ALABAMA MEDIA DAY QUOTESHEAD COACH MIKE SHULA
Opening Comments:“We are excited to be here in Dallas. I’m happy to say that everyone arrived safely last night. The Cotton Bowl has had a great tradition and maybe more importantly a great reputation amongst college football programs and college football coaches. I can see why. The hospitality has been great since we’ve been here.
“We are looking forward to this week. It seems like it has been a long time since we played, because it has. We’ve got a lot of things scheduled this week. We will talk to our players about being able to handle all these things because they are a little bit different from what they are used to in their preparation for a normal game during the regular season. We will work all week in the mornings and we will have some time in the afternoon to attend some functions. The players will have some time on their own a little bit. But still the focus this week is going to be each and every practice on each guy getting himself better prepared for the game on Monday.
“We realize going against Texas Tech, we are going to have to be at our best to give ourselves a chance. They are very talented on both sides of the ball. They do a great job on special teams. A lot of people have talked about the match-up of our defense and their offense which should be an exciting match-up. However, I think probably Texas Tech will also agree that there is another match-up that is going to be very, very important and that is our offense against their defense.
“We just have to play solid football. We have to offensively protect the football and stay out of second and third and long situations. We have to make first downs. Hopefully when we get down into the scoring zones, we will have a chance to get the ball into the end zone. Defensively, we’ve got to find a way to slow them down. They have a great track record of scoring a lot of points. They do it by spreading you out and throwing the ball around. They also do it with their running game when you are spread out defensively. They do a great job of mixing in screens. That is probably what makes their offense very effective is the ability to do all three of those things very well. They have a good quarterback (Cody Hodges) who is very smart and gets the ball to his receivers. The receivers do a great job of catching the football no matter where the ball is thrown. They get the most out of every play. They understand their routes. With their routes against zone and man coverage, they do a good job in that area of knowing where to go with the football and making the most of those plays.
“We just have to continue with our preparation. We feel like we had good preparation at home. We gave our guys a few days off for Christmas break. Now we have to continue with that staring today. Today’s practice, with the schedule, will be very much like a Tuesday type practice schedule for us. Then tomorrow will be like a Wednesday and then we will repeat those two days and have a Thursday type practice at the end of the week like we normally do.
“Again, we are excited about being here and being a part of this great bowl and this great bowl tradition. It has been a long time since Alabama has been here. We are excited to be back. Hopefully, we will do a good job representing ourselves and the Cotton Bowl.”
On whether every player made it to Dallas and preparation for this game:“Everybody is here that we expected to be here. As far as our preparation, we did it a little differently than we did it last year. We didn’t have any two-a-days. I think just talking as a staff our coaches feel much better about their own preparation. Because of that, our players are feeling much better about what we have done so far. Last week during the course of the week, we practiced on Monday and Tuesday. We gave them off on Wednesday where we just lifted, met and had a walk-through. We did the same thing on Thursday and Friday.
“That allowed the coaches just getting off the road to get more work done than we did last year. Hopefully that will pay off. At this point coming in here, we feel much more prepared. Now we just want to refine it. If there are any things that we want to tweak as we continue with our preparation, we will do that during the course of the week.”
On the keys to slowing down Texas Tech’s offense:“They can hit you with big plays, yet they don’t throw the ball down the field all the time. They can do it in a lot of different ways. With their screens they can do it when they get you in man coverage, finding a match-up and hitting a guy in stride and taking a 10-yard route or 10-yard completion and running away from the defender.
“We have to be able mix up our defenses, obviously. We need to use our speed where we can get guys to the football. They are going to move it and complete some passes. But we feel like we have good speed on defense. We have to get to the ball and we have to tackle well. What they do in trying to spread you out and create space makes it harder to tackle. But we have to get more than one guy to the football as fast as we can.”
On odds of seeing Antoine Caldwell at center and the left guard situation:“We probably won’t make an announcement on that until later (this week). We’ve looked at him. He has done a good job there. Taylor Britt has done a nice job at center too. He has gotten more comfortable with more reps over the past few weeks of practice. We will have both guys ready. We probably won’t make an announcement until later on.”
On Alabama senior class and its significance on the program:“I’ve bragged on them all year. I think they number one thing, the reasons I bragged on them is not necessarily been their production, which has been great, but their leadership. I think it is their leadership through their loyalty for Alabama over the course of their career. When we got here as a staff, I was the third coach these guys had seen. At that time, these guys were sophomores. A lot of these guys played as sophomores and started as sophomores. They had been through some tough times. To see the success that we have had this year, they have had had this year, has made me feel good and proud as the head coach to be around them.
