Latham a Reason for Alabama O-line Progress
Alabama right tackle JC Latham has enjoyed watching true freshman left tackle Kadyn Proctor progress this season. Just ask him. The media at the Rose Bowl did, and Latham had plenty to say on that topic and several others.
"[Proctor] made a second visit to 'Bama, I forget when. But seeing a guy with that mentality, just find his way home coming to 'Bama, he came in the summer and then he made a second trip down here, and seeing that, I realized that, yeah, he had the potential to be really good. Because his mindset is this is what he want to be at, and his potential is limitless. Just being around guys like that, being in a system like this and being coached by Coach Saban would definitely propel his future forward.
"He came in as a physical specimen already. It was hard to evolve what was already top-notch but he's definitely cut back on some fat and increased muscle mass. He's definitely gotten stronger, more explosive, and yeah, he's gotten bigger. But he already came in a freak of nature."
On Proctor's improvement vs. speed rushers
"Greatly. That was something he obviously struggled with the beginning part of the year and being consistent, being understanding of what he has to do to continuously get better and continue to try to strain through it, he's definitely done a great job of that.
"He shadowed guys like me and Booker just to understand the game, so we understand how to be successful and how to be great. And then on a consistent basis understanding that yeah, you can win, one, two, three reps but doesn't matter if you get the quarterback sacked eventually.
"He understands that he has to be consistent and strained throughout practice. So holding himself to a higher standard and being able to try to do better every single day is a way that he find to get better."
On Michigan being a 2-point favorite in the game
"I feel like we've been underdogs no matter who we play, whether it's the regular season, conference championship playoffs, no matter who we play, guys always tend to favor the other team. Our success is short-lived, and people say that it was kind of a one-off, kind of a one-time thing. So yeah, I mean, I find that to just be a little funny but I don't think too many people are saying that we're the favorites going in.
"I think no matter what we do against any team, we always say we are the underdog because of the team. It brings everybody together. You really sit down and look at the guys who are on the field, the coaches and the fans, and that's really all you have. I mean, you know, a lot of other teams have a whole bunch of different communities supporting them, and you look at us and we just got each other. So just bringing all of us together to understand, like this is all we got and this is all we need, is what we've been saying all year long. That's really what creates that bond that once you have that bond and that chemistry with your team, you become pretty hard."
"I remember [Jalen Milroe] he said in the spring. At first I was like -- he doesn't say what it meant. I was like, what y'all talking about? Then one of my teammates, Ferguson was saying, oh, LANK means this [Let All Naysayers Know].
"I was like, okay, I can get behind that. I respect it. And especially coming from Terrion, I think he's always had a pretty bright future. But for Jalen, a lot of guys kind of wrote him off especially after the A&M game and the situation that he was in with the quarterback brought up through the spring and the summer and then being benched, for him to have that motto and spread it through the team kind of means a lot. He never is a guy that you never hear him, oh, I don't want to be here, oh, this and that.
"It's LANK and he's been saying that through all of the adversity he's been saying, he's been persistent. That definitely played a big part in like just the rally for the team.
"Everybody probably found out all at different times. So it just depends on -- I found out in the spring. I know some guys didn't find out until the summer. It wasn't like he was going around telling. But when it came to the situation, he's like, team, I'm good-on-good, he'll be like, all right, LANK and guys will be around asking what it meant.
"It slowly but surely came around. When fall camp came and we had our Saturday scrimmages, that's when everybody really started to understand what it really is, and we went into the season, everybody was on the same page.
"Everybody was bought in. I mean, because it's the motto 'let all naysayers know.' So when you hear that, you can't think, no, I don't want to do that. This is Alabama. We all came to 'Bama to prove we are the best and to be the best and chase that standard and raise the standard. So that motto fits perfect to the 'Bama standard, and we all here because we want to be in that standard so we all believe in the motto as well."
On his relationship with Tyler Booker back to IMG Academy
"It meant a lot. I've known him for seven years, since he was a freshman in high school and I was a sophomore and we played D-line at the time. So just seeing the transition. He was one of the few guys to transition with me to O-line from D-line, and just seeing us grow exponentially from sophomore year all the way to now, a junior in college, just means a lot, when we going through the same things.
"It wasn't like he played O-line for two extra years and it wasn't like I played for two extra years. We started off at level zero and we just climbed the starts and I kept trying to get better. We all faced the same adversity together and we all faced the same trials and tribulations. It's been a great seven years."
