This Year Alabama Needs Less Luck and More Focus

Larry BurtonSenior Writer IAugust 15, 2009

Part of being a writer is sometimes saying things to your base that they may not want to hear.  The following paragraph is one of those things.

Last year, Alabama was a good team. It had play makers, solid starters, and was fundamentally well coached.  But as good as it was, it was luck that made the 2008 Crimson Tide a Sugar Bowl team.

These are not just my thoughts, but also Nick Saban's. 

Everyone knew that Alabama was on track to building a great team.  Most thought next year would be the year, but Alabama got lucky last year.

Why do I keep saying that?  Because it's true.

Take off the Crimson-colored glasses for a while and look at some facts.

Georgia was picked as the favorite to win the SEC last year by most.  What went wrong with those predictions?  Injuries, by the truck load, killed any chance Georgia had of competing against Alabama and Florida.

They had 13 injuries that kept starters out of games. 

If you go through a season with less than five starters lost to injuries for a game or two, then you are lucky.  That's not opinion, that's a simple fact.

Alabama struggled against every team when Andre Smith was out of the lineup.  Could you imagine what may have happened if another lineman had been out at the same time?

Last year Alabama was a great team as deep as the starters went, with a drop off after that that was quite noticeable.

We were lucky that an un-redshirted freshman was able to pull off being a starter at a critical linebacker spot, something only one in a thousand could pull off.  That was a gamble that paid off last year and will pay even bigger dividends this year.

That could be said for a multitude of freshmen who not only played, but contributed as well. 

I know some would say that's not luck, that's just good recruiting, that all teams have rookies that see playing time. 

That may true, but rarely does one team play so many so much with so little drop off. According to coaches I've talked to, true freshmen on the field, for the most part, are a double-edged sword.  They may provide some stellar moments, but they generally make some pretty memorable mistakes as well.

Ours didn't make that many, and even according to Nick Saban, that's pretty lucky.

In a secondary where ranks were thin, we were lucky not to have lost Rashad Johnson to injury.  Without him calling the secondary and providing senior leadership, we could have been picked apart by teams who almost managed it anyway.

There are so many areas where just another another injury or two could have made 2008 a totally different season.  It didn't happen though, and like it or not, you must face the fact that we were lucky.

Now you can put the Crimson glasses back on and I'll tell you why this year we won't need to rely on luck as much as we do focus.

According to all the position coaches I've talked to, this terribly thin team has now become deep in just one year.  Perhaps not deep in experience, but deep in raw talent.

Joe Pendry, Alabama's line coach told me earlier this year, "This team has players a coach like me can be happy about.  We're going to have people who can compete for positions, which has been rare around here and have solid backups at every position on the (offensive) line."

We have 13 linebackers who could all start on many teams, we have battles in the secondary for position, and backup roles with one of the most talented freshmen in the nation.

We have the nation's best defensive line with some people who could fill in without missing a beat, young receivers who have stepped up their game, and fight every practice for a spot in the lineup and more great running backs than any team should be allowed to have.

"Last year was a great year," said Saban. "Great for the team, the fans and the state. But it was only one step in the right direction...This year's team can build on that and try to focus on finishing each game and finishing this season better than they did last year."

So maybe this is the beginning of the days when we rely a little less on luck and a little more on depth, a little less on freshmen and a lot more on experience.

But mostly these could be the days where we stop focusing on "getting competitive" and start focusing on finishing the season on top.  These are good days to a Crimson Tider.


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