January 4, 2010
THE MODERATOR: We'll go right to questions.
Q. Question for Jim and also Julio. Julio's production the last several games has really amped up. Is that partly due to him getting healthier or maybe partly due because the team is starting to focus on Mark or maybe just because he's stepping up?
JIM McELWAIN: Well, I think Julio's production has been fantastic. You'll watch video and there's times where two and a half to five guys are over there covering him. With that being said, one thing that we make sure that we do offensively is -- one of our mottos is take what the defense gives you, and eventually they'll give you the game. I think Greg has done a nice job of not forcing it and by doing that and not involving other people in the game I think has since helped Julio a little bit, maybe only getting a man and a half on him.
Q. If you could talk, and if Greg could also talk about Julio's unselfishness and how even when production wasn't up where he probably thought it should be, the way he was able to block downfield and do some of those other things. You know, he's not your typical All-American who wants the ball all the time.
JIM McELWAIN: The one thing about this guy over here is it doesn't matter. He's in it for us to win. He's in it for Alabama. And you can just tell by the way he practices, the way he approaches a game, the way he approaches the meetings. I can't say enough good things about that. And having been at some other places and at some other levels, I think that's what's going to set him apart from a lot of people in this business. Go ahead, Greg.
GREG McELROY: I'll pretty much completely echo what Coach Mac said. Not only does he have all the talent in the world, he's such a teammate. I've been around guys, like Coach Mac, just my whole life, guys demanding the ball, making problems, making issues when they don't receive the ball, but Julio never complains, never. He just goes out there and works every day, and he's a joy to have in the locker room, a joy to have in the huddle. Obviously he's a joy to throw to. That's really all I can say about him. He's a great player and we're really happy to have him.
JIM McELWAIN: That will be the last nice thing we say about Julio. (Laughter.)
Q. Question for Coach McElwain, and if I could get an answer from Greg to the same question, I want to ask you about opening drives of games this year, coach. It seems like an area y'all have struggled. I think the only touchdown was Kentucky. Is that an area that's been a concern this season, and how important is it to get off to a quick start in this game coming up?
JIM McELWAIN: Well, quick start is obviously important. I think a year ago we were really effective in our first eight and the first things we do, and this year we have not done a great job of it by any stretch of the imagination. Part of the things you want to do on your first drive is try to make sure you change a little field position and put the opponents down in there into the field. And we haven't done that well this year.
And when we do get off to a fast start, we play pretty well. But I think the thing that maybe we've done better this year has been finish, where maybe a year ago we weren't quite as effective on the finish end of it. So you know, there's a happy medium there, and you know, in a perfect world you'd love to start fast and end strong. But the other guys have scholarship players, too.
GREG McELROY: I think just going back and kind of referring to what Coach Mac said, we have struggled a little bit on the first drive. I think if you go back and look at the statistics, we started the Virginia Tech game with a completion, we started FIU with a completion, and then up until the Florida game, that was the only game we started with a completion. So I think that if you look at it like that, I think sometimes maybe as players we've just got to get the anxiety out a little bit. Sometimes we've got to get rolling a little bit.
One thing I will say is we've finished strong and made the adjustments necessary to be successful. But when we get off to a fast start, I know that gives everybody confidence in our ability to execute. It's something that we definitely will work on. It's something we always make a point of emphasis, and it's something we need to try to get better at.
Q. This is for Greg. Greg, do you think you played your best game against Florida, and will it or will it not be a challenge to repeat that against Texas' defense?
GREG McELROY: Well, it's a challenge to play good against any good defense. It's difficult, and they're going to put their best foot forward and make things difficult for me as a quarterback. Coach Muschamp does a great job in their scheme in confusing quarterbacks, and obviously they have great talent and speed around -- they fly around the ball and they make things difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
I played well against Florida. We missed a few. Until you go out there and play the perfect game, how can you say that you played as well as you can play. I think that's just the competitor in me. I think that's just the fact that as an offense, we always try to go out there and do the right thing, and obviously we run what Coach Mac calls and we execute just like we do in practice. It just depends on the situation. I think that Florida had a great defense and we had a great game plan. We went out there and executed almost to perfection.
But until you go 18 for 18 for 400 and throw four touchdowns, then it's not a perfect game. I'll continue to get better, always working, and just focus on the things you messed up on with Florida and obviously try to improve on them in the Texas game.
Q. Julio, just a follow-up on my question earlier, you've really come up with some big clutch catches in some big games here down the stretch, so even though being unselfish as you are, do you also as a competitor late in these games say I want to take over? Is there a part of you that comes out in that?
JULIO JONES: Coach Mac is the coach. I let him make all our decisions, and I just play my part. Whenever they need me, I step up. They just have confidence in me. And like in a particular part of the game, if it's a clutch situation and they have confidence in me, I just don't want to disappoint.
