Bama fans who have been cheering on the Tide for a while know, come fall camp each and every year, Saban preaches about his team’s identity.
Who are they? Do they understand what it means to be a champion, and that it has nothing to do with last year’s success? Can they be trusted to see their season as a fresh slate, open with the possibility to be denied, but still possess the fervor to refuse to let failure settle in?
Saban knows he has put together a damn good team for this 2013 season, and we all know it too. The spotlight is on offensive talent, but no matter the side of the ball just listen to podcasts, after-practice reports, and hear the amazement in journalist’s voices when they try to describe the talent that is on the field this year.
The combo of left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and his brother Arie combine for 630 pounds coming off the ball. Remember Jalston Fowler? The junior running back whose blocks were a thing of beauty till he was injured early last season? Well he’s back, and oh yeah, TJ Yeldon is still TJ Yeldon.
Seven players on Alabama’s 2013 roster are 6’6″ and over. Just to hit the highlights, that includes three offensive lineman, two tight ends, a linebacker and a defensive lineman.
But what truly impresses Saban is never the physical ability alone- it is the mental ability of his players as individuals and as a team.
This year, like most, leadership is an extreme focus. Senior Anthony Steen already knows his job is fostering the future of the offensive line since Chance Warmack, DJ Fluker, and Barrett Jones have gone to the NFL.
Time and time again analysts have stressed the need for AJ McCarron to enforce leadership on the field, and I agree- it’s necessary. But I get the sense that this team is extremely mature. Yes, young players are all over the roster, and even those we consider veterans are still only young pups in the game. (TJ Yeldon, Amari Cooper etc.)
But as for identity, this team- at least for now seems ingrained with a mental mantra. They are the Alabama Crimson Tide, and that in no way means they are the champions of the past, but they are the players focusing on talent of today rather than potential of the future. They are actively striving for the next one- through the process of day-by-day success.
The beauty in college football and in life, is the talent to focus on each day as if it were your last. On the gridiron, you can imagine how hard that is as preseason is filled with the expectations of others that rest so heavily and blatantly on young shoulders in the heart of Dixie. But while the hype continues, and we all stare at No. 1 Preseason rankings, it appears players are focused on something else. Something like making sure the team around them is the best they can be.
“I’m willing to do what ever the team needs to be done,” Alabama wide receiver Christion Jones said on Fan Day.
“But my goal right now is to help the younger guys that play as wide receiver and help the team establish something great on offense… so my job is to keep everyone stable and focus on what we have each practice and develop as players and as people around me and affect them in a positive way.”
That’s either the Saban way sinking in, or a smart young man who has a future in PR. Either way, ask yourselves this: Is it enough to say this is one of the most physically talented teams Bama has seen in a while? Or one of the most mentally talented teams we’ve seen in a while?
And why shouldn’t they be? Not only do they have Nick Saban on hand to instruct, they have also been given the resources of hearing the sports’ legends talk to them personally.
Well, you can say that again.
Then, watching SportsCenter on Thursday, you see that Herm Edwards was in Tuscaloosa firing up the team face to face, “in a way only Herm Edwards can” ESPN’s anchors said.
Fancy tricks and famous speakers aside, hopefully what happens in Tuscaloosa during these last moments of preseason practice can resonate for an entire year of college football, in a way only a mental edge can.