Alabama has a very uncharacteristic year in 2022. Losing the SEC West to LSU and traveling to Knoxville and taking a loss to Tennessee football.
At SEC Media Days in Nashville on Wednesday, Alabama players made it clear that is not the expectation in Tuscaloosa is not 11-2.
“If we don’t win the national championship, it’s not the standard,” Crimson Tide offensive lineman JC Latham said.
Tennessee welcomed Alabama to Neyland Stadium in 2022, with lots of outside noise surrounding that game. All eyes fell upon Knoxville as fans rushed the field. Goalposts were dumped into the field.
The rivalry between the two sides has added a new wrinkle, with the Vols being competitive again.
“The game came how it was, Tennessee had a very good team last year,” linebacker Dallas Turner said. “The rivalry is very deep between Alabama and Tennessee, it’s going to be a good one this year.”
The game this year, which will be in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 21, will have questions at quarterback. For the Vols, Joe Milton is taking over for Hendon Hooker. Josh Heupel’s offense will surely maintain its explosiveness with Milton at the helm.
On the other side of the field though, Nick Saban was very non-committal about the quarterback situation at SEC Media Days.
“We want somebody to play winning football at that position,” Saban said. “Our quarterback is a unique position in that you distribute the ball on every play, whether you hand it off, whether you choose the play that we run, whether you hand it off or whether you throw an advantaged throw, making decisions in the passing game to throw it to the right guys at the right time and the right place and accurately.”
Saban used an analogy to describe is quarterback situation on Wednesday. “Grandma Saban” use to bake grandson Saban cakes. He would stand by the oven and ask her when it would be ready, over and over.
His quarterback battle is similar. People are asking over and over when the quarterback will be ready, or done baking.
“I think we have to sort of let this develop and make sure we let the cake bake until somebody separates themselves and all the players are working hard,” Saban said. “They all have a good attitude. They are all competing well.”
With questions on the outside about quarterback play and incoming coordinators, it is hard to tell if Alabama will maintain its “standard.” The wide expectation is that this will be the first year since 2015 that Alabama isn’t picked to win the SEC.
For the players in Nashville on Wednesday, they are not worried about the outside noise.
“I feel like we just focusing on ourselves and our identity as a team,” defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry said. “Every team we’ve had here at Alabama has had an indemnity. Right now, we’re more focused on the identity we’re going to be and finding our identity in fall camp and what type of team we’re going to be.”