We are pleased and happy to have the opportunity to be here but first I'd like to wish everyone a happy holiday. We certainly had a great holiday! I think when you have little ones like our granddaughter it makes Christmas really something special but this is a great opportunity for us to be in the College Football Playoff for the fourth year in a row. A special thanks to the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the special folks associated with the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The city of New Orleans, the hospitality here has always been outstanding for the players. I'd also like to thank [Sugar Bowl] CEO Paul Hoolahan and Allstate for their support of college football.
I'm proud of the fact that we will have 25 guys that will have their degree playing in this game. I think that brings the total to 126 that we've had in the last five years of players who have played in playoff games or bowl games with their degree. That makes us very proud because that is what we try to accomplish for our players to be able to develop their careers both on the field and off the field. That's certainly something that will benefit the quality of their life.
I think when you get an opportunity like this, which is a special opportunity to play a team like Clemson or any team that is in the playoffs at this point. The players obviously have to expect it to be a very difficult game as almost all these games are like a dogfight so you have to be able to overcome adversity and everybody has to take ownership to do their job. It comes down to what do you want to accomplish and what you are willing to do to do make it happen.
It's like anything in life I think, you make up a goal, you understand there's a process of things that you have to do to accomplish the goal, and you have to have the discipline to execute it every day and that's not necessarily a feeling - it's a choice that you choose to be persistent at the things that are going to help you be successful and you resist the things that are not going to help you be successful.
To this point relative to the preparation, we've had I've been really pleased with the coaches and the players and how they are going about that. So hopefully we'll get started down here and be able to pick up where we left off and get ourselves ready to play an outstanding game against an outstanding team.
On Alabama’s journey to get back into the playoffs and how proud he is of the way this team has persevered:
Well I think that you know one of the statements that I made last year after we didn't succeed in the championship game is don't waste the feeling. Which means learn from the things that you did or didn't do and I didn't think we finished very well. We didn't finish very well in the game, we lost the game at the end of the game, and I think your identity as a team starts with how you finish. And this team has an opportunity to try to finish this season a little better than what we did the last. I'm proud of the way they went through the season. I think we lost our identity a little bit in the last game, maybe forgot who we were and what we needed to do to be able to succeed in our last game. We feel fortunate to have the opportunity to sort of rectify that in the playoffs.
On his team responding to failure after losing the last game and then getting into the playoffs:
We've responded all year long and won 11 games. We didn't finish like we wanted too. I think we need to show that we can do that.
On balancing the bowl experience and preparation for playoff games and how this game has consequences:
Well when we came to the first game four years ago we were trying to balance the bowl experience with the whole playoff experience not having ever done that before. Our players make the decisions about curfew and what they do and how they do it. I give the leadership on the team the opportunity to do that. Each passing year they have been more serious about the game and less interested in the bowl experience. They have experienced consequences in the game, good consequences and bad consequences. I think they understand that after going through the experience as I do, the fun of it all is having success. The fun of it all is winning the game and no matter what you do, you do not remember all the things that you did but you always remember whether you won or lost the game. That has changed a little bit with our players, which does not disappoint me at all. I would love to see them have a good time and be rewarded for having a great season but the playoffs have significant consequences. The opportunity that you have really does not afford itself. The two [having a good time and the outcome] do not fit together that well.
On injuries or suspensions heading into the game:
We don't have any suspensions but I think everybody's aware of the injuries that we do have. Dylan Moses was injured in practice, the third practice that we had and he won't be able to participate in this game. Hootie Jones, we lost in the Auburn game. So those two guys are definitely out. Shaun Dion Hamilton is out. But we do have Mack Wilson, and a couple outside linebackers, Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis, that have been able to practice and come back and play. We've had a significant number of injuries on defense, some are back and we've lost some other guys.
RB Damien Harris
On cold weather in New Orleans:
Just a little bit, it’s kind of chilly. Lucky we are playing inside on Monday.
On the arrival today compared to previous years and if it’s the first time having a jazz band:
Yes, it’s definitely interesting. New Orleans is a special place, and they are very welcoming for us to get here and we are very appreciative, and we look forward to a good week.
On the first time Alabama is coming into this playoff atmosphere after a loss and if there is a different mindset:
Not really, we are not really focused on where we stand in other people’s eyes. The biggest thing for us is playing our best football January 1st. I think we will respond really well after the way we finished the season. We didn’t finish the way we wanted to and I think guys are motivated. I think guys will take that and use it for the upcoming game.
On what have the team has worked on improving over the last five weeks:
A lot of things, our biggest point of emphasis has been on our fundamental execution on all sides of the ball; offense, defense and special teams. That is something Coach Saban has been hard on us about.
On how the team balances a bowl experience versus a playoff experience:
It can definitely be a huge distraction, but this is a business trip for us. We are not looking to what we can get into in New Orleans, we are focused on how we can defeat Clemson, that’s all this team is worried about, all the outside stuff, we just have to block out and stay focused, and prepare for January 1st.
On what he saw on film against Clemson:
Maybe a few different players, [we] played these guys the last few years in the playoffs so there’s no secret. They know what we do inside-and-out and we know what they do inside-and-out; this will be a game who really wants it more. We are looking to prepare the best way that we can and be able to win this game.
On what impresses him about the Clemson defense:
Their front seven, probably the best front seven we play all year, they are very physical upfront, the linebackers play very well. We are going to have to do a very good job controlling the line of scrimmage, against their front four and dealing with their linebackers, that’s the core of the defense.
Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick
On CFP Process:
You know, you just have to stay focused throughout the week, because there’s a lot of stuff we have to be doing, a lot of events, you gotta do what you gotta do to keep focusing. Like coach was saying, just knowing your success is based off the win, and you know, it’s not about how much fun you have during, it’s about winning the game cause you’re gonna have a lot of fun once you win the game.
On watching film on Kelly Bryant:
It’s the same thing as before, he’s a real strong guy, bigger and more physical guy than Deshaun Watson, runs the ball hard. He fits the ball really well in small spaces, gets the ball to his receivers when he can, and he just makes smart decisions with the ball.
On getting back to the CFP despite numerous team injuries:
I definitely take a lot of pride in what we did this season, especially, like you said just with the injuries that we had, I was really excited that my team just really bounced back and fought hard the whole entire season. You know we lost one game but we were still fighting the entire time.
On if he’s tired of facing Clemson:
No, that means we’re in a good place if we’re seeing them, so no, I’m not tired of them.
On if he keeps last year’s loss to Clemson in the back of his mind:
You just learn from it. We took the lessons from the game and we always keep the lessons that we learn from the game in the back of our mind, but you can’t really think about loss.
On if he enjoys playing Clemson:
They’re a great team, so, you know, as a competitor I love playing other great teams because I want to get myself better, I’m getting them better, and there’s a challenge every single time we play them.
On balancing this game with the decision of entering the draft:
I’m not worried about it right now. I mean it’s a simple yes or no once I finish my last game and I’m just worried about Clemson right now and leading my team.