Below is a transcript of comments made Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, by Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, quarterback A.J. McCarron, running back Trent Richardson, offensive lineman Barrett Jones, center William Vlachos, and wide receiver Marquis Maze. The comments were made during interviews prior to the BCS National Championship game on Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers.
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship.
Today's press conference features the Alabama offense. We have offensive coordinator Jim McElwain along with Barrett Jones and Marquis Maze. And after 20 minutes we'll bring in AJ McCarron, Trent Richardson, and William Vlachos to the podium here.
Coach, if you'd like to make an opening statement, and then we'll open it up for questions.
JIM MCELWAIN: First of all, I'd just like to say what an honor it is to be here and be at such a great Bowl game, and obviously in our second national championship game, this is a great town. They do a great job here, and I know our guys are really excited about getting the opportunity to play in the game.
And it's good to see you guys again. So from there, we'll roll with the questions.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Coach Mack, since we haven't had a chance to talk to you since the first time you played LSU, just talk about what happened, what was frustrating about that game, what you can take positive from it from November the 5th?
JIM MCELWAIN: Sure. You know, the one thing we take positive is our guys competed their tails off. And that's something that we're proud of as a staff. I thought our guys played hard against a very, very good defense.
Obviously we came up short a little bit. And I think our resolve and wanting to get back out is something that we're really shooting for.
But they are a very, very good defense, and there's no doubt about it, and this will be a great challenge for us.
Q. Coach Mack, the first time you went through this experience in 2009, it was with a first?year quarterback, Greg McElroy, now you're a game away from the same thing also with another first?year quarterback. Just how unlikely is it that you could take two first?year guys and see them through this far and what are the challenges of working with first?year quarterbacks?
JIM MCELWAIN: I think the great thing about working with first?year quarterbacks is I don't have a couple of years to screw them up. So they're doing a pretty good job of taking what the defense is giving them.
I think AJ's done a good job as an understudy, and I think one of the great things there that you kind of lose focus on is he had an opportunity to learn from Greg how to prepare.
And I think Greg was a great study for AJ, and I'm really proud about the way that he's progressed.
Q. Coach, I wanted you to talk a little bit about how AJ performed in the LSU game. I know a lot was made out of the sack that he took in overtime. And then can you talk a little bit about your personal relationship with him? Obviously he had Thanksgiving dinner at your house.
JIM MCELWAIN: Yeah, he put up with my cooking. It was unbelievable. He actually smiled and said he liked it. I don't know if he really did or not.
But obviously you get real close to those guys. We spend a ton of time together. And AJ has really done a good job I guess adapting to my nuances, which is really good. And he obviously has some plays he'd like back.
I'll tell you what: He competed hard and he's ready to go, and we'll see where he is from there.
Q. Coach, could you talk about LSU's corners as cover guys, as good as you've seen? Sort of from your standpoint, how good are they?
JIM MCELWAIN: Scary. They're the real guys. And I think that's one thing even in this league that you see. I mean, the defenses in this league, you know, are really, really good. And these guys are at the top of that heap.
And our receivers, I really believe we have a great receiving corps, guys that compete hard, guys that want to go out and win, and yet they'll have their hands full because that back end is solid. Even when they bring guys in, you know, in their different packages, they're all really good cover guys.
And, yet, that's how you get in a game like this. We've got our work cut out for us.
Q. Coach, for us in Europe we don't have this thing with college sport. I wonder if you could try to explain how come you Americans are all so passionate about American college football.
JIM MCELWAIN: That's a great question. I think one of the things is probably the physical nature, you know, number one, and kind of goes back to gladiator days maybe a little bit, and it probably has more to do with the fact that it's ours. It's something that kind of has grown up here and our culture has grown up with it.
And the passionate fans and especially in the league we're in is unlike anywhere else. But I think that probably has something to do with it.
Q. Coach, how have you been able to balance moonlighting having two jobs at one time?
JIM MCELWAIN: Well, it's been a challenge. But I think, as these guys can attest, our focus since I left there has been for this ballgame. And what I try to do is late at night make the calls and catch up.
