what's your plan to account for her whereabouts? The motivated shopper can do some real damage while you're coaching up the Tide.
COACH SABAN: It's actually interesting that someone out there has the perspective that I have more to worry about than just the game. When we arrived here, Terry had two of her old sidekicks from Baton Rouge that she used to go shopping with at New Orleans meet her at the bus and she never even came up to the room.
So she loves to shop here. We've been here when we haven't been able to get all the stuff in the plane to go home. But if that makes her happy, I'm happy (laughter).
Q. How did Jordan Jefferson change the first game and challenge your preparation for this championship game?
COACH SABAN: Well, I think his athletic ability in terms of how he can beat you with his feet as well as being a good passer, big arm, good skilled players outside, which you always have to be concerned about, but the fact that‑‑ and it happened a couple times in the first game‑‑ that you get him all covered, he takes off running, their ability to run the option and sort of zone run plays for him adds another dimension to their offense, which I think is very effective, very challenging for any defensive team.
So we certainly are going to be challenged by his ability to not only throw it and make big plays down the field but also beat you with his ability to run the ball.
Q. How confident are you in Phillip Sims' ability to fill in for AJ if he got hurt?
COACH SABAN: Well, we've been very confident in Phillip Sims all year long. It was a very close race between the two of those guys in the start of the year. And he's consistently improved throughout the course of the year. Gets all the reps in practice.
So Phillip's a very talented guy. I think he has a good understanding of the offense. This certainly would be a challenging circumstance, if he had the opportunity to go in this game, but one I think that he's probably ready for.
Q. Because a lot of the players on this roster have been in this championship setting recently, how has it helped you guys this week in terms of taking that businesslike approach and not getting all overwhelmed by this?
COACH SABAN: I think that regardless of how many times you've been in a game like this, there's still going to be some anxiety that goes along with playing in a game like this. I do think that maybe some of the older players on the team that are the leaders on our team who have been in this situation before have certainly helped some of the other players who are looking for leadership.
I think it's been helpful to some of the younger players in terms of the leadership that we've gotten from the experience that those guys have had in playing in games like this.
Q. How would you describe the physical level of play in the first game?
COACH SABAN: Well, I think it was a great football game. I think it was a very physical game on both sides of the ball. I think probably the difference in these two teams than most teams is how both teams play on the line of scrimmage. Their offensive line, their defensive line, our offensive line, our defensive line, I think very physical.
A lot of good hits. A lot of good tackling, a lot of aggressive play on both sides of the ball. And we kind of expect the same kind of game this time around.
Q. You've gone against Les now so much, what, if anything, sort of stands out about the way he runs his program from what you can see as a competitor?
COACH SABAN: Well, I think we have as much respect for LSU and their program and Les Miles and his coaching staff and what they do as anybody that we play anytime, anywhere. They have really good players. They do a really good job of recruiting those players and developing those players.
And they play extremely well on the field. You can't have the level of success that they've had on a consistent basis without doing a fantastic job as a coach and a leader. And I think Les has done that. I think he's done a marvelous job.
Q. Just want to know how much you got the chance to know Les just from running into him, any kind of a friendship might be a bit of a stretch, but any type of a relationship beyond football with Les?
COACH SABAN: Well, from my perspective, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Les. I like him. We do have occasions where we visit at meetings and different things like that.
And I think he has some great perspective on‑‑ and it's important to him how we all sort of team up to try to make college football better for football players. And I think we have a common denominator there that certainly I have a lot of respect for him because of that. And we've tried to work together to make things better in our league and in the NCAA.
Q. Eight years ago you had LSU here. How big an advantage was it to come in here as what's supposed to be a neutral site but clearly that night wasn't? And what do you think: How is it going to be Monday night?
COACH SABAN: You know, I think that our players need to understand that anytime you play at a neutral site or anytime you play on the road it's very challenging. And I think the number one thing our players need to do is focus on what they need to do on the field every play throughout the game for 60 minutes in the game and try and finish the game a little bit better. Finish drives, do the things we need to do to be successful.
