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How is Nick Saban going to motivate the 2013 Alabama team?

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Motivation is what Alabama head coach Nick Saban thrives on. It’s how he’s built his modern day dynasty in Tuscaloosa, a dynasty that is winners of three of the last four national championships. Think about that for a minute.

The Tide are looking to reload and make yet another return to the title, led by a veteran offense and one of the most talented rosters – player-for-player – in the country. Perhaps it’s the most talented?

But Alabama pulling off a trifecta – three-peat – is not a matter of talent or playmakers; it’s not a matter of having the right coaching staff, and it’s not a matter of strength of schedule. The Tide clearly have all the physical components of another crown.

Rather, Saban’s main obstacle looms between the ears of a team that knows it’s a dynasty, a team and program that has been lauded for the last four months.

How is he going to motivate a team that has won two straight national championships? Can Saban find what makes his team tick in 2013?

Coming off the Tide’s 2009 championship team, a more talented and veteran-filled roster returned in 2010 looking for back-to-back crowns. But despite all the talent and an NFL-filled roster, Alabama failed to make a championship run. Why? Because the Tide boasted individual players and never could accomplish the ‘team’ aspect of winning. The lack of leadership sunk the ship, ultimately leading to a three-loss season.

AJ McCarronAlabama faced similar circumstances coming off 2011’s national championship run, but Barrett Jones and Nico Johnson, among others, held the team together with veteran leadership and helped motivate a younger roster and encourage six new starters on defense to elevate their play, ultimately leading to another championship.

Saban also used the 2009-2010 seasons as a warning and motivating factor for the 2012 team. The warning was heeded, and the result was back-to-back titles, prompting a dominant 42-14 beat down over lame-duck Notre Dame.

But Saban has never faced back-to-back championship teams looking for a three-peat, and motivation will be a primary obstacle. Incoming recruits, freshmen and sophomores woke up on third base, not knowing how they got there. That’s what it’s like. Young players who have never played meaningful minutes for the Tide are wearing two championship rings.

Thankfully Alabama has a veteran quarterback who has leadership skills arguably north of anyone in college football. AJ McCarron isn’t the most talented quarterback in the country – he’ll gladly tell you he’s not, but when the game is on the line on the country’s biggest stage, McCarron wants the ball. And Alabama trusts him with the ball. McCarron will go down as Alabama’s best quarterback ever.

Would Saban joke around with any other current player like McCarron? I don’t think so. This video is a unique look into the human side of Saban that most don’t get to see, and the comfort level he has with his star quarterback.

The Tide have a first-round talent at linebacker in CJ Mosley, who is returning for his senior season. Mosley will help oversee a defense that lost five starters, including top-five talent Dee Milliner and three defensive linemen. Mosley assumes the leadership role on defense. He’ll be key, like Johnson was in 2012, in helping drive younger players to heighten their level of play.

Exiting spring, Saban says the Tide ‘aren’t where they need to be yet’. That’s not surprising for a coach like Saban to tell you his program hasn’t accomplished everything he’d like, even after championships and becoming one of the country’s biggest NFL factories, via AL.

“I wasn’t happy with any of those teams at this point,” Saban said. “If I was happy with them, we wouldn’t have summer conditioning, we would not have fall camp, we wouldn’t have 30 practices to get ready for our first game against Virginia Tech. We’d just pack it in and say, ‘All right, let’s go to Atlanta and play the game.’ We’re not there yet.

“I’m not disappointed in where we are right now. I don’t want anybody to think that. But I’m not satisfied with where we are either. We have a high standard of what we want to do.”

That high standard has set multiple goals, with roads ultimately leading to three championships in a row, and for Saban, it’s ‘simple’ really.

“It’s going to come down to our ability to make progress in that area, to become a disciplined team that has the mental and physical toughness to dominate the competition every play in the game for 60 minutes in the game,” he said. “It’s very simple.”

Mental and physical toughness and the response, want-to and desire to get better with spring in the rearview all boils down to one word: motivation.

The Crimson Tide enter uncharted waters in 2013, but then again, a modern day dynasty with so much parity in college football is already sailing in foreign waters.

