Stuart McNair

Dalvin Tomlinson sees how Alabama has built championship culture

Alabama will meet Washington in College Football Playoff semifinal

Defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson is part of an Alabama senior class that has a record of 50-5 with three Southeastern Conference championships and a national title and is ranked No. 1 as Bama begins play in the College Football Playoff. As such, Tomlinson was given the opportunity to discuss whether it is more difficult to build a championship culture or to maintain it.

Tomlinson, a 6-3, 307-pounder, might be more comfortable in a pass rush situation than in a philosophical discusssion, but handled the question with the ease he shucks offensive linemen

“I’d say a little bit of both,” Tomlinson said. “Building it is hard work. You have to push yourself day-in and day-out. You have to push yourself to get to that level of a championship team.

“To maintain it takes the same level of work, but you also have that bullseye on your back all season, so maybe you have to work harder every week so that you don’t fall off.”

The next team with its eye on the bullseye on Bama’s back is Washington. Alabama (13-0) will take on No. 4 seed Washington )12-1) in the Peach Bowl in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta at 3 p.m. EST (2 p.m. central time) Saturday.

Tomlinson was among Alabama players discussing this year’s game Tuesday.

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He gave some insight into how hands-on Alabama Coach Nick Saban is during games. Tomlinson said he doesn’t know how Saban does it, but he manages to watch all 11 players on every play, and notices mistakes. The Tide senior recalled a situation in 2015 when the Bama defense was up against an opponent in the Red Zone. The play went away from Tomlinson and was stopped for a loss, but when Tomlinson got to the sideline Saban was waiting for him.

“I got cut out of my gap,” Tomlinson said. The coach had seen it “and stayed on me for what seemed like the whole quarter.”

It has been a long time since Alabama qualified for the CFP with its SEC Championship Game victory over Florida (54-16). Tomlinson said, “We’re looking forward to playing in the playoff-off game. We’ve been practicing hard. Lookling forward, happy the game is this week.”

He knows a lot about Washington, and particularly Huskies quarterback Jake Browning. He called Washington “very explosive.” As for the offensive linemen he’ll be going up against, Tomlinson said the Huskies are “faster than most offensive linemen we have gone against this year. Just a very explosive offense.”

Browning, the sophomore quarterback of the Huskies, “is a great quarterback, has a great arm,” said Tomlinson. “We have to worry about containing him in the pocket and collapsing the pocket as fast as possible.

“Over this season he’s progressed. You want to watch his film towards the end of the season. He’s been getting better throughout the season. He’s got a great arm. He’s a very accurate thrower. You have to be aware that you have to effect him.”

Back to philosophy:

How do you keep the focus year-after-year?

“Sometimes it’s natural to start to let down a little bit, but you have teammates who know the Alabama standard. We have to push each other just like Coach Saban wants to push us in practice – on and off the field. It’s everyone’s job to make sure we’re focused and ready for the game.

 “We have to motivate each other. For instance, you may see someone walking off the field and you have to get on them, tell them to jog off the field, because that’s the standard we have at Alabama. Throughout play, you have to hustle to the ball and you have to make others hustle to the ball. Sometimes in practice we have a little competition to see who can get to the ball first, have a race.”

Tomlinson said that practice  “race” could transfer to the game, but, he said, it’s one for all and all for one.

 “You have a mindset that it’s for the team,” Tomnlinson said. “You have to take it out of yourself and play for the team. Playing for a team like this, if you’re going to play for a championship team, it can”t always be about you. If I know I’m not going to get the sack, I have to get my hands up when the quarterback throws the ball and hope to bat it down, or maybe bat it where one of my teammates can intercept it and return it for a touchdown. You can’t be selfish in games like this. If you want to win championships, you have to be out of yourself and into the team.”

One known is that Alabama has a lot of good players. There’s a reason recruiting rivals travel with an Alabama depth chart (usually enhanced by the rival). But there is no denying that Alabama has many good players at almost every position. Tomlinson was asked if that was frustrating or motivation.

 “In most cases I’d say it would be frustrating, but in my case I found it motivating,” he said. “My teammates always pushed me to get better. No one was in it for himself. As I said, in a defense like this you have to take it out of yourself. You can’t be selfish on this defense. You always have to motivate the person next to you to get better while you are working to make yourself better.”

When Paul “Bear” Bryant played at Alabama he was known as “the other end” to the great Don Hutson. Does Tomlinson ever feel like “the other end” on Alabama’s defense with Jon Allen getting so much attention.
Laughing, Tomlinson said, “I guess you could say that. When Jon gets praise, it shows praise to the whole team. I’m pleased I’ve had the opportunity to play beside him and hope I’ve helped him get better as he has helped me.”

And, Tomlinson said, the Alabama defensive linemen are friends off the field as weell as teammates on the field.

Alabama is almost always the favorite to win a game, which has been the case all thi,s year and continues in the Peach Bowl. And yet, no one on the Tide team seems to be looking past Washington, to a national championship game against either Clemson or Ohio State.

 “It’s just noise,” Tomlinson said. “We try to not listen to most of the media, simply because we don’t want to get distracted like we did a couple of years ago. Washington is a great team and it’s the next game. We want to be 1-0 in every week we play. We can’t look ahead or it won’t end up very well for us.”

And Tomlinson recognizes that Washington is trying to portray itself as the underdog. “I think maybe they are trying to fly under the radar and make us…get big-headed and then make more mental mistakes on the field. We have to stay level-headed and go to practice every day like we are the underdogs and practice hard every day like we do the whole season.”

That bullseye on the back is a real feel for Alabama players.

Tomlinson said, “When a game – every game – starts, everyone on the other side brings their best game, their A game. We have to be ready for that. You have to have the mindset to go out there and dominate the person in front of you. If you don’t, it’s going to be a long game. We go out on defense and try to hit the offense as much as possible, knock their momentum down, and take control of the game.”

Can you tell when that happens?

“Pretty much, we can.”

Tomlinson is aware of the great speed on the Alabama defense.

 “The speed this year is amazing, better than in past years,” he said. “We have a lot of ball-hawkers, guys trying to race to the ball, because pretty much between us it is a race. You know someone’s going to get there and it’s a matter of who’s going to be first.”
And sometimes you think you’re going to …

“And someone runs by you and gets there first. Yeah. It’s crazy.

96 Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE “You have a mindset that it’s for the team. You have to take it out of yourself and play for the team. Playing for a team like this, if you’re going to play for a championship team, it can”t always be about you. If I know I’m not going to get the sack, I have to get my hands up when the quarterback throws the ball and hope to bat it down, or maybe bat it where one of my teammates can intercept it and return it for a touchdown. You can’t be selfish in games like this. If you want to win championships, you have to be out of yourself and into the team.”    


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