As you’re probably aware, it’s Wednesday, which means the SEC’s football coaches are hopping on the phone for their weekly teleconference. We’ve already spoken with Nick Saban, coach of No. 1 Alabama. The Crimson Tide will host No. 13 MSU on Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPN). We’ll hear from Dan Mullen in a bit, but here are some Saban highlights.
I’m really pleased with the way we competed in the last game up at Tennessee – tough game on the road, very physical game for us. We certainly have a challenging opponent this week in Mississippi State. Focus needs to be on what we need to do to get better, because I think this is the best team we’ve played to this point. Obviously their record indicates that. They have great balance on offense and a very good quarterback. Their defense has played as one of the best in our league and do a great job with turnovers. It’s a real challenging game for us.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron getting more attention, what’s different about him:
I thought A.J. played really well for us last year and it just went unnoticed because of some of other players that we had. He’s a much more confident guy, a much more mature guy, has to assume a different role from a leadership standpoint on our team. He’s done a good job of executing at his position. It’s important that the quarterback process information quickly and make good decisions, and for the most part he’s done a good job of that. The fact that we’ve been able to have balance on offense and been able to run the ball and throw it I think is a real key for us.
You consider him a Heisman candidate:
We’re always happy when our guys get recognition for what they do. But our focus is really on what we need to do to continue to play well with consistency and get him prepared to play this next week against Mississippi State.
What’ve you learned about MSU’s offensive line:
They’re big, they’re physical, they do a great job of run blocking. They’ve got a really good scheme, they’re well-coached, and they’ve improved every game this year. We think they’re a very good offensive line. The fact that they can create balance – Tyler (Russell)’s done a good job of throwing the ball, he’s a very good quarterback, and they’re committed to running it, and they’ve been able to run it effectively. They have the leading rusher in the SEC. The combination of all those things, you can’t do any of them if the offensive line is not playing well. I think they’ve done a really good job.
What do you remember about recruiting Russell:
We thought he was a really good player, and nothing that he’s done has been a surprise to me. We thought he was a talented guy, had a really good arm, good athlete, smart guy. And he’s certainly demonstrated all those things in terms of the way he’s played. Obviously the more he’s played, the better he’s gotten. Like most players, when they gain knowledge and experience, their consistency level goes up. He’s certainly done a fantastic job for them this year.
On MSU RB LaDarius Perkins:
He’s very productive and quick, runs behind his pads, very instinctive. He does a really good job of executing their plays that they run very effectively. We think he’s as talented a guy as we’ve played against all year long and is also effective in the passing game. He’s a really good all-around player.
On Mullen at Mississippi State:
I think it is his best team but I think each year they’ve gotten better, better and better. It’s an indication of the great job he’s done there program wise, in terms of establishing the intangibles you need to have everybody in the organization to improve personally, academically and athletically. They’ve done a good job recruiting and they’re a very, very good team.