HOOVER, Ala. – The most highly anticipated hotel entrance of the summer — Nick Saban arrived just after 8 a.m. to a sea of cameras in the lobby.
Saban himself referred to this day as the beginning to the college football season. But that would imply college football season ended in Alabama. We all know that’s not true.
It is a new year though, but the expectations of an SEC and national title are nothing new for the Tide and Saban wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The pressure for me comes from me, the pressure come from trying to get our team the best it can be, every individual reaching heir full potential, playing well together. So the units offense, defense, special teams are all competing and playing at a high level. That’s the pressure for me, it doesn’t come externally from expectations or anyone else. We have a goal and a process to reach that goal,” Saban told reporters.
You can’t reach any goals without senior leadership, and three of those players here today.
Ryan Kelly, Kenyan Drake, and north Alabama’s own Reggie Ragland, who wanted this experience long before coming to Tuscaloosa, and even before playing at Bob Jones.
“I used to talk to my mom and dad about this when I was little, I wanted to be one of those guys. To represent the team in the right way, I’m just shoot and blessed to be here. My first two years, I never thought I would be in this position. When coach Saban talks about the process, the process is the process. Take your time and do what you feel like you have to do, and when he feels like you’re ready to play you’re ready to play,” Ragland said.
Reggie has grown a lot since his first season at Alabama, now he is the face of the Crimson Tide defense – a role Saban says is well deserved.
“In the beginning, it was a little bit of a work in progress, but last year and this year he has been a fantastic player for us. Probably one of the highest rated players at his position in the country. He’s also become a leader on our team. I think the team is important to him, I think playing for Alabama is important to him and that’s why he came back,” Saban said about Ragland.
Saban has to be stoked the Bob Jones grad is coming back. Last season he finished second in the team in tackles. But he wasn’t the only player here today.
Maybe the biggest task this off-season is replacing Amari Cooper’s role on offense. Kenyan Drake is back this year, and he can’t be expected to do it alone.
“That’s a very monuments task because Amari Cooper is Amari Cooper. But I don’t feel it will be a task put on my back. We have numerous receivers coming up that want to play,” Drake said.
“if you try to replace Amari Cooper it’s never going to happen. That guy is a great player but I think one of the biggest things coach Kiffin does is Taylor the offense to our players. Last season it was Blake and I think no matter who we have it will be a great team,” offensive lineman Ryan Kelly said.