Looking toward the 2012 season is fun for fans, especially since the first hurdle—the start of spring practice—has been cleared.
In Tuscaloosa, the first day of practice went rather well and provided hope for Tide fans nationwide that 2012 could be a very special year.
Here are 10 things that Alabama should keep its eye on during spring drills in order to have a special season come September.
Nick Saban has rules. Saban's rules are not made to be broken.
Tide fans have long been waiting to see Duron Carter in action, and they've been waiting for almost a year now. They will have to wait a little longer.
Although there aren't many facts available regarding the suspension, it's safe to assume Carter earned the punishment.
He wasn't the only one suspended, and in order to have a successful season, the Tide has to have its players.
Saban won't play games with his crew. If there's a starter that doesn't want to behave like a starter, a backup will get playing time in order to develop into a starter.
No Tide fan wants to see the Jefferson-Lee situation occur at the Capstone, and it's highly doubtful that Saban and company would let such a thing happen.
If the suspended players want to be part of something special in 2012, they will all make sure this is their last trip to Saban's doghouse.
Injured players need to make sure their top priority is healing. Eddie Lacy and Arie Kouandjio underwent surgery during the offseason that will keep them out of all 15 spring sessions, according to Saban (via TideSports.com).
Injured players that push themselves too hard end up being worse than injured players. Lacy and Kouandjio need to follow whatever orders the medical staff gives them and simply heal for the 2012 season.
There are plenty of other things they can be doing; one example is covered in the next slide.
As a backup at Alabama, the opportunity to shine comes in short bursts, usually against vastly inferior teams.
During the spring sessions, while primary players are suffering from injury or enduring suspensions, the backups need to take advantage of the situation.
The worst that can happen is that they earn respect in the eyes of their first-string comrades. The best that can happen is that they earn a starting spot on the squad.
Either way, the backups are about to enjoy a rare opportunity to practice with the starters. That experience is as close as they can get to in-game reps until the season kicks off.
If they take advantage of it, the second stringers can improve to the point that they can contribute with the level of skill that the starters do.
The successful long pass is a product of talent, control and repetition. A.J. McCarron has the short passing game down pat, though he will need to practice it to stay sharp, of course.
The long ball is equally reliant on quarterback accuracy and receiver skill.
This spring should be loaded with deep-route drills. With Duron Carter missing spring drills, the second-string receivers have the opportunity to cement themselves as starters if they listen to the coaches and respond quickly to instruction.
The receivers that will be participating repeatedly have a gigantic advantage over those on the sidelines this spring. Carter may not end up being McCarron's biggest deep threat, especially if the new kids in town capitalize on the situation at hand.
Phillip Sims is in an awkward position right now. If McCarron doesn't leave the Capstone after his junior year, Sims will only see one year on the field (two if he stays as a fifth-year senior).
Sims needs to be very careful during the 2012 season. It could be very easy for him to take a nonchalant approach to his responsibility as backup to McCarron. He needs to stay sharp and be ready for action at a moment's notice.
Nobody wants McCarron to get injured, and no one should be calling for a dual-quarterback system in Tuscaloosa. (LSU proved in 2011 that there is a breaking point in a two-QB program, and it's not pretty when it breaks.)
Sims needs to follow one simple principle: If the situation isn't bad enough to leave Tuscaloosa, then he needs to take ownership of his position and work just as hard at backup as he would as the starter.
At one point or another, most people have worked jobs they didn't like. The bottom line is that if it's not bad enough to quit, you should take pride in your work.
The attitude in Tuscaloosa must be one of dedication and determination. In the intro, I linked to an article I wrote about the first spring practice.
The mentality at the Capstone seems to be one of ownership of the upcoming season, mixed with the determination not to let the 2011 mistakes repeat themselves.
Simply put: That's the way it must remain. If this team's mentality shifts to, "We're Alabama, therefore we will win," then the 2012 season is already lost as far as repeating a championship is concerned.
The mindset of a champion is never set in the past, nor does it look too far into the future. It looks to the next practice, the next game or the next trip to the weight room. Whatever is next on the agenda is priority No. 1.
Keep today as first priority, Tiders, and 2012 will be electric.
Saban said that he was pleased with the way the new coaches fit in with little issue during the first practice. (Read the article here with full quote from RollTide.com.)
Having new staff members is going to become the norm in Tuscaloosa. You don't win two championships in three years without raising interest in your staff members.
You don't shut out one of the best teams in the history of college football without having your defensive coordinator looked over by other teams.
Integrating new staff members is not difficult as long as the team has a true team attitude. The ease with which the new staff members assumed power speaks to the team's mentality, as well as to the newcomers' personalities.
If the relationships grow from the first practice, the 2012 Crimson Tide will be an absolute nightmare for the opposition.
The secondary took a hit this year and must step up almost immediately. Knowledge of the playbook and individual responsibility need to be the two major priorities for the budding secondary.
The secondary shouldn't be the main concern, as the linebacking corps should stop opponents from ever getting to that level of the defense, but it is a major concern. (The 'backing corps will be addressed in the next slide.)
The secondary will be tested early in the season as the front seven make the mistakes necessary for growth. If they pass the tests in the spring, there's no reason to fear the fall.
While the defensive line is responsible for creating opportunities, the linebackers are the center ring of the Crimson Circus.
The linebackers get all the credit in Saban's defense as far as statistics are concerned. The defensive line gets the push inside, creating the pressure that forces the ball out more quickly than the enemy would like, and the linebackers are there to squish the guy with the ball.
This was abundantly clear in the BCS title game, but the Tide is missing a few headliners this spring that were more than adequate in the championship.
The new kids need to learn their jobs quickly, and learn them completely. There is precious little margin for error in 2012, and spring is the least harmful season to make mistakes.
Barret Jones has been moved to the center position upon the departure of William Vlachos.
According to USAToday.com, Jones has already seen time at every position along the offensive line. This spring, Jones needs to concentrate on being the center.
Surely, that's a welcome relief to Jones, as he discusses in the USA Today article how confusing playing any of the five positions could be.
Jones needs to concentrate on being automatic with the snaps. Then he can concern himself with the other aspects of the position. With his experience along the front lines, don't expect to notice much of a difference between him and Vlachos, other than the jersey.
Jones should be fine, but his responsibility cannot go overlooked.