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THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Coach Nick Saban, and we’ll start with an opening statement.
COACH SABAN: Well, I’m really proud of our team. I thought they did a great job of competing in the game, played with a lot of energy, toughness, very physical. There’s certainly a lot of things that we can improve on. I don’t think there’s one player that could sit in the locker room and tell you now there’s not something that we could work to improve on, and we certainly need to focus on that in the future. But Michigan has a really good team. They’ve got a great quarterback. And I thought our offensive line sort of dominated the line of scrimmage. And we ran the ball effectively. I thought AJ did a good job of getting us in the right place and also making a few effective throws. We need to be a more explosive team in the passing game, which I think we’re capable of, which we need to clean up and improve on. We did a good job on special teams for the most part. So this was really a good team win for us. And the expectation that we have and the standard we want to play to in business or in sports is about who you are. You know, it’s good to look good. It’s good to wear the jersey, but it’s the guy in it and the character that you have and who you are that probably makes the biggest difference. And this team had a challenge of trying to create an identity for themselves in terms of how they competed and how they played. And I think they took a step in that direction. But, you know, that is something that happens over time and happens with consistency and performance. So I was very proud of the way they competed in the game. I thought this was a big win for us against a very good team. And we’re looking forward to working on the things that we need to improve on so that we can be a better team in the future.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Could you first comment on Dee Milliner’s performance? He had some nice plays in the first half, and also if you could update us if anybody got hurt or if you got out healthy?
COACH SABAN: Dee Milliner is a very good player for us. He started for three years and has lots of experience. He’s been a good leader for us and set a good example. And I think this is his third interception for a touchdown, which it ties somebody’s record or something. But he did a really good job. We flip-flopped corners. He played into the boundary. Deion played into the field. He adjusted to that. He’ll do whatever we need him to do as a team. We got beat a couple times on double moves really, really hard double moves. We beat them once on one. But they made two big plays on us and that’s something that we need to do a better job of in the future. But Dee is an outstanding player for us and hopefully will continue to play well throughout the year. Injured players, Robert Lester has a shoulder stinger. Reggie wrangle got an ankle. Jesse Williams has a mild concussion, and Trey DePriest has an ankle sprain. So those guys all left the game and did not return. Everybody else returned and played, and so that’s it for the injuries. Q. Wondering if you could assess AJ’s play tonight at quarterback.
COACH SABAN: I thought AJ did a really good job for us. I think we’re capable of throwing the ball more effectively. That’s something that I think we need to work on. I don’t think it has anything to do with AJ. He just missed a couple big play throws. Made a couple of really good throws. I just think in the passing game we just need to clean it up, clean up the protection. We had too much leakage in the pocket. Work on the timing with the receivers. Because I do think we have some pretty good receivers this year. And if we’re going to be the kind of team we’re capable of, we’re going to have to be able to create balance on offense, because AJ’s really too good of a quarterback for us not to utilize his talents in throwing the football.
Q. We can’t speak to T.J. Yeldon, so we’ll have to depend on your comments. True freshmen don’t normally run for 100 yards in the game in their debut for Alabama. Talk about how he contributed to that and also how the offensive line contributed to that.
COACH SABAN: I think our offensive line, as I stated before, did a really good job in the game. We got a head on the hat. We had a good plan on how to run the ball against them and did a really good job of executing it. We knew T.J. was going to get a lot of opportunity in this game because Eddie’s coming off an ankle sprain, and we were just going to play Eddie, spot play him, play him on third down, start him in the game. We did that. Then we didn’t play him much after that. But I thought Jalston Fowler did a really good job when he was in there. T.J. did a really good job. I would give you a lot more if you wouldn’t say you couldn’t talk to him.
Q. You mentioned Jalston. Could you talk about his dual role? Saw him lined up at fullback and also in the running back spot.
COACH SABAN: You know, because we don’t have a guy like Smelley who did all those things for us last year, we had about three guys that shared those roles on our team. And Jalston did it quite a bit. He’s played H. He’s played fullback. He’s a good receiver. And he’s embraced both of those roles. But we still have a lot of confidence in him as a runner. I mean, he’s 250 pounds. He’s a load. Pretty good instincts as a runner and good hands as a receiver. So we want to play him in as many roles as we can.
Q. Given the amount of players that you lost from last year’s team, what does it say, I guess, about the recruiting depth that you’ve built up that you could have these guys step in and play at a high level right away here?
COACH SABAN: Well, I think our team needs to focus on improving. I’m proud of the way they played in the game today. There’s some positions on our team where we don’t have a whole lot of depth after all the guys we lost last year. We’re going to need to be fortunate at those positions to be able to maintain the same quality of play. We have some depth in the defensive line. We have some depth at linebacker. We have some depth at running back. We have some at receiver. But there’s other parts of our team where we don’t have a lot of depth and it’s going to be real critical for us to be able to stay healthy at those positions so that we can maintain the quality that we have. But I really appreciate the great job that our coaches have done and our organization has done to recruit. Everybody at Alabama recruits. Our president recruits. Our provost recruits. Mal Moore recruits. Our coaches do a good job. We have a great family of people, our fans, with their positive energy. And it was great out there that we had so many Alabama folks here today. I think that kind of positive energy and attitude contributes to us being able to recruit because of the great atmosphere our players know that they’re going to get to play in. And I think we do a good job program-wise of supporting them personally and academically and have some pretty compelling statistics from that standpoint as well. And they get an opportunity to play. So we got a chance to play a lot of players tonight, and that was a good thing.
Q. When you gave T.J. the ball there to get the touchdown, was that sort of a reward for his effort tonight, or was that just one of those things that just happened?
COACH SABAN: Well, we had to put him in because we called a formation — Nudie is Jalston Fowler. I have a hard time remembering all the players’ names other than what I call them. So Nudie is Jalston Fowler. Nudie was playing tailback, and we called a formation where he’s the fullback. So that’s how four got in there at tailback. But it was good that he scored a touchdown.
Q. Nick, the way the game played out, you ended up distributing carries almost evenly between four different tailbacks. I know you mentioned Eddie’s help as part of that. But as the season goes on, is that something you hope to be able to continue to do or would you like to see one or two guys emerge as the primary guys?
COACH SABAN: Well, we like to reward players for doing a good job. So if we have four guys that are quality players at that position, we would like to give them all an opportunity to play, especially at running back where durability is always an issue with guys who carry the ball a lot. But we have a lot of faith and trust in Eddie. Jalston has done a good job. T.J. did a good job in the spring, and he has been one of the most consistent players in practice. And Dee Hart has improved and is a very feisty competitor for his size. You see him run down there on the kickoff. So rather than try to put it in a box and say we’re going to have two backs or we’re going to have three, we want to have as many play as deserve to play because they can contribute to the success of the team, and hopefully we’ll create roles for those guys and they’ll get those opportunities in the future.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
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