Opening Statement: When you look to this first football game, you’re talking about a football team that is just extremely talented, extremely tough. You know, every part of their game, they’re very good at. You look at them defensively and they’re strong, they have very talented offensive players: the Yeldon kid went for 1,000 yards for them last year, what a back he is. AJ McCarron’s won two national titles, they have a great, explosive receiver in Cooper. Then you look at the punter, he had a 44.3 yard average last year, they’ve just got it all. They do everything well, they have extremely well-coached guys. You play a team like this, the best football team in the country, you find out where we are. It’s time to play a ballgame and get a starting point and see where we are as a football game.
There’s going to be 27 freshmen on the roster for this game. How do you prepare them for going into an environment like that and playing on the big stage?
Well, again, you kind of get a reading for where you are. You see if people can handle the biggest of big situations, how they handle it and how they react to it. In college football, the first time you play for real, you’re playing a regular opponent. It’s regular season, not preseason games or scrimmages. That first ballgame I think you get a great evaluation, you can see how kids respond to those types of situations. Then you put Alabama in there and now you’ve got a tremendous team that you’re seeing how they respond to. We’ll learn a lot here Saturday.
The game back in 2009 kind of served as a starter for everything Alabama’s been able to do these past couple years, what do you remember about that game? Does anything stand out?
It was a good football game. I thought we played well, I thought they certainly played well and they went on to win the national championship. I thought it was a good, tough, physical football game.”
I wondered with Scott and Jeff on staff now and their last game at Auburn being against Alabama, have you guys gained anything from the fact that the last game they planned for was Alabama and now they’re gameplanning for Alabama again?
They’re certainly familiar with Alabama, but it still gets back to players. That’s the concern you have, is the quality of players they have, and they’re coached up. I’m really impressed with their program. Obviously the risk/reward of this big first game has never been something that has bothered you, do you think there’s going to be more of these games popping up–big neutral site games–as we get into this “selection committee era”?
I think it’s very clear that strength of schedule is going to be a big criteria, so I think from that standpoint, yes. I also believe that when you’re getting evaluated against the best team in the country, you get a really good idea of what kind of football team you have. When you have runaway wins to start the season, you don’t really get to find what you need to work on, sometimes that’s not as clear. Playing a team like Alabama, you become a better football team. We understand what kind of task it is to go in and play Alabama, but it’s not often you get a chance to beat the best team in the country. It’s certainly a challenge and we know what kind of game you have to play to have a chance.
Q: Having new offensive coaches, does that present any sort of advantage in maybe Alabama doesn’t quite know what’s coming?
Well, I think any time there’s new people, then last year’s film doesn’t mean as much, but I do think it all gets back to the personnel on the field. What have you seen so far this offseason from Logan Thomas to suggest he’s ready to bounce back from sort of a disappointing year last season?
Well, I don’t know that it’s as much Logan as it is people around Logan and how we can stay even with the down markers. When you have a lot of long-yardage situations, that’s hard on any quarterback. But I think Logan’s a year older, sometimes he tried to force things, do too much and take the team on his shoulders. I think he’s certainly learned from that, we have to play to our strengths as a football team and I think Logan will help us do that.