ALABAMA DEFENSIVE PRESS CONFERENCE PART 1 AND 2
ALABAMA DEFENSIVE PRESS CONFERENCE PART 1
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR KIRBY SMART
S MARK BARRON
NG JOSH CHAPMAN
THE MODERATOR: We’re going to get started. Welcome. Today’s press conference is going to be about the Alabama defense. We’re here with Mark Barron and Josh Chapman, and we’ll shortly be joined by defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
So, again, we’ll take questions.
Q. Mark, you’ve been here a while, and obviously we know about the AlabamaAuburn rivalry. Where does this one rank? What are the feelings between the two teams?
MARK BARRON: I think this is a rivalry that’s grown over the years here recently just due to the level of competition.
I wouldn’t say it’s bigger than Auburn rivalry by no means, but it’s growing slowly.
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
Coach, we’ll give you a chance to make some opening remarks.
KIRBY SMART: We’re happy to be here. What a great opportunity. Proud to be the coach of this defense. Great group of leaders. These guys have played a long time. And we got on the bus to head over here, started looking around, there are a lot of faces that were also in Pasadena.
So we’re very fortunate to have this great group. Proud of them. A lot of guys that we recruited here at Alabama as a staff, and I can remember recruiting each one of them and I’m going to be really sad to see them go, and they’ve led this team to a lot of victories. Good kids.
Q. Question about the morphing sort of ability of your players and that versatility of your players on the defense, how that sort of aids the overall cause and scheme of what you try and accomplish.
KIRBY SMART: Each guy kind of has his own traits and talents. Big man over here likes to stop the run, and we’ve got some pass rushers. We’ve got Mark, who plays a lot like a linebacker in the box at times, and then he’s also deep part safety.
So each guy has special attributes that we try to use to make our defense special.
And we have a lot of personnel groupings, more than most people have in college, and that’s because we have some good players and we try to utilize their skills in every situation in the game.
Q. Kirby, could you talk a couple of the younger guys on the defense, Trey DePriest and how he’s come along and how Bradley Sylve transitioned since moving over?
KIRBY SMART: Both those kids are talented kids. Trey’s a young guy who came in early, so he’s ahead of most young guys, he’s got a spring extra on everybody. He’s really learning the defense. Plays hard. Has great speed.
Again, he’s got to get bigger, stronger, but he’s a fast guy that can fly to the ball. We’re looking for good things. He played really well on special teams. Glad we got him. He’s the backup right now to Dont’a.
And Bradley did a great job transitioning over. He didn’t go to camp with us. He was a wideout, and now he’s becoming a good corner for us, taking a lot of reps. Reminds me of a lot what Dre did when he was a freshman when we have Javi and Kareem and all those guys. He’s taken a lot of reps in learning the defense, which is really important, and we haven’t had to play him.
Q. Kirby, what in your mind was the biggest key to neutralizing LSU’s offense last time? Do you expect the same kind of game?
KIRBY SMART: Certainly don’t expect the same kind of game. I think it will be a very different game this time. Think they’ll do some different things; we’ll do some different things defensively.
I don’t think they’ll play as conservative as they did last time. They were in quarterback flux. They were in transition. They’ve got a stable guy now, so obviously they may have more game plan for him.
But for us it’s not really about what they do; it’s going to be about what we do. And we gotta execute. We’ve got to stop the run. Can’t give up big plays.
It’s that simple, and that’s hard to do without taking chances to do both. So we’ll put some pressure on the edge guys. We’ll put some pressure on the inside guys and ask them to stop the run and see if we can.
Q. Kirby, how is their offense different preparing for them over the last four games with Jefferson as the starter as opposed to preparing for them last time?
KIRBY SMART: Absolutely none for us. I think it’s a misnomer to think it’s different, because we knew Jordan Jefferson was there before we played them the last time. We knew what plays they ran when they had Jordan Jefferson last time. It wasn’t like we didn’t practice with those plays.
