Selection Day Head Coaches TeleconferenceDecember 7, 2014
An Interview With:
COACH NICK SABAN, University of Alabama
COACH URBAN MEYE, Ohio State University
THE MODERATOR: We’re going to start with head coach Nick Saban from the University of Alabama, ranked No. 1 in the college football rankings. Coach, go ahead and make a brief opening statement, and then we’ll open it up to the questions.
COACH SABAN: This is obviously a great opportunity and a real honor for our team to be able to come back to the Sugar Bowl, to be a part of the first‑ever playoff system playing against an outstanding, very traditional, a great traditioned program like Ohio State, with a great coach like Urban Meyer.
So this is a real opportunity for us. There’s a great history between Alabama and the Sugar Bowl through the years and all the way back to Coach Bryant. And we’ve been there several times, and we also enjoy New Orleans, and we certainly enjoy the hospitality that the people at the Sugar Bowl offer us.
Q. Just talk about the season. Do you think that Texas A&M game was kind of the turning point to get things rolling? Because you obviously had the talent. Seemed like it just meshed up at that point. And just turned things around for you. And also regarding the UAB situation, is there anything you can do regarding that due to the circumstances?
COACH SABAN: Well, the first part of your question, I really think that our team came together in the Arkansas game. It was a rough day. Bad weather. Arkansas is a very good team. Probably an underrated team.
We were in a real dogfight with them. And made some plays at the end of the game to win the game. And I saw an energy and enthusiasm in our players that I hadn’t really seen before.
And I think we really became a team. And I think after that game you saw them play really well against Texas Texas A&M. But I think it was a result of what happened at Arkansas.
I really don’t know what you’re asking me about UAB. I mean, we hate to see any player, coach or anybody else get uprooted by the fact that they discontinue a program. But we also respect the business aspects of what people have to do in terms of making decisions about whether they can afford to have a program from a financial standpoint.
Q. Just want to ask you about your relationship with Urban Meyer, how you describe it and the games that you’ve had in the past?
COACH SABAN: I have a tremendous amount of respect for Urban. And we’ve done some things, the ESPN games and stuff together, and I consider him a good friend and certainly have a tremendous amount of personal respect for the kind of professional he is and the kind of coach he is and the kind of programs he’s had, the great teams that he’s had at Florida.
And I know that we haven’t had much of an opportunity to look at Ohio State yet. But we certainly have a tremendous amount of respect for what their team has accomplished this year and know that they’ll be a very, very well‑coached team.
Q. As good as Amari Cooper has been over the years, what specific areas did he improve or hone maybe to have the kind of production he had this year?
COACH SABAN: Well, I think that Amari’s gotten better and better every year because he’s a hard worker and really a prideful guy in terms of his performance.
And I just think he’s played with a lot more consistency this year and his focus has been better. He hasn’t let little things bother him, whether it’s a little nagging injury or whatever and has just been kind of a demon every time the game comes in terms of how he competes.
And we’ve used him and featured him and he certainly has taken advantage of those opportunities.
Q. How does playing in the SEC prepare you guys for what you’re going to face in this playoff situation?
COACH SABAN: I think that we played a lot of good teams in the SEC and we know there’s a lot of other good teams around the country. And I think that all these teams are conference champions, which means they have really kind of earned their way in wherever they’ve played or whatever conference they’ve played.
And all of them play in outstanding conferences to have a chance to play in this playoff system. So I think the more good teams you play against, obviously the more your players know about how to prepare for good opponents together and we know we’re going to see a really good team in Ohio State in this playoff game.
Q. When Urban Meyer got to Ohio State, some people said that he was going to bring sort of like an SEC‑style of play to Ohio State. What do you think that means, when a team place like an SEC team, what does that say to you?
COACH SABAN: Oh, boy, I don’t know. I think you’d be better off asking him what he meant by that. I can’t really speak for him.
I don’t really necessarily see a different style here. I just see a great passion with a lot of great programs and a great league that’s very, very competitive and a lot of built‑in rivalries. And I coached in the Big Ten. There were a lot of those same things there. So I really don’t know what that necessarily means.
Q. Cardale Jones has only played one game this year for Ohio State. What are the challenges for preparing for a quarterback where there’s only limited film available?
COACH SABAN: Well, obviously he played very, very well when he played. And I think that’s the key thing that a guy has the capabilities to play.
