For the Crimson Tide to have a shot at defending their national championship, Nick Saban will have to keep a few key players on the field for the duration of the season.
With Alabama’s annual A-Day spring scrimmage rapidly approaching, the focus for Nick Saban’s team will soon turn to fall camp and the upcoming 2012 season.
While the Crimson Tide has one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the country, considering the holes they have to fill, the factors that could turn their season upside down is the same thing that can derail any squad in the country’s hopes—injuries or disciplinary issues.
Despite the talent waiting in the wings in Tuscaloosa, depth is a concern—and because of that, certain players remaining healthy and trouble-free is essential for the Crimson Tide to have the type of season they are capable of.
The well-being of these players will play a huge role in determining if Alabama is able to win the SEC this fall, and perhaps defend their national championship.
Here are five players that nothing can happen to for Alabama.
Williams is one of Alabama's only returning skill weapons, and a senior that AJ McCarron trusts in the clutch.
Normally, tight end is not a position that holds tremendous value in terms of importance.
However, considering the evolution of current offenses using multiple tight ends, and the fact that Alabama’s tight ends accounted for six receiving touchdowns (by comparison, the wide receiver unit had seven), and the picture of Williams’ role in the 2012 offense should become clearer.
Of Alabama’s returning pass-catchers, only Kenny Bell (17 receptions) caught more passes than Williams last season (16 receptions).
With Brad Smelley lost to graduation and little depth or experience behind him, Williams will be quarterback A.J. McCarron’s trusted safety valve—and a player the ‘Bama offense can ill afford to lose.
Lester's experience and versatility make him indispensable to the Tide defense in 2012.
Lester is the secondary’s only returning starter—which heightens his importance to a Crimson Tide defense that returns only four starters.
Considering that all four of them are seniors, the case can be made that any of them could occupy this spot.
However, arguably the Crimson Tide’s best unit last season was the secondary—and opponents figure to attack them there more considering the loss of three starters, which means Lester will be counted on heavily to be the unit’s anchor and steadying force.
While he may have gotten lost in Mark Barron’s shadow the last few seasons, Lester is an All-SEC-caliber safety prospect and an impact player that Saban cannot afford to lose this season.
Williams will have a significant role trying to replace Josh Chapman at nose tackle this season.
Probably the most underrated player on last season’s top-ranked defense was senior nose tackle Josh Chapman—whose play spearheaded the nation’s best rush defense.
Enter Williams, who started at defensive end last season, but slid into the middle this spring to help fill the void of Chapman.
So far, Saban has been pleased with the results—and considering there’s only one person behind him with any game experience (red-shirt sophomore Brandon Ivory played in four games in 2011), Williams is a significant factor the Crimson Tide can ill afford to lose in helping remain a dominant unit up front.
If there is one position on any football team where depth is seemingly always a concern, it is the offensive line, and it’s no different in Tuscaloosa this spring.
The Alabama coaching staff is placing a ton of faith in the fact that Kouandijo will be fully healthy and ready to take over the left tackle spot filled by reigning Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones, who moved to center for the 2012 season.
On an offense with almost a completely new cast of skill players, having a stable situation up front—especially on a line capable of being the best in the country—is paramount to the success of the offense under new coordinator Doug Nussmeier.
While this spot could be occupied by any of the projected starting five linemen, protecting the quarterback’s blind side is critical—especially in a league like the SEC that is filled with elite defensive linemen.
McCarron will look to take the next step and become an elite passer in 2012.
McCarron had a solid debut season as the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback, and offered fans a glimpse of the future with his near flawless dissection of LSU’s defense in the BCS National Championship game.
That performance likely raised the bar for his expectations this season and erased any doubts about his ability to be the team’s unquestioned leader.
But should he go down, Alabama has the luxury of turning to a quality backup in Phillip Sims—who was neck and neck with McCarron for the starting nod entering last season.
However, Alabama’s hopes to repeat this fall are likely tied to McCarron—which makes him an indispensable piece to the Crimson Tide football team this fall.