In Nick Saban’s mind, he’s starting over at Alabama.
Well, not really. But that’s the way he’s approaching it, which should be good news to an Alabama fan base that has come to expect national championships the way folks in the Alps expect snow.
While just about everybody else spent this week trying to discern whether or not Saban would bolt for Texas, he was out on the recruiting trail grinding away with the kind of singular focus that distinguishes him as the only coach in the modern era of college football (dating to 1936) to have won national championships at two schools.
This just in: He’d like to win a few more … at Alabama. But he also knows that this next stretch will present some daunting challenges.
“I’m looking at it like we’ve got to start all over again, that this is 2007 again,” Saban told ESPN.com Saturday after agreeing to a long-term extension with Alabama.
“We’ve had a lot of success here, but we’re going to have a new quarterback next year and lots of challenges. Some of the issues on our team this year had to do with complacency and winning too much. We have to get back to having the kind of character, attitude and competitive spirit that we need to have.
“So there are plenty of challenges here. I’m going to spend my time trying to fix those.”
Quarterback AJ McCarron, who won the Maxwell Award this season as the player of the year in college football, isn’t the only key component in the Tide’s historic run that’s leaving. Their quarterback on defense, linebacker C.J. Mosley, is also a departing senior. Go back and count all the clutch plays and leadership that both of those players have provided over the past couple of years.
“There’s going to be a transition,” Saban said. “When you have a new quarterback, you always have to see how he develops and what he can and can’t do. We’re going to have a good team, and we have some good young players. But it all has to come together.”
Saban concedes that the dynamic at Alabama has changed, but that’s just part of the deal when you win three of the most recent four national championships.
This will be the first time since 2010 that the Crimson Tide haven’t hoisted that crystal trophy at season’s end.
“The expectations are what they are here, and we don’t run around talking about them,” Saban said. “We created them, and we’ll handle them.”