About Time: Alabama begins preparation for USC

Tyler Waldrep

Fans view the end of fall camp as a sign that the return of Alabama football is imminent, but for players it’s a little more complex.

“It’s judgment day in terms of who we’re going to coach and what we’re going to do and we need to make some of those decisions because we actually start preparation for USC tomorrow,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We’re going to have to pick the guys we’re going to have to get ready to play the game and how we rep them and how we get guys to have roles, whether it’s on special teams, offense or defense.”

Even though the Crimson Tide’s opener against the Trojans is barely more than a week away the coaching staff is not ready to eliminate anyone from the quarterback competition just yet.

That is probably the exception rather than the rule however as most starting positions seem locked down at this point. When the game plan is unveiled some players will likely be excited to start learning their specific roles for the season, but others, especially younger players, might have to adjust their expectations.

“I think the main as a young player focusing on trying to make the depth chart is your mind is already in the wrong place,” defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson said. “If you go out there and you grind as hard as you can everyday there’s going to be no doubt you’ll be somewhere out there on the depth chart either in special teams or the position you play. If you just work hard everyday you’re going to be on the depth chart.”

Tight end Brandon Greene said the upperclassmen have to be responsible for keeping the younger guys focused on the task at hand in practice.

“We had great leadership when I was younger, so those guys talked to us and that’s what we’re trying to do now with the leadership on our team, talk to those guys and tell them not to worry about it, that we’re just trying to get better, just like those guys told me,” Greene said.

one player the leaders shouldn’t have to encourage is defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne. The sophomore didn’t see the field as much last year due to the frequency that Alabama employed it’s nickel or dime defense, but that shouldn’t matter this season.

Alabama will ask more of Payne, but his coaches and teammates seem to have confidence in him. Both Tomlinson and Saban said Payne has improved as a pass rusher over the offseason.

“[Payne’s] had a really good camp,” Saban said. “We’ve tried to improve him a little bit as a pass rusher so he could be a good inside player for us and I think he’s done that so he gives us another inside player that we can play, which I think is critical based on the guys that we lost.”

In the next few days Tomlinson will try to find a time the defensive line can gather together and celebrate the start of the season with junk food- perhaps hot wings- but that’s not all he’s excited for.

“I’m ready for game install just because I’m ready for the game next week,” Tomlinson said. “It’s the first game of the year, my senior year. I’ve been looking forward to it. It’s been a long camp, and I’m ready to hit somebody else rather than my home teammates.”