University of Alabama coach Nick Saban took to the SEC teleconference on Wednesday morning and spoke about his team heading into Saturday's showdown against No. 8 Michigan. Here's some of what the sixth-year coach had to say:
Opening statement: "First games are always really exciting for everyone. Everybody is certainly tired of practicing against each other. We're really looking forward to the opportunity we have to play a really good, well-coached Michigan team. They have a fantastic player playing quarterback and it will be very challenging for us to contain him. ... In first games you like to see where you are. … It's always exciting for us to have a challenging game in the home opener. That really excited the players throughout the year and not just this week."
On Michigan coach Brady Hoke: "Their staff does a great job, he's obviously done a great job. He was a great coach when he was an assistant at Michigan, which is when I knew him. He did a really good job at San Diego State. Their team is fundamentally sound in everything they do. They have a really good scheme defensively in terms of the things they do. Offensively, they have a really good scheme that features the players they have. They do a great job on special teams. They do an outstanding job and that's got to be, to some degree, a reflection of his leadership."
On focusing on the process, not the result: "We're process-oriented in what we do. We're trying to make this team as good as we can make this team. When you lose 25 percent of your team every year in college football so you have a whole different team, a whole different mindset, a whole different chemistry, character, strengths, weaknesses, things that you have to do to work hard to try to get young players to have the maturity they need to have to play winning football."
Finding leaders on defense: "The important thing for leadership is how they do it in a game. Coaches can always affect practice, in my opinion, the tempo of practice, the energy, the enthusiasm. Leadership can help that. We have had a few guys on defense step up and show some leadership. Them continuing to do that in game-like situations is going to be critical."
Different identity on defense: "The biggest thing about this defense … is when you have a lot of new starters is the experience they have we had last year that we don't have this year. How these guys mature, how they focus -- when you lack college experience sometimes you make more mental errors. What's the consequence of that going to be? To me, that's the biggest thing I worry about when you have a lot of inexperienced players, you don't have a lot of starters coming back. It doesn't mean they're not capable, it just takes a little time for them to develop. Sometimes make the mistakes in practice and you correct them, but they always seems to have a greater impact when they make them in the game. Hopefully we'll be able to minimize that and play well as a unit."