Alabama Football may be several things in 2023. Two things are not in question. Alabama will be inexperienced with only nine returning starters. Additionally, Alabama’s roster will be younger than usual.
There are 46 first or second-year scholarship players on the Alabama football roster. The number does not include new players who joined the Tide through transfer this preseason. Another telling stat is returning production. In Bill Connelly’s calculation, published by Texas A&M site Good Bull Hunting, the Alabama Crimson Tide is last in the SEC by returning just 40% production from last season. Nine SEC teams range from Georgia at 61% to Texas A&M at 80%.
Of course, returning production is not always an indicator of an improving team. Based on Connelly’s calculation, Missouri is No. 2 in the SEC at 78% and Auburn is tied for third at 71%. There can be no sensible claim that Missouri and Auburn will have better starting lineups than does the Crimson Tide.
What can be said is that LSU at 71% and Tennessee at 63% have more of a chance to benefit from returning experience early in the season than does Alabama. Fortunately for the Crimson Tide, the LSU and Tennessee games are not early in the season.
Then there is Texas, returning 74%, which if the Longhorns were already in the SEC, would make them the No. 3 SEC team in returning experience. In a week two game, 74% for Texas and 40% is significant.
On Wednesday, Nick Saban was asked about Alabama’s young roster. His response, while not disingenuous, included a dose of sugar-coating.
"I think experience matters, I really do, but I also think that when you have young players who are hungry and have great energy and enthusiasm, that’s helpful to the team chemistry as well."
Don’t point to Saban’s comments as an indication of Saban softening his standards for excellence. To borrow the old idiom, on the practice field in Tuscaloosa and in games, ‘youth will not be served.’ Not one iota of indulgence or complaisance will be allowed.
Alabama Football and Best Players
Nick Saban has never shied away from playing young players. He always wants his best players on the field. In early September, at least one true freshman is expected to start for the Crimson Tide. Around 11, second-year players have a good chance to start or be part of a regular rotation at their positions.
The lack of starting experience at quarterback for the Crimson Tide is glaring. In a QB room with five guys, there is a career total of four games started. Three of the four are from Tyler Buchner’s 2022 Notre Dame season.
Yes, Alabama Football will be less experienced than Crimson Tide fans would like. Maybe that will be a serious problem early in the season. But experience will come quickly and a hungry Crimson Tide should be an improved team in October, and later, when the games most matter.