Aug. 25, 2009
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Following a 12-2 season and the school’s first SEC Western Division championship in more than a decade, the Alabama football program is gaining more and more notoriety under third-year head coach Nick Saban.
The Crimson Tide is ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches preseason polls. Also being noticed are the UA players, who have racked up some impressive preseason credentials as opening day draws near.
Alabama has a combined 19 players on 11 different preseason watch lists this season, led by junior Rolando McClain and senior defensive lineman Terrence Cody. Both appear on five preseason watch lists.
Other UA players on the preseason watch lists include senior defensive back Javier Arenas, sophomore linebacker Dont’a Hightower, sophomore running back Mark Ingram, senior offensive lineman Mike Johnson, sophomore wide receiver Julio Jones and senior kicker Leigh Tiffin.
McClain said that seeing all the Alabama players on the various awards list gave him a sense of pride and that his UA teammates deserved the recognition they have received this preseason.
“It does make me proud, but in order to have a good team, you have to have good players,” McClain said. Those guys are good players and they work real hard to become great players. After so long, you will be recognized for the hard work you put in. They do a good job by working hard and then they go out on the field and execute. Naturally, they should get the recognition.”
McClain is on the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player), Dick Butkus Award (top linebacker), Lombardi Trophy (top lineman or linebacker), Lott Trophy (best defensive player) and Nagurski Trophy (defensive player of the year).
As a sophomore, McClain led the Tide with 95 tackles and 12 tackles for loss.
“It’s big getting the acknowledgement that we should get for all the hard work that we are putting in,” McClain said. “At the same time, I think it goes past individual awards. This is a team sport and the better your team does, the better you will look as individuals. I’m not really worried about individual awards; I’m just trying to help my team get better.”
Cody is also up for the Bednarik Award, Lombardi Trophy, Lott Trophy, Nagurski Award and Outland Trophy.
Last year as a junior, Cody recorded 24 tackles, 4 ½ tackles for loss and recovered two fumbles for the Tide.
Other defensive players on the various preseason awards list included Arenas (Nagurski and Thorpe) and Hightower (Butkus and Lombardi).
The Crimson Tide offense is represented by Ingram, Johnson and Jones. Jones appears on the Biletnikoff Award (best receiver) and Maxwell Trophy (player of the year), while Johnson is on both the Lombardi and Outland watch lists for outstanding linemen.
Ingram appears on the Doak Walker Award list, presented the nation’s top running back. Last year as a freshman, Ingram ran for 712 yards and freshman record 12 touchdowns.
“It’ is an honor to be considered one of the top backs in the country,” Ingram said. “It’s a dream come true, ever since I was little I was wanted to be the best football player I could be and to be recognized as one of the best running backs in the country is an honor for me.
“It’s real exciting for me as a player because I know I am going against the best competition each and every day. I am happy for those guys. We work hard every day. When it is all said and done though, it comes down to the success you have as a team, not individual honors.”
Senior Leigh Tiffin was named to the Lou Groza Award list, which is given to the nation’s top place kicker.
“It’s a great honor and I am very happy, but it doesn’t mean anything now,” Tiffin said. “We are working hard and just try to continue to get better each day.”
Tiffin handles all place-kicking and kickoff chores for Alabama and ranks fifth on the Tide’s career kick-scoring list with 253 career points, just 92 points behind career leader Phillip Doyle (345). As a sophomore in 2007, Tiffin set the UA single-season record for points (111) by a kicker and most
field goals (25) made.
2009 College Football Preseason Watch Lists:
Bednarik Award – Terrence Cody and Rolando McClain
Biletnikoff Award – Julio Jones
Butkus Award – Dont’a Hightower and McClain
Groza Award – Leigh Tiffin
Lombardi Trophy – Cody, Hightower, Mike Johnson and McClain
Lott Trophy – Cody and McClain
Maxwell Award – Jones
Nagurski Award – Javier Arenas, Cody and McClain
Outland Trophy – Cody and Johnson
Thorpe Award – Arenas
Walker Award – Mark Ingram