Tide Builds Depth For Championships

Alabama defensive end Damion Square talked about the Crimson Tide returning great players. Bama tight end Michael Williams called quarterback AJ McCarron in 2011 "a plug-in." Both situations are the result of developing depth.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban told reporters at Southeastern Conference Media Days in Hoover Thursday that Bama has more work to do in replacing lost players than is usual. He said that a college team typically suffers 25 per cent attrition from one year to the next.

"That's an understatement for us," Saban said. "We lost 13 starters from our team last year."

Not just any players, either. Those were players on the national championship team, the second one Saban has produced at Alabama in the last three seasons. They included four first round NFL draft choices.

What Saban has been doing at Alabama in his five years has been building depth – a special kind of depth. Championship depth.

He said that his coach at Kent State, Don James, had a theory that an examination of the "bottom 40" on a team is the indicator of how good the team will be. Saban pointed out that if the bottom 40 is pretty good, it probably means that the guys on the top of the depth chart (though he didn't use that team) are probably very good.

Saban said depth is important "for when you have those bumps in the road" and a player needs to step up and fill in. The Tide coach said that sometimes a team will be lucky and not have an injury at a position where depth might be a question.

Obviously, though, it is important to develop depth rather than depend on luck. Particularly obvious for Alabama this year is the quarterback position, where A.J. McCarron is the returning starter and no other quarterback on the roster has taken a snap in a college football game.

On the other hand, many competing for starting jobs on defense this year played in clutch situations in 2011.

It is not just a matter of new men moving into a position, however. For instance, Saban said, Alabama might not be able to replace tailback Trent Richardson. He said Richardson was a great player who did not necessarily replace his predecessor, Mark Ingram. Sometimes, said Saban, you feature players in a different way and the result can be production that is equal to or greater than before.

Saban said that depth is built by players understanding their roles. That gives them the opportunity to earn playing time and experience. "When you have good depth, it is because those guys have been playing."

He said that this year's team includes a number of players who have played on the 2011 national championship team and even some who played on the 2009 national championship squad. Those players learned some of the pitfalls that resulted in the 2010 down year of a 10-3 season "as well as the things that work."

Beyond the 15 returning starters, there are 27 others returning who earned letters last season. That's the experienced depth.

The experienced players and some of those who have not yet lettered, in addition to talentd newcomers, will provide the depth of Alabama in 2012. The Saban resume suggests it could be championship depth.

BamaMag Top Stories