Q. Julio, just find kind of following up on the unselfishness question, has it been difficult for you this year after the year you had to kind of accept the role that has kind of developed for you, and also, what satisfaction do you get out of being the downfield blocker, and how much does Mark Ingram appreciate that?
JULIO JONES: He appreciates it a lot. I guess I'm not your average receiver. I really don't care like about stats and everything. I just go out there and play the game like it's supposed to be played and try to block, and it's just like how I was raised. I go out there and give my all and not be selfish.
Q. If you can, in the history of Alabama football there's a couple of premier programs that the Tide has struggled with like Notre Dame and Texas, and it's been a bit ironic that a Texas kid could finally get over the hurdle in beating Texas. Could you just talk about your roots in the state of Texas and then coming to Alabama and comparing the two states and the football frenzy in both states?
GREG McELROY: Well, they're relatively similar to answer your question. Texas and Alabama football are the bloodlines of the state. They're the heartbeats through Austin and Texas and the heartbeats through Tuscaloosa and Alabama. I think they're similar in that regard.
I think high school football in Texas, I think on the stage that we played on every Friday night, I don't think it can get any better as a high school program. When you're out there in front of 15,000, 20,000, all the way up to 41,000 at one point, I mean, it's quite an atmosphere, and it made for a great and enjoyable high school experience.
As far as Alabama is concerned, the college football frenzy that we call Alabama Saturdays is unlike anything I've ever been a part of. I've only witnessed one game, one Alabama game as a non-player, and that was the 2006 Cotton Bowl. Really I think just getting a feel for that, being able to see the pageantry and things that people care about throughout Alabama really makes playing here really special. I'd love obviously to be -- as a Texas kid that has really accepted Alabama as his home, I'd really love to obviously knock off the Texas jinx and get our first win in eight tries. It would be a great opportunity. I'd love to obviously make our name in history. But obviously we're just going to have to go out there and play a really good ballgame in order to do that.
Q. Greg, a little follow-up there, just for you emotionally, of all the schools in the country you could play for the national title against, what's it like playing the University of Texas against former high school teammates on the team?
GREG McELROY: It's kind of a storybook ending, I think, to my junior year of college football. Obviously I was born in LA, lived here until I was ten, moved to Texas, grew up rooting for Texas Tech, just really loved them. I loved the offense, I loved their quarterbacks, B.J. Simmons, Sonny Cumbie, all those guys, and I think I always had a really great respect for the Texas Longhorns. I went to every Red River Shootout and I always rooted for Texas in that game, because I cannot stand Oklahoma. (Laughter.)
But I think that was just kind of -- it's pretty neat to be able to play those guys. It's just you see the white helmet and you see Texas right underneath the collar, you see the burnt orange and you see Bevo, and it's things like that. It's really neat to go and play these guys, and it's a dream come true for me to be able to play my home state school in the place where I was born and raised, so it should be a nice experience.
Q. Can you talk about, are there some inherent challenges being an offensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama?
JIM McELWAIN: I don't think there's any challenges. You've got a defense like that, it makes my job pretty easy. I'll tell you, the great thing about having a guy like Coach Saban is his wealth of knowledge about what the opposing defense is trying to do and how he can help say, hey, these are some things that may give them trouble. I think he does a great job of that. I can't tell you how much ball we've learned since being here, just from being around a guy like Nick.
Q. Jim, in addition to that, how much has he helped you with this game? How much do you see of the Muschamp defense as you see every day in practice with your guys?
JIM McELWAIN: I think obviously there's a lot of similarities because in this business you're kind of branched from a certain tree, and obviously Will is part of that Nick Saban tree, which means that obviously defensively they are outstanding. He does a great job of trying to take away the things that you do well and puts you into something that maybe makes you uncomfortable.
With that being said, I think there's been some positives about us going against our own defense a little bit like we do, and we'll see where that falls when we get there come game time. When it all boils down to it, it's how we play on every down. It's how we finish, and make sure that we take care of business and go forward.
Q. This is for Jim and Greg. How disruptive do you see Sergio Kindle?
JIM McELWAIN: Go ahead. He's the one who's going to hit him. He's going to get hit. (Laughter.)
GREG McELROY: I've known Sergio for a number of years. He's a Woodrow Wilson kid. He's from Dallas. He's a freak, for lack of a better term. He's a stud. He plays fast. He plays smart. He's great in pass rush, he's great in pass coverage. He's one of those rare hybrids that you see. Being a Cowboys fan, he reminds me a lot of DeMarcus Ware, I guess. He just is so versatile, and he can make things really difficult for an offensive lineman or quarterback just because of the tenacity and ferociousness he plays with. He's going to be a handful, but hopefully we'll be able to handle him somewhat because you can't ever stop him.
Q. Jim, despite an undefeated season, at one point Greg had said that he wasn't really having any fun. How did you see that manifest, and what changed?
JIM McELWAIN: Well, I think that that was an interesting little three-game stretch where we all kind of sat back and kind of reevaluated what direction we were going a little bit. And I think in some cases, I mean, it's a credit to Greg how he approached it and did a great job of still managing the situation while going forward with what we needed to do offensively. I can't say how proud I am of what has come out of it.
