Nick Saban, Alabama football will get reacquainted with noise in Atlanta opener | Hurt

Cecil Hurt
Sports Editor

The last time Alabama football played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the game was stellar but the crowd was quiet — because it was limited. 

Had there been a full house of Alabama and Florida fans in Atlanta that night last year, the decibel level would have exceeded Metallica on a runway; the back-and-forth nature and high-octane offense from both teams would have meant no lull in the din. 

The coronavirus restrictions that limited last year’s crowds have been lifted by the state of Georgia. That isn’t an invitation to debate, just a statement of fact. The house will be full, or nearly full. Whether that translates into high-volume excitement when Alabama opens the 2021 season vs. Miami on Saturday remains to be seen, but Nick Saban is going to be ready in case it does. 

Alabama fans cheer during the first half of an NCAA football game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and The Auburn Tiger at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. [Photo/Jake Arthur]

"Any time you’re playing, crowd noise does make a difference in the game,” Saban said Wednesday. “We didn’t have to deal with a whole lot a year ago. So a lot of the players that played last year, they’ll have to get reacclimated to that.

"I think being able to communicate with hand signals and not as much relying on verbal communication is always very important. We spent today practicing that way with noise. We’ll spend (Thursday) practicing that way with noise. So I think there is some adjustment that players have to make. It’s something that they have to get used to, and we try to do that by simulating it in practice as much as we can."

The best guess is that it will be loud but nowhere near the road roar that Alabama will encounter in The Swamp in a couple of weeks, or at Kyle Field in early October. Unlike the crowd for the Alabama-Miami game, which will be predominantly Crimson Tide, those SEC road crowds will be frenzied, united in their hope of knocking Alabama off the league throne.

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If new starting quarterback Bryce Young shows any sign of nervousness when opposing fans get loud, that will just make the jeers louder. (The Mercer contingent probably won’t deafen anyone at Bryant-Denny Stadium, but that’s an exception.) 

Young won’t be the only one affected. There will be a new center replacing Landon Dickerson. The majority of the wide receiving corps will have never played in a full college stadium before.

“It’s a development process for young players,” Saban said. “Consistency and performance (are) really what define success, and I think sometimes they’re not sure what they’re doing. So they’re not playing fast, sometimes they get impatient and cut things short. But they also have shown that they have a lot of upside in terms of their ability to make a really positive contribution to the team. It is going to be a little bit of a work in progress (but) I think with all these guys you’re gonna see some very bright signs and I think sometimes there will be things that we can identify that we still need to work on to help their development.”

The players won’t be able to hear the Alabama-weary fatigued masses watching on televisions around the country and pulling for the upset. But Saturday will be a good opportunity for the Crimson Tide to show that it can take a crowd, or the opposing portion of one, getting the first opportunity, after more than a year waiting to express itself.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt