TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — No matter how much it’s discouraged, a few Alabama football players said it is impossible to ignore what’s on the line when the Tide meets Texas on Jan. 7.
Coach Nick Saban has done his best talking with the team and got agitated with reporters for focusing too much on the championship aspect of the game.
Still, it exists and some thoughts are impossible to ignore.
“It’s the biggest game any of us have ever played in,” senior offensive lineman Mike Johnson said. “Last year, after the SEC Championship it was kind of a let down. You kind of had people dragging though the Sugar Bowl. We weren’t really playing for anything but the Sugar Bowl title. This year, we have so much more to play for.”
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That doesn’t mean the players talk much about it. It’s more of a quiet understanding because of the businesslike attitude Saban has implemented for the weeks leading up to the BCS National Championship Game.
Going home for a few days to celebrate Christmas presented several opportunities for what Saban calls “clutter” to enter players’ minds. That wasn’t much of an issue for linebacker Cory Reamer.
It took just five minutes for the Hoover native’s family to get it out of their system.
“It’s usually not congratulations with my family,” a smiling Reamer said. “They enjoy picking on me if they can. There wasn’t much talking about it.”
Even if they did, Reamer wouldn’t have minded. Growing up in the state, he sees how much this opportunity means to Alabama as a whole.
“We don’t have an NFL team - we don’t have anything else,” Reamer said. “This is what everybody circles around. I think it’s going to bring a lot of joy and a lot of pride to everyone across the nation, because there are Alabama fans everywhere. I talked to people from New York who go a bar to watch the game every week. To be able to provide that to people all over the country would be special.”
b Recruiting any Texan to leave his home state is a tall order, but that didn’t stop Saban for taking a shot at Colt McCoy in his final season at LSU.
The process abruptly stopped in late December of 2004 when Saban took the head coaching job with the Miami Dolphins, but he got a pretty good look at the quarterback who went on to start four seasons with the Longhorns.
“We did early evaluate him and he was a guy we thought was a very good player,” Saban said. “And it certainly turned out that we were right in our evaluation because he is a fantastic player. He is certainly the best quarterback that we’ve played all year in term of being able to pass the ball, run the ball and be an all-around threat to hurt you in a lot of different ways.”
But when Saban left, LSU’s effort to lure him away from the in-state power all but ended and he was never offered a scholarship.
“We really thought he was one of the highest rated guys on our board in terms of being a great quarterback prospect,” Saban said.
b A finger, knee and foot have kept the Alabama training staff busy with Tide tight end Colin Peek.
So the sight of the senior moving around the football complex Monday in a walking boot was not a strange sight. It signaled no reason to panic for Alabama’s fourth leading receiver, though. The stress fracture that limited his offseason was not back.
“It’s fine,” he said. “I stubbed my toe and I have a bunion. I sorta hurt it in the SEC Championship Game so I just wear this. I don’t know why I did today. I just put it on because we were practicing. I’m going to try to wear it for the next three days to rest it.”
Since he has “a bagillion” of the boots at home, it was no problem to find one that fit. He wore one most of the summer while recovering from a stress fracture in his foot.
During the season, a sprained MCL kept him out of a few games late in the year while a jammed finger had no effect on his playing.
b A day after missing a Monday afternoon practice, Alabama’s starting left tackle James Carpenter returned to workouts Tuesday, according to published reports.
Saban said Monday’s absence was due to nothing more than flu-like symptoms and predicted a quick return.
The Tide returns to the practice field Wednesday afternoon for its second-to-last work out before leaving for California on Friday.
DAILY SPORTS WRITER