Top Alabama Football Questions, No. 2: New Strength Staff
Alabama football fall camp began on Monday afternoon after several weeks of uncertainty about the viability of this college football season. Many questions about testing, player safety, a college football semi-bubble, etc. have yet to be answered, but this series will focus on the most pressing on-field questions for the Crimson Tide in 2020.
I narrowed down the top-10 questions I'd like to ask coach Nick Saban entering fall camp, and I'll reveal two per day, Monday through Friday. Make sure to check back to Tide1009.com throughout this week to read up all on 10, and catch up on the questions you might've missed by clicking on the links below.
10. "How important is it that an experienced player plays the Money position, and how does DeMarcco Hellams' skill set fit what you're looking for there?"
9. "When Alex Leatherwood had to play guard for a year because your tackle spots were set, you called it a 'sacrifice.' Do you view Evan Neal's situation the same way?"
8. "With the young depth you have on the defensive line and the lack of experience at outside linebacker, did you ever consider having LaBryan Ray take some reps at outside linebacker like he did as a freshman?"
7. "If there was a position group that could have used more depth last year, it was probably tight end. With Jahleel Billingsley getting a year under his belt and Carl Tucker coming in from UNC, how are you feeling about that group?"
6. "What did you see out of Trey Sanders during his rehab, and what can he bring to the offense when he's fully healthy?"
5. "Last year you mentioned Christian Barmore's interior pass-rush ability. How ready is he to be an every-down player and to play both the pass and the run?"
4. "How did Josh Jobe handle the adversity he faced last season and where is he in his ability to control his emotions and not try too hard?"
3. "You've spoken before about the importance of winning the team. How have Mac and Bryce shown their abilities to win the team in the midst of losing spring practice and the uncertainty surrounding this season?"
2. "What have you thought of the job Coach Ballou and Dr. Rhea have done so far?"
I normally try to steer away from easy questions like this because they give players and coaches an opening to promote the program and boost their P.R. But given the rash of injuries the team has dealt with in recent years, this question needs to be asked.
When longtime strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran left Alabama to become the special teams coordinator at Georgia in February, it was thought to be the most significant coaching loss of Saban's 13-year tenure at Alabama. But ever since Saban hired David Ballou and Dr. Matt Rhea from Indiana to be his new director of sports performance and football director of sports science, respectively, the tone has been quite different.
"Just as with any other area, we feel that it is imperative that we adopt and integrate advancements in the field of strength and conditioning that will provide elite training, while better protecting our players from injuries and helping them develop and perform at a higher level," Saban said in the March statement announcing the hires.
Ballou and Rhea have built robust Twitter followings of 16,000 and 20,000 fans eager to learn about players' advancements in power, strength and speed.
Players have praised their new coaches' work, too. They coached linebacker Dylan Moses in high school at IMG Academy, and Moses said he recommended the duo to Saban during the search.
“When I was over there [at IMG] they put out very good results – dropped my 40 time, got me stronger, I was healthy throughout the season," Moses said. "... I felt great when they were my coaches."
"Everything they do in the weight room translates to the field. Every single lift we do, there's a reason we're doing it. And they make it very clear to why we're doing that lift," quarterback Mac Jones said. "And I feel like that just boosts morale, and we don't feel like we're just going through the motions."
Without the season-ending injuries to four key players last season, Alabama might have reached its sixth straight College Football Playoff and competed for another national title. Perhaps Ballou and Rhea are the key to better health and a return to title contention for the Crimson Tide in 2020.