Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Playing on the Big Stage Nothing New for Crimson Tide

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Playing on the Big Stage Nothing New for Crimson Tide

Article excerpt

TUSCALOOSA | The 2012 University of Alabama football team has never been to Miami Gardens, Fla., home to Sun Life Stadium and the BCS National Championship Game.

This edition has never played Notre Dame before. Alabama has, however, been here before.

Here as in preparing to play for the Bowl Championship Series national title.

Here as in navigating the layoff of more than a month before playing the biggest game of the season.

For the third time in four seasons, the Crimson Tide is going through the process of getting ready to play for the national title. To Alabama players, it has become a familiar routine. UA coach Nick Saban has perfected that process, having won three national championships in his coaching career, and UA players believe having been through it before gives them an edge.

"The way Coach Saban puts it out there, I think it works. It's been working well for us in the past and we're going to keep doing it," senior tight end Michael Williams said.

It starts with what is, essentially, a second version of preseason camp, a rerun of the start of August practice -- because that, more than anything, is what the first week of bowl preparation was like. Alabama started practice last Tuesday for its national title showdown with Notre Dame and worked through Saturday. UA players will have a three-day break before returning to campus to enter the next phase of practice.

"It's good to get back into the regular flow of things, get started on the fundamentals, just like we started back in camp. It's just like starting all over again, it's like a one-game season," Williams said.

If you didn't know, preseason camp wouldn't win a popularity poll with players. It is hard and physical, viewed more as a necessity than a joy.

"We understand, going through it last year, how important this week is by itself," senior linebacker Nico Johnson said. "We took it and ran with it and had a good week of practice."

The first week was an exercise in fundamentals - blocking and tackling basics. And while it didn't involve full-on tackling, it serves the purpose of getting players used to hitting and being hit.

"I think it's very important because either coming off the last game of the season (like in 2011) or the SEC championship (game) it's a long time since you've played a game or since you've tackled somebody, so the way we do it I feel like is good because you get to feeling contact," Williams said. …

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