The Nick Saban Era
In 2006, none of the players on the Alabama roster were recruited by Saban while he coached at rival LSU. Not one. But when he arrived on campus in January 2007, he talked to them individually and let them know what it would take to make his team.
He assembled a high quality coaching staff with updated football philosophy. Saban established an educational program specifically for the players to instill a higher moral standard in life. In addition, he brought with him a highly developed 4th quarter off season training program that demands top physical conditioning.
Despite his efforts to change the character of the program and the athlete, in the midst of a successful start in 2006, a book scandal rocked the program. Off field issues with Shula's recruits continued to present themselves in the morning on front page news releases.
Saban started cleaning house.
Gone are the problem players such as Jimmy Johns, Prince Hall, Simeon Castille and others who for whatever reason could not stay focused on the task of playing football for the University. Scholarships were re-harvested and awarded to worthy athletes.
When you clean house, you sometimes find a few jewels that you thought had been lost or tossed out with the trash. When you throw out a few items you think you need but really don't, you realize you can get by with a little less and excel even more.
Saban has learned that Mike Shula had a few jewels that had become covered up by yesterdays trash. Some of this talent would have arrived at the Capstone no matter who was head coach. Some of these fine young men had a burning desire to play football for the University of Alabama.
Rashad Johnson was a glaring example of the opportunity Mike Shula was willing to give to young, determined athletes. A skinny runt out of Sulligent, Johnson got no respect from the big time programs in state or out.
Rashad Johnson, much like DeMeco Ryans knew what he could do if he were given the chance. He had a burning desire to play for the University of Alabama. Mike Shula gave him the opportunity to walk on, mature and develop his skills.
Other memorable athletes given that rare opportunity include Rudy Griffin, Wallace Gilberry, and superstar, Javier Arenas.
Through the process, Saban has rediscovered the talent Shula placed in the cupboard. He polished it up and put it on display in 2008. In addition, he got out on the recruiting trail and piled on exceptional skill players in two of the best recruiting classes put together for any program, bar none.
Drew Davis is the only player on the current roster from the 2004 signing class. Gone is classmate Brandon Fanney. A starter last season and exemplary player, Fanney will finish his career with the North Alabama team in Huntsville due to his lack of dedication in the classroom.
Dustin Drew Davis played high school football in the Alabama Independent School Association for Sparta Academy in Evergreen, Alabama. Davis started as an eighth grader on the defensive line. As a senior, Davis was an AISA All-State selection and was named AISA Lineman of the Year.
He is a simple man who came to the Capstone with a simple plan. To play football at the University of Alabama, to get an education and to do all of this with integrity and grit. He is the kind of player Saban would recruit if he were bigger, faster and stronger.
Lorenzo Washington of Logansville, GA originally signed with Davis to enter in 2004 but academics forced Washington into a detour at Hargrave Military Academy. Washington focused his mind and made the grades to get to the Capstone with the 2005 signing class.
In addition to Washington, the Class of 2005 includes many current starters and contributors.
Brandon Deaderick, Baron Huber, Michael Johnson, Cory Reamer, Chris Rogers, Ali Sharrief and Roy Upchurch have played pivotal roles in the success of the 2008 and 2009 seasons under Nick Saban.
Ali Sharrief and Cory Reamer are the only remaining members of the 2005 class from the state of Alabama.
Notable players from the state of Alabama in the 2005 class include Sam Burnthall, Charles Hoke, Scott Deaton, Evan Cardwell, Bobby Greenwood, Desmond Jennings, Chris Keys, Travis McCall, Michael Ricks and John Parker Wilson.
These players made their marks as best they could and have since moved on and into a new phase of life. A few of the notable names on this list were big contributors to the success of the 2008 season.
2008, Almost there
Last year's seniors ended their regular season tenure at the Capstone with the largest margin of victory against in-state rival Auburn since 1962. The first victory against the Tigers since the 2002 season was a bomb shell to the storied career of then Head Coach, Tommy Tuberville.
Their phenomenal undefeated regular season put Alabama back on the national map for programs headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, Florida would defeat the Tide in the SEC Championship Game.
