Oh, pity the poor Alabama Crimson Tide.
To hear Nick Saban tell it, the two-time defending national champions will be lucky to make a bowl game this fall.
“I don’t think we are where we need to be,” Saban told the media after Alabama’s spring game April 20. “Too many people are too comfortable with their position. That does not lend itself to great competition or being a great competitor.
“We have a lot of components that still need to be developed. Your preparation, your ability to play with consistency, your ability to pay attention to detail, get the little things right, you don’t inherit that.”
Alabama’s spring game was ragged. The offense made nine turnovers. Tide quarterbacks threw six interceptions, including two by senior-to-be AJ McCarron, who led the NCAA in passing efficiency last season. There were few explosive plays.
It certainly gave the grumpy Saban plenty to grouse about. His players have heard it before.
“Even if the offense would have put up 55 points, he would have found something wrong with the line not making some blocks or AJ not making the right read,” safety Nick Perry told USA Today. “Same thing goes for the defense. He wants to put the best team on the field. We understand.”
Alabama will try to become the first to win three consecutive national titles.
The defense, led by linebackers C.J. Mosley and Adrian Hubbard and DBs Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Deion Belue, is salty and shouldn’t experience any dropoff, especially if the line gels quickly.
Running back T.J. Yeldon is poised for a huge year. Wide receiver Amari Cooper has All-America ability.
With spring ball wrapped up, here are some notes from around the country:
Head count: The SEC certainly won the attendance war. Six of the top 10 and 11 of the top 25 spring-game crowds were in the SEC.
Arizona: Austin Hill, who had 1,364 yards receiving and 11 TDs last year, tore an ACL and will miss 2013.
Arkansas: Brandon Allen won the starting QB job from Brandon Mitchell. New coach Bret Bielema drummed up enough support to attract a spring-record crowd of 51,088.
Cincinnati: Tommy Tuberville got himself a future QB with the transfer of Gunner Kiel from Notre Dame (via LSU).
Florida: Will Muschamp dealt with a lot of injuries, especially to his O-line, and denied allegations that he gave money to a former Auburn player when he coached there.
Florida State: Jameis Winston made strides as the new QB, but the Noles are hurt by backup Clint Trickett’s transfer. Three tailbacks got hurt and missed much of the spring.
LSU: New leaders emerged on a defense that lost a staggering eight players to the NFL. DT Anthony Johnson is a beast, and DT Ego Ferguson was a star of the spring game. Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins looked sharp at cornerback.
Michigan: Top linebacker Jake Ryan tore an ACL.
Missouri: Veteran QB James Franklin held off Maty Mauk and Corbin Berkstresser, although none was that sharp. The Tigers vow to get WR Dorial Green-Beckham more involved. He had 28 catches for 395 yards and five TDs as a freshman.
Notre Dame: George Atkinson III appears to be the new starting tailback.
Ohio State: DEs Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence look like the next havoc-wreaking linemen. Urban Meyer said he’s still looking for some vocal leaders.
Oregon: The Ducks, under new coach Mark Helfrich, piled up 802 yards and nine TDs in a 65-10 spring game. QB Marcus Mariota was smoother than ever, and Bralon Addison, a 4-star from Fort Bend Hightower, caught eight balls for 136 yards.
Oregon State: The Beavers, who have 18 returning starters, still couldn’t decide on Sean Mannion or Cody Vaz at quarterback.
Southern Cal: Touted WR George Farmer tore an ACL and an MCL.
Stanford: Ty Montgomery and Michael Rector showed QB Kevin Hogan he’ll have better wideouts than he had in ’12.
UCLA: The Bruins will use a tailback-by-committee to replace Johnathan Franklin. QB Brett Hundley is ready to take a star turn.
Wake Forest: Hard to believe, but the Deacs gained two — TWO — first downs in their spring game. And one was by penalty.
The top five attendances at spring games:
Auburn; SEC; 83,401
Alabama; SEC; 78,315
Tennessee; SEC; 61,076
Nebraska; Big Ten; 60,174
Arkansas; SEC; 51,088