I think if you ask our kids, they’ve seen the same plays they saw last time. Will they do something different? I’m sure they will. But so will we.
So for us the preparation is do what they do, do what we do, and then adjust to what they do new. And that’s kind of the way we’re looking at it. So we’ve prepared very similarly.
And gotta be prepared for the option. Everybody makes a big deal about the option. They ran the option last time. Everybody forgets we played Jordan Jefferson a year before in Baton Rouge and they ran a lot of plays that Jordan runs.
We’re excited about the opportunity.
Q. Mark, you’re known as being one of the safeties who has such great closing speed to come up to stop the run. As you do that, and maybe Kirby could comment on this, too, one of the kind of obvious thoughts about it is to run on play actions and such with the Jordan Jefferson. What’s your mindset about playing the run, coming up to help with stopping that and at the same time making sure they don’t get over the top?
MARK BARRON: Basically that just comes down to our discipline. You have to read your keys. And usually, once you read your keys, it pretty much tells you what’s going on.
KIRBY SMART: He’s always done a great job doing that. I can remember his freshman year when he came to us he used to be a linebacker some in high school and a tail back, and he wanted to get down in that and run fast, and he’d bite up.
And our offense does a good job of play action, so we get good reps of hard run plays, where if your job is to stay deep, you stay deep; if your job is to go play the run, you go play the run. As long as you know the difference. And Mark’s done a great job of doing that.
Q. Kirby, how demanding is it coaching for Nick Saban and how has he prepared you for possibly being a head coach one day?
KIRBY SMART: When you say “demanding,” to me the definition of demanding is they require you to do what you’re supposed to do, when you’re supposed to do it, and how you’re supposed to do it. That’s what he does. So is he demanding, yeah, he requires you to do your job.
And I appreciate that. That gives me job security knowing that everyone in the organization is held accountable. And he holds everybody accountable. When he’s demanding he’s usually right.
To me that’s probably the greatest feature I’ve learned or will take with me when I become a head coach, is you have to be demanding. You have to be able to confront people if they’re not doing their job or not doing it the way you want it.
It’s hard sometimes. Just like asking these players to be leaders to go in front of their peers and challenge a guy, that’s tough. And these guys have done it. Coach Saban does it and it flows down into our organization. He’s been a great asset to me, and I’ll take a lot of things with me if I ever get the opportunity.
Q. Do you think you’re ready for that next step?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I definitely think I’m ready for the next step. I think it’s got to be the right place, the right opportunity. And it’s not really presented itself. Not something I think about a lot.
I’m completely happy at the University of Alabama being the defensive coordinator. It’s the greatest nonhead coach job in the country and it’s a great place to be. Great players here, great support system.
But, yeah, certainly think I’m ready.
Q. People have made a big deal all year about how athletic and big and physical your defense is, but I wonder how you rate this group maybe compared with some others with their ability to diagnose quickly, like do they know it’s the run quickly, are they going to know it’s the option quickly. How are they in diagnosing?
KIRBY SMART: They’re very instinctive, is what we use as coaches, is the term we use, instinctive in play recognition, formation recognition.
Chapman’s in there yesterday I go down the hallway getting ready for practice, and he’s in there watching tape. Our kids do a good job watching tape and seeing things. They like football. They enjoy the game. That’s the reason they’ve been successful.
This defense is as good as any I’ve ever been around. Obviously the 2009 group was really special. And this group is kind of different because we’re really good on the edges. And really stout inside with Chap and got some good backers and got good secondary.
It’s similar to the other team, the only difference is I think this one has a little more speed on it.
Q. Kirby, as a guy who studies for a living and tries to come up with answers for a living, how do you explain this run by the SEC with going for the sixth straight title, just the high rankings by three or four teams every year?
KIRBY SMART: Well, I think regionally, when you look at it, high school football, in my opinion, it’s so great in the SEC states, the high school football is at a higher level. Coaches are paid more. So the more you pay the coaches, the better quality players you get, the better quality programs you get, the development of players.
