All across America, college football players are thinking pretty much the same thing. Practice has been going on for several weeks. Games are just around the corner, this weekend for most, and that means an opportunity to play against someone other than teammates.
“I’ve BEEN ready for football,” said Alabama All-America safety Mark Barron.”
Alabama, ranked second in the nation, will open the 2011 season Saturday hosting Kent State at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff will be at 11:21 a.m. CDT with regional television coverage by the SEC Network.
Barron said he thinks Bama is ready for a game, and more than just because of the tedium of a long fall camp. He sees a difference in attitude in this year’s team. A year ago the Crimson Tide was coming off a national championship and picked by many to repeat the success of 2009. Instead, Alabama fell to a 10-3 record.
“We feel like last year we let ourselves down,” Barron said. “We’re a little bit more motivated, I feel, than we were last year at this point.”
Barron, 6-2, 218, is one of five seniors listed as first team on the defensive depth chart released by Alabama Coach Nick Saban Monday.
The Mobile native said that he thinks the defense is ready. “We’ve been working hard this whole summer,” he said. “I feel like we’ve got good chemistry now. We’ve pretty much got it set, who’s going to be doing what.”
Alabama is not going through the motions, considering Kent State to be a breather, Barron said. “We don’t every approach a game as a warm-up game,” he said. “It’s a game. Regardless of who we’re playing, it’s a game. We play to our standards. We don’t [lay to the standard of our opponents.”
As to what Barron hopes to get out of the game?
“A win,” he said. And he added a chance to see where Alabama is.
Kent State has a new head coach and new coordinators. Barron said preparation for the first game has included looks at Kent State and Ohio State, since Golden Flashes first year Coach Darrell Hazell came from the Buckeyes. Although he said that makes preparation more difficult, he added, “I feel like we’ll be fine.”
Last year Barron suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the second quarter of the Auburn game and missed the Capital One Bowl victory over Michigan State after undergoing surgery. He has recovered completely from the injury. Barron started the first game of his sophomore season against Virginia Tech and has started 26 of 27 Tide games the past two years.
Barron tried to think back to that first start.
“I don’t think I was all that nervous,” he said. “I think I was ready to go out there and get the first snap and see what it actually felt like. I had played, but I hadn’t started. I wanted to see what that actually felt like. Just get that first snap and see what the tempo was like.”
There is a theory in athletics that it doesn’t matter who starts. Barron said there is some importance to it.
“Everybody here works hard,” he said. “That’s what you’re working for, to start. Once you see that you are starting, it makes you think that you have done some of what you set out to do. It’s like accomplishing a goal, almost.”
There isn’t any mystery about the starter at safety for Alabama. On the other hand, it will probably be game time before Bama’s quarterback starter is known. The Crimson Tide lists sophomore A.J. McCarron and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims as co-number one.
Barron has worked against both in practice this fall.
“They are pretty similar in style,” Barron said. “Phil might be a little faster, but that’s pretty much the only difference I can see. Ask the receivers, they may something different, but from what I’ve seen they are pretty much the same.”
Told that Kent State’s coach had said the two quarterbacks look very different, Barron said, “He might have seen something I haven’t seen.”