In 2007 Nick Saban inherited a mess when he took on the arduous task of returning the once proud Alabama Crimson Tide football program to national relevance. Six years and two national championships later embarrassing losses to teams like Louisiana Monroe have been forgotten; overshadowed by three consecutive #1 recruiting classes in the country.
The talent at Alabama is so deep that a number of their third stringers would probably start for most of the teams in the country, even the elite teams like USC, Ohio State, and Texas. Last year the reigning champions were led by current Cleveland Brown running back Trent Richardson and by a dominant defense viewed my many as one of the BEST DEFENSES ALL TIME which also produced 7 NFL draft picks.
The Crimson Tide begin their title defense against the Michigan Wolverines and despite their loses on defense and offense expectations can not be any higher. On offense the Tide are led by AJ McCarrons who played remarkably in the championship game against LSU. They have two All-Americans and likely first round draft choices along their offensive line in massive DJ Fluker and the violinist/Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones. Little drop off is expected at running back due to the Tide’s impressive stable of backs including Eddie ‘Circle Button’ Lacey and spring freshman breakout star TJ Yeldon.
Although their current team possesses a number of future NFL talent several pundits are mistakenly overlooking the lack of proven playmakers at wide receiver and tight end. Although Marquis Maze and Brad Smelley did not even make the All-SEC team they each played a critical role in the Tide’s title run. Marquis Maze kept defenses honest often requiring safety help and Brad Smelley was a wonderful first down outlet and a great run/pass blocker. Who will fill these roles? There is talent at wide receiver and tight end but who steps up is anyone’s guess.
On defense the Tide truly have an embarrassment of riches with former five-star recruits anxiously awaiting their turn to shine in the crimson limelight. Talented underclassmen are biting at the bit to step in for last year’s stars (Courtney Upshaw, Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron, and Donta Hightower) who each shook Commissioner Goodell’s hand after being selected in first round of the NFL Draft. CJ Mosely at linebacker will certainly garner All-American honors this season and players like Adrian Hubbard and Jesse Williams will again help the Crimson Tide lead the nation in total defense for another season.
However, the Tide’s chances of defending their title will be determined by the play of their secondary which only returns one starter. The offenses that the Tide will face in the SEC will be led by future NFL caliber quarterbacks (Wilson of Arkansas, Bray of UT, and Murray of UGA). Unlike in years past there will be an aerial onslaught and it may take a few games before Nick Saban is able to whip his secondary into shape.
Although the talent is there to contend for a title the inexperience at several key positions may make hoisting the National Championship Trophy with an unblemished record highly unlikely. After winning their first title in 2009 the Tide lost three games the following season. How will the 2012 Crimson Tide team respond? Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (follow me on twitter @eatdrnkslpsprtz)