But you know, we hit a big panic button. You sit here and -- you know, I've been at a lot of places where this might be the whole crowd that was at the game. I think we made a bigger deal about something that really was one of those things that everybody goes through. You know, it wasn't just Greg. I mean, it was -- this deal is a team effort. There were a lot of little things that needed to get taken care of, and we've done that pretty well. You know, we'll go forward from there.
Q. For Jim and Greg, we heard from some players who still can't believe they're out here playing for a National Championship. Other players say it's just another game. From a coaching standpoint, from a player's standpoint, where does this team stand mentally now that you're out here at the site?
JIM McELWAIN: Well, from a coaching standpoint, I think if you make it bigger than it is -- we've got to make sure that we understand the game plan, that we're going to go out and play a ballgame against a very good team. There's a reason they're here. I know, I've got to say from a personal note, when I started in this business 27, 28 years ago, and my wife says, "Jim, what are we going to do with this," because she didn't quite understand this coaching, this small school we were at, and I said, "Honey, some day we're going to play in the Rose Bowl," and she laughed, okay, and said, "Why don't you go get that job at JC Penney and make sure we get a steady paycheck."
From that part, growing up in Montana, of course the Rose Bowl is something that -- this is the granddaddy of them all, and it's a very exciting thing. It's an exciting thing for our families, and yet at the same time our game plan is the same whether it's anybody else's that we're going to play. There will just be more people watching, I guess.
GREG McELROY: From a player's standpoint, I know reality really set in for me when I was watching Ohio State and Oregon, and we were still a week away from game time. I can remember vividly at eight years old watching the Rose Bowl, and I'm seeing Drew Brees or I'm seeing Jake Plummer or somebody like that just playing the game and thinking, God, that is the coolest thing, just the Rose Bowl. It doesn't get any better than that.
So I think it's just -- after Florida, I'm so glad we didn't have a game the next week because we had to have kind of a pinch-me moment there for about a week, week and a half, two weeks at the most. It was very surreal as players because this is what you sign up for. This is why you come to Alabama. This is the game you want to be a part of, and these are the games you want to prepare for and these are the games that are fun playing in.
I think it really set in when I was watching Ohio State and Oregon, and it was like, we're here, we're in California, let's get ready to roll; let's do this. Obviously we're going to have to put our best foot forward in order to be successful, and we've got a couple more days of work, and I think we'll be ready.
Q. For Greg and Julio, Texas really prides itself on the speed of their defense. How does it compare to some of the SEC defenses you've faced, and specifically for Julio guys like Earl Thomas and the speed that you see in the backfield?
JULIO JONES: They have incredible speed. They cover a lot down in corners and stuff. It's just like an SEC team, how they play the game. I mean, we prepare like any other game and just hope our game plan works.
GREG McELROY: I think they're relatively similar to Florida really. I think really, front to back, they are really probably the fastest team we've played. From defensive tackle to safety, they all run well, and I think that's a tribute to their coaching staff. They all have hot motors. They run and they work hard. They don't take any plays off. That's a lot of credit to Coach Brown and Coach Muschamp getting them ready, because those guys -- when you see a team, and you put on the film, and we've watched teams all year. I've watched probably 10,000 snaps, but I mean, it's fun to watch a team that flies at the ball and takes pride in what they do, and even if you're on the backside and taking your pursuit angle and things like that. They do that, and they do it well. It's going to be quite a challenge for us, and I know that Coach McElwain and the rest of the offense will be ready to go.
Q. Jim and Greg, can you talk about -- you have so many effective parts of this offense, but can you talk about how valuable a pickup Colin Peek has been and what he brings to this offense in terms of its versatility?
JIM McELWAIN: Well, I think as you've kind of seen our offense evolve in the last couple years obviously we've been here, having a guy at tight end that is able to do things both in the run game and the pass game is something that's really valuable. You know, in today's offensive schemes, you see a lot of spread stuff and people not playing with the tight end. I think that gives us a little bit of an advantage when we play some of the defenses because you have a guy that can both stretch the field a little bit, and he's a big target and yet at the same time can get a second foot, step in the ground and block a defensive end.
I think that's been good, because we lost some pretty good tight ends from last year, and I think that crew of tight ends we have this year has stepped up.
Q. Coach, there have been a couple reports over the last month that you may be a head coach sooner rather than later. Can you touch on your career aspirations long-term?
JIM McELWAIN: Then I guess I must have an unlisted number. What the heck? But I think we get into this business, obviously all of us someday would like to get forward and captain our own ship, and when the right thing comes along, and hopefully it does, we can maybe take that step.
Like I've told you one of the other times probably when I was here, I've got to pinch myself being at a place like Alabama. There's no place like it, and never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought to have an opportunity to be at a place like this.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.
End of FastScripts