Alabama head football coach Nick Saban gave the following remarks before taking questions from the media at the game-week press conference ahead of the Tide's opener with West Viriginia in Atlanta.
From the University of Alabama Athletics Department:
Head Coach Nick Saban:
"I think it's a great experience for our players to go back to Atlanta and play in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Games. We've enjoyed these opportunities through the years and have played some great teams. It is a great, competitive venue and atmosphere. I know our players are looking forward to doing this again. The question you always have ask to start the season is, ‘who are we as a team?' Every team has an opportunity to create an identity with the energy, enthusiasm, sense of purpose that they have and the togetherness that they play with. Right now, because whatever you want to say about preseason rankings and ratings, no one is really sold on anyone at this point. Everyone has a new opportunity and I think everyone is looking to create a winning rhythm, in how they can execute on every unit that they have. Whether it's offense, defense or special teams, you want to try to control the rhythm of the game by how you compete in the game. That is certainly something that we always try to do at Alabama and is certainly a challenge for this team. Mindset, preparation and determination to create an identity are probably the real keys for this team."
"West Virginia has, I think, a really good team coming back. [Head coach] Dana Holgorsen has done a really good job there, especially when it comes to how they have been able to play offense. Up-tempo, fast, sort of Texas A&M, Oklahoma State style. [They] try to control the rhythm of the game by the speed that they play at. They returned seven, eight starters on both sides of the ball, and their specialists. When Clint Trickett played quarterback last year, I think that he did a really good job for them. He was able to throw for over 250 yards in several games. They were able to run the ball effectively on most teams that they played against. So there are a lot of challenges with motions and run-pass screens, and they attack the perimeter in a lot of different ways. They have a new defensive coordinator, they are going back to the 3-3 stack, which they have had success with in the past. They have eight starters back on defense, so I thought watching them in the spring they were much improved on the defensive side of the ball. They did a good job with their punting game last year. They have good team speed, which is a really good start in terms of having good special teams."
"We think this is going to be a very challenging game for us. We certainly have a lot of respect for what [West Virginia] has been able to do. They scored a lot of points last year in games that they weren't successful in winning, but they certainly were successful in being able to move the ball and score points on people. We are going to have to play well on both sides of the ball. You have to tackle well in space when you play these kinds of teams. You really have to play the edges of your defense well. You have to control the line of scrimmage in the run game, affect the quarterback and turnovers are always a big factor in the game. For us offensively, we are going to have to be able to block this stack defense that they play. [We need to be able to] control the line of scrimmage, run the ball and control the game with the way we play offense. Certainly, turnovers are always a factor in these kinds of games."
"From an injury standpoint, we really don't have any new injuries to report. Everybody is practicing, except Kurt Freitag, because of an injured toe. Everyone else is able and ready to go. We are going to rep both guys, with the quarterback situation. We feel like both guys have been doing a very, very good job. Obviously somebody has to start the game, and we'll make that decision some point in time this week. I think both guys are doing a good job right now, and we are going to continue to develop both of those players at this point."