Blake started out this season where he hadn’t played in any games and he certainly did a good job of playing and improving, becoming a great leader for his team and making a lot of plays that got his team where they are.
So I’m not sure that we’re going to be able to see him ‑‑ everything that he’s capable of doing, but we certainly have a lot of respect for the way he’s played when he’s played.
Q. When asked about the quarterback situation this summer, you always seem to mention Blake Sims. You don’t ever want to talk about Coker. And you mentioned yesterday progressively you’ve been tinkering with tempo. How much better can Blake Sims be now that he’s got 15 Bowl practices and an actual camp‑like setting to actually be the true number one guy without any real distractions?
COACH SABAN: He hasn’t had any distractions all year. He’s been the true number one guy all year long. He’s done a good job for us. I think everybody looks to him as our quarterback. And so I don’t really understand what you’re asking me. There’s never been a quarterback controversy. There’s never been ‑‑ he won the job and he has played well for us and we are where we are because of the things that he’s done and what our entire team has done to get us here.
Q. I was wondering, obviously when Urban was at Florida, you guys were always going after the best players in recruiting. And I didn’t know if you still see him on the recruiting trail a good bit as far as guys you’re going after. And we had a kid specifically from the Chattanooga area, Vonn Bell, that you guys were interested in. And he wound up going to Ohio State. I was just kind of seeing if you still go up against him a lot in recruiting and what you remember about Vonn Bell?
COACH SABAN: Well, we thought Vonn Bell was an outstanding player and certainly wanted him in our program. I think if he was in our program right now he would be a very productive player for us.
We see Urban a lot in recruiting. And I know last year there were two or three players that we wanted that they got. And there was a couple that they wanted that we got.
And I think that if you have one of the top programs and I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for the energy in recruiting that Urban and his staff and their organization has in trying to go after some of the best players, identifying them and going after them.
Obviously they’ve done a great job of recruiting there and that’s why they have a very good team and that’s why they’re going to be in this playoff.
So we have a tremendous amount of respect for the way they recruit.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Coach Saban.
At this time we’d like to introduce head coach Urban Meyer from Ohio State University. Coach Meyer, we’ll ask you to make a brief opening statement and then after that we’ll have questions.
COACH MEYER: We’re very honored to be a part of one of the great Bowl games, one of the most historic Bowl games in the history of college football.
I’ve had the opportunity to be there before, and so our players, I know, some of our players have been in the past, too. So we’re very honored to represent the Big ten Conference against a great team in Alabama.
Q. Just wanted ask you what you remember obviously some history between you and Nick with those two great SEC champions where one year you were 1 and they were 2 and vice versa. Do you remember those games well? What stands out to you about those games?
COACH MEYER: Probably I can’t remember my address or phone number but I could tell you probably every play in those games.
The 2008 game was just one of the great games in college football history, in my opinion. Where evenly matched teams were going back and forth, back and forth. And obviously we got, scored right at the end to take a two‑score lead.
The second year, that was one of the best teams I’ve ever coached against Alabama and they handled us pretty good. Ingram was a tailback and they dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides. So a lot of respect for Alabama and their coaching staff.
Q. Wondered if Chad Lindsay, is he still around the program? Is he still part of the day to day?
COACH MEYER: No, he’s given up football. He’s finishing up his schooling this semester or this month.
Q. A couple of quick ones. One, first part would be are you surprised that this has happened this quickly again, you facing off against Coach Saban, one of your teams against Coach Saban’s teams and the other thing I wanted to ask about a kid from our area Vonn Bell a sophomore has made good plays for you, if you could talk about his career to this point?
COACH MEYER: I’m not surprised. I think Ohio State’s an elite program, and obviously Alabama is as well. And we had ‑‑ I still think we’re in the building stages. Obviously a couple of years ago we took over a team that lost 7 games and kind of built it up. Lost some good players last year.
And this year we’re still a very young team. I wasn’t sure this year, I thought it might be next year that we would reach this, especially when we lost our quarterback.
I knew at some point, if you’re going to reach for the top, that you have to go through the top. And the last several years Alabama has certainly been at the top of college football.
Q. I was just curious on how stressful the night was or the morning was in waiting to see whether you guys were going to get that 4 spot or not?
