Alabama Football: 11 New Year's Resolutions for the Tide in 2011
Any new year brings about resolutions that are usually forgotten or ignored about three weeks into that new daily planner your kids got you for Christmas.
In 2011, the Alabama Crimson Tide should point to several resolutions that will, once again, bring championship hardware to Tuscaloosa come early 2012.
Some of these resolutions pertain to off the field issues, but they still need to be addressed.
This slideshow looks at 11 resolutions the Tide team and a couple for the fans that we should share for 2011.
Resolution No. 11: Stay Away from Agents
In 2009, it was Julio and Mark.
In 2010, it was Marcell.
That led to CNS calling for a moratorium on sports agents being around his players before they announced for the NFL.
All of this was a huge distraction (although arguably not as much in 2009) for the team and the fans.
Until the NCAA comes up with legitimate and strong punishment for agents who prey on the players in the college game, it is likely that agents being a part of football's fall rituals will continue.
So, until then, the onus is on the institution and the team to eschew all contact and to self-report if contact is inadvertent.
If a player is good enough, there will be plenty of time to get the money come draft time, and CNS is great at prepping his draft-eligible guys for the next level.
Resolution No. 10: Have the Young Crop of Wide Receivers Step Up
More than likely, Julio Jones will be wowing NFL fans for years to come starting this next fall.
How important is he to the 'Bama offense? He's already set the Crimson Tide record single-season record with 75 receptions for 1,084 yards, including a single-game record 221 yards at Tennessee.
What the Crimson Tide needs to do is find a player or two to step up and hope to approach Julio's numbers this past season.
Not only will it be tough to replace him as a target (big, good getting separations, crisp routes, etc.), but the Tide needs to find that guy or those guys who can get the yardage after the catch that Julio could, making that short pass into a big gainer.
That will take resolve from the younger guys like Kenny Bell (see photo). And Julio Jones thinks they can do it.
"They're a talented bunch of receivers," Julio admitted recently. Hopefully, he has an eye for talent.
Resolution No. 9: Stay Healthy On the Offensive Line
Surely injuries are something no one seeks. But is it possible to avoid them?
Sure, to some degree. Don't do silly things like play basketball and roll an ankle or tear a knee. Get rest. Common sense things that don't always occur to kids only a year or two out of high school.
But the injuries this past season to the Tide's offensive line may have cost the team dearly. When the run is trying to be established and the unit isn't working well together because of an injury, then it shows pretty glaringly.
The offensive line is losing only one starter, it seems, not counting the tight ends. So this could mean that a returning group is solid, veteran, and ready to blast holes for Trent Richardson and Co.
If they resolve to stay healthy.
Resolution No. 8: Keep the Assistant Coaches In Place
Every year in a successful program, other teams try to poach an assistant coach.
Alabama's assistants have been the targets of several schools needing to fill a coaching position. And why not? They produce winners and above average results.
What the university needs to do going forward is to assure the team and the fans that there is no where else in the college football universe to coach than Alabama. And they need to do it with cash. It's not like we're hurting for it, is it?
Why would an assistant coach at Alabama make a lateral move to another assistant coaching position unless the university didn't pony up with at least a matching offer?
Sure, if the right head coaching job opens, then we'll wish the departing coach well—unless they play Alabama.
But if we're talking about leaving Tuscaloosa to be some other coach's assistant, then the university needs to resolve to keep this coaching staff intact.
If it ain't broke (and some might say it showed some cracks this year) don't mess with it.
Resolution No. 7: Don't Be Afraid to Turn A.J. Loose
We know the guy's got the skills. He's an inch taller than G-Mac and has studied the position from under the close and personal tutelage of Greg.
He's got an arm. Now we want to know if he's got the intangibles and the confidence.
He needs to walk into a huddle at Knoxville or Baton Rouge or Auburn, grin, and say, "Guys, we're gonna go out and win this," and have those guys believe him.
One way to build that confidence is to turn the young man loose early next season. Early season foes Toledo, Penn State (at State College, by the way), and Texas Panhandle (or whatever they call it) should provide a good mix of tough conditions without too much pressure that could hurt a young QBs confidence.
He showed flashes of brilliance in mop up time this year, but facing SEC defenses weekly will show what he's made of rather quickly.
Sure, he's about 30 pounds lighter than McElroy, but much of that can be added with some weight training without giving up mobility.
Let's hope the coaching staff resolves to let him air it out early on.
Resolution No. 6: Limit the Mental Breakdowns On Defense
Yes, two of the three losses suffered by the Crimson Tide this season were by a combined four points (six if you count what it would have taken to win).