Coach Saban has been unbelievable, a help, because he went through kind of the same thing when he took the Michigan State job when he was with the Browns, so leaning on that experience. And he's been really good about helping with some of the office staff and that kind of thing.
And it's routine as normal. As a coach, you don't get any sleep anyway.
Q. For all of you, what is the biggest challenge of, offensively, a long way off in between games? How do you approach that? How did you guys approach that?
BARRETT JONES: I think something that's really important, just kind of maintaining your rhythm. I think the way we approached it is we had a few days where we kind of had almost scrimmages. We did a lot of one?on?one reps. They were just about full speed, everything but tackling.
I think you've got to do that, one versus one, with your defense, just to make sure you stay in sync on offense.
MARQUIS MAZE: Just pretty much what Barrett said. You know, just the timing and the situation of the game and just using what we got to get what we want.
Q. For all of you, Coach, you talked about it being kind of a gladiator feel, and I think everybody in the country looks at these two teams and realize that's what you have on display and what's going to happen on Monday night. Could you comment on knowing the team so well, playing them year in, year out, being on the same side, the same division and also having the rematch this year?
JIM MCELWAIN: Well, obviously this is a great rivalry, and we've got tons of respect for this outfit. They're very talented. And I think knowing each other, you know, from a preparation standpoint, I'm sure there will be some new wrinkles because of that fact.
Yet we're just really, really excited to be here. And I think our guys know that we have given ?? kind of received a second shot. And we're excited for that.
BARRETT JONES: I think this is a really unique game just because the first time we played in this game I said it was the most physical game I ever played in. And I still believe that.
I think that's why it's such a cool opportunity to get to do it again, just because it's really not a secret. We know what we're going to do and what they're going to do and it comes down to who wins in the trenches.
It's an offensive lineman's dream, this kind of game where you can be physical. And you know you're going to get a physical game from them because of the style of their defense and the talent of their defensive line.
So I think as an offense, and specifically as an offensive line, we're excited about that challenge.
MARQUIS MAZE: Mainly because ?? I think the name, because both of our teams are physical, and that's what we pride ourselves on and that's what they pride themselves on.
So the thing about it is who is going to be more physical in the game, and that's what we're working on in practice and that's what we continue to do until Monday.
Q. Jim, you've had four years now being the offensive coordinator working under a coach who is all about defense. What's that been like? Has there ever been friction putting a game plan together and calling particular plays?
JIM MCELWAIN: No, there's never been. I couldn't have asked for a better experience. Coach Saban is all about helping. He's all about the whole team. All three phases of the game.
And I think the one thing we've done a pretty good job of since we've been here is complementing each other and understanding that at the end of the day it's about figuring out how to win the game however you do it, and I think Coach is a master of that.
Q. Jim, a little bit of a philosophical question here. When you look at this game, LSU and you guys obviously have the No. 1 and 2 defenses in the country. When you look at the NFL playoffs, the Packers and Patriots have the two worst defenses in terms of yardage in the country. A little bit of an anomaly. But I'm wondering philosophically how you think we got to this point, where there are two sort of different means to an end?
JIM MCELWAIN: That's pretty good. I think, still, at the end of the day, that the idea is to make sure that you're sound against the run defensively, you're able to stop people down in the scoring area.
And I know as an offensive coordinator it's great to have those good defenses. And that's something that over the career maybe we didn't have, and yet it's pretty comforting to think of it from that aspect. Those are two obviously great offenses.
And yet I think the big games really come down to who can stop people, and that's the key.
Q. Coach and Barrett, Trent's had a great year. What has he meant to this offense and how do you see his role in this game?
BARRETT JONES: It's no secret that he's our most valuable player on offense. I think more than that, he really is just a great team player. You think of Trent, he's a guy that I love blocking for just because of the way he approaches the game.
There's not many people who could have sat by for two years and kind of played behind Mark, where he probably could have started anywhere else. And I think for that reason the way he was a teammate and showed that patience, we were all really excited for this year where he could kind of get his turn to shine in the spotlight. And he's done a great job of that.
And obviously I think it's going to be extremely important for us to get him going in this game, and as an offensive line we know that's our responsibility.
