Alabama Crimson Tide 2009 Preview
With the '09 season of college football fast approaching, it's time for a little preview of what to expect.
We're going to take a look at some players that either have high expectations this year coming in, or that did well last year and have to raise the bar.
We're also going to take a look at some of the coaching staff to see who is going to be under the most pressure, and who will have the most to prove.
The stakes were definitely raised after last season.
No one, not even Alabama fans, expected the Tide to go undefeated in the regular season last year. This was done, let's face it, without the best talent that could've been found in the country.
That's not to say that the players who are now gone were not talented—just that there were more talented teams out there that couldn't win all 12 games.
Now that Nick Saban has shown what he can do with a little talent, fans expect him to be able to bring home a national championship trophy every year with the recruits that he is starting to bring in.
The expectations haven't been this high since a guy by the name of Paul "Bear" Bryant walked the sidelines. The scary thing for the rest of the country is that with a name like Saban at Alabama, the Tide are going to be in the conversation again, and not as a joke.
Luckily enough, Saban has been in this kind of environment before and can handle the pressure that comes with winning or losing.
Coaches With the Most to Prove
Obviously, the one coach that has the most to prove is the head coach, Nick Saban.
Not only does he have to prove to the fans that the $4 million a year he's getting isn't a waste, but now he also has to prove that last year wasn't a fluke.
He is the one who will get the praise when all goes well, but he is also the first one that will get the criticism from alumni and fans when he doesn't lead Alabama to another 12-0 start.
Jim McElwin is another coach that has a few things to prove. He's going to have to take a first-year starter in Greg McElroy and help mold him into a leader on this team.
McElwin's going to have to make it an easy transition for the new quarterback, so that he doesn't look like an idiot for sticking with the wrong quarterback with Star Jackson waiting patiently in the background.
Curt Cignatti has proven this year that he is worth the money, at least for now, by helping Saban reel in another top recruiting class.
He has a lot of pressure on him from fans as well as the head ball coach. Saban is an avid recruiter who works 365 days a year on it. Cignatti might be the one with the most pressure on him out of the bunch.
Players with the Highest Expectations
After having a stellar freshman season, Julio Jones has the loftiest expectations. He set a freshman record for receiving yards and literally carried the team down the stretch to an SEC championship appearance.
Several different times during the season, it took two or three defenders just to take him to the turf. He is going to be counted on even more this year, with a first-time starter at quarterback who is going to need to find a good go-to man.
Some others that are going to have some high expectations are Terrence Cody, Rolando McClain, and Dont'a Hightower. These three helped anchor the third-best overall defense in all the land.
Cody and McClain are on the preseason All-American list, and Hightower is good enough to be mentioned on that list as well.
Most of the defense has returned this year to lend a helping hand, but all eyes are going to be on these three as they try to stop opposing offenses again.
Terry Grant now has a lot expected of him after spring training. Grant hasn't been mentioned much since his freshman year, when he was the starter and got the bulk of the workload.
Since then, names like Mark Ingram, Roy Upchurch, Glen Coffee, and now Trent Richardson have been passing him. That is, until spring training and the A-Day game.
Grant decided to really push himself to try to get back into the rotation, instead of just getting to play cleanup at the end of a blowout. The coaching staff was impressed by the progress that he made, and he could see considerably more playing time.
Now that he has worked harder, the coaches are going to expect him to play at a higher level all of the time.
Alabama fans are ready for their team to return to greatness, and I think that they've finally made it there.
This isn't one of those cases where they had a lucky year and will be back to barely getting seven wins this season.
With the recruits that Saban and his staff are bringing in on an annual basis, if we don't win the national championship this year, I can say with confidence that we will next year. There is way too much talent pouring into Tuscaloosa for them not to.