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UA looking for incoming freshmen to bring “winning football” mindset

Marvin Gentry - USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in 12 seasons under Nick Saban, Alabama football was more so feared for its offense than its defense in 2018. Despite achieving its highest marks of the Saban era in both points and yards, while boasting a Heisman finalist at quarterback – Tua Tagovailoa – the staple of the Crimson Tide was picked apart in January as Clemson won the national championship. 

Part of re-establishing the Alabama factor is getting players to have a “winning football” attitude.

After the Tide’s first scrimmage on Saturday, Saban told the media that the communication was there on defense but the execution was not.

Even with the coaching staff needing to make sure veteran guys are prepared, Saban is ready for the incoming freshmen. 

“We don’t have enough guys,” Saban said. “We have guys that have potential, but need to continue to grow and the competition will help them grow. Defensively, we definitely need to improve. We slipped and we continue to replace a lot of personnel each year, whether guys leave early for the draft or whatever it might be. We never had this much turnover in players.” 

The turnover of both players and teachers (assistant coaches) caused the Tide to have it second-worst defensive season under Saban.

Alabama failed to place in the top-10 of college football for total defense, scoring defense, rush defense, pass defense and pass efficiency defense. 

SD: 18.1 ppg allowed, 12th in CFB 

Total D: 319.5 ypg allowed, 16th in CFB 

RD: 121.3 ypg allowed, 19th in CFB 

PED: 115.8 rating allowed (22-14, TD/ INT ratio), 23rd in CFB 

Consistent leadership was a problem for Alabama last year, especially with seeing how much of the struggles came from those who were thought to be impact players. Saban said nine guys – three linemen, two linebackers and four defensive backs – will arrive on campus this summer to push for a starting job. 

The ones he was referring to were Byron Young (DL), Ishmael Sophser (DL), Marcus Banks (CB), Brandon Turnage (CB), DeMarcco Hellams (S), Jordan Battle (S), Christian Harris (LB), King Mwikuta (LB) and Braylen Ingraham (DL). 

It’s not easy to coach up a young team; however, Saban is willing to get players up to speed. 

The good news is that despite the turnover, Alabama tends to exceed expectations when the national media detects small problems within the system.

Upon cleaning up loose ends, the Tide finds a way to go on a run and win a national title. For the veterans, they must bring the heat throughout the remainder of spring practice before starting summer workouts and fall camp. 

The young guns are coming in hot and they want to win.  

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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