Bama's Great Wall Extends A Dynasty

Dynasty and the Great Wall conjure up the image of China but not for those mesmerized by the Alabama football program the past four years. The Ming Dynasty governed for nearly three centuries (1368-1644). Alabama's 42-14 conquering of top ranked and unbeaten Notre Dame on January 7 in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game compares favorably to the exploits of the famous ruling power in history.

Only one college football program can lay claim to the eight decade sequence of national championship success spread over the last ten beginning with the 1925 edition – Alabama.

Nick Saban is the fifth emperor presiding in Tuscaloosa, preceded by Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Paul Bryant and Gene Stallings.

Saban succeeded in winning an unprecedented third BCS National Championship in the last four years at one school.

Defenders attempting to invade the Alabama backfield this season were rebuffed by the Tide's mobile variation of the Great Wall – the offensive line. Spanning thousands of miles across the most populous country in the world, the fortified structure has a name to equal the colossal physical stature. The Tide's gridiron version trumpeted as college football's best by virtually every aficionado is named Cyrus Kouandjio (left tackle), Chance Warmack (left guard), Barrett Jones (center), Anthony Steen (right guard), and D.J. Fluker (right tackle).

The imperial palace guard commanding the offensive line is Assistant Coach Jeff Stoutland. Saturday at media day for the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship held at Sun Life Stadium, he used a single-word description of the individuals protecting the grandiose reputation of the Tide football program.

Left to right they are:

Kounandjio – Improved

Warmack – Dominator

Jones – Unique

Steen – Underrated

Fluker – Leader

Superior line play produces opportunities for the highly publicized skill players to be immortalized on the lips and in the hearts of the Alabama faithful. A respected four decade authority on the subject raved about the quintet's accomplishments after witnessing the trench emasculation of the Fighting Irish.

"It's probably the best, most experience and talented group that plays with a purpose, plays physical that I have seen," said Joe Pendry, former Alabama offensive line coach. Pendry was standing on the field of Sun Life Stadium Monday evening.

Pendry said, "They've grown together and played outstanding tonight."

Desire and cohesiveness are essential for an offensive line to succeed. The Tide linemen operate as one. In the locker room following the win over Notre Dame, Fluker said, "Our coach always tells us hungry dogs run faster. It always comes down to who wants it bad enough. Who is willing to take the shots for it. That's what Alabama does.We play hard for one another because we are a team. We are a unit."

The masterpiece performance by the group embodied all the tenants Nick Saban fanatically preaches - pride in performance, consistent effort, and mental toughness.

Protecting the quarterback allowed the Tide's A.J. McCarron to become the school's all-time leader in touchdown passes (49), achieve the single season record (30), throw the most touchdown passes in a bowl game (4) and win two BCS National Championship games as the starting signal caller.

Running backs Eddie Lacy (1,322) and T.J. Yeldon (1,108) will forever be recognized as the first Tide duo to rush for over 1,000 yards each in the same season. Both had over 100 yards against Notre Dame.

Jerry Rice clone Amari Cooper confounded defenses to eclipse the freshman records established by none other than Julio Jones – 59 receptions, 1,000 yards and 11 touchdown receptions. The latter is a school record regardless of class.

School team records falling include scoring over 500 points for the first time (542), most touchdowns and PATs in a season with 70 and 69 respectively. Total offensive yardage numbers reached new heights, surpassing 6,000 yards with a 529-yard performance against Notre Dame – 6,237 yards.

Alabama was paired against the preeminent Catholic institution in the world. The experience in Sun Life Stadium on Monday evening was religious for Bama fans, an exorcism of the heart-wrenching one and two point bowl losses in the 1973 Sugar Bowl (24-23) and 1975 Orange Bowl (13-11). Trophies are reserved for individuals and not awarded to the five members up front but the praise should be eternal for their contributions to the victory.

Stoutland said, "They all played for each other. The offensive line played for the defensive line. The receivers played for the defensive backs. It was one of those special games, for our team to come together at the end of the year and culminate the season. It really wasn't any one particular group at all, believe me. I'm telling you it was a team effort."

Pardon me Coach Stoutland if I suggest otherwise. Dethroning Alabama was hinged on the Notre Dame front seven penetrating the Tide's great wall to disrupt the offense. McCarron was not touched with force by any player wearing the blue and gold. Alabama center Jones gingerly pushed the animated quarterback during a spat over the snap count. Lacy and Yeldon frequently gained yardage as if they were capturing provinces, first down by first down. Cooper, Kevin Norwood, and other Tide receivers roamed the secondary without any defensive escorts. The Alabama offensive line facilitated those scenarios.

Amidst the celebration Monday evening on the field, the most decorated offensive lineman in school history stated the irrefutable truth.

"I think Alabama, it's hard not to say we're the best program in the country right now," said Barrett Jones, who has won three BCS National Championships as a starter at three different positions – right guard, left tackle and center. "We kind of have a little dynasty going. It's been fun to be a part of that."

A slight amendment to Jones's summation, usually the smartest person in the room, Alabama has the biggest dynasty in college football history. Currently, the Crimson Tide football program has created a mini-dynasty within a dynasty.

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