There are dozens of quotations attributed to former Alabama Coach Paul Bryant that he almost certainly did not say. That’s part of being a legend. He may or may not have been the first to say, “It’s not the will to win that matters. Everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.” Original or not, it reflected his belief, and the belief of all successful coaches.
Alabama football teams under Nick Saban have been much like the teams of Paul Bryant, which counts in great part for their success. It has not been easy to play for the Crimson Tide under coaches like Bryant and Saban, but the rewards have been substantial for those players willing to pay the price.
Alabama has played only two games this year, but Saban already has a feel for the personality of this squad. That isn’t necessarily because of those victories over Wisconsin and Middle Tennessee, and those wins aren’t why the Crimson Tide is ranked second in the nation. Bama has the advantage of a reputation – a deserved reputation – for being a tough team and a good team year after year under Saban.
This week Alabama will have its toughest test of the season, hosting 11th-ranked Ole Miss, also 2-0. The Southeastern Conference opener for both teams begins at 8:15 .m. CDT Saturday with ESPN televising the game.
One reason Saban has a feel for the personality of this year’s team has little to do with those games. A Saban team is defined by what it does in its off-season work and in practices.
“I like the personality of this team,” Saban said. “I think we’ve played physical and the players have given good effort. We haven't always executed with the consistency that we'd like, but we've done a lot of good things and certainly want to build on those things.
“We can improve, and that's what we're focused on. We can get better.
“Adaptability is important because it's all about playing different styles and being able to execute effectively against whatever style you play against.”
Saban has noted that every team is different and that every team has to establish its own identity. He doesn’t have a complete grasp of what that identity will be for the 2015 team yet.
“I think the identity of your team is something that you develop over time,” he said. “It's always under construction. You want to continue to build on it every week and how you play week in and week out, I think, at the end, people remember that team based on that identity.
“I think we're doing everything we can to get our team to play the best we possibly can against a very, very good team. We're going to continue to try to progress throughout the course of the season.
“Resiliency in our league and our division has been very important, and I think the teams that continue to improve have the best chance to be successful in the long run. We're trying to do everything we can to play the best we can in this game and continue to improve in the future.”
With Alabama playing this week against what Saban was the toughest opponent to date, he said, “We’ve had a good week of preparation. I really like the way the players have approached this week. We talked earlier in the week about how everybody needs to focus on what they need to do to play better, to get better and to focus on what they had to do that day at that time and in that course of the week so that they can focus on playing better and improving fundamental execution, which is really what leads to better execution. Poor fundamental technique leads to poor outcomes.”