Crimson Tide Hope To Roll Oklahoma On Offense
While the Sooners were talking defense in New Orleans Sunday, the Crimson Tide were talking offense. Alabama Offensive Coordinator Doug Nussmeier took the stage and highlighted his talent team. Here's the transcription from his 15 minute press conference before the January 2nd Sugar Bowl.
Q. Just a few thoughts on preparation for the game Thursday.
DOUG NUSSMEIER: It's an honor to be here representing the University of Alabama and the BCS game in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and I want to say a special thanks to the Sugar Bowl committee. To play in such a storied game against such a great program like Oklahoma it's just an outstanding opportunity for our players. We're very, very excited to be here. Offensively I feel like we have grown throughout the season. We've gotten better and better every week, and the goal is to give our players the best chance to have success in the football game. So we're really excited to be here. Want to say thanks to everybody, and it's great to be back in New Orleans again.
Q. Two questions, Doug. You mentioned being back in New Orleans. Can you talk about your memories of your time here, and have you been back? And then also, when you first met AJ McCarron when you got on campus, what impressed you about him as a quarterback and a person?
DOUG NUSSMEIER: Well, New Orleans is a special city for our family. I met my wife here, was fortunate enough to play with the Saints for four years and was an outstanding time and left lasting memories. We try and come back as much as possible. We still have relatives and lots of friends in the area. It's really a place that's special to us. As far as AJ, I think the thing about AJ is you watch the progression, and when I first got to Alabama, turning on the film and just watching where he was at the start of his first season where he was kind of splitting time with Phillip Sims and then to watch him evolve and play better and better every week into the National Championship game, that game spoke for itself the way he played in that game. To understand his competitive fire, he is one of the most competitive guys I've ever been around, and to watch how important the game is to him, he wants to know everything and just feel very, very fortunate that I've had the opportunity to work with him for the last couple seasons.
Q. Nick Saban said a few months ago that he would look at instituting or at least changing some adjustments to lean towards hurry up, no huddle. Have you had any of those discussions and do you feel like that's going to be a trend nationally?
DOUG NUSSMEIER: Well, there's no doubt it is a trend. Just look across college football, and everybody is playing faster. They're trying to maximize their opportunities and get more snaps. And one of the things, as you prepare for games, is preparing your defense to see that and to help them from an offensive standpoint to help the defense prepare. We've gone no%u2011huddle before. We've gone fast. We did it a little bit last season, haven't really stepped into it this year, but you never know. We continue to evolve. We always look at ways to make our system better and to do things better.
Q. I was just wondering, sounds like you guys have done a lot of self%u2011evaluation after the Auburn game and had Coach Kiffin in. I wonder about some conclusions you arrived at, and Coach Saban said you didn't play like yourselves against Auburn. Do you agree and what was different?
DOUG NUSSMEIER: Well, Coach Saban does an outstanding for us from a professional development standpoint, and we've spend a lot of time visiting NFL and college programs and vice versa, having people come and see us. It's a great way to grow like we talked about. We're always looking to improve, do things better. Any time you have an opportunity to sit down and visit with somebody and talk football and talk different ways of doing things and have somebody look at maybe open your eyes to a different way of doing what you're doing, it's always good. Any time we spend with other coaching staffs or other coaches, we try and maximize that. We try and look at what we're doing. Is there a better way to do it because nobody has all the answers and everybody is always looking to do things better, and if you don't you really get stale and people pass you by.
Q. I'm wondering what you've seen from T.J. Yeldon throughout the season and is he a guy that at this time next year would be in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy?
DOUG NUSSMEIER: Well, TJ is a guy last year as he came in had instant success early, and one of the things that people see when you talk about the running back position is they see what the player does with the ball in his hands, but there's so much more to playing the position. I think TJ has really grown in that aspect, his attention to detail and protections, his understanding of the overall scheme, the blocking schemes and how we're doing things up front to create holes for him. He's really grown in that way this season.
Q. What kinds of progression have you seen from the quarterbacks behind AJ this season and just how do you see that competition shaping up into the spring and onward?
DOUG NUSSMEIER: That'll be a really good competition this spring, really, really excited about our young players on the roster at that position. With any young quarterback there's a steep learning curve, and for those guys it's about getting snaps every day and continuing to progress, and I like the development that we've seen in those young players. They need to continue to grow. We need to have a really, really good off%u2011season. But I'm very excited about what that competition is going to hold come spring.
Q. I know Amari has kind of battled injuries throughout the year but what kind of growth have you seen from him this season?
DOUG NUSSMEIER: Once again, we talked a little bit about TJ and the understanding, Amari really understanding routes and if you look at his progression last season what we did with him, we started very simple with him and gave him a very limited package as far as what he needed to know for the game plan, understanding that if you try and put a young receiver in a position where he has to learn the whole game plan, he'll learn the plays but all the adjustments and all the things that happen from pre%u2011snap to post%u2011snap to releases and making sure you're getting your depth and setting stems the right way, all those things that become key, key factors when you're playing against good football teams, Amari has really grown that way. He's really worked at mastering his craft, worked at releases and getting off the line of scrimmage versus press and making sure he's at the exact right depth and all those things that come with being a great, great receiver. He's really continued to develop that way.