On the '24 signees who are enrolled and practicing
"I let them get their feet wet a little bit so they can understand that's what college is about. You're not really holding somebody's hand. I definitely let them know I'm here for them whenever they need me to be here for them. When I see them stuck on something I try to help them out but when it comes to the developmental process of them doing it, I mean, the best teacher is experience.
"So sometimes you've got to let somebody just mess up for them to understand what they are really doing, so you can't hold their hand through everything. But I definitely try to let them know, like I'm here for you and if they are struggling, I'll walk them through how I did to get over that adversity when I was a young guy, too.
"All of those guys are pretty good guys, though. I've noticed Casey Poe."
On Michigan's personnel
"I think Michigan has an amazing defense. I think they fly around to the ball. I think they are really physical. I think teams that we play has a little bit of that. A lot of teams in the SEC, almost every team in the SEC is physical no matter how good you are or how bad you are, they are all physical.
"But just seeing the way that Michigan makes plays, it's the reason why they are No. 1. So yeah, if we play a team like that, it doesn't really hold value to the No. 1 ranking."
On the line's roll in Milroe's scrambling skill
"That's not really something that we can really do. We just have to get him time in the pocket to protect and keep the lanes open, take advantage of gap integrity when they get outside of their gaps and let Jalen make the plays."
On Tommy Rees taking the blame for the offense's early struggles
"Extremely. He held himself accountable before anybody else. He told everyone it's his fault and he should do better and we as a player can rally behind somebody like that. We all know we can do better as well. When you watch the film intricately, you understand the things that we were messing up on wasn't like just like bad play calling.
"Like it will be open or the holes will be there but the one guy missed the block. I might miss a block or the receiver might run the route a little too deep or a little too shallow or whatever it may be. We all can find areas to improve in our game. Once we figured out how to do that, that's when the offense started clicking.
"He just kind of put a little collection of plays to where, you know, he showed us like, say, Texas, for example, when we scored with Amari Niblack on the 40-yard touchdown and we got the holding call. Like, I mean, it looks like we didn't score at all at the end of the game. Looks like we didn't put no points up but you look back at that, we had a holding call for a big play; that was a touchdown.
"I remember we played Ole Miss and we had counter and I was supposed to get the backer and the backer slipped under me and I never got slipped under, it's usually over the top. So he slipped under and he ended up making the play. You look at film it looks like, oh, it was a bad play call but I messed up on the play. Had I would have got that guy, the next closest guy was 20 yards down the field and I like to take our running back in a situation like that. But I should have made that play and I didn't, so he just showed us, like, hey, we are one guy away from these plays turning into explosive plays.
"And once we started doing that, yeah, it went from, yeah, we got the explosive plays now, and let's put it together for 60 minutes. That's been our motto all year just being persistent and going through it."
On the team being doubted early in the season
"It was different obviously. We knew we would face that eventually with the loss of so many guys if we weren't playing up to the standard. I mean, Alabama has a standard, National Championship or bust. At that time, guys couldn't see us making it to this point right now. So yeah, that was a pretty big deal.
"But I mean, like I said, it was all of us together. It was a community of us who rallied together and told each other what we needed to do to be better. We weren't focused on the outside noise. You can't win a National Championship in week two. So we were not focused on the necessity end result after that loss. We were mainly focused on how we can get better. It showed us in what areas how we can get better.
"Saban said it was a test and we passed in some areas but we failed in more, which is why we lost the game.
"When it came down to the offensive side, defense, I tip my hat to. They played amazing all year. I think that's one of the best defenses in the country. As far as an offensive standpoint goes earlier, like I said with Rees, he took accountability and he showed us the areas; the play that I missed against Ole Miss. He showed us like, hey, we start making these plays, our offense becomes very dangerous. It wasn't like a bad play call where we are running into where and they are unblocked, whatever the case may be. We are just one guy away from making that play. As an offense, you've got to have 11 guys doing the right thing, because if one guy does something wrong, case in point, that play, the play won't work. It wasn't like we just randomly flipped the switch. We just all had to buy in and worry about doing our job and doing it at a high level consistently."
On how NIL has changed things
"I think it changed -- I mean, I really can't say changed necessarily because when I got there, it started. But I mean, Saban definitely looks to help guys make -- or take advantage of the opportunity at hand. A lot of us play for our families and a lot of us try to just be allowed to really just help our families out financially. So Saban is not one to say no to that. He definitely wants us to -- I mean, we are all in college. We are all young. He wants us to be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor that we worked so hard and help our families and benefit our families through NIL.
"It definitely became more of just another branch at Alabama that looks to help everybody out."