Of all the games Alabama has lost in the last 50 years, I have not seen one that generated more utter disbelief among Crimson Tide fans than the 1980 loss to Mississippi State in Jackson. At that time, such a loss seemed to violate universal laws. Water might as well have flowed uphill. I am not quite sure Nick Saban faces quite such expectations today - he certainly does his best to defuse them with realism. But it is close. The fact Alabama has won so consistently (45-6) over a four-year period makes that the case. There are essentially no players left from the 2008 team that posted an unbeaten regular season, except for a couple of redshirts. There are a few contributors left from the 2009 BCS winners, but not many. If you go back to 2008, Alabama is two quarterbacks removed (Wilson to McElroy to McCarron), two feature running backs removed and so forth. The constants has been coaching and recruiting. Especially coaching.
Last year's national championship, they say, won't have any effect on the 2012 version of the Crimson Tide. It's on the players, Saban has said, to forge ahead and create their own identity. That's, at least, what Alabama can control from an internal perspective. What the Crimson Tide can't control is how its opponents will ultimately view it -- as the defending national champions. "It's going to create a target for us because everyone's going to shoot for you if you're at the top," Saban said Thursday at his annual Nick's Kids luncheon at Bryant-Denny Stadium. "Our players need to understand that and need to understand the preparation they need to have so that we do all that we can do to be the best team we can be."
Right tackle D.J. Fluker, left guard Chance Warmack and center Barrett Jones each have received some type of preseason All-America mention. All three are on the Outland Trophy watch list. Jones said he and his teammates feel the sense of urgency that the schedule and defending a national championship require. "The 2012 Alabama team has zero wins and zero losses and a lot to prove with a target on our back," Jones said.
"What we did last year really is not going to help us be successful this year," Saban said. "It's going to create a target for us because everyone's going to shoot for you if you're at the top. Our players need to understand that and need to understand the preparation they need to have so that we do all that we can do to be the best team we can be. "Success does one of two things to you. It makes you feel entitled and it makes you feel like you don't have to continue to persevere or you sort of get addicted to success and you want to do more and you're willing to work more. Hopefully that's what this team is going to do."
Nearly a year after promising to impose harsher sanctions on the most egregious rule-breakers, NCAA leaders endorsed a proposal Thursday that would make schools subject to the same crippling penalties just handed to Penn State. The measure includes postseason bans of up to four years, fines that could stretch into the millions and suspensions for head coaches. A final vote on the sweeping overhaul will not occur before the board of directors' October meeting. "Coaches come to me and say, `I feel like a chump. I'm trying to do things the right way and I have peers who laugh at me because I don't play the game and bend the rules the way they do,"' board chairman Ed Ray said in a statement released by the NCAA. "That's got to stop ... Most coaches are terrific people who love their student-athletes, try to do it the right way, try to have the right values and succeed. They're very frustrated. This has got to stop. I think most coaches are saying it's about time. We want a level playing field."
Even though he's a bigger corner, Milliner still has the speed to run with anybody. Rarely does a receiver run by him, and he's also a blur in getting to the line of scrimmage and helping in run support. Milliner has some serious hops, and can go up and take the ball away from opposing receivers. Look for him to be even more physical this season and become the kind of shutdown corner that has been a fixture in Alabama's secondary under Nick Saban.
"This is the happiest day of the year for me," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "There are a lot of people that contribute to the success of this organization, which is ultimately to help young people. Nick's Kids is not really about me. It's about the legacy of my father, who started an organization to help young people way back when I was nine or 10 years old. My mother and my family always encouraged us to continue that legacy. That is why we do what we do."
Balance on offense shouldn’t be a problem, not with junior AJ McCarron returning at quarterback and an offensive line that’s bubbling over with talent and experience. Tackle D.J. Fluker, guard Chance Warmack and Jones, who’s moving to center this season, could all end up being first- or second-round draft choices. And on defense, new stars will emerge. That’s just the way it is when you recruit the way the Crimson Tide have on defense. We haven’t seen an outright repeat national champion in college football since Nebraska in 1994 and 1995, but Alabama may have something to say about that this fall.
"We all know we didn't finish last season the way we wanted," Reid said. "I'm just thankful we have another chance. No one verbalizes what happened against Alabama. We are trying to move on from that game."
The defending BCS champion Crimson Tide will kick off their season at Arlington, Texas in Cowboys Stadium, with an intriguing matchup against the Michigan Wolverines. Alabama lost half of its starters on offense and defense following its second national title in three years, but its offensive line remains one of the best in the country and quarterback AJ McCarron is one of the best in the SEC at managing the game. Head coach Nick Saban has recruited better than anyone else in the nation over the past five years, and while some will wonder how the Crimson Tide will make up for the talent they lost from last year’s team, most are simply wondering which of the newcomers will break through and fill the vacated slots. Michigan is coming off an 11-2 season an Super Bowl win in Rich Rodriguez’s first season, and that has led to heightened expectations at Ann Arbor. Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint are elite threats on the ground, but the biggest question heading in to this game will be whether or not Robinson has the arm to move the ball through the air against the Alabama defense.
Griffith, a native of Poland, spent much of his childhood living in Polish orphanage, dodging trouble on a daily basis by taking to the soccer fields. Eventually he was adopted by an American family and took the kicking skills he harnessed on the futbol field to kick field goals on the football field. At Calhoun High School (Ga.) when Griffith wasn’t connecting on 50 yard field goal attempts, he was pinning opponents deep in their own ends with strikes traveling over 70 yards on kickoffs. Then, when the heat was turned up,Griffith never broke a sweat, knocking a 32 yard field goal through the uprights in overtime to clinch a state championship.
If he wanted to stay on the field on the college level, Smelley learned how to block, catch passes and play on the special teams. Not to leave any position open, Smelley spent time working on his long snap following training camp on Wednesday. "I have to do whatever I have to do and compete in everything," Smelley said. "I have to be ready to contribute in any way when my name is called. I'm coming in here willing to do everything they want me to do."