Linebacker • Adrian Hubbard, Alabama Statistically speaking, Alabama's defense in 2011 was the best college football has seen in decades. It didn't get there by devoting itself to developing freshmen. But for as little as Hubbard saw the field last year (he was credited with nine tackles in nine games) behind seniors Courtney Upshaw and Jerrell Harris, he's wasted no time picking up the slack: Coaches awarded Hubbard in April as the team's best linebacker over the course of spring drills, and more than a few fans came away from the spring game convinced he was the best player on the entire defense– at least, for that afternoon. Of the six new starters on that side of the ball this fall, Hubbard for Harris on the strong side is the safest bet for avoiding a drop-off.
Alabama committed quarterback Cooper Bateman answered plenty of questions about whether he could compete against elite competition earlier this month when he led his 7-on-7 team to a tournament championship at Nike's The Opening. Beginning Wednesday, Bateman will once again test his skills against some of the nation's best signal callers when he competes in the Elite 11 national finals, an event which pits the nation's top high school quarterbacks in a head-to-head competition and boasts such prestigious alumni as Andrew Luck, Tim Tebow and Matthew Stafford.
"You have to be ready for whatever when it comes to Coach Smith," defensive end Tenarius Wright said. "He has a swag about himself, which is really funny and enthusiastic. It gives you energy." In fact, there isn't much of anything that's normal when it comes to Smith -- even his motto for his latest football team. Davis said the Hogs have printed T-shirts that read "GYPH," or "Get Your Piss Hot," a term their new coach coined during the offseason. "He's a good person and he's funny," Davis said. "He has a way of getting the best out of you without pulling it out of you."
Davis hated sitting and watching as the Razorbacks went 11-2 last season, but two particular afternoons crushed him. The difference between a great season and a season for the ages were two 24-point losses. "Alabama and LSU," Davis said, referring to the two teams that beat Arkansas and then later faced off for the national title. Watching the Crimson Tide and the Tigers whip his teammates, Davis felt helpless. He wanted so badly to give the Razorbacks the tough inside yards they needed to keep those defenses honest and allow quarterback Tyler Wilson to throw, but Davis could do nothing but watch. "I'm not necessarily the piece to put them over the top, but I feel like we didn't have our whole team on the field against those two guys," Davis said. "I'm not saying that the outcome would have changed, but I'm saying we would have had a better chance."
Finally, after six months, Miles hinted at a reason that had not previously been mentioned: Mettenberger "might have taken a few snaps" in the game had he not "injured his hand in bowl practice." That explanation from Miles at the SEC Media Days podium was news to a lot of people - including Mettenberger himself. "Well, let's roll with it, I guess," Mettenberger said. "I did hit my hand on a helmet." However, the injury registered so slightly for Mettenberger that he couldn't even recall if it happened in BCS preparations or in a late season game against Arkansas. He was also quick to note that "if my number had been called in the national championship game, I definitely would have been ready to play."
Day 2 of SEC media days sent some media members in a frenzy, as 24 combined representatives from six teams paraded through The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. Arkansas tried to steal the show Wednesday, as Knile Davis anointed himself as the conference's best running back for the second straight year and interim coach John L. Smith sent a barrage of one-liners through the main ballroom. But get ready for the crowd Friday. That's when Alabama comes to town, meaning a cluster of Crimson Tide faithful will be packing into the Wynfrey and drowning out every bit of noise with a never-ending series of "Roll Tide."
When the voting here at SEC media days is released on Thursday, Auburn is likely to be picked to finish fourth in the SEC West behind LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas. That is simply not going to be good enough for the Auburn fan base, especially after watching Alabama hold up the crystal football last January in New Orleans. "We know what the expectations are and for us the goal never changes," said Chizik. "We have won a national championship so we know what a great team looks like. We want to win another one. We are building towards that goal and have made progress."