HOOVER, Ala. – Neither Nick Saban nor his best player say they’re worried about repeating.
Saban’s Crimson Tide won the national championship last season, but the Alabama coach spent his first minutes as the opening coach at SEC Media Days on Wednesday talking about living in 2010, not the past, and that he doesn’t consider his team to be in defense of a national title.
“Realistically, the view is that we lost 11 starters, a punter, a kicker and a great return guy,” Saban said. “Are we going to be able to do the things we need to do with younger players who don’t have the experience.”
At this point in Saban’s new year, many believe the answer is yes. In a collection of seven publications or websites that produce their own preseason polls, Alabama was ranked No. 1 five times.
Ingram won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore and is a big reason for that. He certainly doesn’t fall into the group of inexperienced players Saban talked about.
Ingram – who has taken out an insurance policy against a career-threatening injury – rushed for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns last year and was at his best when the stakes were highest, averaging 178 yards against top 25 teams.
Against Florida’s No. 1-ranked defense in the SEC championship game, Ingram rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries. He was credited for 104 yards after contact and added another 76 yards and a touchdown on two pass receptions.
As Alabama is mentioned in national championship talk, Ingram remains a focal point in the Heisman Trophy discussion. Can he repeat?
“That would be great, but that’s not my main focus. I just want to better myself as a player and become the best player I can be for my team,” Ingram said. “If I make the best of what I can do, put myself into position to make a lot of plays to help our team win games, in my eyes I will be successful. The Heisman Trophy will not determine whether I’m successful or not.”
As Ingram says he’s not defined by the Heisman Trophy, his quarterback says the Alabama offense is not defined by Ingram.
Sophomore Trent Richardson showed himself to be a capable backup in his rookie season and brings depth to the position.
Receivers Julio Jones and Marquis Maze are dependable targets for McElroy, who completed 61 percent of his pass attempts with 17 touchdowns and only four interceptions as a first-year starter.
“We will have a balanced attack, because that’s the way coach Saban runs the offense, and that’s what we’ve had success with,” he said. “This is a pick-your-poison attack. If you try to match up with our backs, we’ll exploit you through the air.”
Even though McElroy posted a 140.5 efficiency rating last year, most teams will pick stopping Ingram first. Or at least trying to stop Ingram.
It’s a fact not lost on Ingram, and he’s patterned his off-season program accordingly.
“I’ve critiqued myself. I’ve watched a lot of film, worked on drills to better my feet, to become smarter in the film room. I’m more aware of what defenses are doing. I’m trying to better my game in every aspect.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal