For whatever reason, the roundtable died out halfway through the 2008 season (at least I think it did — the last post I can find was prior to the UT game in November 2008). Possibly we were so excited about what was happening that we didn't want to jinx it (and that attitude carried over to '09). Possibly we just didn't have anyone to really take the reins.
In any case, even though I've never really considered myself a "'Bama blogger," Alabama football is, as you know, the central focus of this site. As such, I'm making an effort by making up some roundtable questions and throwing out a few answers. Consider it a testing of the waters. If any 'Bama fans reading this have blogs and want to respond, feel free, and please post a link to your version of this in the comments. And maybe we can round this up at the end of the week (assuming someone out there notices, I mean).
Onward, then ...
1. Can't we just keep re-living 2009 forever?
Ummmm ... kinda. We do have youtube, after all.
2. Who's the hardest player from 2009 to replace?
The easy answer is to say Rolando McClain, the quarterback of the defense and someone of whom my dad told my mom, "If you'll just follow 25, he'll take you to the ball every time" (not to mention someone described as "the surest thing in the [NFL] Draft since Patrick Willis").
But just for the hell of it I'll say Javier Arenas. How often do truly great kick returners come along? Once every decade? Consider that Javy was the only player in 2006 (Mike Shula's final campaign) who could make the other team even remotely nervous. And he took the job of covering the opposition's best guy on defense in '08-'09 while continuing to make opposing teams shudder in the kicking game. Those don't come along every day.
3. Which player — or facet of the game — should we expect to make the biggest jump in 2010?
I'm guessing the passing game. Greg McElroy's on-again, off-again performance in '09 can probably be chalked up to inexperience and the fact that his best receiver (Julio Jones) spent most of the season battling nagging injuries. Even with that, he still looked great in the first four weeks of the season, led a game-winning drive at Auburn and turned in a virtuoso performance in the SEC Championship Game. With an extra year, we should all expect him to make a significant leap.
4. Is there one aspect that concerns you going into 2010?
You mean, other than the natural jinx that follows defending champs?
What about the fact that we have to replace Terrence Cody at nose? How many 3-4 defenses can operate efficiently without a beast at the nose tackle position? Not many.
(Note: I should probably add something about Cody as a goal-line blocker, but it should be noted that this was almost entirely a gimmick from the first time Alabama used it. Unless my memory is faulty, I can't think of one situation in which Cody delivered a block of consequence on the goal line. No, I'm not kidding.)
5. What is a reasonable expectation for 2010?
I guess it depends on where you stand on the concept of the "5-year grace period," explained thusly in this Simmons column:After your team wins a championship, they immediately get a five-year grace period: You can't complain about anything that happens with your team (trades, draft picks, salary-cap cuts, coaching moves) for five years. There are no exceptions. For instance, the Pats could finish 0-80 over the next five years and I wouldn't say a peep. That's just the way it is. You win the Super Bowl, you go on cruise control for five years. Everything else is gravy.
I agree with the concept, but I don't think anybody would be happy to see this team limp out of the gates and not make some effort to defend what it's earned (read this column for more details).
Looking at the schedule, there are plenty of dates that look scary — the early home date with Penn State, a midseason gamut that includes at Arkansas, home vs. Florida and at South Carolina — and that's before we talk about Tennessee or LSU (on the road) or Auburn, Mississippi State and Georgia State (OK, so I'm kidding about one of those).
Still, I think it's fair to say that anything short of 9-10 wins and a respectable bowl trip will be considered a disappointment. Although how great that disappointment will be, I don't know, given that our team is, you know, national champs and all.
(I can't stop saying that.)
Roll Tide, folks. Happy roundtabling.