Spring practice, a lot of places don’t do spring practices. By the time Mark Barron and Josh Chapman are seniors in high school, they’ve had four spring practices. That’s almost like an extra season.
I think it’s just more advanced. My dad’s a high school coach. I’ve always felt that way. So I think that has made football better in the South, therefore there’s more players. And everybody talks about the “D” line. So there’s obviously a difference in the “D” line. But there’s other skilled players.
In the South, if you’re a really good athlete, you may play corner. It’s not necessarily true everywhere else, they’re wideouts. So you get lesser athletes, lesser DBs in some of the other regions, whereas in our region it’s okay to play corner. You’ve got to have good athletes playing corners because they’re good athletes at wideout.
Q. Josh, can you talk about the way they use four different backs? Do they use them differently? Are there things in that film study where you see they do this with this back or that with that back?
JOSH CHAPMAN: They have different tendencies with different backs. You got power back, speed back. But those guys run the ball pretty hard and downhill, so we’ve got to go out there establish the new line of scrimmage.
KIRBY SMART: Sounds like Barry White (laughter).
Q. Josh, and Coach as well, LSU’s really worn down opponents with the run game throughout this season except in the first game against Alabama. It really seemed like you were the only team to be able to avoid that. What were you guys able to do to really not get worn down towards the second half of that ballgame?
JOSH CHAPMAN: I mean, we believe in stopping the run around here. That’s about being physical up front and basically establishing a new line of scrimmage. And our guys go out and compete every day and want to stop the run. That’s our main goal here, make the team one dimensional.
KIRBY SMART: I think we’re fortunate that we get to simulate what they do with our offense, where some people can’t simulate that. And we get at least an offseason and work on downhill runs and we recruit big, physical players. We’re a little more of a headbutt style than running up the field like a lot of teams do against LSU.
It’s a little different. They probably can’t simulate some of our defensive line bodies. So it’s a good matchup, but I wouldn’t say they ran the ball well on us last time. They rushed for 148, which is more than we want to give up.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
ALABAMA DEFENSIVE PRESS CONFERENCE PART 2
LB DONT’A HIGHTOWER
CB DEQUAN MENZIE
LB COURTNEY UPSHAW
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Courtney Upshaw, Dont’a Hightower, and DeQuan Menzie.
Q. Kirby was just talking about Coach Saban and how he demands accountability from everybody. Is there something that each of you, if you could all three answer, that “In this game I must be accountable for” what?
COURTNEY UPSHAW: Me, personally, just keeping Jordan Jefferson contained, collapsing in the pocket as a pass rusher.
DONT’A HIGHTOWER: One thing I gotta to be accountable is make sure everybody’s on the right page, make all the calls up front as far as the “D” linemen goes, and then make sure on the back end with the secondary that everybody’s all on the same page.
DEQUAN MENZIE: One thing I gotta do is just keep the receivers cut off and just continue to do my job.
Q. Dont’a, could you talk about Jefferson and the problems he presents? He escaped a couple times the last game and kind of hurt you all getting out of the pocket. Talk about him and running the option. You’ve seen him for three years now, so you kind of know him.
DONT’A HIGHTOWER: Jefferson, he’s a very versatile athlete. He’s one of the reasons why they kind of changed things up and made a big play on us last game a couple of times.
But I think one thing we’ve got to do, like Courtney said, just keep him contained on the option, not let him be able to pitch the ball whenever he wants to, make him pitch it when we want him to. And make him pitch it a little bit later so we have enough time to get all 11 of us over there to the ball.
As far as in the pocket, make sure he doesn’t have anywhere to step up at. Keep him in the pocket, make him throw the ball inside and not outside the pocket. A lot of big plays he’s had all year has been outside the pocket. Whenever he’s able to show his athleticism as a dualthreat quarterback and scramble, he needs to throw it down field or take off running for 30, 40 yards.
