'Bama fans before a game
It's been a quick three, almost four years for Alabama football. When Nick Saban was hired, the program was at an all-time low. Scholarship penalties and probation took their toll, there was a coaching carousel coming through T-town, and the Tide was on a six-game losing streak to arch-rival Auburn.
My, how things change. Alabama has returned to its place as a dominant powerhouse with a 2009 national championship and the program's first Heisman trophy.
Many fans are actually already considering the 2010 season a disappointment after 'Bama dropped games against South Carolina and LSU. A loss at the hands of No. 2 Auburn Friday would only add insult to injury for these fickle fans. Apparently many have forgotten that just a few years ago, getting the sixth win to become bowl eligible was a great accomplishment for 'Bama. Now it seems that any season that falls short of a BCS bowl, or even a national championship, is a bummer.
Indeed, Alabama has many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Here are five of them.
Few recruiters would have predicted that Mark Ingram, a four-star recruit who didn't generate a lot of hype out of high school, would win Alabama's first Heisman trophy. But ever since Mark stepped foot on the UA campus, he has worked hard, and the work translated to success.
Ingram rushed for 728 yards in 2008, with an average of 5.1 yards, 1658 yards in 2009, with an average of 6.1 yards, and has rushed for 780 yards with an average of 5.7 yards so far this season all the while sharing carries with blue-chip sophomore Trent Richardson.
Considering Ingram's shining character and good behavior off the field, it is no wonder that his hometown of Flint, Michigan wanted to name a section of highway after him.
Injuries and less running lanes prevented Ingram from threatening to win the Heisman again, but he has left a permanent mark in the storied history of Alabama football.
In 2007, Saban's first year as head coach, a beat-up and depleted Tide team suffered a humiliating loss at the hands of Lousiana-Monroe. The Tide has not lost a home game since.
When over 92,000 fans show up to watch a spring game, it shows evidence of a dedicated fan base. Now that Bryant-Denny stadium has been upgraded to hold 101,600 screaming fans at every game, playing at Alabama has become a nightmare for 'Bama's opponents.
Alabama's team is relying on Tide nation to be ready in full force in Friday's showdown with Auburn. Considering the Tigers have only played one tough road game all year, AU players might find being Rammer-Jammer'd at Bryant-Denny is a bit different from being welcomed by loving fans at Jordan-Hare.
Can anyone tell me what this is?
This one has been a hurt as well as a help, but the good far outweighs the bad. Ever since Nick Saban took over, T-town has been a center of national attention. ESPN constantly features the Tide, including televising the past two spring games.
As the Tide continues to make headlines in a big way, it hugely affects the decisions of top recruits in favor of Alabama.
There was even a movie made about Nick Saban, called "Gamechanger."
The attention may have affected Alabama this year on the practice field, so hopefully the Tide will have more peace and quiet this offseason, and not always be hearing the buzz about being able to repeat.
If you watched the above video you saw redshirt freshman RB Eddie Lacy weave his way to the end zone for a touchdown against Georgia State. Lacy is good enough to start for most teams in the nation. He is third-string at Alabama.
In 2007 against LSU, the Tide was forced to give significant playing time to walk-on Jonathan Lowe. Lowe actually turned out to be pretty good, but the point remains. Now, the cupboards are stocked with top recruits.
What keeps the recruits coming to Alabama, where they most likely have to wait for playing time, when they could start from day one at other schools? Last year, five-star quarterback Phillip Sims signed with Alabama, where he will have to work hard and earn snaps from A.J. McCarron, when he could have taken over the QB position at just about any school in the country and starred early.
Nick Saban, in my opinion, is the best recruiter in the nation, and as long as he's around Alabama will have plenty of depth.
Love him or hate him, you have to admit Nick Saban knows football, and that he knows how to win. He has a very hands-on, and, um, intense, coaching style. Nick Saban is also someone you want guiding your team when the game is on the line. Throw in his outstanding skill as a recruiter and you've got the total package as a coach.
A real test for Saban approaches Friday, and it will be interesting to see how Saban's renowned ability as a defensive coach matches up against the Auburn offense, which has been a nightmare to defend.
Nick Saban has restored everything that the Alabama program has missed since the retirement of the Bear, and even if Saban bolts for an NFL job, Tide fans should remain grateful.