Q. What is your running back rotation looking like coming into this game? There's been a lot of curiosity about why Kenyan Drake didn't play against Auburn?
DOUG NUSSMEIER: Well, the running back rotation, obviously TJ has done an outstanding job this year and what we've done is try to get number of other players in the game to spell him at times. Obviously, Kenjon has played a significant role for us throughout the season. Really, really excited about the progression that Derrick Henry has made. He's really a young player that continues to grow each and every day. Jalston Fowler, you see Jalston play a bunch of different places for us. He's kind of a jack%u2011of%u2011all%u2011trades type guy, utility infielder if you want to say he can do a lot of different things. Obviously TJ is our feature back, and then as always we'll play those other guys in their roles in the game and the objective is to get those guys in the best position to be successful with their skill sets.
Q. When you turn on the film what stands out about OU's defense and do you feel like you might have an advantage when it comes to physicality?
DOUG NUSSMEIER: I think they're extremely athletic. They've got great team speed, great length. They do a really good job of mixing up their scheme. They go from a 3%u20114 defense into some of the four%u2011down looks, but they keep the same people in the game, substitute in out of some nickel packages and having known Coach Stoops being out on the West Coast when he was at Arizona he's always done an outstanding job on defense. They play physical, they play fast. We're going to have to play our best game.
Q. The Virginia Tech game it seemed like the offensive line struggled. Two weeks later against A & M you completely dominated. What was the difference in those two weeks from the line improving that much? And their progression during the season, did they get better and better?
DOUG NUSSMEIER: Yes, I believe they have. Obviously replacing three starters on the offensive line, also kind of got lost in the shuffle because you talked about Barrett Jones and Chance Womack and TJ Fluker, everybody lost track of a guy that was a key, key part of our offense last year in Michael Williams, our tight end. When you talk about replacing four of six really when you look at it, there was a big adjustment for us, and in the Virginia Tech game we did not play well and they kind of took it to us. I felt like we've really grown. We've tried to simplify a little bit, get back to teaching basics better. And so many people talk about looking at a line, and you look at good offensive lines, and the really good offensive lines usually have a lot of snaps that they've played together because there's so much verbal and then nonverbal communication that goes on. You've got a lot of verbal communication from an identification standpoint before the snap but then all the nonverbal things that go on with games and stunts and things you've got to be able to handle up front in order to be an effective offensive team.
Q. I know you talked about it before, but what were some of the specific things with Derrick Henry because it looks like he's working up in the depth chart. What were things that he changed from August until now?
DOUG NUSSMEIER: Well, like I said before, there's so much more to playing the position than what a lot of people think. It's not just run right, grab the ball from the quarterback and run. Derrick really has grown as far as understanding proper footwork, proper technique, what exactly the front is doing from the standpoint of where the ball needs to hit versus certain fronts, certain looks, and really done a much better job, too, in understanding protections. We run many different protections, and it's very important that our backs understand and really have great communication with our offensive front about how we're going to block all the different things. As with any young player, I think you teach them things, they get the base principles, and then they kind of go and they go and they go and you wait for them to make the next step, and I really believe over the last month he's started to make that next step in his development.
Q. In terms of pressure, whether it's self%u2011inflicted or outside the program, is there any less pressure to win a big game like this as a coordinator compared to being a head coach?
DOUG NUSSMEIER: You know, every game is important, and when you look at every game, it's about how we play. We don't really worry about the winning and losing, it's about how you play. The rest of it will take care of itself. It's about the preparation, it's about making sure we put our players in the best possible places to have success. It's making sure they're prepared to see everything they're going to see. But as far as pressure goes, I don't know that there's any more or less in any game because you always want to be successful, and in athletics you're judged on what you do today, not what you did yesterday. This is a great for us to play against a great football team, and we're very excited about it.
Q. It was reported that you interviewed for the Washington job. Just wondering what you learned during that process, and do you feel you're ready to be a head coach?
DOUG NUSSMEIER: Wow, it's going to go there today? Obviously I feel very, very fortunate to be a part of this program and to be the offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama. I would like to be a head coach some day in the right situation, having the ties that I have to the University of Washington and understanding what that program is about, that was an opportunity for our family and Coach Saban fully supported it, that it was a very good experience, and obviously very, very excited and happy to be a part of this program.
Alabama Player Quotes:
Alabama Wide Receiver Amari Cooper
(On the key to winning this game) "We just have to play together. It's really all about going out there and playing our game."
(On what is the motivating factor going into this game) "If we come out there and dominate in this game, we can still be looked at as the best team in the country, and that is what motivates me."
(On playing in the Superdome) "I really like to play on turf, and this is my first time in the Dome, so I'm excited for this opportunity. I'm ready to go out there and work toward this W."
(On injuries this season) "At the start of the season, I was really banged up. But, throughout the season I worked every day to get better. This break gave me more time to rest and now I feel as good as I did last year."
(On OU secondary) "Their secondary is very quick and they have a lot of solid players. It's going to be a good matchup."
