Seventeenth-year Alabama football coach Nick Saban has made several cake analogies this season, but he knows traveling to College Station to face the Texas Aggies Saturday will be anything but a cakewalk. Here's a look at what Saban had to say in his Monday media briefing.

Opening Statement

"I think that once we got going in the Mississippi State game, we played a lot better. We had some early bumps in the road on offense that were drive-stoppers again. But once we got sort of past that, I thought we executed and played well. I think Jalen settled down in the game and played well. And defensively, we played — except for a couple of spurts in the game where I thought we lost our intensity a little bit — played pretty well, made some improvement.

"Jimbo [Fisher, Aggies Head Coach] does a really good job with them on offense. They've got some really good skill players. So it's going to be really important for us to have the kind of intensity that we need to have throughout the week in practice. It's almost like, hey we're going to challenge you this week in practice because it's going to be hard in the game. And you need to be locked in all week long. You need to be ready for the challenge that you're going to get when you play against a good team on the road in a really tough environment.

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"They're leading the conference in defense. Very good up front on defense. Very difficult to run the ball against. And they score a lot of points. The combination of those two things make them a really, really good team. It'll be a real challenge for us."

On his confidence in kickers as tacklers

"I hope they never have to make a tackle if you want to know the truth about it. One of the worst things that could ever happen to us — because we have good specialists — so if we put them in a tackling drill and they get hurt and they can't kick any more. They've got to kick a lot, they've got to tackle a little. So you've got to kind of prioritize. You do that some in camp, but I'm just hoping that they never have to make a tackle. And I think if we cover kicks the way we're supposed to, hopefully they won't."

On if he can pinpoint issue on bad/unexpected snaps

"We've got to have just a little better focus, I think, on the importance of the snap because this has been a pretty consistent issue where it makes it harder for the quarterback to be able to function when he doesn't have a dependable snap to deal with. Whether he's faking. Whether it's a play-action pass. Whether he's trying to read coverage. So you've got to take your eyes off what you want to be looking at to be able to catch the ball. That's something we've been working on and we certainly need to continue working on it and improve, no question."

On the progress of freshman safety Caleb Downs

"I think Caleb was a really good player right to start with. I think that one of the things that [with] freshmen especially they kind of get the defense, they kind of learn what they're supposed to do and then you start getting into game plans where you got to tweak those things a little bit. That's where the experience really comes into play, so then you can put yourself in the right position more often. But he's played really, really well for us. He's bright, smart, very instinctive as a football player. [He] really works hard to prepare, very conscientious in terms of making sure that he knows exactly what he's supposed to do, where he's supposed to be and how he fits on the plays. And I think that being a good player and being a very conscientious person, combination of those two has really enhanced his development and improvement."

On the progress at left tackle with Proctor and Pritchett

"I thought they played better in this game. This is probably the best they played all year. The offensive line as a whole played one of their better games against a difficult front that stunts a lot. But [Kadyn Proctor] probably played the best he's played all year, which is a good thing and hopefully there'll be some confidence and I still think we have confidence that [Elijah Pritchett] can do a good job for us as well."

"Dallas has always been a good player for us. He's always a hard worker, really conscientious guy, has sort of a high standard for how he wants to play and do things. This year I think he's trying to take on a little bit more of a leadership role in terms of how he can impact and affect other people on the team, which I think he's done a good job of and he's played really well for us."

On if coaches help develop internal clocks for quarterbacks

"I think practice, the one thing that you can do in practice and get away with is not have to play with the right time clock to use your terminology, in terms of the rush is not going to be as quick. You can hold the ball and try to figure things out, but then in the game that all changes. So I think creating circumstances in practice where you have to get caught on time and you're constantly talking about getting the ball out on time, I think that's really, really important for guys to develop that sense of time clock. And its timing of the play. Sometimes you can hold the ball and the play opens for a second then it closes so you have to throw the ball on time, that's very important and we have to keep working on that."

On moving Jeremiah Alexander to inside linebacker

"I think it's something we've been considering. Jeremiah was developing nicely as an outside backer. Wasn't getting to play much, so the injury kind of enhanced this is the right time to do this. I think it could be good for us in the future."

On improvements he'd like to see

"It needs to grow every week. I think the whole team needs to grow every week. I think there's so many things that we can improve on. There's so many things that if we can learn and pay attention to detail and have a sense of urgency and sustain that, whether it's practice, games, whatever, we're gonna eliminate some of our negatives that have proven pretty costly. You can say we won the game, but you want to eliminate some of the mistakes. Because you always look at the play and say, 'OK, did he make a play because of what they did and how they executed it or is there some error on our part that allowed them to make a play?' And those are things you need to eliminate because then you're playing with a little more consistency. The whole object is to be make the other team beat you, don't beat yourself."

"She waited up for me to get home so that was a good thing. But it was one of the first games she's missed and didn't go to since we've been here. I think it is the first game actually. So she says she can see what's happening a lot better on TV. So, I got coached up quite a bit when I got home."

On how Saturday could affect standings and rankings

"Look, we're trying to play one game at a time. We're trying to improve our team. I can't tell you where we're ranked. I can't tell you what the standings are. I think everybody kind of realizes the importance of every game that we play. The whole focus is how can we play better. How can we play good? How can we improve not worrying about some outcome-oriented thing that may happen two months from now? I'm focused on what am I gonna do in the next five minutes, the next 30 minutes, the next hour, the next two hours, the next three hours to help us play better as a team. That's all I care about and I think that's my job. So we got guys like this guy over here who can do standings and rankings and put a poll together and say who should be this and that, he's good at that. I thank him for it. It's less time I have to spend doing it."

"We practiced it all week, discipline eye control is one of the most important things in playing football. Like everybody grows up watching the ball. I've talked about this before. So that's how you watch a game. But when you're playing a game, you have specific keys and things to look at.


"Like if the guard pulls, it doesn't matter which way the back goes, your key says go this way. When they run a slider, you gotta know when you gotta fall back and when you don't. We just gotta keep working and working on those things. And I think communication, you know, helps that. We're constantly on the secondary to communicate because if they communicate it makes it easier for the linebackers to know how and when what they're supposed to do. So Jihaad makes a lot of plays and he's developing nicely at the position. But experience is going to be critical for him to continue to grow and develop."

Alabama and Texas A&M will kick off Saturday against the Aggies at 2:30 p.m. CT and the game will be carried on Tide 100.9 FM and 95.3 The Bear. CBS will televise.

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