Q. Courtney and Dont’a, the guys who were in Pasadena two years ago, how does this experience compare to that? Where is the team relative to two years ago? Is it more intense? Just your memories of that and how it compares?
COURTNEY UPSHAW: It’s been a great experience being here in New Orleans. We was here our freshman year for the Sugar Bowl and it didn’t turn out well. But to compare it to the ’09 championship team, being in that game and being able to play a few snaps, it was great, but I would say that being able to Dont’a will say the same; he didn’t play in the game that being starters on this team is that we want to leave our own legacy, you know, Alabama, come out with a win.
DONT’A HIGHTOWER: I don’t think I could sum it any better way than that. Not playing in that game gives me a little more fire than I think everybody else.
And I can definitely speak on our behalf and the whole defense that we’re all going to go out and leave it all on the field.
Q. The SEC’s going to win its sixth straight BCS championship this year. First of all, why do you think that is? How do you explain such dominance? And then the second part of it is did you guys in your mind, as you were going through the recruiting process, just say I’m going to go to an SEC school? How did that come about?
COURTNEY UPSHAW: Most definitely with me. I mean, a lot of my offers were from SEC schools. So my top three was coming in out of high school was known for getting to the championship, so I chose Alabama because of Saban. That guy, he’s been through a lot. He’s been through a championship game with LSU and to the league and stuff like that.
So I felt like my main thing was to get to an SEC school if I wanted to be remembered. You know what I’m saying?
DONT’A HIGHTOWER: I feel like the SEC won the national championship the last six years just because I feel like our coaches have a little bit more edge than other conferences. I feel like the players are a little bit more versatile and athletic. We don’t find too many guys that weigh 260 pounds that can run a 4.6 or 4.5 in any other conference or guy that weighs 200 pounds that can bench press 500.
I feel all that kind of sinks in and that’s one of the reasons why the SEC has won the national championship the last six years.
DEQUAN MENZIE: Me personally, I didn’t think I was going to get out of high school (laughter). But right off the bat, my mom always been in love with Nick Saban, so, I mean, that’s kind of one of the reasons why I came here, and watching Dont’a and Upshaw and all the other players play for that national championship in Pasadena.
But I didn’t expect to get out of high school. So it is what it is.
Q. Courtney, can you kind of talk a little bit about your matchup with Chris Faulk coming off the edge in the ballgame and also how important is it for you guys to get a good pass rush Monday night?
COURTNEY UPSHAW: I expect that it’s going to be a good fight. I expect to get to the quarterback also, and I’m going to go out and do so.
Q. What about Chris Faulk specifically?
COURTNEY UPSHAW: He’s a pretty good guy. He’s talented. One of the best I faced all year. But, like I said, I got, you know what I’m saying, goals and determination to get to the quarterback.
Q. This is for any or all of you guys. Can you guys describe how much this season has meant to snapper Carson Tinker, especially with all that he’s had to overcome in the spring with the tornadoes and the loss of his girlfriend?
DONT’A HIGHTOWER: I feel like this season Tinker has stepped up and been our unsung hero. I feel he’s tried to lead as much as possible, even in situations where he felt he didn’t have to or couldn’t because nobody would listen to him.
But especially after the tornado and losing Ashley, I feel like he’s put it on himself to bring back to the community of the University of Alabama, just all of Alabama, not just necessarily Tuscaloosa.
But I think he’s done a real good job this season. Not even just as a football player, just as being a man, taking on responsibilities and giving back to the community.
Q. For all of you, can you describe the importance of your scout team and how well have they been playing in getting you prepared for the whole season and also for this game?
COURTNEY UPSHAW: They’ve been doing a great job throughout the year. I mean, trying to simulate other offenses and stuff like that. Some teams and some players you can’t simulate, but they try and they give us good looks. And they are tough guys, too, in their own. They go out and work just as hard as everybody else.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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