HOOVER, Ala. — Alabama coach Nick Saban’s message on Thursday was consistent.
Saban, speaking during the SEC’s annual Media Days, expressed confidence in his team’s potential to handle issues ranging from the offensive line, to finding that quality wide receiver to compliment Julio Jones and the inexperience of the quarterback who will look to drive the offense.
Then there was the matter of getting the Crimson Tide back within the 85 scholarship limit set by the NCAA. Summer transfers of players such as Prince Hall, Brandon Fanney and Chris Jackson have the program close to the threshold although Saban did not say how many scholarships were currently in use. If every player who signed with Alabama were to enroll this fall, the program would be well beyond the limit.
That is never the case, but attrition will still be necessary to meet the guidelines.
“None of these players are leaving because the kind of football players they are from our standpoint,” the coach said without naming any player in particular. “There may be some player who leaves because they’re disappointed and don’t think or don’t have the confidence that they can play.”
Having back-to-back recruiting classes ranked in the top three nationally will also lead to attrition, Tide offensive lineman Mike Johnson said during his turn to speak with reporters.
“You’ve got to either be willing to battle it out and make your mark or go somewhere else,” Johnson said. “That’s the message that he’s trying to convey, and, if you’re not willing to do it, then take off.”
When it came to finding new blood on the offensive line to replace NFL draftees Andre Smith and Antoine Caldwell, Saban offered a short list of prospects. Junior college transfer James Carpenter, who participated in spring practice “showed he could at least be a functional offensive lineman in this league.”
William Vlachos was noted as “a good center” in the spring, but Johnson will no doubt be the leader of the line.
“Every question you ask me about quarterback is gonna come right back to (the line),” Saban said. “Quarterback is a difficult position to play if you don’t have good people around you, and that starts with the offensive line.”
Having three new starting offensive lineman will not cause Saban to play the more mobile Star Jackson over the drop-back passer Greg McElroy, who left spring practice as the top quarterback.
“We want to play the best players at every position,” Saban said. “… Star Jackson has outstanding athletic ability. But he needs to be able to go out there and execute and play winning football in our offense.”
Jackson, a former blue-chip recruit, completed just 4-of-13 pass attempts in April’s A-Day game and was intercepted twice as McElroy all but assured himself of the starting job when the Tide plays Virginia Tech in Atlanta to open the season Sept. 5.
The Georgia Dome is the same place the 2008 season began with modest expectations. Of course Alabama blew out highly ranked Clemson to begin its perfect 12-game regular season that has the Tide in position to be a trendy pick to win the SEC West this fall.
Now with Media Days out of the way, the Tide’s next big date is Aug. 5 when the team officially reports for practice set to begin the following day.