Alabama looking to regain its edge

Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked about his offensive line earlier this week.

Never missing a chance to send a message, Saban went into an abbreviated version of what he's been hammering home to his team for the last few weeks.

"Somewhere along the line this year, we sort of lost our edge," Saban said. "I’m not talking about our offensive line. I’m talking about our team, and I’m talking about the intangible edge of playing with toughness and giving effort. We got too satisfied with winning and not playing to a standard."

There are some things Saban absolutely won't budge on, and one of them is doing things the right way and playing with focus, intensity and purpose no matter what the score or the opponent.

I think back to the 2008 season and can still hear him in the adjacent locker room skewering his team following a lackluster second half against Georgia, even though Alabama won 41-30 on the road against a Georgia team ranked No. 3 coming into the game. Saban was furious, though, with how his team played in the second half.

In short, they lost their edge.

He's had his foot on the throat of this team ever since he sensed something was missing in the first half of that Arkansas game back on Sept. 18. It didn't catch up with the Tide then, but it did a few weeks later in Columbia when they had their 19-game winning streak snapped by South Carolina.

You've heard him talk a lot recently about toughness. He's challenged his team repeatedly in that area.

Is this team tough enough?

We're going to find out, but Saban said there's no question that losing that edge this season has affected Alabama's entire team.

"If we’re going to be a good football team and continue to improve, it’s going to be important that we get that back," said Saban, whose club faces Tennessee on Saturday night in Knoxville.

One of the reasons the Crimson Tide never lost that edge a year ago was Rolando McClain, particularly on defense. He was as hard on his teammates (sometimes harder) as Saban. Alabama misses his presence, not only in the middle of that defense with his productivity and all of his knowledge, but the Tide also miss him in the locker room.

"Rolando McClain was the alpha dog of that group, the signal-caller," Saban said. "Having that kind inspirational leader is always difficult to replace."