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Alabama Football: Now That Summer Is Here…

By: Larry Burton

Now that summer is here, it’s time for some thoughts directed to three different groups, the fans, the coaches and lastly the players. This article won’t pretend to be new, but commentary from an old sportswriter who has seen it all and as an alumnus of Alabama myself who still loves all things Crimson.

To the Fans:

This is summer and most of the stories we’ll publish will be speculative pieces on what we think will, could or may happen with the upcoming season. As far as real news goes, they’ll be some recruiting news to report, but the biggest news you can hope for as fans of the Crimson Tide is no news.

The players are staying together, they’ll be doing summer work outs and of course they’ll be lots of seven on seven action to give quarterbacks and receivers a chance to work on timing and build trust.

Blake Sims clearly didn’t win the starting quarterback job in the spring last season, he won it in summer practices where his team saw him simply outwork and out perform Jacob Coker. In other words, he entered fall camp with the players firmly behind him from that and the years of unselfish devotion to the team he had exhibited. Coker really never stood a chance against that.

So now, with Coker having had a year to build his own friendships and trust factor, things are a bit more even with him and other quarterbacks that don’t have all that much more time on the team as he does.

This year, the job is clearly wide open and may the best man win. During this time, they’ll be no “official” news from the athletic department on how the team is doing and how individual players are either progressing or flopping.

In fact the only coach to have contact with the players on an official capacity is strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran and though I’m sure Cochran will relay what he sees with the staff, not a word will be breathed to us in the press, so enjoy the summer, take a vacation and find a way to fill the void, the fall will be here soon enough.

To the Coaches

Coach Paul Bear Bryant one said, when speaking to a reporter who said it was clear that Bryant was the smartest man on the field on game day, uttered words that every coach should take to heart.  He said something to the extent of, “Hell, I’m not even the smartest coach on our sideline. I’ve hired all these men and why would I hire somebody that wasn’t smarter than me? I hired these men to teach me and these boys things we need to know. If you aren’t hiring folks that are smarter than you, you’ll never get better as a staff or team.”

Coaches, you knew when you took this job only two things were for sure.

1. That almost every coach not ready for retirement is not at his final destination. Coaches move around, either because they’re doing a great job or a bad job.

2. That what you know today isn’t enough to keep you at your job for long. In other words, learn, improve or move along down the line.

Lane Kiffin, Kirby Smart and Nick Saban aren’t going to be on the Alabama staff for long, or in Nick Saban’s case, not long enough.

While there are things you can learn from Kiffin’s past to avoid, there’s plenty about the present you can learn from this man. Pick his brain, learn his thought process, see what he sees on the field and in a young man’s eyes and heart.

No matter how you feel about him a person, the man knows offense, knows how to get more milk from the offensive cow than 99% of other coaches and knows how to develop a little talent into a lot.

The same goes for Kirby Smart, Lane Kiffin and Smart will both be names that be mentioned anytime a high profile coaching job becomes available. Alabama of course will get the most from them while they’re still on the sidelines, but can benefit from years to come if the remaining coaches on staff soak up all they can while they can.

Don’t just concentrate on watching and learning from Saban, learn from all the others too.

If Nick Saban, like coach Bryant did, can publicly say he learns from his coaches, so should every coach on this staff learn from one another.

To the Players

This is Alabama. It is a special place with a revered history. It is a place that where special men come to be both a part of that history and the hope for the future by playing football in Crimson jerseys.

So now that you’ve taken on that challenge, it’s your mission to be just that, special. There is no room even at the bottom of the depth chart for ordinary.

We take boys and build men, real men, special men, not just football players. If you’re only wanting to improve your football skills then you’re not special and you’re not being a real man. You are a spoiled child using a team only trying to improve a part of yourself at the cost of others.

Special men don’t just want to make themselves better players and better men, they want to take their team mates on that journey with them. They want to be a man pushes others to become more than they are and also be the kind of man to accept help and instruction in being pulled up by those who are further down that path.

Special men can both give and accept help. Special men do what C.S. Lewis wrote so long ago and “Do the right thing even when no one is looking.” Truly special men will see chances to be that man and stop others from straying from the process because they are always looking.

So be special to friends and team mates, be special students and be special players. The upward trend we’ve experienced was achieved because men before you did these things. They laid a history at your feet, gave you a school that you can be proud of and left you a team that can contend for national titles.

All we ask is that you leave the program, history and future better than when you were in charge of it.

Now enjoy your summer all, we’re expecting much come fall.


Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at

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Larry Burton is a member of the Football Writers of America Association (FWAA) and was the most read SEC and Alabama football writer during his time at Bleacher Report. He has been credentialed by all the major bowls and the University of Alabama. Larry provides some of the best insight in the business through his "Larry's Lowdown" segment with TDA.

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