TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama has been in this position three times during Nick Saban’s tenure.
Coming off a national championship, the Crimson Tide has had to face being the hunted and fight complacency. That didn’t work out in 2010 coming off the first national title run under Saban. That team, which many believe to be the most talented of Saban’s time in Tuscaloosa, lost three games.
The 2012 squad avoided the letdown and was able to repeat coming off the 2011 title. That group had a lot of holdovers who were young during the 2010 season and steered clear of that team’s missteps.
The 2013 group was not as fortunate in its pursuit of a three-peat. After starting the season 11-0, things collapsed on the final play at Auburn and carried over into the Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma.
“I think the key thing is is you have to stay focused on what you have to do technically with this particular team to make this team play as well as they’re capable of playing,” Saban said during an appearance on SportsCenter. “Lots of people have to have new roles on the team, whether it’s leadership, new positions, whatever it might be.
“There’s obviously gonna be some guys that are gonna get wonderful opportunities to compete, which maybe they didn’t have in the past. Bringing all these things together is the major challenge.”
That’s where Saban, Alabama’s coaching staff and the players find themselves with fall camp around the corner. Alabama won’t be able to play the “nobody respects us” card like they did coming off last year’s Ole Miss loss. Alabama likely will be favored in every single game this season.
“Complacency is always an issue, which creates a blatant disregard for doing what’s right with your players,” Saban said. “They have to stay focused on the challenges ahead and understand that we just become the target. When you just won then championship then everybody circles that game on their schedule and it’s a big game and you’re gonna get everybody’s best game, and you really have to prepare yourself to be ready for that.”
The players are scheduled to report back to campus on Aug. 3 with fall camp starting on Aug. 4. That’ll be the first time reporters and fans get a chance to look at the new team as they begin preparing for the season.
But the players have been working hard behind the scenes getting ready for August. Whether it’s lifting weights or doing 7-on-7 drills, there’s a ton that doesn’t get seen or talked about that ends up being important toward building a championship team.
That’s where the players create relationship and bond while the leaders have an opportunity to coach up the young guys with the coaching staff not around.
“I’ve seen a lot of hunger in this team,” Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen said during SEC Media Days. “The biggest thing at Alabama is that if you don’t have hunger then you’re not going to start this year. Coach Saban is not going to do anything that is a detriment to the team so you have to come with intensity every day and prove why you deserve to play. So I really haven’t seen any complacency so far this year.”
Alabama tight end O.J. Howard has seen similar things. Howard will be one of the offensive leaders this season. This year’s group isn’t resting on the reputation of last year’s championship.
“I think our team knows that’s last year,” Howard said during SEC Media Days. “This team hasn’t done anything yet. We’re a new team. We have to establish ourselves. Everyone is working hard and no one is complacent. New players have bought into ‘The Process’ already. The older guys are doing the right things. I think we’ll be fine this season.”