The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Bama's pair of Anderson, Young have unfinished business

19 days ago
Kevin Scarbinsky
Photo: Alabama Athletics

Nick Saban has a bully pulpit. The Alabama coach knows it, and he isn't afraid to use it. In years past, he's taken the stage at SEC Media Days and taken stands on any number of issues affecting college football in particular and college athletics in general.

Tuesday was different. Despite the abundance of issues that have sucked most of the oxygen from the postseason, Saban spent the majority of his prepared remarks cutting through the clutter and talking about his team.

Why wouldn't he? Alabama isn't the defending national champion, but the Crimson Tide played in the national championship game for the sixth time in the last seven years. They've earned three big rings since 2015, and they haven't gone three straight years without winning a national title since Saban arrived in 2007.

Oh, and Bryce Young and Will Anderson are back.

Young, the junior quarterback, is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and SEC offensive player of the year. Anderson, the junior outside linebacker, is the returning SEC defensive player of the year and Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner as national defensive player of the year.

So there's hard evidence in the form of trophies that Alabama will start the 2022 season with the best offensive and defensive players in the country on its talent-heavy roster. Saban is so enamored with Young and Anderson, as leaders as well as players, that he fielded a comparison question about the pair and didn't go off on a rant. Just the opposite.

"I don't like to compare players, but to have two players who make such a significant impact on our team as those two guys, I don't recall ever having a circumstance like that," Saban said. "We've had some great impact players but never one on offense, one on defense of the caliber that these guys have been able to play on a consistent basis."

Bad news for the defensive backs that have to face Young, the tackles who have to try to stay in front of Anderson, the opponents on Alabama's schedule. The 33-18 loss to SEC rival Georgia in the National Championship Game gave Alabama's player-leaders a deeper motivation to improve as individuals to lift their team to a victory in this season's final game.

Both Young and Anderson described that Georgia defeat as "a failure."

In response, Anderson said he has gained five pounds of muscle at Saban's suggestion, which puts him at 250 pounds of force and fury off the edge. He said he's surprised he still fits into the blue suit he wore Tuesday, which isn the same suit he wore to the Nagurski Award ceremony after last season.

Young said he's put up a wall between working on his game and considering the NIL offers that come his way.

"The biggest thing for me is having priorities," he said. "Making sure I'm putting the team first. Making sure that football comes first. Making sure the main thing is the main thing."

The main thing for Saban's 16th Alabama team in its quest to get back to the final game and finish the job: Its best players may be its best leaders.

"Really excited about having these guys on our team," Saban said. "You couldn't ask for two better people. I've always said that when the best players on your team are really good people with great attitude and great mindset, it's really helpful to developing the type of team chemistry you need to have a successful team."

No one knows college football success like him.