’Bama reloads for repeat run
Posted: Thursday, August 16, 2012 7:00 pm
By JOHN ZENOR
AP Sports Writer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — The definition of a successful season for Alabama these days is no mystery.
Undefeated with a national championship.
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban doesn’t mind grand ambitions, but emphasizes his squad can’t afford skipped steps or misdirected focus.
That’s one reason tight end Michael Williams said that while anything less than a national title “is a failure,” but that’s the big picture.
“You can’t think of it that way,” Williams said. “Take it one game at a time.”
Especially with the first game being Michigan in Arlington, Texas.
The Tide enters the season considered one of the championship front-runners, seeking to claim a third national title in four years and second straight. The veterans know from experience what a sense of entitlement and lack of focus can hurt even a loaded team (see Alabama, circa 2010).
Saban and a number of players with the voice of experience say this team doesn’t suffer from the kind of overconfidence that led to a 10-3 disappointment two years ago. They’ve raved about the team’s attitude and work ethic during the summer.
The words “defending national champion” might not be outlawed around the football offices, but they’re not encouraged either.
“We’ve been around the coach so long, we won’t do like that 2010 season,” linebacker Nico Johnson said. “It pretty much taught us a lesson that we can’t look forward.”
A quick look back: The Tide has gone 48-6 over the last four seasons. In college football where the roster turnover is so high, Saban has imported a string of highly-rated recruiting classes. The Crimson Tide has avoided any major drop-off in talent at a program where 10 wins are a letdown.
The coach said this group probably fared better than any of his other teams on the preseason test that includes sprints and bench press. Saban has managed to apply his definition of success to his program: “Consistency in performance.”
“Things don’t happen by accident,” he said. “You don’t win a game by accident. You don’t win a division by accident. You have to make it happen, and you have to make it happen by what you do every day.”
Alabama must replace four first-round NFL draft picks before making another national title happen.
The defense lost an abundance of talent to the NFL, including All-America safety Mark Barron, Butkus Award semifinalist Courtney Upshaw and finalist Dont’a Hightower, along with both starting cornerbacks.
Johnson, C.J. Mosley and Trey DePriest are experienced linebackers and Adrian Hubbard is a strong pass rusher who could replace Upshaw. Cornerbacks Dee Milliner and John Fulton and sophomore safeties Vinnie Sunseri and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix also have experience.
“We lost some great players, but we’re still Alabama,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “We always recruit great players and we’re going to have great players as backups and those guys have to step up and do their job.”
The offense has fewer players to replace under new coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who will operate a similar style to Jim McElwain.
Published in The Messenger 8.16.12