HOOVER, Ala. — Much to the chagrin of the rest of the Southeastern Conference, the glory days of Alabama football aren’t behind them.
It’s hard to imagine an 11-win season would be considered a “down year,” but after losing back-to-back games to end the 2013 season — something that hasn’t happened at Alabama since 2008 — it’s easy to see why some may consider Crimson Tide football on the downswing.
Those who believe in that hypothesis, though, are likely mistaken.
“The way that Alabama has been able to replace talent that has both left to the NFL and graduated, they’ve been able to reload as a result of Nick Saban’s exemplary record in recruiting,” said former Alabama quarterback and current ESPN analyst Greg McElroy. “He’s a tremendous recruiter, he’s a tremendous coach so they are never going to really drop off or fall off the map.
“It’s just a matter of just how good can they be and they have the makings of quality football team.”
Evidently, the media in attendance at this week’s SEC football media event feel the same way. The Crimson Tide were picked not only to win the SEC West Division in the annual preseason media poll, but to capture the league 2014 title.
Nevertheless, Florida State — not Alabama — has been tabbed as the favorite to win the national championship by most of the top college football prognosticators.
But don’t tell that to Ronny Sorrelle.
“They’re so wrong,” said 13-year-old Sorrelle, who is a life-long Alabama fan. Sorrelle, along with his two brothers and mother, Christi, drove the short distance from Gardendale, Alabama to Hoover for a chance to show their support for the Tide. They were joined by more than 100 fans — most decked out in Crimson red — who crammed their way behind the security ropes in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Thursday.
“We still got it,” added Christi Sorrelle before the crowd joined in with a chorus of “Roll Tide.”
While there seems to be plenty of optimism among the ‘Bama faithful, there are still a lot of questions that surround this team before it opens the season on Aug. 30 against West Virginia in Atlanta.
“Our situation as a team is a lot different this year than it’s been the last couple years when we were coming off of successful seasons, championship seasons,” Saban said. “… Having lost our last two games last year, I think it’s a little bit different mindset with our players.”
Alabama receiver Amari Cooper agrees.
“It was really motivating for us,” said Cooper, who was voted to the All-SEC first team Thursday. “It was humbling.”
Some of the uncertainty this upcoming season centers around the quarterback position. After enjoying the stability that goes with having a proven playmaker in A.J. McCarron leading the offense, Alabama is now in search of a new face to lead this team.
Jacob Coker, who transferred in from Florida State this offseason, appears to be the front-runner for the job, but senior Blake Sims spent his college career backing up McCarron.
“I think Coker definitely has the inside track just because of what he’s able to do,” McElroy said. “He fits the mold a little more so than Blake Sims in regards to what Nick Saban likes his quarterbacks to do.
“But at the same time, I don’t seeing it shaping out before the first game. I see them using both quarterbacks.”
He drew comparisons to what the team did in 2011, rotating McCarron and Sims.
Saban wasn’t ready to declare a 2014 starter just yet.
“We really can’t make that decision or prediction as to what’s going to happen at that position, but the development of that position, regardless of who the player is, is going to be critical to the success of our team,” he said.
Saban and his staff know what it takes for continued success.
“We have to re-establish our identity as a team at Alabama,” he said.