Can Alabama Football maintain its blue collar identity?

Mar 6, 2024; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama head coach Kalen DeBoer watches his quarterbacks go through drills during practice of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team Wednesday.
Mar 6, 2024; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama head coach Kalen DeBoer watches his quarterbacks go through drills during practice of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team Wednesday. / Gary Cosby Jr.-Tuscaloosa News / USA

One of the biggest doubts that outsiders perpetuate about Alabama Football is whether or not the program will be able to maintain its blue collar identity under the new regime. 

Head Coach Kalen DeBoer comes to Tuscaloosa from Washington and is originally from South Dakota. While he lacked ties and familiarity with the South at the time of his hiring, he has had to undergo a crash course over the last several months. Given that he has assembled a top-notch coaching staff, kept most of the roster intact, and has recruited fairly well thus far, I would say DeBoer is acclimating quickly. He may come from a different part of the country, but Kalen DeBoer is a winner with blue collar traits of his own.

With several more coaches and players coming from Washington along with DeBoer, this year’s Alabama team will have a hint of West Coast flavor. However, DeBoer’s teams at Washington were not your typical PAC-12 teams. Sure, they had Heisman contenders at quarterback and wide receiver, fitting the stereotype on the surface. However, they were also gritty and tough in the trenches on both sides of the ball, with the offensive line winning the 2023 Joe Moore Award. 

The Huskies sent both offensive tackles, first-round pick Troy Fautanu and second-round selection Roger Rogengarten, to the NFL this spring. Center Parker Brailsford, another key piece of that line, now joins DeBoer in Tuscaloosa. Defensively, third-round pick Bralen Trice was one of the most physical edge players in college football. 

Though the PAC-12 was known for offense (and passing the ball in particular), the league as a whole got a lot more physical over the last two or three years of its existence. Utah brought a lunch pail attitude to the PAC-12 and saw incredible success, winning the league in 2021 and 2022. Under Mario Cristobal and now Dan Lanning, Oregon has been trying to recruit and build its roster like an SEC team for the last half decade. The PAC-12 certainly wasn’t quite like the SEC, but it wasn’t the PAC-12 of old either. 

Coach DeBoer is no stranger to physicality and hard-nosed football. Additionally, he is aware of the magnitude of the situation he is stepping into and appreciates the history of Alabama Football. I have little doubt that he has educated himself on that history and has a feel for what it will take to win in the SEC. 

His staff, highlighted by holdovers Freddie Roach and Robert Gillespie as well as a defensive coordinator in Kane Wommack who is very familiar with the region, will help to make the transition smoother. A roster that is still primarily made up of former Nick Saban recruits will help as well.

I don't think Alabama will have any trouble maintaining its blue collar identity under Kalen DeBoer. If anything, I would argue that the 2024 iteration of the Tide could be more reminiscent of early Saban-era teams. Complacency and entitlement were just beginning to bleed into the program over the final few years of Saban's tenure, and now Alabama gets a fresh start.

Kalen DeBoer has been the underdog his entire life, and I expect his teams at Alabama to take on that same mindset. With Coach Saban gone, Bama has more doubters than it has in a long time, and is almost treated like an afterthought in many national conversations. The introduction of Coach DeBoer may have re-awakened the monster in Tuscaloosa.