TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson had an interesting view of practices last season from the University of Alabama weight room.
After sustaining a knee injury in the season opener, his second since committing to the Crimson Tide in 2012, he was often seen working out and going through rehab in front of the facility’s numerous big windows that overlook the practice fields, where he could see what the defensive linemen were doing.
It wasn’t ideal, of course, but it did help the former heavyweight wrestling champion from the state of Georgia keep up with what was going on, both in terms of scheme and execution.
This is what he saw: “We just weren't aggressive off the ball.”
And now? “This year we're just more aggressive and firing out,” Tomlinson said. “I think we're going to get to the quarterback a lot more this year.”
Even though Alabama is still waiting for a couple of potential contributors to arrive on campus, particularly defensive end Da'Shawn Hand and linebacker Rashaan Evans, it’s already apparent that the defensive front seven have the potential to be outstanding just like the playmakers on offense.
Consequently, even with the quarterback position unsettled and the question marks in the young, talented secondary, there’s little reason to believe that the Crimson Tide won’t be hunting for another national championship.
For the most part, the schedule is considered favorable. Florida visits Tuscaloosa on Sept. 20, and Ole Miss and Tennessee are expected to be better. However, the only back-to-back road games are separated by a bye. Alabama visits LSU on Nov. 8, which along with Auburn is considered THE game this year for fans, but last season the Crimson Tide seemed to peak against the first of those two opponents.
Avoiding any sort of recurrence was a priority this spring, including constant reminders of how the 2013 team finished. Nick Saban also preached going “back to basics,” which meant a significant effort to rediscover the things that led to the 2009 national championship, the only one of his four title teams that finished undefeated.
“People are staying positive because any time you get negative, it's like one spoiled apple ruins the bunch,” junior wide receiver Amari Cooper said. “If you see one negative person a lot of people start to get negative, and that's not good for any time.”
While a perfect record may be a tall order, all indications are that Alabama will again go into the fall favored against every opponent. Oddsmakers have done so for 53 consecutive games, dating all the way back to the 2009 Southeastern Conference Championship Game against Florida, and already Alabama is considered a three-plus touchdown favorite against West Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome on Aug. 30.
However, since 2008 Alabama has always done one of two things: either lose a couple of games and finish in the bottom half of the top 10 in the national rankings, or win the national championship.
In terms of talent, there’s no doubt the Crimson Tide can contend, and numerous times the programs that have finished atop the recruiting rankings have gone on to play for the title within a couple of years.
|Top 5 recruiting classes (2008-2014)|
|Notre Dame||LSU||Florida||FSU||FSU||Ole Miss||LSU|
|Florida||Ohio St.||Texas||Texas||Texas||Florida||Ohio St.|
|Ohio State||USC||Auburn||LSU||Florida||Ohio St.||FSU|
|Miami||Texas||Alabama||USC||Ohio St.||Notre Dame||Texas A&M|
According to 247Sports, Alabama has failed to have the nation’s best recruiting class only once since 2008. The closest program during the past couple of years has been Florida State, the reigning national champion.
Based on that alone, one has to consider the Crimson Tide and Seminoles as having the best preseason chances to be part of the inaugural four-team playoff this year. That’s why the different vibe during Alabama’s spring was so important.
“I think we're more together as a team,” senior safety Nick Perry said. “I think we have a better understanding of our goal unlike last year. I think you learn more from losses than you do from wins. Sometimes you need to lose to learn. We definitely learned our lesson last year.”
Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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