Is Alabama in for a bad 2009 season?

Is Alabama in for a bad follow-up to its superb performance in 2008? If you watched any of Nick Saban’s Monday press conference, you might be worried.

Don’t be.

However, it would be wise to temper expectations because Nick Saban’s teams rely heavily on the players’ personal responsibility. And you never know if a team is going to have that during the first hours of spring practice. It takes time to build, and we really won’t know all the answers until this iteration of the Alabama Crimson Tide makes it to fall camp. Remember the good indications filtering out of last year’s fall camp? Those paying attention were able to forecast the win over Clemson based on the good factors present in last year’s team.

There is a tendency from some fans to dismiss Saban’s press conference as nothing more than coachspeak. That too would be wrong. Saban is sending a message to players and fans—and his audience would do well to grasp it. Saban’s message was simple, there are gaps on this team that only hard work and the right attitudes can fill.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the right attitudes at this stage of the game.

“We are out there coaching guys that are young guys that can’t play a lick, and they get upset every time you say something to them,” Saban said. “They are so sensitive about getting criticized. Rather than being worried about what we are saying to you, why don’t you listen to what we say to you and try to do it and it might help you get better. We are not evaluating you when we correct you. We are teaching you. So, if we are teaching you, why would you get upset about it? We have a bunch of young ones out there that have hard time with that.”

Hopefully, that changes over time as players get more exposure to the coaches and more repetitions. As Saban said, this is why you have spring practice—to develop players and a team.

“You have to let things like (leadership) develop,” Saban said. “The team has to be able to develop a personality and it comes from the individual players and how important all of these things are to them. So far that is something that this team needs to develop. It is going to take time. It is not just going to happen. That is kind of why you have spring practice. I think it is why you have summer conditioning. I think it is why you have the offseason program. I think it is why you have fall camp.”

But there is no guarantee any team will really get the message and blend together. In Saban’s book written before he headed to the NFL, he makes a stark admission that only one team in his forty years of football actually developed all the attributes necessary for success—his 2003 national championship LSU team.

It would be interesting to see where he ranked the 2008 Alabama team. It appeared to get the message better than anyone could have expected as it won 12 games, and came within a fourth quarter of the national championship game.

That level of performance has expectations soaring for the Crimson Tide. It isn’t necessarily a good thing. You could even say it is dangerous to have such a sense of entitlement.

“Do I think we have a cultural problem here in terms of expectations and all that stuff? Absolutely. I mean, I love our fans. I think we have the best fans in the world, but we’ve got an issue with that. We are not process-oriented in terms of what we need to do to be as good as we need to be. We think that because we did something last year, we’re going to do something this year. And that doesn’t mean anything.”

Resting on your laurels is tempting, but in athletics the 2009 record is 0-0. It is easy for fans and players to forget that. In fact, the tasks are daunting for the 2009 team. It must develop as individuals and a team before the first game can be played, much less won. Saban provided a few tasks the team must accomplish moving forward.

“This team needs to develop a chemistry, an attitude, a leadership, and they need to understand what they want to accomplish, how important it is to them, and what is it worth to make the investment you need to make to do that,” Saban said.

In other words, it boils down to attitude and work.

“If this team thinks it has arrived, we’ve got lots of problems,” Saban said.

If the team buys into the process, then 2009 can be a good year. How hard do the players want to work? When we know that, we’ll know how 2009 will go.

13 Comments

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  1. 1
    E. G. White

    Yeah now you’re scaring me! I thought sure that Javier, Cody, McLain, Julio and McElroy would be spiritual leaders this year. I know that McCarron, Fluker and Richardson should whip the freshmen into shape when the 3 of them finally arrive. Still, I’m standing by my preseason prediction: The defense will be the best in the country. If the offense performs well enough out of thd blocks to beat #6 Virginia Tech, then this Bama team can win the National Championship. The first game is more important this year than Clemson was last year, and unfortunately more pressurized. Maybe one of the VT coaches will make a Cadillac Escalade remark. Ha! RTR!

  2. 2
    BamaBrando

    I think it is a good thing that Saban starts the pre-season with the attitude of starting over from scratch. Last year means nothing, except now this year more people will be wanting to beat you. No sneaking up on anyone. The only way to get there is by hard work, and real team leadership. He is only laying the groundwork for each player to reach his highest potential. And I believe he is attempting to coach up the fans also.