COACH MEYER: We got in at 4:00 in the morning. I dosed off for a minute and popped out of bed, couldn’t sleep. I went down and really started just working on schedules about ‑‑ I know this is a big ‑‑ we only have one week of recruiting and then we’re off. The recruiting calendar has changed so much you have to be so efficient and most of the programs were out recruiting last week, and we were not. We’re behind. I had my strength coach come over we started mapping out a calendar if we made it or didn’t make it.
And then our athletic director came over and we got to sit and watch it together. So it was very stressful. Not just waiting to see, but last week, I don’t know, maybe some people have done it in the past where they already work on those schedules.
Our complete focus was on winning that last game. So that’s where more of the, I don’t know if stress is the right word, but just making sure ‑‑ because I’m going to be on the road recruiting most of this next week.
Q. You’ve been right there every single year that you’ve been at Ohio State. And it’s just a matter of time before you started applying for National Championships. But your first year when you went undefeated, you had a tight game with UAB. Would you imagine that they just all of a sudden cancel their football program?
COACH MEYER: I actually saw the special they did, three‑ or four‑minute special on Game Day. My opinion probably doesn’t matter because I don’t know all the ins and outs, but I understand the value of athletics, the value of football, in particular. My son plays it. And I’m very glad that he does because of what it teaches.
So anytime you see that happen, you just ‑‑ you feel sorry. To answer your question, I was surprised because I know UAB has been around for a long time and they’ve had some great teams in the past.
Q. Wanted to ask you about Vonn Bell. If you could talk about him. I know he picked you guys over Alabama, getting a kid from our area, what he’s meant to the program and how he’s progressed?
COACH MEYER: He’s having a pretty good year. He’s our starting safety. Came in last year. Was very instrumental on special teams. I probably should have pushed harder as far as getting him in the game a little more as a freshman. But he’s a very talented guy, highly recruited guy like you said, that could have really went anywhere and to go down to the south and ‑‑ I know with Tennessee and Alabama and he grew up a Vols fan. So he’s a big part of who we are.
Q. Just your personal relationship with Nick Saban, what’s it like, how would you describe that?
COACH MEYER: It’s good. We always used to sit next to each other in the SEC meetings. We’ve actually known each other a long time. It’s very good.
We worked together on the agents and those type of things in the past. And so very good relationship.
Q. When you and Nick are both at the top of the profession like that, when you’re in those situations, do you talk shop? Do you talk about running a program or what it takes? Do you think there are any similarities in how you guys go about running a top tier program?
COACH MEYER: We haven’t really spoke that much about that. The one thing I think both of us ‑‑ I don’t think ‑‑ I know we both committed our entirely livelihood to college football and believe in players. The players are the most important part of this whole institution of college football. So we’ve had many, many conversations about how to make sure we keep the game or do the best we can to make sure the game stays what it is and I just remember we went after this whole ‑‑ both our programs are dealing with non‑stop agents attacking your players. And he felt fairly strongly about it. So did I.
That’s one of the few times I think we were both involved. We were on another committee or conversation about the whole payment of players and all that. So ours is more about the conversation about the good of college football.
Q. Was wondering if you’ve gotten to watch Alabama at all? I know it’s kind of a kick turnaround here. What are your impressions of Alabama, especially on the offensive side of the ball?
COACH MEYER: I’ve not watched them on film yet. I’m probably going to get a little hit of it tonight before I go on the road. But I see an extremely fast team. They’ve got the big power, I saw a big back running through people yesterday. The one thing that catches your eye is the athleticism.
And the quarterback I guess played another position. But he looked phenomenal. And then Cooper, he’s one of the best receivers ever to play college football and they use him at every possible ‑‑ they use him as a matchup guy in screens and quick screens, but they also obviously he’s the best downfield threat there is in the game right now.
Q. When you look at obviously coaching against Saban, do you pull anything from the three games in terms of his strategy or how he goes about it or do you even look at the three games you guys coached against him while you’re at Florida?
COACH MEYER: We’ll probably look at ‑‑ haven’t decided that yet. We’ll probably look at the last two. Or maybe we will. Because our offense has adapted and changed somewhat, but I think I always like to go back and see because a lot of times there’s some fundamentals or coverage concepts or front concepts that we’ll look at. That will be mostly on that side of the ball that I’ll check out a little bit what they did in the past. But that’s about it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
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