The man who helped launch the Alabama Crimson Tide dominance under Nick Saban back in 2009 knows that expectations haven’t changed inside the Tuscaloosa facility — even as Southeastern Conference foes Georgia, Tennessee, LSU and Texas A&M have attempted its part to catch up to the Tide.
While this Alabama team isn’t anticipated to be ranked No. 1 overall in the preseason polls, national champion quarterback Greg McElroy believes the 2023 version knows that they’re still given a chance to continue what the QB turned analyst helped start in that ’09 campaign: a dynasty.
Speaking with The Athletic’s Kennington Smith III on Monday, July 17, the ESPN analyst plus past Tide star shared the big message that lies ahead for the ’23 Crimson Tide.
“I think a big message is you don’t want to be the group that screws up (the dynasty),” McElroy said to Smith III. “Naturally, that’s a pretty easy message to convey. And (Saban has) instilled that, and if you don’t give great effort, you’ll get replaced. And it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter how good you are, he’s benched really good players.”
Alabama Players are ‘Always on Edge’
McElroy is one of the few ‘Bama players who experienced student-athlete life in Tuscaloosa prior to Saban — as he originally threw the football for Mike Shula.
Saban, though, has created an atmosphere where players including himself were in a heated, spirited battle to play every single day they got together on the practice field.
“It’s remarkable because you’re always on edge, which I think is a really, really powerful tool. In a fear of losing your job or in a fear of not being successful…that’s the ultimate motivator is fear,” McElroy described. “And there’s always a little bit of that, and that’s a good thing.”
Granted, the offensive system McElroy ran was nothing like the offenses Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian or most recently Bill O’Brien ran. McElroy had to adjust to a future head coach named Jim McElwain, who was Alabama’s offensive coordinator during Saban’s first title run with the Tide. But no matter the system installed, McElroy says the real idea involving the personnel the QB has to work with stays the same in Tuscaloosa.
“While you might have to account for more yards and touchdowns now than you used to, the goal remains the same: Put your teammates in the best position to be successful by making good decisions at the line of scrimmage and making great decisions when you drop back to pass, and that will be the message continually,” McElroy said.
Who Becomes ‘The Guy’ Behind Center Per McElroy?
He believes another two-man race is set to take place at his alma mater. But while he thinks the Norte Dame transfer Tyler Buchner can keep a running dimension to the Tide offense and is connected to new offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, McElroy believes he’s not the automatic winner behind center.
“You go out and get Buchner, because I think Buchner can give you something in the run-game, and he also has some experience with Tommy Rees. But I think Ty Simpson’s the guy,” McElroy shared.
Overall, in tracing back to his conversation with Smith III, McElroy has a stronger feeling about this ’23 Tide team compared to what early predictions have indicated.
“I think as a society, we get very focused on individual players when individuals seldom win championships,” McElroy said. “That’s why I really liked this group. I think they’re very mature. I think that they are hungry, for sure. And I think the sum is probably greater than each individual part, and that’s the way it was back in the day.
“I’ve been around the team this offseason. I’ve been really liking the messaging. I’m really liking the approach,” McElroy continued. “There’s a business-like feel to how they’ve gone about their business up to this point. And I think that it breeds a lot of success.”