So really excited that Trent's getting this opportunity, and glad to be there right alongside him.
JIM MCELWAIN: I'll second that. And just an unselfish guy. And I'm glad he's on our team.
Q. Can you describe, from the players, of what he's like as a coach? And for Coach McElwain, can you describe what type of an offensive coach you are? What are some of the things you like to get accomplished that we don't have the inside access to?
JIM MCELWAIN: I'll let these guys have a chance to take a shot at me. Go ahead.
MARQUIS MAZE: Man, he's fiery. Fiery guy. I love him. I think we all love him. Great coach. Going to be a great coach at Colorado State. And I wouldn't want to go in this game with him ?? I mean without him. My bad. And I love him. And I feel like he loves us. And he tells us what we're doing wrong. He will get on us no matter from Trent, myself, Barrett, anybody on offense. He really get on them, even the scout team guys he get on them. So he's always hollering.
So sometimes we have to keep him up. We have a little thing where we put our hands up. Sometimes we have to grab Coach's hand and pull his up some days at practice.
BARRETT JONES: I think the biggest thing about coach Mack is I think he's a teacher first. He's a great teacher of the game. And he really ?? I think you can tell he really has a passion for that. That's what he really loves to do is teach kids like us the game. And he's extremely gifted at that, and just the way he breaks down offenses and helps us understand it.
Second thing is definitely his passion. He's extremely passionate about Alabama, about us as people. And he always knows what we need. If we're getting too confident, he's going to be there to bring us down. If we're dragging a little bit, he's going to be there to motivate us.
So we've loved being under him. I've been under him my whole career. And what a great offensive coordinator, and I'm really going to miss him.
JIM MCELWAIN: You know, just because of what they said, don't think you're getting off easy this week, okay?
Q. There's intense coaches and laid?back coaches, and there's no doubt that Nick Saban is on the intense side of that spectrum. What is it about Coach Saban that you two players really say this is the guy that I want to play for?
MARQUIS MAZE: Just his approach to the game. I don't think anybody approaches the game like Coach Saban. He approaches the game full attack. He never looks a day further. He's going on that day.
So I think his approach to the game and his intensity. And that's what he instills in all of us, that intensity and his playing style.
BARRETT JONES: I think the best way to put it is when you're getting recruited you go around to a lot of different places and you hear every coach sitting in their office tell you that they're going to win a lot of games and you're going to be a big part of that, but when Coach Saban tells it to you, you believe him. He looks you in the eyes and says: We're going to win championships. And he lays out a specific plan how he's going to do it. And I think that's what guys buy into.
I know me, personally, I knew when he told me that we definitely were going to win championships, and that's what's happened. And it's been great to play for a guy like that who has a specific vision and really knows how to get there, who has done it before.
And another thing, he's not quite as ?? he's very intense, but he also does joke around some. When you guys aren't looking. But he is sometimes laid back and easy to talk to.
Q. Marquis and Jim, Marquis, did (Morris) Claiborne cover you much in the first matchup? And if you could tell me a little bit about his skill set as a corner. And for Jim, you've seen a lot of good corners in the SEC. Could you stack Claiborne up and talk about his specific skills that make it unique?
MARQUIS MAZE: In the first game, I think he's a left corner or a right corner, I'm not sure, but he really didn't go with me much. He just stayed on his side. He's a physical guy. Long arms. Like the quick jam. Just all?around great player. And I'm looking forward to the challenge.
JIM MCELWAIN: Well, you know how that guy stacks up, I think was your question. I'll be glad not to play against him again. The guy's pretty good.
Q. Coach Mack, how much do you look at the last tape and take the good from it and implement it into this game plan, and how do you keep from overpreparing with this long time off?
JIM MCELWAIN: That's a great question. I think sometimes as coaches we have ?? obviously we've had 40 whatever days since we've played. And kind of making sure you don't put too much in and think about from that standpoint.
But I think it's a great learning tool from every year we've played against this defense and against the guys that they had. Obviously we made some mistakes in the first game, and those were things that you always try to correct no matter what game it is. And then move forward.
And I think spending too much time in the past sometimes. We've got to look forward and get ready to just play it with whatever we have.
