"We've practiced harder than we did last year," King continued. "I think we'll have less mistakes this year than last year--last year a lot of mistakes killed us. We'll just be more consistent."
Senior wideout Jason McAddley remembers last season's opener very well, and he sees the tables being turned. "I think UCLA may come in here underestimating us," he explained. "We've got a new coach, and we didn't have a good season last year. But we still have a lot of talent here. We're going to come back hungry. We're going to be ready. We're going to make things happen."
For a lot of reasons, McAddley likes the Tide's chances. "I'm confident coming into this Saturday that we'll have a great chance of winning. We're going to be at home. They're not going to be used to our weather. It's going to be humid. It's going to be a great atmosphere. I know the stadium will be sold out. Plus there will be close to 90,000 total here with ESPN Game Day being here. It's going to be a great atmosphere and a good game."
McAddley also believes Bama will field a different team this time around, and it begins with a new attitude on defense. "It's going to be physical," he said firmly. "We've got a tenacious defense now. In talking to the defensive players, they say they like Coach Torbush (the Tide's Defensive Coordinator) a lot. They like the defense more this year than last year. I see them every day going against them. It'll be a lot different defense than last year. I think we'll be a more physical team.
"On offense they should see a mistake-free effort. Turnovers really hurt us last year.
"And special teams will be totally different. This staff puts so much emphasis on special teams. Some coaches worry about offense and defense and special teams is last. This staff says that if you get tired from playing on special teams, then you take an offensive play off--or defense. But don't take plays off on special teams. That's how serious it is to them."
McAddley concludes; "We'll be a well-rounded team. We're going to play ‘balls out.' We're going to give great effort. That's something that Coach Fran is really big on. I just think it'll be a good game."
Though neither of them played in the contest, both Wesley Britt and Justin Smiley made the trip to California and dressed for the game. Of course as new twin starters on the ‘weak' side of the Bama line, the two redshirt freshman epitomize one change from then to now. But Britt echoes the idea that the Bruins will be facing players with an entirely different attitude. "I think you'll see it in the fourth quarter," he stated. "We'll bring the fight to them. We're going to go out there and play full speed the whole game."
Smiley agreed; "I think they'll be surprised by how physical we are. Last year they said in the papers that we weren't overrated, but they were just better than us. They deserved to be No. 2 or No. 1. They know that we're going to be physical, but I don't think they know to what degree we're going to get after them. I think we're going to get them back on their heels."
Though he never played during last year's terrible 3-8 campaign, Smiley practiced hard every week and stood ready in full uniform beside his teammates as the former coaches vacillated back and forth on whether or not he should play.
And he's frankly not sure the Bruins will recognize the Alabama sideline this Saturday. "I think we're going to bring more of a family atmosphere to the game," Smiley said. "You'll see a more enthused sideline. Everybody is going to be into the game more. I think last year we were a little flat coming out.
"We'll be a more physical, a more relentless team," he concluded. "We're going to get after them."
As the only returning starter for Alabama on the offensive line, Strong Tackle Dante Ellington has seen great improvement in the team's strength. "I think we have that attitude of being physical this year," he explained. "We're going to bring it from the start of the ball game till the end.
"I think we developed that attitude over the course of the spring and summer work. And it carried over into two-a-days. I think most of all the physical aspect will be a lot better for Alabama."
And what is going to happen Saturday night that UCLA didn't see last year? "I think they're going to be surprised by us getting after the ball more," Ellington replied. "They'll see our defense moving around a lot more. Last year from what I saw the defense was kind of flat-footed. They didn't move, didn't fly to the ball like they should have. They need to get after DeShaun Foster (the Bruin starting tailback who ran for 187 yards and three touchdowns versus the Tide last year).
"But it's going to be a different team this time."
It was his hit early in the game that sidelined Bruin starting quarterback Cory Paus, so starting left tackle Jarret Johnson has been the target of some California trash talk this week. He admits the tackle in question might have been "a step after the whistle," but laughs off the notion that he might be some sort of target in Saturday's game. "I play up front, so I'll be in the middle of everything."
While acknowledging the outstanding offensive talent that UCLA will bring to Tuscaloosa, mark Johnson down as another player predicting an entirely different ball game. "I think UCLA may be surprised by our different style of football--about how we're going to be flying around and hitting people. Last year if (the coaches) had counted the LOEs (Lack of Efforts) there would have been maybe 30. That's going to be the difference.
And the Florida native also believes the problems that led to Bama's disastrous record have been solved. "I think we're a more humble and more disciplined football team," Johnson said. "We'll have a coaching staff that will be on the same page like (the previous coaches) were in '99. That staff was on the same page--and then they lost it. This staff is on the same page."
Johnson summed it up; "We'll be a prepared football team. That's the main thing. This year we'll be ready to play."