“We expect a lot of leadership and productivity from them this week. Part of that leadership is helping these younger guys, as well as each other, when you have some time off and the schedule is a little bit different, to make sure you know what is most important to be focused that way and enjoy all the things that the Cotton Bowl has provided.”
On whether preparation for this game included introduction of new wrinkles for the offense or concentration on the execution of offensive schemes used earlier this season:“One of the reasons we struggled is that we lost two starters. We can’t bring those guys back. Knowing that, number one is just getting the guys that are going to be in there and haven’t had a whole lot of experience just continue to get those guys reps. It is no secret, the more you do things the more you practice it, the better they are going to get at it. That has been one theme.
“Whether it is running the football or throwing the football, protecting all those same things. Our number one thing as coaches is to get guys on the field, the guys that you feel like can help you win and then put them in positions to do what they do best. Whether that is an offensive lineman, a wide receiver or a quarterback, those are the things that we have looked at over the past few weeks. We have tweaked some things and changed some things, but not necessarily wholesale changes. We don’t feel like that would be in our best interests.”
On the importance of winning this bowl game for your program:“I think number one is for our seniors to go out on a positive note, especially after the past few weeks. Every game is important, but you always want to win your last one whether you are playing for a national championship or playing in a January bowl game. Especially in a bowl game like this where we know there is going to be a lot attention on this game because of the team that we are playing, because of the reputation of the Cotton Bowl as well as hopefully our own reputation.”
On career of tight end Greg McLain:“Greg started the year before we got here as a true freshman. He played fullback. When we got him, we used him as a fullback and tight end type of guy. He has had some injuries. He has had a variety of injuries in the neck and shoulder areas. It has been very difficult for him and frustrating I know. He is one of those guys that I consider one of our leaders as a senior even though he isn’t on the field a lot. A lot of times we talk or write about DeMeco Ryans, Freddie Roach, Brodie Croyle because they are on the field all the time. Greg McLain has been every bit a leader that those guys have been, maybe even more so. Because it is harder to do that when you don’t play as much. He has helped us with some young tight ends. We are playing all freshman tight ends right now. He has been very instrumental as they learn about the offense and learning about being on their own for the first time in college life. He has helped them with how to handle school work with football. He has been very, very unselfish. He has never complained. Guys like him are important for your program.”
On what makes Texas Tech’s offense so special and effective:“I’m not so sure that it is x’s and o’s. It is a different scheme. They have their offensive linemen with huge splits for a couple of different reasons. This is the first time we’ve seen it. They can answer that question better than I can. But it kind of spreads you out and makes you play in space. It buys a little more time with the quarterback.
“I think probably even more important than the x’s and o’s is how well they execute. There are only a certain amount of routes you can have in combination routes throughout the year. Their routes are necessarily different from some of the teams we play. They just are better at it in their execution, timing and their precise route running. They are good at catching the football and getting the ball up the field afterwards. I think mixing in their screens to offset the pass rush. The linemen get down the field and get on blocks. I think that whole package as well as what they do in their scheme, the whole combination, makes them effective.”
On how the loss of Simeon Castille will affect the secondary and what he has to do to return in good standing:“I would say it is obvious as far as what he has to do. He has a lot of hard work in the off-season to get himself eligible. He also has some accountability with this football team.
“Will he be tougher without him? Sure, he is a very good football player. We will lose a guy that has a real good feel for playing defense, being around the football, covering and tackling. We feel like we have some other guys that we can come win with. Jeffrey Dukes, Eric Gray and those types of guys who were going to play anyway are going to have to play more snaps.”
RT KYLE TATUM
On match-up of Alabama offense vs. Texas Tech defense:“If you look at our production in the last couple of games, we definitely haven’t been the Alabama offense that we want to be. All of the focus is on us up front on the offensive line. If we do our job in the running game and protecting Brodie (Croyle) everything will be just fine. I think we will play a great game. We just have to come out and get the attitude to get after these guys. That is what it will take.”
On what offensive line has to do to make running game effective against Texas Tech:“We have to get great movement. They are the type of guys that play a read-type defense. We feel like if we can come off vertical and get great movement we can get K.D. (Kenneth Darby) those holes and those little slits for him to get through and do his thing. We just have to focus on playing on the same pad level and moving our feet and being assignment sound and knowing every defense they throw at us. We need to be smart and physically ready.”
On advantage of some time off before the bowl game:“With time off, it gave us time to heal a lot of bumps and bruises. Everybody is banged up in the long college football season. We feel like it was great to get off our feet. We got some work done on the side. I think everything will even out on the side. I think Coach (Mike) Shula has a great plan and schedule for us to get us fresh for that big game.”