And I think that we understand‑‑ we played in some tough circumstances. And I don't think that‑‑ that's something that you have to look to as a challenge so that we know we're going to have to overcome adversity in this game, and the circumstance that we play in here is just one of the adversities that we'll have to have the mental toughness to deal with.
Q. Did you feel eight years ago that that helped you, the crowd in here helped you?
COACH SABAN: Well, we kind of approach it the same way with our players; that we were going to have to play our best against a very good Oklahoma team and that we needed to focus on the task at hand and that external factors weren't going to contribute in the game.
So I think there's emotion in the game. I don't think you can play a 60‑minute game on emotion. I think that it's all about what's important to you and what you're willing to do to sustain it and finish it.
And I think that's going to be a key for our team in this game.
Q. I know you and Terry have really deep ties, good friendships with the folks here in south Louisiana. Given that, is this at all like a homecoming for you of any type of sort?
COACH SABAN: Well, I think that‑‑ not that we've taken any polls, but we certainly have a lot of good friendships here. We have a tremendous amount of respect for what was accomplished here. It was a special, special memory for us to come to LSU and be able to accomplish what we accomplished.
And we did it because we had a great team and all the people here in Louisiana contributed to that, who contributed to supporting what we were trying to do.
So that's a great memory that we have a tremendous amount of respect for and appreciate probably more than most people know. And we really feel good about the fact that we have so many folks that have remained good friends with us. And as you get older, those relationships are very, very important to you.
And the relationships that we have with lots of folks here in Louisiana are certainly important to us. But we also know that we represent the other side now, and we hope that people can respect who we are, but we also know that they're going to be passionate about what they want to accomplish for their team.
Q. Could you tell me what have you done to address the kicking issues that got you in the first game? And will you approach down and distance in the red zone any differently because of what happened in the first game?
COACH SABAN: You know, we have a lot of confidence in our kickers. I think that the approach that we've tried to use is‑‑ what I'm as much concerned about is the kicking situation, if you're talking about the field goals, is what we did prior to each one of those opportunities.
We actually had negative plays that put us in a more difficult circumstance relative to having a high percentage to kick. I mean, if you're in the NFL and you're kicking over 45‑yard field goals, maybe you're 33 or 40percent. And if you're a baseball player and you hit.333, it probably gets you in the Hall of Fame.
But I think what we've tried to do with our guys is say, look, you had a bunch of low percentage kicks in that game and we are confident in your ability to just stay focused on the process of what you need to do to make your best kick.
And that is the approach that we've tried to use with our players and certainly have confidence they will do well in this game because they've done well in other games all year long.
And it will not affect our strategy in terms of how we approach what we do relative to making those decisions, because we are confident in those players.
Q. Rueben Randle has made a lot of explosive plays this year. He didn't the first time around against you. How important is holding him in check to slow this LSU offense down?
COACH SABAN: We think Rueben Randle is as fine a receiver as we play against all year and will play against again. He's big. He's got great speed. He can make difficult catches. And he's a physical player.
We tried to get him to come to Alabama actually because we thought when he was in high school he was going to be this kind of player.
So I think not only Rueben Randle, even though he's made a lot of explosive plays, they have a lot of players on their offensive team who can make explosive plays. And I think it's important that every player on defense do their job and do it with great technique, because that's going to help them get in the right position to prevent some of those plays.
And that was something that we're able to do in the first game, and it's going to be really, really important to be able to try to manage that in this game as well.
Q. A couple of years ago in Pasadena somebody asked you if you were enjoying the experience and you kind of rolled your eyes. The perception is you don't like us. These championship things do not come along very often. Not that you're getting‑‑
COACH SABAN: I'm having a very nice time here.
Q. Not that you're getting old, but obviously these experiences are not going to keep continuing for you. Do you allow yourself at all to enjoy this and kind of soak it up?
COACH SABAN: I think it depends on how you sort of categorize enjoyment. I enjoy the competition. I enjoy the fact that our team has an opportunity to play in such a great competitive venue. I enjoy the work of trying to get the team ready to play the way they're going to need to play to have an opportunity to be successful.
It's very challenging. So that's my enjoyment. Now, maybe your perception of enjoyment is you go out and have a party. Well, that's not my enjoyment of this experience. We have been to the Sugar Bowl four times, and I really do enjoy the relationships that we have with the people here at the Sugar Bowl.
