By Shane from Centerpoint
As I sit down to write my take on the University of Alabamaâ€™s annual A-day football game I canâ€™t help but smile. Barring the negative opinions of clueless windbagsâ€”like Montgomery Alabamaâ€™s sports-talk, radio-hack John Longshore, and others like him who are trying to put a damper on the Crimson Tideâ€™s chances for next seasonâ€”I came away from the scrimmage with a much different outlook.
First let me say that the entire Bama Nation is now buying into Nick Sabanâ€™s process, as evidenced by the availability of hounds-toothed hats down souvenir row and the fact that there were simply no Saban straw hats left to purchase. They were sold out. I admit thatâ€™s a weak argument that wonâ€™t hold water, so I guess we can count the 78,000 fans in the seats as concrete proof Saban is the man. For the record, Bryant never drew more than 20,000. The mighty Florida Gators couldnâ€™t draw more than 61,000 even with the support of ESPNâ€™s Game Day and complete live game-coverage to boost their attendance.
In direct contrast to the dull sluggish spring games of the past, Nick Saban runs a professional presentation that has the atmosphere of a real game (at least as far as inter-squad games go). I know that, from my perspective, any young recruit who witnessed Saturdayâ€™s game simply has to be amazed at the sheer number of that many supporters in one place for a game that doesnâ€™t even count. Nick Saban has transformed Alabama into a place where great athletes want to be. I now understand his point about the event being of great importance.
I especially like the way Nick treats his players. He gives almost every man who is wearing a uniform a chance to earn some playing time. By far the most impressive trait I saw from this 2008 version of the Tide is their complete focus and effort for sixty minutes on the field. This team looks disciplined and knowledgeable.
Many people have said Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is an intense individual. I can vouch for their opinion. Of course Kirby Smart, his peer on the other side of the field is rolling just as hard. In spite of the general belief that Bamaâ€™s assistants are just recruiting specialists, Iâ€™m convinced these guys can coach just as well as they recruit.
Since this was a glorified practice, Iâ€™m not going to give you some ignorant suggestion that the final score mattered. However, I will talk about some things I observed that left positive impressions on my mind. Yes, in spite of the doubts of other media types I believe Saban can do what Stallings and Franchione did and take Alabama to a higher level sooner rather than later.
I saw four quarterbacks whose fundamentals are vastly improved from last year. They all threw the ball with authority and zip. The new offensive coordinator, Jim McElwain, has done a great job preparing every quarterback for competition. If the coach can get John Parker Wilson to execute mistake-free football under live fire and improve his percentage to somewhere around 61-64 %, Alabama could win the SEC championship. Oh yea! Itâ€™s that important. By the way, I think this coach knows how to handle a quarterback.
The Crimson Tide offense is already loaded with superior talent on the wings. With Nikita Stover, Mike McCoy, Earl Alexander, Darius Hanks, Brandon Gibson, and the â€œnewâ€ #4 (formerly Prothroâ€™s), Marquis Maze, moving the rock downfield, this offense will be very difficult to stop. I know these six can play with anybody in the country. When the â€œFoley Flashâ€ Julio Jones and Burton Scott get to town the Tide receiving corps is going to be one of the nationâ€™s best.
All that is left to make a dangerous offense is to have the offensive line protect the passing game. Put it this way. This same offensive line has been together thru about three years of SEC wars. With six solid backups who are now at a similar level of ability the Tide has solid depth on the front wall.
Throw in a healthy Terry Grant and some other talented backs (including new arrival, Ivan Matchett) and the running game should adequately compliment the passing game.
On the defensive side of the ball â€œEvil Nickyâ€™sâ€ fingerprints are becoming evident. Defense wins championships and much like Coach Bryant, Saban will recruit defensive talent to execute his philosophy. Seriously, the players understand his schemes better by the day.
Several players on the defense are already known as very good players. Rolando McClain, Kareem Jackson, Rashad Johnson, and Javier Arenas (a truly GREAT athlete), are all proven winners. I saw a few Saturday who are going to make a positive impact on the performance of this defense in the future. Alfred McCullough, Cory Reamer, Jimmy Johns, Josh Chapman, and a few others are ready to compete at an SEC level.
Throw in several high-caliber athletes from Sabanâ€™s number one recruiting class and this defense could be pretty stout this coming season.
I must also mention two facets of Bamaâ€™s team that are going to be vastly improved. I have a hunch the tight ends will definitely be deadly weapons for the Tide this year, and the kicking game will win a few close contests.
Fans should expect to see a very competitive team this year. In spite of the idea that some foolish coaches believe that young high-school, five-star studs canâ€™t be just as effective on the college level, the truth can be much different. I think Rolando McClain and Kareem Jackson are concrete proof that talent is what it is.
Iâ€™ll end this column by saying that, with the class operation in place now, Alabamaâ€™s football future is in good hands. Saban, his coaches, and the entire Alabama program are finally marching forward towards returning Alabamaâ€™s legendary, winning tradition!
You can reach Shane via email at firstname.lastname@example.org