After missing out on the playoffs last season, Alabama’s focus going into the 2023 season has been to bring more intensity and physicality starting with the offensive line.
Last year, Will Anderson, Jr. was Alabama’s leader, giving his best efforts to hold his teammates to the Alabama standard of playing physical. Anderson also served as an extension of Nick Saban, delivering Saban’s principles to both his teammates but also to the public. With Anderson off to the NFL, sophomore guard Tyler Booker has emerged as the leader to take Anderson’s place in delivering Saban’s messages to the team and the public.
From the beginning of fall camp, Booker emphasized Alabama's intention to revert to a physical, run-oriented style of offensive football, and he reiterated this stance Thursday. Just a few hours after it was announced that Booker would be a weekly guest on “The Next Round” during the upcoming football season, Booker appeared on the “Paul Finebaum Show” to deliver his message.
"We want to be able to turn on the film and say, 'OK, this is the play where this guy quits.' There's no better way to do that than running the ball," he told Finebaum. "The addition of Coach [Tommy] Rees he has a lot of great ways of disguising runs and putting us in positions to really take advantage of what the defense puts in front of us. As a team, we all want to get back to that old Alabama way of playing. We haven't finished bad in the rankings at all by other people's standards. But for our standard, the only respectable ranking for us is No. 1 at the end of the year."
The Crimson Tide had a disappointing finish last season, missing the playoffs. This year, they open up the season as the No. 4 team in the AP poll, their lowest preseason ranking since 2009. During the offseason, several in the media have pushed the narrative that Nick Saban and Alabama have slipped from their top spot in college football. Last month at SEC media days, Booker’s fellow offensive lineman JC Latham voiced the opinion that he felt disrespected and Finebaum asked Booker if the team felt this way as a whole.
"We do," Booker said. "But the thing about us, we know how to channel that energy. Like, OK, it's up to us to remind the country who we are."
Booker seems ready to channel that energy and bring back the physical play up front by running the ball. Booker has his mind set that the Crimson Tide is gonna make teams quit and get back to playing Alabama football this season. He told Finebaum just how he was going to do it.
"Out-physicaling somebody, but also more importantly, mentally. You can see the look in another man's eye when he's had enough," Booker said. "He might limp a little bit, he's not coming off the ball with the same strut that he had. You can just feel it. That's why running the ball is the best way to make somebody quit. When you feel all 350 pounds of me on you every single play, you can only take so much of it. Just being in-your-face dominant all the time, there's only so much a person can take. The faster we make people quit, the faster we get back to playing Alabama football.”
If Booker can live up to his passionate words, opposing defensive lines are going to have their hands full this season.
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