Newton’s contention was that some parts of the game are more about “want to” than anything else.
Everyone in the Alabama football camp wants the Crimson Tide to be more effective this year than it was last year. There has been some talk about the need to change personnel to fit the spread offenses as Bama tries to increase takeaways, decrease big plays, and become more efficient on third down plays.
A good recipe for defensive success is having a former Scout.com five-star defensive end like Jonathan Allen who has had the motivation to make himself better. The 6-3, 283-pound defensive end was a good back-up player in his freshman year in 2013. Last year he was All-SEC as one-third of his 33 tackles were behind the line of scrimmage, including being in on six sacks.
Alabama’s most effective offensive line last year was with Allen and Jarran Reed at ends and flanking nose tackle A'Shawn Robinson. The three of them have discussed the need for a better pass rush. Allen was asked about that meant a change in technique, but that’s not what he talked about.
“I’ve just been trying to improve my intensity and effort and my get-up off the ball,” he said.
Allen added, “I feel like I’ve done a really good job of doing that. It’s a process, and you have to keep pushing every day.
“There are a lot of factors from last year that motivate us, but like we all say, this is a new team, so we're trying to focus on what we can do to affect our future right now. We're just taking it one day at a time."
Allen sees his role (and that of the defensive line) as important in Bama making those defensive improvements in causing turnovers and limiting big plays. "It's definitely everybody,” he said. “If we get more pressure on the quarterback, it'll be harder for him to get off those long passes and vice versa, if the secondary helps us fill the gaps more, it'll help us contain the big runs. We just have to work together as a unit and give great effort to the ball, 11 hats to the ball every time a tackle is being made."
For Allen, he said, that means “Just being a little more physical, getting off the ball, just little stuff like that. Just progressively getting better at what I was already doing. It's just tweaking a few things here and there and being more consistent."
Even something he did well last year, such as pass rushing, he wants to make better. He said, "I wouldn't say it was a problem. I feel like we did a pretty good job at it. It just is something we have to work on and get better. We can be a lot better, but I wouldn't say it was an issue last year."
Alabama has been in fall camp barely a week and Allen said, “I feel like I've been doing pretty good, getting back to normal, getting into the routine and swing of things. I feel like I'm progressing."
A big part of camp, he said, has been work on tackling technique. “It’s big in today’s game, especially with the quicker backs that we play,” he said. “You really have to focus on your technique. We practice it every day. I feel like we’re doing a good job.”
An issue with tackling is safety for both offensive and defensive players, he said. "You never want to go out there and hurt yourself or hurt someone else,” he said. “That definitely is an emphasis we put on it. But if you use the proper technique, you won't get hurt."
Alabama had its first two-a-day Wednesday and will have another on Thursday. Allen said between practices his routine is "Eating, rehab, cold tub definitely, hot tub before practice. If you're having trouble with the playbook, going over the plays and meeting with coaches. There are just a lot of little things you can always be working on when you're not on the field."
Alabama does not play a football game until Sept. 5, when the Crimson Tide takes on Wisconsin at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Does that seem a long time away for Allen and his teammates practicing in hot, humid August weather?
"Not at all,” he said. “Right around the corner. I feel like we just played Ohio State. I feel like we just got out of last season. Football season is coming quickly and I couldn't be more excited for it."