Alabama led Clemson for 59 minutes and 59 seconds in January’s College Football Playoff National Championship. It literally took last-second heroics from Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Hunter Renfrow for the Crimson Tide to fall.
There’s no shortage of drama this season in Tuscaloosa, either. Uncertainty along both lines has some fans jittery, but the Tide return their star quarterback , star running back and two monsters on the defensive line.
In the middle of it all is the staff of BamaOnline.com, which includes Travis Reier and Tim Watts. They’ve both been in Tuscaloosa covering the Tide for almost 20 years and have relationships with coaches and staff you won’t find anywhere else. They know the pulse of Alabama football at every practice, every game, and every press conference.
Travis Reiter on the major storylines for Alabama football heading into the season: There has been a lot of competition at right offensive tackle, in the secondary, and at placekicker. From a depth standpoint, Alabama is more in a position of uncertainly than in past years.
On whether a lack of up front depth will affect the Crimson Tide this season: The defensive line the last two years has been, even by Alabama’s standards, generational. You don’t have nine or 10 guys at one time who are capable of giving starter-like snaps. This year, they have two fairly proven commodities in Daron Payne and Da’Shawn Hand, but the line from there has been a question mark.
On expectations for Alabama in 2017: As long as Nick Saban is here and they continue to accumulate talent, the expectations will be high. For the first time since 2013, they’re bringing back a starter at quarterback. In this era of football, it seems like we get our hopes up or down based on that position too. With Jalen Hurts back and Calvin Ridley back at receiver, they have a lot of weapons, so the perception is they’ll be more explosive on offense.
On defense, they’ve had a top-ranked rush defense four of the last six years, but teams will at least give it a shot against them on the ground this season. I don’t know that any team will be entirely successful, but there’s not that feeling of “it’s over before it started” this year against Alabama’s defensive line.
On whether recruiting at Alabama is still as high-caliber as it has been: It’s another area that’s probably taken for granted, even by Alabama fans. The resources and commitments they make to players’ development once they get here — I can’t imagine it being any greater anywhere else. They land more four- or five-stars than any other team, but the bust ratio isn’t high here at Alabama. Even when they sign a three-star, like our center, they get five-star development.
On how Saban has had so much developmental success: Player development has always been something I’ve talked about since I got here. The support staff and the investment they make at Alabama in terms of player development have to be NFL-like. It’s cliché, but Saban refers to it as “the process,” and it’s unwavering. We’ve seen him adjust, which I don’t think he gets enough credit for. He’s willing to adapt, but the fundamentals he believes in don’t change. Being loaded with talent is great, but they don’t waver on what they expect every day from these guys.
So will the Crimson Tide continue to dominate at a high level despite the uncertainty? And how will each position battle play out? Visit BamaOnline.com now for the latest insider news on the Alabama Crimson Tide, all from the staff that’s been around for almost two decades, and find out.