    We as fans don’t have to do the hard work it takes to be a part of a championship level team. We just tend to have expectations based on the previous body of work. It may not be fair, and some fans get unrealistic about it. Many Bama fans will be disappointed if Bama should lose an early game, and give up on the season. Many will criticize coaching decisions and such after a loss. The players don’t have that luxury. It would be nice if you could get a large fanbase to all agree and believe everything that is being told to them, but it doesn’t work that way. But I really don’t think Saban cares much about how unrealistic fans can be, but he tries to temper the expectations placed on these kids. That is what he uses these press conferences for, to get a message to his players, and to show that he also has their backs when people try to heave too much praise and expectations on them.

  3. 3
    Auburnisajoke formerly the fan known as Ballplay Indian.

    Yoou guys have a great coach. He knows that with success comes inflated egos (Utah anyone) and then your players start reading there own press, then you lose a gome you shouldnt. His teams usually play with a chip on thier shoulder.

  4. 4
    OMNIPRESENT aka 36 - 0

    Gotta Like his matter of fact attitude, Ol Chizik shut up and I cant get a read on him yet….I hope he is making good moves on the PLAINS!

    WAR POLYTECH BABY!!!

  5. 5
    JW

    Every thing will be ok.Hell i’ll be happy with a nine and three or eight and four.Just get these very young guys some playing time and let them come back in 2010 and then you are looking at a possible and very good possible N.C.Just relax.

  6. 6
    E. G. White

    I know you’re not talking about Nick Saban! Maybe you have him confused with Lame Kitten or Cheese Wiz! Happy with a 9-3 or 8-4? Are you nuts? Nick Saban is not an 8-4 kind of guy! He didn’t come to Alabama to go 8-4 or 9-3. Not when he has a good senior class and a #13 and 2 #1 recruiting classes to back them up! He’d have a coronary! Another 12-2 is the worst possible scenario for him. He fully expects this team to go where no Bama team has trod for 17 years. And I’d hate to be one of the players who didn’t pull his load if it doesn’t get there.

  7. 7
    Bamaman

    I see Ol Miss, Vir Tech, and LSU as the only questionable games, however, I expect/hope of course, to win them.

  8. 8
    BamaBrando

    I could see Bama possibly losing 3-4 games this year, but being a little better team overall than last years team was. Last year, things just seemed to line up in the right ways for Bama. The SEC was down for the most part. Everyone should be a little better this year. Clemson was not as good as the hype, as Georgia was not either. I believe Saban thinks the hype will be big this year for Bama, and he wants to avoid becoming like Clemson (last year). It will be a really hard thing to do to manage the increased expectations with rebuilding the offensive line and breaking in a new QB. So, while I always have high expectations, I can understand that things could get tough this year. But Auburn should not be a problem, I think they have more issues to deal with than Bama does.

  9. 9
    36-0

    If we have no problems at the quarterback position, I think we’ll handle Virginia Tech with no problems. Ole Miss and even South Carolina are the two teams I’m worried most about. LSU will show up to play, because we are now their “national championship” game.

    And Ballplay, with the way Utah whooped us, do you think a 5-7 Aubarn team would’ve stood a chance against them or even Florida last year? We’re talking an Aubarn team that was beat by WEST VIRGINIA, VANDERBILT, ARKANSAS, Ole Miss, Georgia, LSU, and of course O-B-L-I-T-E-R-A-T-E-D by the team who Utah spanked, ALABAMA!

  10. 11
    OMNIPRESENT aka 36 - 0

    How does AU keep coming up. you cant even give a compliment to Saban without someone ripping on Auburn. You would think That AU was uats NC game last year. From the sound of it its all BB is thinking about in 09. None of you know if AU wuld have lost to FL or Utah last year becuase the game did not get played
    But I did think uat shoulda beat UTAH. Florida did their expected job and spanked em but becuase UTAH Didnt happen you guys are gonna RIP AU becuase of it. TAlk about Big Brother syndrome, Big Bother gets a black eye and comes home to bloody Lil Brothers Nose. DAMN!

  11. 12
    JW

    EG I hate to burst your bubble but BAMA will lose at least three this year.Now don”t get me wrong i am a true crimson man but i am just trying to be real.I am not worried about defense it’s offense i have a problem with.Just to many players to replace and these are very green players who have no SEC experience so some where down the line it might get ugly…..ROLLLTIDE

  12. 13
    BamaBrando

    Omni, I put that in there just for you! Man, you are too easy to bait. Even if Bama has a down year this year, they will still whoop up on Auburn.

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