- Head Coach Nick Saban is in his 5th year at Alabama. He returned the national championship to Tuscaloosa in 2009 and some think he may have an opportunity to do it again. As a reminder, Saban also won a championship as head coach of LSU in 2003, but left shortly after that for a brief stint in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins (2005 and 2006). As a further reminder, LSU fans feel betrayed and basically hate him.
- Last year the Crimson Tide were 10-3, a great record especially considering they lost 8 starters on defense. That was a huge blow to a team that won a title because of their defense. The incredible part is that this defense still was dominating—the 3rd best team in the nation in scoring defense and 5th best in total defense. And they were balanced defensively as their rush defense and pass defense were equally impressive. This year they only lose Marcel Dareus (okay so that’s a big loss as he was the 3rd player taken overall in April’s NFL Draft), and other than that, they return in-tact.
- Linebacker Dont’a Hightower is the leader on defense and will want a chance to compete for a title given the fact that he missed the 2009 championship run due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee (he was granted a medical redshirt). His ability to motivate and lead this team will be important.
- Some don’t believe Alabama can equal or surpass last year’s record and vie for a national title with their skill position losses. They lose their quarterback (Greg McElroy), their Heisman Trophy running back (Mark Ingram) and their star wide receiver (Julio Jones). The latter two were #1 NFL Draft picks and all three comprised the team leaders on offense: Passing–McElroy 2987 yards; Rushing–Ingram 875 yards; Receiving–Jones 1133 yards. The good news is that these numbers were somewhat average and not beyond reach for the replacements. Plus, RB Trent Richardson did rush for 700 yards and averaged an impressive 6.25 yards per carry last year.
- Whether this team can pull off an undefeated regular season or not may likely come down to the play of their quarterback. Those who are arguing for a more successful season will rely on the fact that McElroy led Alabama to a national championship in his first year as a starter. And yes McElroy did have to replace four-year starter John Parker Wilson, but I believe he was further along in his progress than either potential starter this year and showed more promise in the spring game. A.J. McCarron and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims will battle for the starting position. And McCarron looks to have the advantage with the experience of backing up McElroy last year as a redshirt freshman and getting in during the Mississippi State game thanks to Bama’s big lead. However, the most memorable part of his action in that game was on the sideline when he got yelled at (and tapped on the behind) by Saban.
- The one thing that McElroy boasted was accuracy. He did well in 2009 and improved even more as a passer last year with a completion rate over 70% that ranked 4th in the nation. That will be difficult to replaced. Both QBs have stronger arms than McElroy and it will just be a question of who is the most poised, consistent and accurate enough to manage the game and take advantage of the great field position they will no doubt have from their defense. I guess time will tell at the end of summer once both players have had a better chance to work on the plays and gain more experience.
- The Offensive Linemen will have a tougher job this year with an inexperienced quarterback. But this unit should be in great shape. Even though they had to replace two starters on the OL last year, they actually improved their average yards per carry (ever so slightly). This year they lose a #1 draft pick in the NFL at LT in James Carpenter, but do have four starters return.
June 10, 2011 By