Q. In particular, when you look back at the first game, were there things you look at when you get in scoring position, red zone, especially?
JIM MCELWAIN: Yeah, you know, that was obviously a frustration for us. And I think that has a lot to do with ?? not only with what we didn't do, but obviously what they did.
Like I said, I can't say enough how much respect we have for them as a defense. And when you look at the lack of plays down in the red area from accumulation of a full season, kind of tells you how good that defense is.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We have AJ McCarron, Trent Richardson, and William Vlachos with us for questions.
Q. AJ, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the experience of playing LSU the first time, what you learned from it and what was most frustrating coming out of that game.
AJ MCCARRON: I'd have to say, you know, playing them the first time was a special experience for me, just the tradition between Alabama and LSU and the rivalry they've always had.
It wasn't that great of an experience coming out with a loss. But as a team we felt like we kind of let it slip through our fingers and get away from us in the end.
And hopefully this time we won't let that happen.
Q. Trent, you kind of got to know the "Honey Badger" at the ESPN College Football Awards and Heisman Trophy ceremony. Could you talk about getting to know him and then watching him on film and just the type of guy he is? Because I know he thinks a lot of you.
TRENT RICHARDSON: He's a very motivated guy. And he's a special guy, at the same time, because when I was down there I got to find out he was adopted. And to come from a situation like that and being as small as he is, it tells you a lot about his personality and what his ego is for real.
Because you got a guy like that, and people start to say that you're not going to make it, you're not going to be this, this, and that. But you got a guy that came from where he came from, it means a lot. It means a lot around the community where you're from and around the world because it tells, hey, you're a little guy, you can't do this, but he's got ?? he plays like he's 6'4". And he's a very eager guy and ready to go out there and play every play like it's his last.
To come from a guy like that who came from the situation he came from, it means a lot to everybody and gives a lot of hope to kids out there that are smaller than what most of the kids are nowadays.
Q. AJ, talk about the biggest challenge of being a first?year starter at your position and why you think you're a better quarterback today than you were in August?
AJ MCCARRON: I'd say the biggest challenge is playing ?? I didn't play like myself last time. I felt like ?? I felt like I did a good job of taking care of the ball and trying to get it to the guys. But I didn't really play the game with a whole lot of emotion like I usually do.
Like I said earlier, after the Florida game or during the Florida game, when I was getting the crowd going, and Coach told me to calm down. After the LSU game, he told me to play with emotion again, that he missed that.
I definitely gotta come out and play with emotion in this game like I always do. Just play my game.
But as growing as a quarterback all year long, I felt like I've done a pretty good job so far. I mean, coming in your first year, you always ?? you're not going to know a whole lot going into it. And right now as of now I feel like I've been here forever.
This season's taken a long time. And I think I've seen everything especially going against our defense every day. They throw everything in the book at you. But with my guys around me doing a great job, especially my offensive line, helping me grow as a leader and as a quarterback all year long.
Q. For all of you, first AJ, you talked about growing as a quarterback and finding your way. I'm interested to know what you learned after that loss to LSU and how you think personally and as a team you guys have used that to improve as a team in this rematch?
AJ MCCARRON: For me personally, I felt like ?? like I said, I felt like I should have played the game with a little more emotion. I mean, every game you're not going to be perfect going into the game, especially after the game. You just try to eliminate as many mistakes as you possibly can.
I felt like on a personal level I feel like I missed some reads that I usually make. But at the same time, like I said, a big game like that, things always don't fall your way. You need a little luck sometimes.
But I felt like the way this team has grown since that game and our mentality has been. So I guess so much of like we don't want to let anything like this ever happen again and slip way from us. And I feel like we've done a great job of proving that we belong here and that we should get a second chance at it.
TRENT RICHARDSON: For me, and as a team leader, I'm sure Vlachos and AJ could say the same thing, when it comes to being motivated, this is the most motivated game that we have in the season, as far as being the championship and a rematch, because a lot of people voted us out, didn't want us in this ballgame. But Monday night we're going to show them why we should have been in this ballgame and why that we shouldn't be voted ?? I'm not saying we're going to win or we're going to lose, but when it comes down to football, it's one of the things that you want to ?? that we strive on and want to be remembered as the team that came down to history and had the most significant season and an outcome of the season that we're going to be winners and want to be the lead program.
