It’s never easy to say goodbye.
But that’s what Alabama coach Nick Saban and the rest of the Crimson Tide faithful will have to do Saturday when Alabama’s extraordinary 2008 class bids farewell to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
This class that featured the likes of Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Courtney Upshaw, Mark Barron, Dont’a Hightower and Barrett Jones will go down in Alabama history as one of the best to step foot in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
For as serious as Saban can be, we might witnesses a softer side of him during Saturday’s senior day.
“A lot of guys in that class played a lot of really good football,” Saban said.
“Those guys to this point have won 45 games. That’s probably as many games as anybody around here has ever won in their career.”
The class has just six losses.
Not everyone stuck around or totally complied, but the ones who did certainly set the tone for Alabama’s football program under Saban. In 2008, the Tide went undefeated during the regular season, before falling to Florida in the SEC championship -- the semifinal for the national championship. It then bounced back masterfully to win 14 straight in 2009 and claim yet another national championship for Alabama.
That same year, Ingram won Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy.
While last season could be considered a disappointment for Alabama, 2011 could still be quite special for the Tide and this class. Their 9-6 loss at home to LSU is currently the only blemish on this team’s record and winning out could put them right back in the national championship game.
Some things still have to work out in Alabama’s favor, but the quest for a second national title in three years continues this weekend against Georgia Southern. Alabama needs style points and after a lackluster performance against Mississippi State last week, you can bet this team will be ready to run all over the Eagles.
But regardless of what happens at season’s end for this team and this class, Saban will always remember the players in this class for their tremendous leadership skills and winning attitude. Alabama might not be where it is right now if not for the 2008 class.
“There’s no doubt that that group was the group that sort of turned the program around, bought in, did the things that we all wanted to do to make it better,” Saban said. “They’ve set the example and certainly have made a more significant contribution than anybody would realize.”