Here are some trends to consider before spring ball starts:
1. The increasing research and development of policy regarding safety. Last fall the concussion avoidance and the associated rules changes made an impact, I think that will become more impactful. We may be watching touch football in a few years. That will have a major impact on the size and strength of athletes if contact avoidance increasingly hits the rule book.
2. Conference realignment and the move toward 4 major conferences to align with the 4 playoff spots. More corporate $$$ haglling at the expense of the game. Don’t be surprised if the SEC fills 3 or 4 spots and it goes to hell.
3. Saban successor speculation. While he will probably be around for say up to 5 more years (much to everyone else’s chagrin) the successor list will be come apparent. I think it starts with Kirby Smart and Dabo Sweeny. In a few years Sweeny will have the preview act in Clemson’s fortunes and will have head coaching cred, while Smart is still in Tuscaloosa but as an assistant. If Saban favors Smart, look for Saban to turn it over to him the year preceding a retirement announcement. It will be interesting to watch for the early signs of that. While he would make a great coach, he was not a match for Auburn (culture conflict or hidden flaw???). There will be blood among the Alabama factions if Smart can’t handle it.
4. Alternate offenses. If they can develop good defenses the alternative offenses may make a bigger impact. Saban has the NFL style sewn up, and I don’t know of anyone that can beat him at that the way he recruits for it. The weak spot is the fast pace and the rules for substitution are against the big man philosophy. The NFL is beginning to trend to acceptance of the alternatives, and Philadelphia will install an Oregon style offense. This opens the door in the college game for teams to choose a different offense.
On a personal note, I was never so disappointed as when Chizik announced he was switching to a deliberate power/play action game at the expense of the wide open attack. His success came from his trust in Malzahn’s offense and an adequate defense, and of course his recruiting success with Cam Newton. I knew we were doomed when he told Gus to slow it down.
Anyway, things to consider for the off season.