A loss to the senior laden Utah Utes added salt that burned into the fresh wound in the heart of the boys from Alabama. A team put together by Urban Meyer and held intact by the talented head coach Kyle Whittingham put a beat down on the Bama team in New Orleans.
While still giving credit to the 2008 senior class, Saban used that defeat to pound home his message to the returners of the 2009 team. He finished his coaching season in February, by bringing in another stable of highly talented (but still raw) high school athletes to compliment the talent returning to the program.
In 2009: Be a Champion
Nick Saban's comments at his opening press conference as head coach of Alabama football is a statement about his own life. He is a champion and his process for success is a formula to develop champions on and off the field.
In 2009, the process has worked. Saban has blended together differing levels of talented student athletes into one of the finest football teams fielded by any university across the nation.
In the eyes of the Alabama fan base, it truly is a dream team. Quarterback Greg McElroy, for all his deficiencies pointed out by others, is an undefeated quarterback as a starter.
This undefeated streak dates back to his first start as a senior high school player. He is a champion in the state of Texas and has a SEC West Division championship.
Mark Ingram is the finest running back wearing the crimson jersey since the days of Bobby Humphrey and Shaun Alexander. He is an over-sized Shaud Williams with the power of LeRon McClain.
Julio Jones is explosive power, strength and speed at the wide receiver position. His presence on the field requires double coverage attention. Marquis Maze cannot be covered one on one. It's been tried and the attempts have been unsuccessful.
Earl Alexander and Mike McCoy are both deep threat options. Darius Hanks does not fear crossing the middle and will catch the ball at all cost.
The offensive line anchored by William Vlachos and led by seniors Mike Johnson and Drew Davis has exceeded all expectations. Juco transfer James Carpenter has stepped into the shoes of All American Andre Smith allowing the early departure of the left tackle to go unnoticed.
Tight End Colin Peek is a complete package for the position. He blocks and runs patterns to perfection. His soft hands and field awareness allow him to pose a threat on deep and short routes, alike. The Tide is three deep at this position using players with similar skills.
Defensively, The Crimson Tide is the best in the nation. The defensive line is immense, with a total weight of the front three exceeding 950 pounds of flesh, mostly lean. Personally, someone needs to check under the hood of Hummer, Terrance Cody. I think you might find a Hemi.
Linebackers Cory Reamer, Eryk Anders, Nico Johnson and Rolando McClain are the best second line of defense on any team in the SEC, and they can match-up with any offensive backfield in the country.
The defensive backs are extremely talented and battle tested. Nearly every team that has challenged the 2009 Alabama team has pointed to weakness in the secondary as their point of attack. None have been successful. Not to say that some have not had success, but the defensive backs have won the war on the field.
They have been tested by talented quarterbacks across the SEC. Mallet at Arkansas looked mediocre against the Crimson Tide. Garcia, Crompton (his best game of the year), Jefferson, and Snead have each given up interceptions to these fine defenders.
On special teams, Javier Arenas is the best that has ever played the returner position at the Capstone. His record setting touchdown against the UTC Mocs put the stamp on his productive career. Lord willing, in the next two games, opportunities will abound.
It's Time to Rumble in Jordan-Hare
That's right Auburn, this dream team is headed you way. On Friday, they plan to make a statement to the state and to the nation that Alabama football is back and that means domination. They don't just plan on winning. The plan is to dominate every facet of the game.
36-0 was a warm up. This team is better, faster and stronger than the 2008 version of the Crimson Tide. This team will bring a Tsunami into Jordan-Hare with the mission of avenging all prior losses. All prior fears of the hand and the thumb will be washed away.
Elephants have a very good memory and memories haunt unless they are redeemed. The Auburn nation has not been dignified during their reign as champion. The ruler on the plains was not a kind leader. The tiger is no longer king in the state.
The oppression was short lived. The Crimson Empire has returned. Dominance must be re-established. The majestic War Elephant is ready to stomp. Return of the rightful King will happen this Friday, in your house, nationally televised for the world to view in prime time.