Friday, December 13, 2019

Bama draws a blank in 2019 College Football Awards

The 2019 Alabama Crimson Tide came up zero across the board for individual player honors at the College Football Awards show last night, a reflection of the 'disappointing' season in which Alabama went 10-2. Although it was Coach Nick Saban's 12th straight 10+ win season, Alabama will miss the college football playoff for the first time since the 4-team post-season tournament began.

Some folks may see this as a 'Peak Bama' or 'Peak Saban' moment. Was this that season when the rest of college football had finally caught up with the Tide and ended Saban's hegemony over the CFB landscape? Can other teams and their fans now stop circling 'the Bama game' on their calendars? Can they finally stop counting on at least one loss as they do their mental preseason forecast?

Not bloody likely.

Let's be honest about the 2019 team--it was young and thin when they started spring drills and stayed that way. Then the injury bug bit it hard and early in fall camp, with Bama losing standouts Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillon on defense and Trey Sanders on offense. Offensive lineman Deonte Brown was also forced to sit for a four game suspension for an unspecified NCAA violation (sources say that it was improper contact with a sports agent but this is unconfirmed). These losses combined with a larger-than-usual exodus of talent to the NFL following the 2018 season and left Alabama uncharacteristically thin at linebacker, the offensive line and the tailback position.

For the first time in my memory, Alabama started as many as five freshmen on defense through the season. Similarly, by the time Bama lined up against LSU and Auburn not a single senior was starting on offense. The offensive line was  finally showing signs of dominance, but that is normally expected to occur in the fifth or sixth week, not the ninth or tenth. Yet despite the lineup challenges, the team still finished 10-2 and lost its only two by a total of eight points and had a legitimate chance to win both. We will never know what could have been had Bama fielded a team with greater depth and experience. But it's a fair bet that the college football awards show last night would have featured a Bammer or three.

It is extraordinarily difficult to run the SEC gauntlet without strong senior leadership. Raw talent and competent coaching can only get you so far. Leadership on the field is important. Indispensable.  Critical. Just ask the LSU offensive and Auburn defensive squads how important the veterans were in their season highlight wins over Bama.

A few days ago, we dreamed a little about what the 2020 team might look like. As I said after the Iron Bowl, Alabama will soon get down to the business putting the 2019 season's experience to very good use. Nick Saban never misses an opportunity to use disappointment as a motivator. The 2019 true and redshirt freshmen will come back and work with the rising upperclassmen. Between 25-30 players from this team will be back for 2020. A year older, a year better an a year hungrier.

Bama will be just fine.


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