Alabama Coach Nick Saban, who has had more success than anyone in the college coaching business today, doesn’t tease with bromides. Anyone who doesn’t have great respect for his process demonstrates a lack of understanding.
It is easy to believe Saban when he says that the challenge for the 2014 Crimson Tide is to “resurrect our identity, in terms of what we want Alabama football to be.”
Where he wants Alabama to be, of course, is back in the national championship picture. After winning three BCS titles in four years, the Crimson Tide fell off to an 11-2 record with no championships last season. A team that was number one in the nation throughout the season lost its last two games.
The latest in the year-long process was the start of fall camp on Friday. The team was back at practice Saturday afternoon and will have an open practice at Bryant-Denny Stadium Sunday. (The practice begins at 2:30 and will be followed by an autograph session starting at 4:30).
Alabama will open the season on Aug. 30 against West Virginia at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
To say that fall camp is part of the process is to understand when Saban says “I think it's important for players to understand the time is now. Everything you do all year long -- offseason program, spring practice, from conditioning to running the stadium steps -- is for the preparation of the next four or five months.”
Saban said he is “very confident” Bama has the players to “resurrect the identity” of Tide football.
“But,” he said, “I also think it's up to them to buy into what they need to do to be all they can be in terms of their preparation, their performance, the mind-set that they have to have discipline to the process of what you need to do to be successful. I'm talking about intangibles now. I'm talking about giving effort, finishing plays, mental and physical toughness.”
So what happened last season?
“Things that I thought started to show up a little bit that were not necessarily beneficial to our success,” Saban said.
“We want to be a team, and we want the identity of our team to include 'we,' which means all players are together, take care of each other, and take responsibility for representing The University and the program and themselves and their families in a first-class way.”
On at least one front, things started well as Saban said the players reported in good shape after the summer conditioning program.
“We just need to work on the mind-set of finish, mental toughness, perseverance in difficult times,” Saban said.
That’s something you can believe in.