Photo Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports





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Comments 3

  1. Here’s my take on the Alabama A-Day game:

    Most concerns, heading into Spring camp, revolved around Alabama’s secondary and reloading the Offensive line. To reiterate from an earlier post, replacing Dee Milliner, Barrett Jones, DJ Fluker, and Chance Warmack is no easy task. But I was very impressed with the new O-line on Saturday. Their run blocking was consistent, and they’re pass pro held up just fine (just to be clear, the 1st-string O-line was having to block the 1st-string D-line and LB’s). Deion Belue, in my opinion, was the star of the day. He seems so much more improved since last season, and his experience and leadership is vital to the success of Bama’s pass coverage (also keep in mind that Belue had to cover Amari Cooper all day). Cyrus Jones, who played opposite of Belue, also had an impressive day. He gave up an early TD to Kenny Bell (Jonathan Banks gave up an uglier TD to Kenny Bell last season btw), but was able to regroup and finish the day strong. Jones is shorter than the Bama CB’s we’ve seen in the past, but his athleticism and speed make up for his 5’10″ stature. The safety play was tremendous throughout the day, which is a very good sign heading into the summer. Vinnie Sunseri looks faster, Landon Collins and HaHa Clinton-Dix are physical nightmares, and Nick Perry (who’s had to be relied on in the past) came away from the game with two INT’s. TJ Yeldon had a great day, as well. What’s most impressive is his ability to catch the ball coming out of the backfield. With Bama’s WR corps being so talented, Yeldon’s catching ability just adds on to the many issues plaguing the dreams of defensive coordinators.

    Now it wouldn’t be fair to only mention the praises of the day, without being a realist. One word you could use to describe A-Day would be “sloppy.” There were 9 turnovers committed during the game, which is definitely not a characteristic of a Saban-coached team. Although there were 9 QB’s listed on Alabama’s roster, most of them only proved that they are too young and inexperienced to be counted on this Fall. If AJ goes down with an injury, Alec Morris or Blake Sims will have to do, and they’re both still far from being ready. But the biggest issue I had with the game was the lack of discipline shown from both sides of the ball. It just didn’t feel right. But I can understand that it could be the result of many factors – talent all over the field, new players, hurt players, complex schemes, kids that are still suppose to be in high school, big game atmosphere. And even though the Crimson Tide looked sloppy, I am confident that fans will see a much more improved product in Atlanta on August 31st. I thought the defense won the day (which is a surprise), but the offense still showed signs of being really, really good. It’ll be interesting to see a healthy Alabama squad come August that includes CJ Moseley, Trey DePriest, Jalston Fowler, John Fulton, Derrick Henry, and Kevin Norwood. My final conclusion: Alabama looked pretty sloppy, but they also looked very talented, and Talent + Nick Saban = Success

    • Well said. I agree about the secondary – that’s the area I was somewhat unsure of going into the game, but I was impressed. Cyrus Jones, although a little rough around the edges and still adjusting to a new position, got better as the game went on. I think he has a good future at corner. I was likewise impressed with Deion Belue. The group of safeties we have this year is fantastic. I feel much better about the secondary overall, as I know fall camp will really fine tune their play. It’ll be interesting to see all of the guys who are coming back from injuries plugged in as well. The use of TJ Yeldon as a checkdown-type receiver out of the backfield really makes me happy, because I know that opposing defenses have heard all about the crazy receiving corps we have this year, so having that option in Yeldon to move the ball while the receivers are covered will be a great tool. I would expect Derrick Henry and O.J. Howard to play into the checkdown as well. Combine all of that with an elite, veteran quarterback and a solid rotation of halfbacks, and there you have it. Like the article said, motivation is the key, and I certainly agree. I hope that the leadership on the team can impart the same sense of urgency that the team had most of last season. One more quick note, I also thought the o-line did a great job of run blocking and pass protecting at times Saturday as well. A good example was all the time AJ had to find Kenny Bell on the long pass before the first touchdown. Also, happy to see Kenny back healthy. He looks as good as ever. Overall, while there was some sloppiness Saturday, I feel I saw what I needed to see (relative to the injuries anyway).

      • I agree with your comment about the Offensive Line. There were times on Saturday which proved they are capable of fulfilling the duties left behind by Jones, Warmack, and Fluker. The key for them is to gel as a group, and continue to be pushed and motivated by guys like Leon Brown, Alphonse Taylor, Anthony Orr, etc.