On quarterback Brodie Croyle and the confidence the offense has in him:“It is a matter of experience when you are out there. Brodie has been through everything. He has been through the injuries, the turmoil, he has been down. We want to see this guy out on the right note. He is a great person and a great football player. He deserves it.”
QB BRODIE CROYLE
On doing things different offensively:“We are just trying to get everyone comfortable. We are trying to get a new center comfortable. We are still trying to get a few guys out wide comfortable. It is a matter of being ready to go on Monday.”
On Texas Tech defense:“They aren’t going to give you a bunch of big plays. They like to keep everything in front of them. Basically what you see is what you get with them. They are going to blitz too terribly much. They are going to try and make them nickel and dime you all the way down the field. We just can’t get greedy. We just have to take what they give us. The teams that have put up some points that is what they’ve done.”
On whether offensive philosophy changes to try and keep the ball away from Texas Tech offense:“The way they play defense, if you want to stay on the field and score points that is what you have to do. They aren’t going to give up the big play. That would be big for us and our defense to keep them off the field and try to limit them from scoring a bunch of points.”
On playing in first bowl game:“My freshman year I redshirted then probation and last year I tore my ACL. This will be my first bowl game. It is going to be fun, especially a chance to play in a bowl game like the Cotton Bowl. It is going to be a fun way to begin and end my bowl career.”
TB KENNETH DARBY
On importance of having an effective running game:“I really won’t say it is extra (important), it is something that we plan on doing every game we come into. This bunch right here, they play a lot of pass defense. I guess their division doesn’t run as much as they pass it. We want to keep it as we have been, running and passing it at the same time. We want a balanced offense.”
On team’s anticipation on getting back on the field after long layoff:“We have been ready. Our very last game against Auburn, then we had a few weeks off. It was something that we needed. We were all right for the first three days or so, but then we were ready to get back out there. I guess we are the type of team that we only need a couple of days off not a week or two. We were anxious to get back out there. We were doing some things to stay focused and stay in rhythm, but we were anxious to get back on the field and get ready to play.”
On trying to send quarterback Brodie Croyle and the Alabama senior class out with a win:“We would love for him and the rest of the senior class to win this game. That is our focus is to send them out with a win and a 10-2 season. There isn’t a better season for these guys because they have been through a lot. To go out with a 10-2 record and a win at the Cotton Bowl that would be good.”
SS CHARLIE PEPRAH
On playing last collegiate game in his hometown:“When we were pulling into the hotel last night it hit me. I’ve always wanted to play in the Cotton Bowl. It was right around the corner. I’m in the locker room and the nametag has Charlie Peprah and has the Cotton Bowl logo on it. I will play my last game at home in front of the family. I can’t ask for a better way to go out.”
On Texas Tech offense:“Their passing attack is frustrating. That is how I would describe their offense. Teams come out with a plan to stop them and it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t work. They know how to move them ball up and down the field. They know how to score. They know how to pick up first downs. Their offense is complex.
“If you have never seen anything like that it looks like teams struggle. They have great athletes running the system that makes it even more dangerous. It is not just a system that works with anybody, they have the athletes. We will have our hands full.”
LB DeMECO RYANS
On what the Alabama defense has to do against the Texas Tech offense:“We are going to have to get after them and rush the passer. Everybody is going to have to be in the right places on our coverages. It is just like mixing up the run with the way they throw the ball a lot. It is going to be very difficult. Everyone is going to have to do their job and keep doing what we have been doing all year. There is no secret to the game. We need to get players in the right place and have someone step up and make the play.”
On playing for Alabama in a New Year’s Bowl game:“It is an honor to represent Alabama here. We have been to a January bowl in some time now. It is a great honor to be here representing the state of Alabama, the University of Alabama and to be playing a great team. I know it is going to be a great game.”
FS ROMAN HARPER
On playing your last collegiate game:“It still hasn’t hit me yet. I don’t think about stuff like that until it hits me when it is all over with. I won’t think about it now. When I can’t put on that jersey again, I will have to move on and do something else.”
On importance of going out on a positive note:“It is important. I’m sure the seniors on Texas Tech feel the same way. Just like in practice, you never want to end practice on a bad play. So anything you do, you don’t want to end anything on something bad. Just knowing that makes you want to work that much harder to help this team get a win.”
On playing the most prolific passing team in the nation in last game as a free safety:“It never gets easier. It is a headache no matter what you do. You have to come up here and play a great team. We can’t get like a mediocre team. We can’t go out and get a cupcake win. Now we have to go out here and play our hardest and not be lazy about it. It has made practice a little bit harder and the coaches are worried more. But it is good, it always great for competition. I’m looking forward to it. It is going to be a great game against a great team.”