Like many of you, I saw LSU in a third and long convert. I saw them convert a fourth down. I witnessed The Comeback in the Iron Bowl. And I saw a competent but generally average quarterback like Stephen Garcia look like Joe Montana.
Much of that litany of error was due to mental lapses on defense.
Yes, yes, they were young. Sure, they had injury issues and had trouble sorting out who fit best where. But when the time came, the right people were in the right positions, the right defense was called, but mental lapses happened that bit the Crimson Tide in critical situations.
Maybe it takes more study time on the players' parts. Maybe it takes better on-field communication. Perhaps it originates with the defensive coaching staff.
For whatever reason they occurred, if the Tide is to return to national prominence next season, the defense had better resolve to eliminate critical defensive mental errors.
Resolution No. 5: Make the Most of Saban's Recruits
For the first season in 2011, all of the players on 'Bama's bench will belong to Nick Saban.
Gone are the great crop of Shula recruits; from now on, we'll see the batch of even better Saban players.
As he said when he got off the plane with Mal Moore in Tuscaloosa after his hire, "I'm only as good as the players we recruit."
And now's the time to put that into practice even more. It's all on the guys CNS has brought to the Capstone. If you believe most recruiting listings, 'Bama has had among the top classes for the entire Saban run at the helm.
Given that the raw material from which the staff will form fully functioning players on the college level, the future is bright and full of promise. There's little downside here.
Saban's recruits are, to a man, fast, quick, tough, strong and have great potential.
Now, the resolve must be to live up to all the hype.
Resolution No. 4: One for the Fans
This resolution for 2011 pertains to the fans of this great program, and it's pretty simple in concept.
Act like we're Alabama fans.
We have the tradition, we have the coach and staff in place, we have the facilities that rank near the top in the nation.
What do we gain from denigrating other programs and schools? What benefit do we derive from disparaging other coaches and players?
Smack talk is for wannabes. The Tide can do enough talking for all of us on the field.
Sure it's hard to go the next 300+ days knowing that Auburn beat us this year. But who'd you rather be, even if the Tigers win it all this year?
Class is not an isolated action; class is a lifestyle. It can be reflected when our team helps up the other guys after a tackle, it shows when we cheer an opponent who is not as hurt as we first thought, it is evident when we cheer loudly and lustily for our guys.
Yes, like Tommy Lewis, sometimes we're "just too full of Alabama." But that's precisely it.
We are Alabama. Resolve to act like it in 2011.
Resolution No. 3: Improve the School's APR
There is great debate about whether college football players are in school to play or in school to get an education. It seems that at Alabama, the answer may be that both are true.
FYI, college football no longer looks at graduation rates. It looks at something called Academic Progress Rate.
According to the NCAA, “The APR is calculated by allocating points for eligibility and retention — the two factors that research identifies as the best indicators of graduation. Each player on a given roster earns a maximum of two points per term, one for being academically eligible and one for staying with the institution. A team’s APR is the total points of a team’s roster at a given time divided by the total points possible. Since this results in a decimal number, the CAP decided to multiply it by 1,000 for ease of reference. Thus, a raw APR score of .925 translates into the 925 that will become the standard terminology”.
What that means is that if a team stays below that 925 for some years, the result can be a loss of significant scholarships. For NCAA Football the average is 944 for the last full year of data (2008-2009). Here's the top four in the SEC: Vanderbilt 982, Florida 982, Alabama 972, Georgia 965.
So, we're not in danger with this for now. It's impressive that we're only a few percentage points behind Vandy and leading most of the league.
But it says loads about an institution that moves players towards a degree. Most of these guys will not play pro football and need an education. Coach Saban is working to insure they get one.
The resolve, then, is to increase this number so that we can lead the SEC in this category, too.
Resolution No. 2: Be Happy for the Draftees
In a perfect world (at least for the 'Bama fan), Jones, Ingram, Dareus, Barron and others would stay until they used up eligibility or graduated (or both).
That way, we could enjoy their exploits in the crimson and white for at least another year and, perhaps, get another ring on the shoulders of their talent and experience.
But that's not the reality of the college football landscape.
These underclassmen, these young men, they have talent that deserves to be displayed and to get paid for it on Sundays.
We shouldn't begrudge them that. We should be happy that they and their families will be rewarded for the years of hard work and dedication.
Selfishly, we want them back.
But let's resolve to be happy for them when they decide to go early to the next level.
We owe them that for the joy they've brought us.
Resolution No.1: Do We Even Have To Say It?
Bone-crushing defense. Strength-sapping offensive drives. Total control over all three phases of the game.
This is Alabama football.
We resolve to return to the national championship game next year and to bring the hardware home with us in early 2012.
Happy New Year, y'all!