More than enough reasons to stay

With sanctions still in effect, the unpleasant reality is that Alabama's rising seniors still have the option of transferring this summer. But according to the players, there are more than enough reasons to stay.

"If players came to The University of Alabama to play for the Crimson Tide, then that hasn't gone away," Greg McLain pointed out. "Just because a coach left, that doesn't change."

For the second straight season Alabama will be banned from post-season play, which means that seniors can transfer to another Division 1A school without having to sit out a year (excluding SEC institutions). For other players it would be a less attractive option. Unless an athlete still has a redshirt year left, he would lose a year of eligibility by leaving.

No one's panicking, but the players are also realistic. "I haven't heard anybody talk about it, but it wouldn't surprise me, because we've been through so much," Todd Bates said. "There are a lot of seniors that feel like their careers are on the line as far as playing at the next level. Some of those guys will be with their fourth coach."

Charlie Peprah, Roman Harper, Juke King and Anthony Madison horse around in the weight room. Recent events have taken a toll, but Bama's players have strong ties to each other and their university.

Much of that concern surrounds Bama's new offense. Specifically several seniors were frankly excited about playing in a pass-first attack and are now wondering if the new coach will utilize schemes that showcase their skills to the NFL.

But the good news is that all of the coaching names that have surfaced so far would almost certainly implement a pro-style attack, relying heavily on the passing game. "The last two times we had new coaches no one left, but this is a different situation," junior safety Chris James said. "I think it will depend on who the new coach will be--on who Coach (Mal) Moore brings in."

Tight end Donald Clarke is one who could leave if he wished. But he's not going anywhere. "I hope no one leaves, but there are always possibilities of that," he said. "I'd hate to see that, especially with me being a senior. I'm not transferring."

While acknowledging the possibility, Charlie Peprah believes all the adversity will actually serve to keep the team together. "Are they going to take that option?" Peprah asked rhetorically. "It's gotten to the point where we've gone through too much to transfer. Of course some people might think this is the last straw, but I don't know anybody that's seriously talking about it."

Clarke is staying.

A native of Texas whose family only one generation back lived in the African nation of Ghana, Peprah might not seem like a dyed-in-the-wool Tide partisan. But look again.

"Every time something like this happens, you can't help but consider the option," Peprah said. "I've thought about it, but where am I going to go? That would be like losing another head coach. I signed with The University of Alabama. The people are great, and I'm not going anywhere."

Lance Taylor has a slightly different perspective. A transfer or two wouldn't surprise him, but in the end he believes the squad will be even stronger. "That question has been raised a lot," he admitted. "I believe there will be some that transfer--just because of the nature of the decision and the morale of the team. But the guys that came here and are committed to The University will stay. The people that really love this school and honestly care about Alabama and what our tradition is all about, those people will stay.

"In that sense it'll make us a stronger team, because it's going to separate the guys that really love the school from the ones that are just here."

Clint Johnston echoed Taylor's sentiments. "When I signed my scholarship, I signed to play for The University of Alabama. I signed on to play for everything this university has stood for. It's still the same place where guys like Barry Krause and Joe Namath and Johnny Musso played--the guys that made the tradition here so great. That's what I signed on to play for."

Mathis didn't sign to play for a given coach.

"I think that we've gone through too much as a team for anyone to leave," Johnston continued. "There have been rumors, but I think those are just guys that are feeding off the emotion right now. I haven't talked to anyone that has said they're going to transfer. I certainly am not. I don't think fans have anything to worry about."

As the nephew of former Alabama All-American Bob Baumhower, junior lineman Evan Mathis grew up steeped in Crimson Tide football. "I haven't heard from anybody about transferring, and I haven't thought myself about it--I haven't thought about it at all," Mathis said. "I hope that everybody will remember that they're here for this university. They're not here for the administration or who is on the sideline. They're here for Alabama.

"If we can get everybody to remember that and stay strong, then we'll be fine."

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