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Your Tuesday AM Links and Such

Real Football 365 thinks the Tide deserves to be ranked:

The Alabama Crimson Tide showed significant improvement from a year ago, and now they need to be looked at by the pollsters.

It was in an earlier Alabama article on this very site that this writer stated: "If Alabama annihilates Western Carolina, then putting the team in the top 25 would be reasonable. Especially if it's a shutout, because that will demonstrate immediate defensive progression."

Well, a shutout didn't happen. But Alabama did annihilate Western Carolina, 52-6, in Bryant-Denny Stadium this past Saturday.

Congratulations to Terry Grant, who's 134 yards and three TDs earned him SEC Freshman of the Week honors:

Running Back
5-10 * 188
Lumberton, Miss. (HS)

* Grant rushed for 134 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns - all in the first half - in Alabama's 52-6 win against Western Carolina.
* In the Tide's first play from scrimmage against the Catamounts, Grant scored on a 47-yard run.
* The three rushing scores are the most for a Tide player since 2003 (Shaud Williams vs. Kentucky).
* Grant also caught two passes for 13 yards.

TideSports takes a look at the Crimson Tide's "identity":

However, one of the good things was almost certainly the joint tackle by linebackers Darren Mustin and Rolando McClain, who not only dropped the running back for a loss, but sent his helmet flying from the impact.

That's part of the identity Saban has frequently discussed and hopes his team continues to develop. Should he use another movie title to describe it, "The Fast and the Furious" would be a good choice.

"I think we took a big step toward finding one, because I don't think it can be found in one game, really," Castille said. "But I definitely think we're in the right direction of trying to be a relentless team, a team that dominates its opponent for 60 minutes and makes the other team not want to really play.

"I think we did a good job hitting those guys and everybody played with great effort."

I don't guess I'm the only one that noticed how hard we were hitting all night...

The Sporting News helps break down "the good, the bad, and the ugly" from Saturday's game:

When Alabama players settled down to watch film of their blowout opening win over Western Carolina, the coaches didn't offer a celebration of how great they played.

"We did win 52-6, but if you were in the meeting room you wouldn't have felt like we won 52-6," cornerback Simeon Castille said Monday. "There's definitely always stuff that they'll find that we can improve on. They're not going to let us sit back and say, 'Oh well, we beat Western Carolina 52-6.' It's not like that."

What's it like? Well, let coach Nick Saban summarize.

"The good, the bad and the ugly," Saban said. "That's what I show them."

The offense racked up 575 yards, but failed to score twice on trips inside Western Carolina's 20-yard line.

The defense didn't allow a touchdown but gave up "a few too many big plays" because of missed tackles and mental mistakes, Saban said.

He also praised the team's effort and intensity. But after the game, he said the defensive front was too "soft" at the point of attack, and reiterated that point Monday.

"If you're going to be consistent in stopping the run you've got to be very aggressive," Saban said. "We try to attack the offense, and I think there were times in the game where we kind of caught the blocks instead of attacking the blocks. That's something that we can improve on and we'll work hard to improve on. We've just got to play a little more physical."

The Birmingham News takes a look at the offseason conditioning program and how it helped the team Saturday night:

After not having played a game since Dec. 28, the effect on the University of Alabama players was obvious Saturday night.

"The first few drives," defensive end Bobby Greenwood said, "it felt like my legs were cemented in the ground."

But quickly, during the Crimson Tide's opening 52-6 win over Western Carolina, something interesting happened. The junior Greenwood said "I got my legs back under me, got my second wind," and his teammates echoed the sentiment.

"Without a doubt," defensive end Wallace Gilberry, who had two tackles, one for a loss, and a quarterback hurry, said when asked whether he was prepared physically. "In the scorching heat, we've been going hard all summer. (Saturday) was kind of easy (condition-wise), to be honest with you."

Looking ahead to Vandy, the Press-Register is already talking about Earl Bennett, and Coach Saban is rightfully wary of the Birmingham native:

"They're going to get him the ball in every game," Saban said. "It's not one of those guys that you're going to shut out. It's just if we can keep him from making the really big play that would be a good job by the secondary." Big plays were an issue for Alabama's defense during the first scrimmage of the preseason. Since then, a new system has clicked better, but there are lingering signs of trouble. The Catamounts hit 33- and 35-yard passes that stood, even if their longest gain of the night did not.

Both Keith Brown and Prince Hall have been reinstated, but there is no guarantee that they will play this weekend:

"It's up to them to show that they're ready and prepared to do that," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. "In fairness to the guys that competed in their place, they should have to compete with those guys to be able to play."

Vanderbilt HC Bobby Johnson sees no advantage to drawing the Tide early in Saban's first season:

It might be a little bit of a disadvantage for us, because we're not exactly sure how they're going to line up," Johnson said Monday. "I know they didn't show everything they've got against Western Carolina. It's always a mixed bag as far as that is concerned.

Antoine Caldwell echoes those sentiments:

In center Antoine Caldwell's words, Alabama's offense Saturday was "pretty much vanilla the whole game."

"We didn't show a lot," Caldwell said. "Just basic plays that we worked on in fall camp that we knew really well, that's what we did."

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer talks about the Tide's shift in focus towards the Commies:

"You've just got to be more hungry for another win," center Antoine Caldwell said. "We love the way this feels right now. Coach Saban has a 24-hour rule, if you win, you lose, you put it out of your head and move on. We're going to put it to bed, go back in and watch film, practice and try to get ready for Vanderbilt."

"We need to focus on improvement," Saban said, "and we need to improve a lot. We play some good football teams coming up the next few weeks, starting at Vanderbilt. We'll need a significant amount of improvement to beat good Southeastern Conference teams."