BOZICH | Can Alabama reality TV show give Louisville football an edge?
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Some coaches call the FBI if nosy TV cameras capture one frame of practice.
Drills are off limits. The meeting rooms are out of the question. It’s a stretch to watch players stretching.
Alabama could embed a camera crew with all 85 scholarship players and every member of its coaching staff and still win 10 or more games this season. That’s just how the Crimson Tide rolls.
This year Alabama will roll into its season-opening game against Louisville Sept. 1 in Orlando, Fla., after inviting ESPN cameras for a behind-the-scenes look at their program, which has won five of the last nine national titles, including the Tide's latest score against Clemson in January.
The first of four episodes aired on ESPN2 last Wednesday night. I asked Louisville coach Bobby Petrino and five of his players if they tuned in.
Only one guy — offensive lineman Linwood Foy — admitted he was a viewer.
“I’ve just learned how they practice,” Foy said. “The tempo they bring when they step into the weight room or the practice field. I just want to watch and and see how they work and what makes us different from them.
“They’ve got their own way of teaching and going about their business. We’ve got to do our own thing here.
“In the background I saw playbooks from USC and other teams, but I didn’t see anything from us.”
Petrino said he has not watched — yet.
“I haven’t watched it yet, but we are videoing it,” Petrino said. “There’s been guys who have previewed it and watched some it. We just haven’t had the time yet to sit down and watch any of it.”
It’s a stretch to believe that Saban will allow anything of value to leak to Alabama opponents. For Alabama, this is a recruiting tool, a way to polish The Brand. It’s another way for Saban to enhance his legacy as the game’s premier coach. He's good enough to beat you with ESPN cameras and microphones parked in the middle of his practice field.
But that won’t keep Louisville from trying to find one beneficial nugget.
“You try to see if there is one thing they can give us on that or not,” Petrino said. “I don’t really know.”
“I haven’t been able to watch any of it,” U of L halfback Trey Smith said. “I’ve been trying to do as much research on Alabama as I possibly can.
“Watching You Tube videos. Seeing personalities. Just try to gain the edge on them because we need every edge just to beat a defending national championship team. I’m just trying to do the best I can to prepare myself.”
Just between you and me, Trey, what edge are you trying to gain?
“I’m not going to share it,” he said. “I’m going to leave that for the game. You’ll definitely see that in the game.”
Here is what I learned:
*New Bama quarterbacks Dan Enos is working with Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa on moving opposing defensive safeties by looking to one side before throwing the football over the middle of the field.
*”Do it again,” are Nick Saban’s three favorite words.
*The number one thing that Saban looks for during practice is players who check out mentally before all the drills are completed. Quitting is not tolerated. Not physical quitting. Not mental quitting. Especially mental quitting.
*The focus of Alabama’s strength and conditioning program is pushing players to the point where they’re ready to quit.
*In a meeting room packed with assistant coaches, graduate assistants and other staff members, Saban encouraged the room to discuss what Alabama had done wrong in practice.
For Louisville, this is not Purdue (2017 opener). This is not Auburn (2015 opener). This is definitely not Charlotte (2016 opener).
This is the gold standard.
“This is what you dream for when you come to college,” Smith said. “This is why I came to Louisville. This is why I wanted Coach Petrino to be my coach.
“I know he’s going to come out aggressive. And I know we’re going to play the top teams. This the best you can get.
“It’s a great confidence booster. You’re probably going to get better playing against Alabama.”
But remember: Alabama is favored by 25 1/2 points. The Crimson Tide were voted Number One in the USA coaches college football pre-season Top 25. Louisville was not.
“It’s a real friendly matchup,” Foy said. “It’s going to be grind. It’s going to be dirty. It’s going to be aggressive. It’s going to be a fight.”
Are you aware that Alabama is a super-sized favorite?
“Yes, we are,” Foy said. “We like that. We like it.”
Nearly four touchdowns better?
“That ain’t nothing,” Foy said. “We’re going to come out and show what’s up. That ain’t nothing to us. We like that.”
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