"People have asked us how good we will be, and again, I have not seen them on the field. But on paper, they look pretty good," said Bama head coach Mike Shula. Only after Shula said something like that; that it is one month before his first game and he has not seen his players play; does it occur to you how deep in trouble Alabama could be in this season.
A former Alabama player himself, Shula has spend the last few years in south Florida coaching for both Tampa Bay and Miami in the NFL. The challenge for Shula is that Alabama will be his first head coaching job, ever.
Some say that he got where he is today as a result of his last name.
"There are a lot of things that are going to be said about me because of my last name. What ever opportunity that you get, you have to make the most of it. I'd like to think that I got this job because of my credentials."
First things first for Shula, he must get the Tide ready for a daunting schedule that includes playing preseason number one Oklahoma. Considering that Shula has not seen any of his players in pads, the task seems overwhelming. He says that he plans on using some of what other coaching staffs have had in place at Alabama and then mix in his own game plan.
"We will take some of what was being done. These kids have worked hard on their own all summer. Offensively, we need to set our rotation for the receivers and get good depth at the offensive line. We are going to need for our guys to step up and play to their potential."
Shula is smart, quiet, and sort of unassuming. The crush that is the Alabama media contingent proves how important football is in this state. The media room had been pretty spacious in the first couple of sessions. But when Bama's new head coach come in a certain rush of energy hit the room, as well as a rush of television cameras.
But Shula's ‘Aw, shucks' personality will not win him games; his players will have to do that. And he said that his linebackers could help him do that.
"Our linebackers should be our strongest position. We have seniors returning and our backups will get quality playing time. We can't win a national title, but we can win football games," he said.
While SEC and national titles are out of the question in 2003, Shula says that he is happy to be back in Tuscaloosa as head coach.
"When I first started out, people asked me if I wanted to be the head coach and Alabama and I said ‘yeah'," Shula said. "I feel that I have unfinished business at Alabama. There are so many people at Bama with rings and I want one myself. I'd be lying if I said that I was used to this. If I don't get nervous, I should probably go and do something else."