So for us to be in the situation now that we're in, we just love being the underdogs, and we love being the team that nobody want to see in the championship. And that put a chip on our shoulder and we're going to show them or prove why we should be in this game.
The voters did good. They put the best two teams in the situation to play the ballgame on Monday night when they did.
So for us to be in this ballgame, it means a lot to us and our community around Tuscaloosa.
Q. What did you learn from the first game, from that loss as a team, and how have you used that to improve for this rematch?
WILLIAM VLACHOS: I think the biggest thing we saw after the loss ?? it's what Coach Saban says all the time. It sounds so cliche, but it comes down to what we do. Obviously they're a great team. They made more plays than we did and they won.
When you look at it, it comes down to our execution, the little things we did do or didn't do, and that's something that we've been emphasizing since practice started this month, I think. Just refining the execution of the game plan is what we're focusing on right now.
I think it makes you kind of sick sometimes to watch that film because there's so many little things out there that, as an offensive line, if we sustain our block for another half second, Trent's going for 60 yards and not six. And I think that's something that we're conscious of.
Q. William and Trent, do you want AJ to play with more emotion? Do you want him to play with more calm? What is your assessment of how he might go into a game?
TRENT RICHARDSON: When it comes to AJ, I think he plays way better when he's playing with a lot of emotion. But whatever makes him comfortable, man. And that's one thing he likes to do is play with emotion and keep us going and make sure he's yelling at us on the sideline. We come on the sideline and tell him everything going to be okay. Don't get down and we'll get a play back.
That's what he does. And that's what quarterbacks do for ?? you ever see a quarterback, they're all into the game. You watch good quarterbacks today, they're all into the game. So AJ is one of those guys that, hey, he's going to be one of those guys you can say he's one of the best quarterbacks in the NCAA.
So he does what he does. And we have fun with him. We love to play for AJ.
WILLIAM VLACHOS: First of all, I just want to say that playing quarterback at Alabama is extremely hard. The scrutiny and the pressure and the expectations that you deal with on a daily basis is something that I couldn't imagine.
It's something that I have to deal with playing center. I couldn't imagine having to deal with on a level of playing quarterback.
AJ has done a tremendous job all year. He's really impressed all of us. We're very, very proud of him. So I think however he wants to play, we trust him that that's what he needs to do to get his job done.
Q. Two questions for Trent. Your teammates and your coaches talk about your unselfishness. You waited two years to become the feature back sharing carries with (Mark) Ingram. Talk about how that made you a better back this year. Speaking of Ingram, he's in New Orleans. He had surgery this week. Have you talked to him at all?
TRENT RICHARDSON: You know, to be a running back and to come in and to be a big recruit, you would think that a guy like me would be selfish and be ready to play, transfer or something like that. But it's not like that, man. And when I got here I knew there were running backs in front of me, but I didn't care. My attitude was to go in and do anything I could to try to contribute to the team.
When it comes to situations like I had, man, I love the experience because I can say I've played with a Heisman Trophy winner and I can say I was on a national championship team contributing to the team my freshman year. And I can say I'm here now. And I can say that I was around a group of guys that you'll ?? always be remembered. And to be in a situation where you have Mark on your team and to be a good leader like he was. And you can never get that situation back for ?? you can never take that from me because Mark, he was a team player. And he really showed me a lot.
And with him being him and him going into situations he's been through with all of these awards and all these good goals he had to sit and the ones he's achieved on. So for me to be a team player ?? and I've never been selfish. It's not me. I really think if you're selfish that you're missing out on your blessing further, and that's one thing I tried not to do.
So for me to be in this situation I am now, man, I love it because this group of guys here, just being around them and being surrounded by them, I never want to play with another group of guys, be on another team with another group of guys like these guys here.