So in my own way, as the coach, I enjoy this. Putting the team together, putting the plan together, to have an opportunity to play against a great team and see if you can be successful, that's my enjoyment.
So that's my fun. It may not be other people's fun. So I enjoy it. In my own way I enjoy it. This is what you work for, to have these kind of opportunities.
Q. Speaking of some people's idea of fun, I know there's some people that have actually camped out overnight for your radio show. Have you met them or talked to them, and what do you think of people who would camp out for a radio show?
COACH SABAN: The radio show probably won't be that good (laughter). But we do appreciate the support that our fans‑‑ our fans have been wonderful in the five years that we've been in Alabama.
I think the fact that we have such a good team, that starts with our leadership and our administration, Dr. Witt, our president, Mal Moore, our athletic director. And the fans and the passion they have and the enthusiasm they've created is much appreciated by our team and by us.
And I think all that positive energy of everybody sort of working together to try to restore the tradition that Alabama has enjoyed, that passion has contributed to that. So we have a tremendous amount of respect for it.
Q. Trent Richardson was asked what's the biggest misconception about Coach Saban, and he said everybody thinks he's mean, sort of playing off the question you had before. And he said: Listen. Coach Saban keeps us loose. Coach Saban is not as much of a taskmaster as people sort of make him out to be. I think I've heard other people ask you this question: What do you think is the biggest misconception of not just your personality but maybe your coaching style?
COACH SABAN: Well, I think that, first of all, there's certain things that we think are important to being a champion. And hard work is one of those things, a tremendous commitment to the goals and things that are important to you.
But I also think it's important that people learn how to be responsible for their own self‑determination, which is accountability. And to have that in an organization, any organization, you have to define what the expectation is of the people in the organization.
And I find that players and people in our organization really feel good about the fact that they know what the expectation is.
I kind of learned this from Bill Belichick when I was at the Cleveland Browns with him as defensive coordinator, when he was the head coach there, and it was about doing your job and the responsibility and the accountability that goes with that.
But as a leader, make sure you define what that is. And we believe that it's important to be very positive in your approach to doing that, which I think is where the misconception probably starts. You know, you don't have to be negative to do that.
And I think that's probably what our players think. And that we are positive in our approach to what we do. But it's also defined and the expectation is defined for them and we expect them to be responsible to it. And it's really the only way you can have a team, because for people to trust and respect each other, which is important to togetherness on a team, they have to all buy into the same things and you can't have one guy saying, well, he did this but I'm not allowed to do that, because that creates divisiveness which is never going to allow you to have the togetherness that you need to be successful in difficult circumstances.
So those things we believe in, and I think that it's the way we do it that there's a misconception on because it's done in a very positive way.
Q. How different, if at all, is your preparation this time around considering the change of quarterback for LSU?
COACH SABAN: Well, just like the last time, because we have a lot of respect for both of their quarterbacks and both of their quarterbacks have a defined skill level that they play at at a very high standard.
So we still feel that it's important that we're ready for either or both in terms of the way they've used them in the past, even though who you feel is going to start the game and play the game becomes the most important. And I think that we have respect for both guys.
But we certainly‑‑ we certainly have worked on things that if we're in either one of those circumstances or situations, that our players would be able to perform and understand what they like to do with those particular guys in the game at quarterback.
Q. Nick, your field goal kicking was such a focal point in that first game. Could you talk about where you're at with that this time around and just sort of the general thoughts as you go in?
COACH SABAN: Right. We kind of addressed it before in terms of our concern was more about the plays leading up to the field goal attempts that we had, because they were all difficult attempts. And we had negative plays that were created by their defense.
But in some ways we contributed to those things with penalties and unforced errors that put us in a little more difficult field position to maybe have the high percentage kick that we'd like to have on field goals. Most of those we missed were not high percentage kicks.
We're very confident in the players we have. They've done a good job for us throughout the year. We understand that that was a big focal point in that particular game, but I also think that the degree of difficulty the percentage was not that far off of what it would be in those types of situations.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports