Posted: 3:27 pm Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Saban: Alabama must re-establish its identity 

By Tony Barnhart

Hoover, Ala. — When Nick Saban says that his 2013 Alabama team lost its identity along the way, here is what he means.

Alabama’s defense in the national championship seasons of 2011 and 2012 led the nation in yards per rush at 2.43.

The 2013 team, by contrast, gave up 3.32 yards per rush, thanks in no small part to the 296 yards allowed in the historic loss to Auburn.

That difference may not seem like a lot, but on such things are championships won — or lost.

And, after being ranked No. 1 every single day of the regular season, the 2013 Crimson Tide saw every one of their goals disappear when Auburn’s Chris Davis returned a short field goal 109 yards for a touchdown.

The hope for a third consecutive national championship: Gone

The hope of another SEC championship: Gone.

Saban remembers the sting of  that Auburn loss, followed by a less than stirring performance in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. It was clear when I visited him in the spring, and again before his media session here on Thursday, getting Alabama football back to its philosophical roots is Job 1.

And he ain’t kidding around. This year he expects everybody to be on board with “the process.”

“This season is about re-establishing our identity,” Saban said. “We as a team have to trust in the principles and values we believe in. It’s not about questions. It’s not about judging. It’s about how we adapt. How well we do that will determine how successful we will be.”

As SEC Media Days that concluded on Thursday, those who cover the conference clearly believe Alabama is going to bounce back in a big way. Despite the fact that Auburn, the defending SEC champion which came within seconds of winning the BCS title, returns its quarterback and most of its team, the media overwhelmingly voted the Crimson Tide to win the SEC West and the championship. Alabama got 154 votes to win championship while Auburn was a distant second at 75.

Saban could only smile when asked about again being the favorite, noting that only four times in the past 22 years has the media correctly picked the champion in the preseason.

“So I guess I’m rooting for you guys this year,” he said.

The last time Saban lost two consecutive games at Alabama was 2008, when the Crimson Tide lost to Tim Tebow and Florida in the SEC Championship game and then had a lackluster performance against Utah in the Sugar Bowl.

Alabama responded to those losses by reeling off 19 consecutive victories, including an undefeated season and national championship in 2009. Nine of those 19 victories were against Top 25 teams.

Two big concerns must be addressed. The first is whether or not transfer quarterback Jacob Coker can manage the game and get the ball to Alabama’s talented play makers, and there are many. The second deals with the cornerback position, where the Crimson Tide will be very inexperienced.

If both of those concerns go in Alabama’s favor, the schedule looks more than manageable with Auburn coming to Tuscaloosa and a trip to LSU on Nov. 8.

Saban made it clear on Thursday that this Alabama team will approach the season with a different mindset than a year ago.

“I think you basically need to check your ego at the door,” he said.

 

26 comments
Ms SEC
Ms SEC

Can't you guys intelligently discuss the article without attacking and babbling like drunks in the French Qtr? Glad you're back Mr Barnhart. Always enjoy the articles no matter which school.

It's too bad most SEC coaches and AD's are too weak to allow a nine game conference schedule. Instead schools like Georgia and Bama rarely meet. The last time the two schools met was 2008. Once a SEC school is left out of the playoff because of inferior scheduling strength we will see schools do like Alabama and schedule and extra game at a neutral site.

Georgia tried one year vs Boise State. Ole Miss will play them this year. LSU has stepped up big time playing Oregon. The Tide played Virginia Tech, Clemson, Michigan, West Virginia with Southern Cal and Wisconsin in the next couple years.

However, to give you an example of the problems a few SEC schools might face if it comes down to scheduling strength. These numbers are from Phil Steele and it's much more accurate than ones that are ranked based on last seasons opponents record.

Schedule ranking: South Carolina 30, Florida 32, LSU 33, Georgia 35, Miss St 56, Bama 61.

Footnote: Nick Saban is the only SEC coach in favor of playing nine conference game. Come on SEC athletic directors put on your big boy waders and start doing what the fans want and allow and extra game. Bob Stoops made reference by using Texas A&M as an example. They play four 1-AA opponents this year. There is NO EXCUSE for that. If were going to claim to be the best conference let's step up to the plate and give fans what they want. Bama and Georgia shouldn't have to wait eight years to play each other.

Tony what the heck is going on in Athens that a big time athletic program can't spend a couple nickels to build an indoor facility. Great article by Carvell on the subject.

