Here's a look at what Alabama coach Nick Saban said to the media Monday heading into Saturday's matchup at home against Tennessee.

Opening Statement

"After watching the Arkansas game, I think we did a lot of really good things in the game. I think it was also clearly apparent that when we had mental intensity, good mental energy, good focus, we actually executed pretty well. And there were times in the game, especially in the second half, where we sort of lost our mental edge, our intensity. Affected our focus. And we didn't play as well and actually let the other team get back into the game."

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"I think the lesson to be learned in all that is you've got to maintain intensity for 60 minutes in the game regardless of the score. I mean, there's games out there every week where people have leads and lose their focus and the outcome is not what you would want it to be."

"This game we're playing against Tennessee, big rivalry game. Means a lot to a lot of people in the state of Alabama and I'm sure there, too. It's one of the best rivalries in college football. They have a really good team. They're ranked 15th or whatever, so they have a really, really good team. Very explosive. Josh Heupel has done an outstanding job there. They play with great tempo on offense, which is challenging for the defense. But their ability to run the ball and create balance has been pretty phenomenal this year. I mean, they run it for like 230, pass it for like 210, whatever. And that kind of balance is always something that is difficult."

"Their defense is playing really, really good. They're in the top three or four in the SEC, ranked nationally in negative plays, sacks, tackles for loss and those types of things."

"I think Joe Milton is a really good quarterback. They've got three really good runners who have all been very productive. They've got good skill guys outside. So this is all around a really, really good team. So it's important for us to have a great week of preparation and be able to maintain focus in practice, in meetings, in whatever we're doing to be able to carry that forward in the game and be able to sustain in the game for 60 minutes, which is what it's going to take in a game like this."

"They certainly make you defend 53 yards wide of the field. There's two challenges. It affects run support in the box because the guys that are covering the receivers are so far away from the box. And they run a lot of vertical routes from out there so the people covering them get pretty isolated because they're far away from, whether it's split safety or middle of the field safety. So it is very challenging. The thing that I think is going to be really important is not to give up big, explosive plays, which was a real issue for us a year ago."

"I think that everyone's a little different when it comes to that. Some guys, even though they're young, they handle their failures fairly well and learn from them. They're focused on not necessarily the outcome but what do I have to do to get the outcome. And those guys seem to do pretty well."

"Some guys that are young, good players maybe lack a little bit of that maturity and sometimes allow the success and the failure that they're having affect how they approach the next play. And that's something that I try to harp on the players, that baseball is a game of failures. So if you made two out of three outs in baseball, you struck out two out of three times, got a hit the third time, you'd be in the Hall of Fame. So for young guys they have to understand that if I can learn and grow from the mistakes that I make, not waste the failings, that that will be significant in me making improvement and developing. And that takes the right mindset."

 

How important is it for the pass rush to clean up some of its issues?

"It’s very important. It’s been important all year. It’s something that we have to do a really good job planning wise, and we have to fundamentally play better. It’s a combination of both. Both of those things are coaching and teaching things that we need to do better. Guys need to get set better, hand placement has to be better, footwork has to be better, and we have to make sure whatever scheme it is that we’re trying to use that players are capable of doing it without putting themselves in bad position."

"Q played good. He played very well. He’s been a core special teams guy for us — one of our better special teams players probably ever here. When he had opportunities to play in the game, he did a good job."

What’re you telling your guys about a dual-threat quarterback?

"I don’t see Joe being a whole lot different than what we’ve played against in the past, when [Hendon] Hooker was there. Guy can throw the ball, he’s accurate, he’s got a strong arm, they can make plays down the field, and they take a lot of vertical shots, so he’s certainly capable of making those plays. But he’s also athletic enough to extend plays in the pocket and run if necessary. You don’t tell them anything different than any other time they play a quarterback [like that]. You can’t get pushed by the quarterback. You have to keep the guy in front of you. We’ve got to have disciplined pass-rush lanes. Need to try to make the guy throw on time from the pocket, and hopefully we can cover them well enough to make it work on the back end."

"Both of those guys came in the fall. We only had four guys that came in the fall. Because those guys didn’t come in the spring, they had to catch up over the summer, so their learning curve has been a lot greater. We’re pleased with the progress that they’re making, but it’s hard to get them enough reps at this time in the year to try and get them where they need to be so they can make a contribution. [Qua] Russaw was here earlier, so he’s a little bit ahead of the game."

"Well, he's really a good right tackle. He's played really well, obviously, being SEC offensive lineman of the week. He had a really good game in the last game. He's big, strong, physical. He's the prototype right tackle that everybody would look for in terms of having a power guy who is effective in being able to pass block well enough."

"I guess you always hope that if we move the right tackle to left tackle, that would make everything better. But I guess the question you also have to ask yourself is would that make us any better at right tackle? Or do you just try to attack the solution of trying to get the left tackle to play to the standard that you need him to play, without making multiple changes to the offensive line. We can have a debate about that. Nobody really knows the answer to that. But we have made a commitment to try to keep some stability with the guys where they're playing, and get the guys to play left tackle better."

"He played great. He's been playing really well all year. So got four guys at the position, and all those guys deserve reps and playing time. It's really, really hard to get four guys at the running back position to be in rhythm and to play a significant number of snaps. Jam played well when he was in there. Roydell, Jase both played really well when they were in there. And Justice played really good when he was in there. We're pleased with all those guys, and maybe there will be some opportunity for him to make a bigger contribution in the future."

"We did run the ball better in the second half, but to me, the way I sort of evaluate it is, what is the efficiency in the running game? In other words, how many four-plus runs did you have versus less than four? That's the efficiency that we continue to look for. It was a lot better in the second half. I think we got a hat on a hat. Kind of knew exactly what they were doing formationally. I think the offensive line did a really good job. They were creating some holes and the backs did a good job of running downhill. That's the way we want it to be all the time. We just got to keep working at it so we continue to develop consistency in that part of our team."

"To the first part of your question, I would say hell yeah. To the second part, I do think we have guys that are capable. I think it goes back to that same attention to detail. There's little things like in certain protections, I know I have inside help. So why would I get beat outside? Does that make sense? These are not all capability issues. Some of them are things that we could fix. When we're sliding out, to block three on three, and the guy doesn't slide out to block the third guy and he runs in to sack the quarterback, that's a mental error. That's not a physical problem. It's a combination of all those things that need to get cleaned up with better communication, better execution and maybe the more knowledge and experience we'll get, the more we'll be able to be more effective and consistent in those areas."

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