Saban press conference news and notes
Alabama head coach Nick Saban met with reporters on Monday afternoon to give a final recap of the Tide’s home opener against Western Kentucky and take questions about Alabama’s upcoming game against Arkansas. The Tide knocked off Western Kentucky 35-0 and will now travel to Fayetteville to open conference play this Saturday.
Saban’s lone statement about the Western Kentucky game centered around the lack of focus and how it made an impact on the Tide’s performance on Saturday.
“This was not our best game,” Saban said. “It’s a little predictable that when you don’t focus and pay attention to detail when you need to, whether it’s in preparation or actually in performance, that things don’t usually go as well as you’d like for them to. I think we probably learned something about that relative to the last game.”
The Tide allowed six sacks on the day and allowed Western Kentucky to stay on the field longer than expected at times. While the Crimson Tide did manage to force four turnovers, it was obvious that the intensity was not the same as it was during the season opener against Michigan.
“There was a lot of lack of focus and attention to detail and not doing little things correctly,” Saban said. “Which usually can bite you in the ‘you know what,’ and it did at times, whether we got sacked or didn’t block or back a run through.
“How you progress through the season is the most important thing, how you improve through the season, because the challenges are going to get greater all the time.”
The Crimson Tide played without two major defensive starters against Western Kentucky and saw one of its most experienced running backs leave the field on a cart towards the end of the game. Much of the uncertainty headed into the third week of football centered around those three players, and Nick Saban was quick to address each player’s status on Monday.
“I think all the injured guys will be back practicing today. Dee [Milliner], Jesse [Williams] and Reggie Ragland. Brent Calloway should also be able to practice,” Saban said. “Jalston Fowler will have surgery on his knee and is most likely going to be out for the season.
“Jalston’s been a great player in the program. Really great special teams guy, great backup player for us, really good attitude guy, has lots of character. He’s a really good competitor. I know he feels badly and we feel badly, too, for him that he can’t be a part and continue to contribute to our team this year.”
Injury to Fowler gives other players an opportunity to rise to the occasion
Jalston Fowler’s likely season-ending knee injury is the latest in a string of early-season injuries to plague the Alabama roster. The Tide lost freshman wide receiver Chris Black and defensive back Jarrick Williams during the fall, and a number of Alabama players have been hampered by lingering injuries during the first few weeks of the season.
With Fowler’s injury, though, comes an opportunity for the stable of running backs to step in and make an impact. True freshman Kenyan Drake displayed on Saturday a mere glimpse of what he is capable of as a running back. Drake took a hand off, turned the corner and scampered into the end zone for the Tide’s final touchdown of the day.
“At running back, Dee Hart and Kenyan Drake will have a little more opportunity,” Saban said on Monday. “We’re going to miss him, but it’s going to take a number of people to replace him in the various roles that he played on our team.”
Fowler was in the mix at the running back position, but he was also listed as the Tide’s primary player at the fullback position in addition to his role on special teams. Now, senior Kelly Johnson and others will get a chance to step in and make a name for themselves.
“We have backups at every one of the positions and roles that he filled,” said Saban. “I think on special teams, there’s a different guy on each special teams that actually would take his place now.”
Arkansas has Alabama’s respect, attention
The Razorbacks enter its conference opener on Saturday with the task of dealing with how to rebound from a devastating loss to Louisana-Monroe, a team the Razorbacks were highly favored to beat.
Head coach Nick Saban noted last week that Western Kentucky had not garnered as much national respect as they deserved, and on Monday he made a point to address just how good Arkansas is and will be this season.
“We’re playing a really good Arkansas team, and regardless of what happened last week, that doesn’t change how we feel and how we respect their players,” head coach Nick Saban noted on Monday. “They have a very, very good team. They had some very difficult misfortunes in the last game, that you know, they weren’t able to overcome. We still have to expect that we’re going to get their very best performance.
“We need to have our very best performance if we’re going to be able to play the kind of game that we need to play on the road to have a chance to be successful against what we think is a very good team.”
The Razorbacks may be without its leader on offense, quarterback Tyler Wilson, who suffered an injury during the loss to ULM. However, Wilson is reportedly listed as day-to-day and, the Tide will assuredly prepare for Arkansas as if Wilson will take the field and play in the game.
“They have a very, very good quarterback. Probably the best quarterback that we’ve played since maybe last year when we played against them,” Saban said.
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