BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is a commentary blog from FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
If you noticed today that your neighbor or co-worker had a little more bounce in his/her step, there could be a reason: That person could be an Alabama football fan. Practice began Thursday for the Crimson Tide as the guys spent two hours on the practice field looking to impress.
Are Bama fans pumped up about the season? Duh! The other day I offered up ten reasons why Auburn fans are excited about 2015, and now it's the Tide's turn.
The Bama nation may not be admiring a new video screen or new-look uniforms, but do Crimson Tide fans care? Not a bit, as This... Is... Alabama... Football.
Only three starters return on offense, but the sky remains the limit, as big things are expected from Nick Saban's bunch. So then, my ten reasons why Alabama football fans are jacked about the upcoming season!
10. Running back Derrick Henry: This one's a no-brainer as the junior from Yulee, Florida is likely running over someone as we speak. How does this human steamroller get himself in shape? By working out at 5:30 in the morning and pushing around Ford F-150 pick-up trucks. Last season Henry ran for 990 yards while turning in 21 explosive runs of 12 yards or more. He also picked up much of his yardage after the first hit. Averaging 6.6 yards per carry during his college career, this young man is ready to bowl some people over. An Alabama tailback has landed in the top three in the SEC in rushing three of the last four years, and Derrick Henry is likely to be the next Bama bruiser to accomplish that feat.
9. Lane Kiffin: Now entering his second season as the Crimson Tide offensive coordinator, Kiffin is ready to work his magic again. Last fall, the OC took a raw quarterback named Blake Sims and turned him into an offensive machine. Sims chalked up some 38-hundred yards of offense in 2014 as the Tide averaged 485 yards and 37 points a game (Bama ranked 17th in the nation in offense). Kiffin ordered up an air attack never seen before in UA football history (Amari Cooper helped) as UA passed for a school record 278 yards a game. Can Lane Kiffin work his magic with new faces under center like Jake Coker and David Cornwell? With young receivers like Robert Foster? Bet on it, and expect Kiffin to once again be celebrating touchdowns while the football is in the air.
8. The Defensive Line: They say that football games are won in the trenches, and if that is the case, expect the Crimson Tide to win a boatload of games this coming season. UA's D-line could be the nation's best, led by defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson, a pre-season All-American. The depth does not stop there, as DC Kirby Smart will look to the likes of Jonathan Allen, Jarran Reed, Dalvin Tomlinson and Darren Lake to plug those holes. Defensive line coach Bo Davis has to be smiling as he is about to watch some big guys take control!
7. Running back Kenyan Drake: The Bama fan favorite is poised for a breakout season and man, does he deserve it. The Georgia native broke his leg in the 5th game of the 2014 season (Ole Miss), a devastating injury that took Bama fans back to Tyrone Prothro. Now, Drake is back, and he could very well lead the team in total offensive years. Drake is currently running second-team tailback at practice, but this fan favorite has a great set of hands that enables him to play slot receiver and wide out. It will be Kiffin's job to get the ball into the hands of this senior and let Drake do his thing.
6. Linebacker Reuben Foster: Gone are the days when Bama fans were worried about if this Auburn High School student would sign with Gus Malzahn: Now is the time for this man-child to step up. Known for his vicious hits (Foster missed some playing time last fall due to stingers suffered after hard hits), Foster is ready to prove that he can play the game using his head rather than being a head hunter. Foster had 22 tackles in 2014- expect many more in 2015 as the big guy is expected to replace the departed Trey Depriest inside. A few years back, Reuben Foster was the nation's top-rated high school inside linebacker. This fall he could rate number one in the hearts of Crimson Tide football fans.
5. The Wide Receivers: What? Bama fans excited about this bunch? You bet, as they want to know how these young guys will step up after the departure of the record-setting Amari Cooper. No, Cooper is not coming back, so the likes of Robert Foster, Chris Black, Ardarious "Mustang" Stewart and grad transfer Richard Mullaney (6' 6", 210 lbs) will need to step up. The team's success could in many ways come down to the effectiveness of the receiving corp and how it adapts to a new signal caller. Bama fans excited about the wide outs? If they are not, they need to be!
4. The Quarterbacks: Who do ya like? Jake Coker or David Cornwell? While last spring Coker showed signs of both brilliance and apprehension, he has shown vast improvement over the last several months. Nick Saban sung Coker's praises at SEC Media Days, as the former back-up to Jameis Winston could be the man. Then again… If you like a big body with a big arm, you have to like David Cornwell. Now two years removed from a knee injury, Cornwell stands 6'5" and weighs 220 pounds (down 20 pounds from last season). While Cornwell went 12-for-24 with 2 picks in the spring game, Nick Saban knows that this young Oklahoman can get the job done. The others? Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman and Blake Barnett are talented all, but expect a mix of Coker and Cornwell early in the season before Coach Saban settles on a number one.
3. Tight End O.J. Howard: Are you kidding me? Crimson Tide fans excited about a young man who last season dropped passes, was beaten by defenders (I offer up the end to the Ole Miss game) and often looked confused? While some Alabama fans think that Howard has a body like Tarzan but plays like Jane, I'm here to tell you that the Prattville native is ready for a break-out season. While he was held to 17 catches for 260 yards in 2014, Howard looked great last spring as he reeled in three TD's in scrimmages. The smart, charismatic, likable tight end is one to watch in 2015.
2. Tradition: Other teams can brag about wins, brag about Heisman winners, but an Alabama football fan walks the walk knowing the team's tradition is unmatched. A Bama fan expects the team to win EVERY game, to vie for a national championship EVERY season. Serena Williams walks through life knowing she is the best ever. Likewise with athletes such as Michael Jordan and Jim Brown. Such is the life of an Alabama football fan. Each game is filled with the sights, the smells of tradition, and fans know who's boss. It's exactly why the Crimson Tide nation can't wait to get it going.
1. Nick Saban: Now in his ninth season as head coach, Nick Saban can give Bama fans goose bumps on the field and off. The coach is competitive, argumentative, excitable, passionate, testy, confrontational, tireless, honest and crank. He is also intelligent and kind. And you know something? Bama fans love him for it! He's a man who wears his emotions on his sleeve and is not afraid to speak his mind. Three national championships over the last 5-plus years will make any football fan fall in love with their coach. But the bond between a Bama fan and Nick Saban is a bond I have not witnessed in years. And when Nick Saban finally decides to move on? Get out the Richter scale, as the earth will be shaking.
Yes, Alabama football fans have a lot to be excited about in what could be a very special season. Hang in there, as the season opener against Wisconsin comes your way September 5th. I'm out for now, but remember that you can check me out on TV, Twitter, Facebook and the WBRC News App!