Alabama going back to camp

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- While Alabama junior linebacker Rolando McClain isn’t making any predictions on the game Thursday night, he does believe the Crimson Tide will tackle much better than they did a year ago against Utah in the Sugar Bowl.

The long layoff wreaked havoc with Alabama last season, but McClain said the practices have been significantly more physical this time around as the Crimson Tide prepare for the Citi BCS National Championship Game against Texas.

In a lot of ways, it’s reminded McClain of preseason camp, and he said that’s a good thing.

“We didn’t tackle very well at all last year, so we went back to camp practice where we did inside run (drills) and everything you’d do in camp,” McClain said. “We did a little bit of it last year, but I know we didn’t do as much as we did this year. It was a lot tougher.”

Initially, McClain was concerned when Alabama returned to practice back in December following the SEC championship game win over Florida.

“When we first came back, I was like, ‘Man, this isn’t the same football team,’ ” McClain recounted. “We weren’t in football mode. You could tell. But with coach (Nick) Saban, it’s not that hard to get back into that mode. Either you’re going to get back into it, or you won’t be playing. I think we’re all right now. We had a lot of tough practices.”

Alabama heads into its matchup with Texas ranked second nationally in scoring defense and total defense. In seven of their last eight games, the Crimson Tide allowed 15 or fewer points.

Even for McClain, who’s not easily impressed, watching this defense grow has been a treat.

“This defense is scary when everybody’s on the same page,” McClain said. “We all know what we’ve got to do, and we’re all doing it fast. That’s the scary part, when you have 11 crazy guys out there trying to make plays.”