Alabama Preparing for Late Season Grind
By: Larry Burton
Physically, Alabama players started preparing for this late season grind back in January when they started their off season weight lifting regimens in the Mal Moore Athletic Complex, now they must train for it mentally.
In interviewing Alabama players over the years, all have said this time of year presents special problems for them as taxing mentally more so than physically.
“This time of the year players are deep in their school work, studying for mid-terms as well as trying to recover each week from another SEC battle that leaves them mentally as well as physically drained.
“Each game drains just a little out of you”, Nico Johnson told me. “Sometimes scoreboards don’t tell the story, you see a score like 38 to three and you think the team had an easy time, but that doesn’t tell the story if the team was physical. You can get hurt just as easily in a blowout win as you can in a tight fought game. You have to be mentally in the game just as much in those games, keep your head on a swivel just as much or you will get hurt.” he concluded.
Indeed, sometimes teams that can’t win the game want to even the score by laying a big hit on an opposing team’s player just to make a statement, vent some frustration and more.
And no period of time drains a player more than the late season SEC schedule. Their bodies are already tired and sometimes nicked up. Each week presents a team with physical players no matter what the scoreboard says and demands on their time are quickly becoming more demanding.
Playing with injuries is just part of the routine when you play in the SEC. But it places more demands on your time as well, no instead of study time, practice time, team meeting time and school work, you have to schedule rehab and therapy time into your schedule. All this gets players down mentally sometimes for than physically.
And this year, they had their bye week early. That means that they now play Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi State and LSU back to back with no rest and lots of wear and tear on their bodies and psyche.
Missouri gave the Tide a slew of injuries, Tennessee is always a physical game and of course Mississippi State and LSU are known as being two of the more physically pressing teams in the SEC.
Each of these next three teams have statements to make. Though Tennessee may not have more W’s to show for it, if you don’t see the huge strides they’ve made from last season to this season, you haven’t been watching closely enough.
Mississippi State is desperate to prove that their undefeated record is no fluke and they are deserving of national respect. They are going to play Alabama one of the toughest games they will have played so far this year.
Then they travel to LSU who knows they still control their destiny in the SEC West and whatever reserves they have inside themselves will be drained on the field in this game. This game has so much payback involved the Tigers are going to give no quarter in this game.
Usually the bye week comes in the middle of this grind, this time it came far too early for most Tide players, though they did welcome it. Some take some extra sleep, some go home and visit families and see their old high school teams play while others just relax and just “Veg” for a few days.
It is going to be a long hard grind for the players over this four week stretch of Missouri through LSU and these weeks will take a toll on the bodies and brains of the players and the price that they pay to get through this stretch could very well determine how much gas they have in the tank by the time they take the field in LSU.
In contrast, LSU gets their off week the week before the Alabama game and will take on the Tide after a week of rest and mental relaxation and Mississippi State gets the Tide after a cupcake game against Middle Tennessee State.
If they make it through this stretch unscathed and without more serious injuries, they will have a chance to make a run at yet another national championship and also they will prove that they are deserving to be there.