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

72-9 and 3 NC these most recent half a dozen seasons to our 54-26, and Alabama must re-establish its identity ?


Huh ?


What do we have to do ?


Already there, are we ?


Satisfied are we ?

greenedefense
greenedefense

Who will win the West? Thats a tough question to answer. Auburn, Bama, LSU and Ole Miss all have a shot!

MM2
MM2

I guess Coach Saban is underachieving again, 72 wins over the past 6 seasons.

FootballTopFan
FootballTopFan

Lou Saban is a GREAT football coach !!!


The Alabama Crimson Tide football program is one of the best in the country.


We eagerly await the start of the college football season..


ALABAMA is a great state.


RangeRover
RangeRover

No surprise that all Alabama folks on here are so blatantly insecure.  Take away their college football players and all you have left are boiled peanuts, pork rinds, pickled eggs and pigs feet.  In Tuscerlooser they are led by a midget; in Auburn they are lead by utter, unabashed degeneracy.

What a bassackwards state....

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

Tony, funny to hear you write about Bama. You are very good.

However, when it comes to Ga, all that years of experience goes out 

the window and you might as well give them the championship.

I wonder if I am the only one that knows that? 

96JB
96JB

Tony, So glad to have you back contributing to the AJC.

Dsyelxia
Dsyelxia

@Ms SEC You had me up until "Great article by Carvell". There is no such thing.

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

@MM2 No doubt needs improve on those 6 losses since two of those are the biggest wins in the cow college history.

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

@RangeRover and just what the Fu** do you have in Georgia other than Atalanta...certain parts of it for sure. See the Braves for details.


Georgia invented the trailer.

Contractor1
Contractor1

You never told me what you wanted for that '94 Rover with 345,000 miles on it that you drive. Gotta over when a loser from an underachieving program like Georgia has something to say about a program with more history than any other in the country, AND actually has some hardware to prove results on the field. Ahhh, have fun pulling out those last second victories over Kentucky, anointing the next Herschel that will undoubtedly underachieve, and those let down losses to Vanderbilt. Man, it must be great to be a Dawg.

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

@RangeRover I told you to let go of that RangeRover years ago

I knew it wasn't worth the showing off because it would end up in the shop.

Now you are taking your frustration  out on Bama. Do we really deserve that?

You know we will always be the greatest story in NCAA football history.

Wayne_stuck_in_AL
Wayne_stuck_in_AL

@RangeRover Yeah...well said by a fan of a team that hasn't been relevant in the national championship picture since the early 80's.


Remember, you can't spell "underachieving" without UGA.

96JB
96JB

@WhiskeyBreath No, he was kind to Bama between Stalling and Saban all those years when Bama sucked.....Or has all that history been removed from campus. Hell, even the Dawgs whipped Bama's sorry arse a couple of times during that dark time LOL

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

@96JB Tony is one of the best until he speaks about Ga.

Then all that knowledge, opinion, and experience is reduced to Ga Koolaid.

He then goes into homer mode. He then just sounds like another AJC reporter. 


RangeRover
RangeRover

@WhiskeyBreath

Had 17 of them and with minimal issues.

Your inability to afford one reeks a most unimpressive jealousy.  Now have a pig's foot with that Whiskey!

RangeRover
RangeRover

@Wayne_stuck_in_AL

Neither have you!

Now that championships are earned on the field the slate has been wiped clean...every team as of today has zero championships!

Contractor1
Contractor1

Georgia has sucked for going on thirty years now with one or two good seasons mixed in. Good lord, look back in the 90's against Florida and Tennessee, and even in today's terms as far as Florida dominating you on a ten, twenty year scale. I think the Goff and Donnan years were pathetic. Yet you want to beat your chest like you have something to say. What a tool.

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

@96JB We sucked during those years? That is a little strong. 

We don't have to apoligize for those years, we have a NC

in every decade going all the way back before Bear Bryant. 

Were not still celebrating the NC from 1979.

Now that is pathetic. 

Contractor1
Contractor1

17? What, they last a year and you have to buy another? Range Rovers are for suckers as they lose value more than any vehicle on the market, fact. I guess there's a sucker born every minute, and they're called Dawg fans. I feel so bad for the true alumni and real fans that are good people, but made to look like crap when some yahoo barks about his money and things he knows nothing about. Stick to soccer, because I can always tell by your posts you know jack about football.