TUSCALOOSA, Ala.- The 2022 Alabama Crimson Tide finished with an 11-2 (6-2) record and missed the playoffs for just the second time since the playoff format was implemented in 2014.
Many fans and former players took to social media to criticize the team after giving up 52 points and losing to Tennessee for the first time in 15 years and again just a couple of weeks later after losing to LSU 32-31 in overtime.
Many of these criticisms centered around losing the “Alabama Standard.” Head Coach Nick Saban has now taken steps to get Alabama back to the top of the SEC this offseason by hiring two new coordinators who may have the 2023 team looking like Saban teams of old.
The first hire was veteran defensive coach Kevin Steele, who helped set the “Standard” and is now in his third stint at The Capstone.
Steele was a part of Saban’s staff at Alabama from 2007-2008 and then again from 2013-2014.
“This process started in ’07,” Steele said. “I was here. It hasn’t gone anywhere. Obviously, offensive football has changed. it’s harder on defense right now at this present time than maybe it’s been in a long, long time but the process is the process.”
One of the main focuses at practice has been limiting penalties.
In 2022 Alabama was ranked 129 out of 131 FBS football teams in penalties per game including 17 against Tennessee which was a school record.
“When you have something to correct, then you put an emphasis on it. We have officials at every practice. There are repercussions for your actions. In most cases in life as you know, if you keep something you need to correct in front of you continuously, most people learn and it gets corrected,” Steele said.
The second hire was Tommy Rees to lead the offense.
Rees was previously the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame and his offense there looked drastically different than what Alabama has run in previous years but don’t expect a copy-and-paste approach in Tuscaloosa.
“I do think we’re probably going to look different than when I was elsewhere because our personnel is different,” Rees said. “There’s different strengths, there’s different areas that we can take advantage of.”
We will have to wait and see how different this offense will be but when you look at this roster the strength for now at least appears to be the running backs.
“They play physical, and we have a great blend of guys that can do kind of a little bit of different things coming out of the backfield in the pass game, running between the tackles. So we’re a little bit spoiled in that position if we’re being honest here,” Rees said.
However, the biggest question mark for this year’s team at quarterback.
Jalen Milroe, Ty Simpson and Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner are currently in a three-way battle for the starting job.
“We want to leave practice saying, the quarterback group had a good day,” Rees said. “The other thing we want to see is when one quarterback has success, it’s going to challenge the rest of the group and when we can do that, it’s going to raise the level of play in that room.”
There have been many quarterback competitions over the years and Saban likes to use week one as part of the final decision so a starter probably will not be named until week two when former Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian brings his Texas Longhorns into Bryant-Denny Stadium. But even after a starter is named the competition will continue.
“Fall camp is not the beginning of the end,” Saban said. “We need all the quarterbacks to continue to improve and continue to compete even far beyond the time that we name the starter. We’ve had circumstances around here where quarterbacks have changed during the course of the year. You know what they are. You understand the history of what’s happened at this place.”
Saban is of course alluding to when Tua Tagovailoa replaced Jalen Hurts in the national championship and then the next season when Hurts replaced an injured Tagovailoa in the SEC Championship Game.
The last seven first-year full-time starters have helped lead the Tide to a national championship game or playoff appearance.
No matter who gets named the starter at quarterback or who steps up at the other positions what most fans, former players, and most importantly the coaches hope to see is a much more focused, disciplined, and physical team in 2023.
Follow Adam on Twitter @adamhambright.