Q. Have you talked to Mark this week about the injury?
TRENT RICHARDSON: No, I don't try to get into that stuff there. I know he's going to do good, whatever it comes down to. Mark is a warrior. He's the same guy who had surgery one week before the game and came back in two weeks. So he's always been Superman in my eyes.
And I'm pretty sure Mark, when he does come back, he's going to come back strong and have fun doing what he's doing.
Q. Trent, we were talking in the other room about your daughters, and you said that you never wanted them to have to go through what you went through growing up. Could you talk a little bit about what you did go through and how it made you stronger?
TRENT RICHARDSON: For me, when I was growing up, I was ?? I grew up in Pensacola, where I grew up around, in Warrington, it was crazy out there. Because what I went through, a lot of deaths going on and a lot of drugs around me. That's where I was brought up at.
So for my little girls to have the opportunity they have today and their daddy to make a better place for them, I don't want them to go through nothing what I went through. I seen my mom work two or three jobs at one time and had to come home and make meals for us and had to come clean up behind us.
So at the end of the day it was like I don't want my kids to go through that. And their daddy, he's in a situation where he can make a life better for them and he can show them how hard work has been done, because that's what my momma showed me and that's what my brothers have showed me and taught me the whole time while we were growing up, never to give up and stuff like that.
I'm in a situation now and I try to show my girls that it is a struggle out there and it is hard for us and parents out there. And I don't want them to struggle like I did. I had to go through the stuff I had to go through. That's really motivated me on the field.
Because when I play with my girls on my mind, I feel like nobody can stop me.
Q. AJ, I'm wondering if you could break down Morris Claiborne as a corner for me a little bit. I know he picked you off in the first matchup. What are his skill sets and the challenges he poses?
AJ MCCARRON: I don't really know his skill set, but he's one of the best corners in the country. You really don't have to know the game to know that.
I mean, he's all over ESPN, all over the draft status and all that. The guy's going to be one of the top guys taken in the NFL Draft this coming draft.
So the guy's, like I said, one of the best cornerbacks in the country. You've got to respect him. You've got to respect his game. And at the same time every guy's got his weakness, though, and you gotta know it and you gotta take advantage of it when you get the opportunity.
Q. AJ, would you ever get back on a WaveRunner?
AJ MCCARRON: Yes, sir. I own the fastest one Yamaha makes right now. It tops out at 89. My mom doesn't like me talking about it, period, but I'm crazy on them. Me and my buddies ?? I was raised on the water. So during the summer when I get an opportunity to get away from football, I'll go golf early in the morning and go out on the river. And, like I said, my mom hates it, but I'm still crazy on them.
Q. AJ, talk about the advantages and disadvantages, if there are any, of putting the game plan over this amount of time, how much you guys put in two weeks ago, a week ago, and how much is still to be put in, if any, are these practices more of a review?
AJ MCCARRON: I'll personally and I know the guys next to me will say like the advantages definitely are you're able to look at them longer. And you're able ?? when you're preparing for just one week, it's really almost like two days and then after two days your game plan's gotta be installed and you've got to know what you gotta do and when you gotta do it.
But now that we've had a little while longer to prepare for them, I felt like our coaches have done a great job. We got the best coaching staff in the country by far. Coach Saban's led us to two national championships out of the past three years.
I mean, the only disadvantage I'd say you have is preparing too much, which some teams can do sometimes because you find and you look at too many things and you try to take advantage of too many things instead of just going out playing the game.
And at the end of the day, it's a game of football. You gotta have some luck go your way. But I felt like our team has done a great job preparing for this game so far.
Q. I assure you it was way before curfew, but I did see some of you and your teammates out in the French Quarter last night. Did you have a good time and did you see anything you've probably never seen before?
AJ MCCARRON: I'll pass that question to them. (Laughter).
WILLIAM VLACHOS: I didn't leave the room, so you can ask them.
TRENT RICHARDSON: So everybody's gonna put the question on me. I mean, yeah, it was different. Because, I mean, we have a strip, but we don't have a strip like that. And being in that environment, it's crazy because you see stuff that you've never seen before.
And, I mean ?? and the people are partying on that street all day and all night. And that's what they get out of it. It was different seeing the French Quarter. That's all I can really say about that because it was fun.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
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