(On his future role on the team) "Kevin Norwood is a great senior leader. I hope to fill his shoes and be a great player with the ball in my hands. I want to lead by example."
Alabama Wide Receiver Kevin Norwood
(On the five years he's spent at Alabama) "It's been great being here with the team. This being my last college football game with these guys, it's been great. I've been able to get to know a lot of new players, basically spend time with them. We've learned the do's and the don'ts, places not to go, and stuff like that. We just want to come out, have fun and pull out a victory. It's all business."
(On what it means to play his last college football game) "It's really important for us to go out with a bang. Me and A.J. (McCarron) came in together. We've spent five long, hard years here. It's just important to us to go out with a bang and finish our year strong."
(On exceeding expectations at Alabama) "I knew coming here that I was going to win some games, hopefully one national championship. To win three, and just being able to be a part of those, it's been a blessing. It's been really great for us. It's something I can take to heart. If I ever have any kids, I can bring them back and tell them, 'This is what I accomplished, and anything can happen if you put your mind to it.'"
(On getting ready for the game) "I think everybody is excited. We're finally here, and the season is counting down. I think we have what, four more days then it's over. Everybody is ready. Everybody is getting prepared."
(On playing on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome turf compared to the turf at Bryant-Denny Stadium) "To be honest, I think so, because I look faster on film. It really does look fast. It feels fast. It's not as hard as our turf, so it's really good on our bodies. We've been looking really good."
Alabama Quarterback AJ McCarron
(On being in New Orleans and playing in the Sugar Bowl) "It's been great, the food has been awesome like always. I'm happy about that. It's been a good experience so far. We have to stick to business and can't let all the great things to do down here distract you. We have to stay focused on the gameplan and the game, and we will be fine.
(On if he is treating this trip like a "business trip" to end his senior year with a win) "Of course, it's nothing other than a business trip. We definitely need to focus everything on getting ready to play and finish the season like we are supposed to."
(On how it has been practicing in the Superdome) "It's been awesome. I love playing there. The temperature is just right and everything seems perfect. It makes it easy to throw the football and get a good grip on the ball. We've had a couple of really good days of practice, especially throwing the football.
(On what the offensive gameplan is against Oklahoma) "That's up to [Coach Doug] Nussmeier and we have to execute the plays he is calling. Hopefully, we can throw it a bunch; but, whatever we have to do to win is fine by me."
(On playing his final game in the Superdome) "It's really special. I want to come out and have a big game just for the team. I want us to get a win. It's needed for this group of seniors who have been through this long process and journey. It's special to be so close to home and finish the right way in the Superdome. It's just a great ending to a hopefully great overall story. Hopefully, we can come out and get a win."
On the Oklahoma defense) "They like to substitute in big personnel when you use big personnel, so they like to match what you are doing with their defensive personnel. They're fast. They're not quite as big as some defenses in the SEC, but they have speed, which makes them really good on defense. It's going to be a great test for us. They're one of the top teams in the Big 12, plus it's a very historic program and a historic game. I know Coach Stoops will have that team ready."
Alabama Offensive Lineman Cyrus Kouandjio
(On being here in New Orleans) "Everything's been smooth, practice has been good. I like the turf that we've played on and I'm just looking forward to playing."
(On being in the Superdome) "I love it, you know. All the people that's going to be out there, all the exposure, all the hype behind the game - it's a good opportunity to go out there and have fun."
(On taking on more of a leadership role with other players being out) "Yeah, but it's later on in the season - these guys should be ready. We're not a brand new offensive line anymore, we've already meshed with all the guys on the offensive line and they should just come in and do their job."
(On who will replace OL Anthony Steen) "Looks like Leon Brown has been practicing there for Anthony. I believe he'll do the job, he's an aggressive personality."
(On being off from practice) "That's the toughest part, when you don't practice for two or three days, or two or three weeks, then you're back at it. Your body has to get back into it, your body has to adjust and get used to all the hittingall the technique has to come back smooth. I think we'll be fine, we've been doing good."
(On what the offense needs to be successful) "We just need to focus on all the clues that they give usplay hard, play low, play aggressive and good things will happen."
(On what Coach Nick Saban has told the team in preparation for OU) "He said we're just gonna practice, we'll give it all we have in practice for as long as we have to practice, and he'll put us in a position to win by working us hard. From what we put it, we'll be successful. That's what he said."
Alabama, Running Back, T.J. Yeldon
(On what has been the biggest difference for him from year one to year two) "Learning the game and understanding more of my blocks, my running blocks."
(On how the season went for him) "It went pretty well. I could've performed better in some of the games, but I did the best I could."
(On how, with the ankle injury, he banged up down the stretch) "I wasn't really injured at all until the ankle."
(On setting personal goals at the beginning of the season) "I didn't really set goals. I just came out wanting to help my team and be a better player this year, than I was last year."
(On his relationship and building chemistry with fellow running back Kenyon Drake) "Everyday, he's pretty much the guy who's fast and I'm pretty much the power guy; so, l would start off in some games and he would just come in with the speed and just go right by."
(On if he likes being known as the 'power guy') "Yeah, but I got some speed too."