Alabama travels to South Carolina on Saturday to take on the Gamecocks as a seven-point favorite after dismantling the Gators at home last weekend. Their domination of the Florida game showed the talent and depth of their roster and how good of a coach they really have. Nick Saban knows how to prepare for a game like no other, and you can bet that he will have his troops prepared to battle in what some consider a “trap game” for the Crimson Tide. In order to come out of Williams-Brice Stadium undefeated, Alabama is going to have to rely on their impressive defense to foil Coach Spurrier’s offensive gameplan, and their quarterback, Greg McElroy, who continues to win. McElroy is poised to do something no other college quarterback has ever done, have back-to-back perfect seasons, win a second consecutive national championship, and finish college football with at least two seasons undefeated.
He will never get to enjoy the hype some of his teammates like Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, and Julio Jones receive, but he is simply content to be a team player and a winner. In fact, he hasn’t lost a game in which he started at quarterback since the eighth grade, and is 35-0 since his senior year in high school. The Gamecocks will be keying on ‘Bama’s rushing attack with Ingram and Richardson running the rock, which should open up Julio Jones in the passing game. If Alabama can neutralize the pass rush with their solid offensive line, which I think they will, McElroy will have all the time in the world to read the defense and find an open receiver. The scary thing, for Alabama’s opponents, is that he is still improving and we haven’t seen the best of him yet.
Can he end his college career as the only back-to-back national championship quarterback with a perfect record?
It’s possible, but first he must get past the Gamecocks. Greg McElroy joined ESPN Radio with Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo to talk about what impresses him about Nick Saban that the public wouldn’t know, whether it is difficult to maintain playing consistent each week knowing that they are going to get their opponents’ best shot, and what it means to ‘play Alabama football’.
How the team managed to stay calm when they were losing to Arkansas late in the game:
“Well I think the fact that we have a lot of experience on the team. I think the fact that we have tremendous leadership at a lot of key positions on the team. That just allows us to take those situations and approach them with a very calm and very precise nature. I think we understood that we were shooting ourselves in the foot and we just weren’t playing Alabama football. We understood that maybe when we tied some drives together maybe we could make some plays here and there, the game would eventually swing in our favor and obviously that was the case. It was just a real credit to our preparation and our persistence and our due diligence in order to get the job done.”
Who he thinks is a better team between Arkansas and Florida:
“It is tough to say. I know our media people always stay for the politically correct answer but both teams are just very different. Obviously, Florida is more of a grind-it-out offense. From a defensive perspective they’re pretty similar actually. They do a significant amount of man-coverage. They try to exploit you, they have really good defensive fronts. Florida is a little bit faster than Arkansas from top to bottom, but Arkansas plays with a lot of toughness. They play real hard, you can tell that they are really well-coached and they are very passionate about the game. That is a big reason why they did so good against us. It would be a very tight matchup, a close knit ball game if those teams were to play. I cant really say that I could put a swing in one direction or the other.”
What impresses him about Nick Saban that the public wouldn’t know:
“I think the fact, the biggest thing that made an impression on me as a player, I think when we were first playing at LSU in 2008, Coach Saban’s first time back, Coach Saban actually went to one of his former players’ high school games, they were actually retiring his number, so the fact that Coach Saban still maintains such a relationship with his former players. He just has so much respect for the players that played for him and obviously his players have so much respect for him. He comes across as such a difficult person, tough and unwavering personality but he really does have a tremendous amount of compassion for the people that suit up week in and week out for him because he understands the dedication and the commitment and sacrifice that we all made to o play for him. So that story in is probably one of the more impactful games and I hope that Coach Saban and I remain friends for years to come long after I get done playing for him.”
Whether it is difficult to maintain playing consistent each week knowing that they are going to get their opponents’ best shot:
“I don’t think it is difficult because I think obviously throughout the course of the last few years we have had a lot of success. Coach Saban has really driven into our minds that if we don’t go out there and play Alabama football and we don’t play to the best of our abilities we can very easily be knocked off and I think that we’ve had several examples over the past few years, we’ve had close games where quite frankly on paper the game shouldn’t have been close. I kind of look at Auburn from last year, and Tennessee last year, games in which we were heavily favored, we felt very strongly about our dedication and our preparation for each game, but we just didn’t come out and play well. In both games we almost got knocked off. We understand that it is never going to be about the team we are playing it is going to be us as individuals and we go out there and play. We understand just how difficult the SEC is we do our best and navigate as best as we know how.”
What it means to ‘play Alabama football’:
“Well Alabama football is toughness, hard-nosed determined football. I think that if you watch us play, Coach and us as players want, it is a little bit different than other teams play around the country. You want to see a hard-nosed team that is extremely well-coached, extremely well disciplined, does not turn the ball over, forces a lot of turnovers on our defense. We just want to strike fear. In our mission statement, strike fear in those who attempt to bring us down. That is what we want to accomplish and that is Alabama football to us. Throughout the first twenty minutes of the Florida game, the last thirty minutes of the Arkansas game, are perfect examples and what we want to accomplish when we want to play football around here.”