The Tide will enter 2012 with almost every ingredient necessary to produce their 15th national championship.
That being said, there is no reason to believe that it will be a cakewalk. The Tide has issues to address from quarterback depth to defensive attrition.
How will the coaches and players address these issues? There are very few options available to them for the 2012 season, as recruiting is finished, but recruiting will heavily impact the years beyond 2012.
Here are the ways that the Tide and staff will be attempting to put together another championship run. (Preferably an undefeated run, as a 2011 scenario is unlikely to happen again quite this soon...at least not to Alabama's benefit.)
The 2011 edition of the Crimson Tide did not happen by accident. The defensive monster that was the best in the nation was a result of discipline, practice, training and coaching.
The same coaches responsible for the 21-0 shutout of LSU in the championship game will be responsible for developing the 2012 defense.
So, no matter who ends up playing what position in the trenches, Saban and Smart will ensure that it's the best combination of pure skill that exists on defense. The question here is simply whether or not Lance Thompson will be as big on the linebacking front as he was on the recruiting front.
The new offensive coordinator, Doug Nussmeier, will be joining Saban in trying to put together one of the most potent Crimson Tide offenses in recent memory.
The war that is the game of football is won in the trenches, and it's fought mainly by the linemen. The only starter that isn't at least a junior is Cyrus Kouandjio, who starts at left tackle.
As far as the depth chart is concerned, training and practice are the only ways to beef up security on the offensive or defensive lines. There is no more recruiting to be done for the 2012 season, and the starters aren't likely to be kids that arrive in Tuscaloosa in the fall.
Scott Cochran is the mastermind behind the entire offensive and defensive lines. Cochran will metaphorically beat the crud out of these guys until they are solid masses of speed and skill that will outmatch their opponents on every snap.
The rest of the coaching staff will ensure that they outplay their opponents on every snap, but Cochran is the guy that will establish their physical dominance at the line of scrimmage.
With the coaching and training these players will receive, the new starters should be up to speed by the Missouri game. If not, the depth chart may be rearranged a bit. Athletes like Cyrus Jones and Eddie Williams may find themselves learning various lineman positions.
Aside from the physical aspects of coaching that were mentioned in the previous slide, there is a mental aspect to the game of football that arguably makes a bigger difference than the physical portion.
When the players of a team are hungry for a championship, it leads to a season like the Tide had in 2009. When the attitude changes to an attitude of entitlement or complacency, it can end up like the 2010 Crimson Tide's season.
Now, to be fair, there are plenty of teams that would work their tails off for a 10-win season that ended with a Capital One Bowl victory, but the Tide puts so much more talent on the field in 2012 than most other teams.
A Capital One Bowl appearance would not be at the top of the 2012 Tide's wish list for the Christmas season.
Nick Saban will be spending the summer figuring out exactly what it is that these players need to hear in order to instill in them that hunger for dominance that will place them in a prime position for both Atlanta (SEC Championship) and Miami (BCS National Championship).
All the preparation that goes into the 2012 Tide squad will carry over into 2013, except the seniors and any juniors who declare for the 2013 NFL draft.
Recruiting is a gigantic part of Saban's system. (Who can put a championship team on the field without players, right?)
The 2013 class already has commitments from the following offensive linemen (via scout.com):
Andy Dodd, 6'4" and 305 pounds (3-star)
Grant Hill, 6'5" and 310 pounds (4-star)
Bradley Bozeman, 6'5" and 315 pounds (3-star)
Alongside those three commitments (and whoever else ends up signing with the Tide in 2013), the 2012 class will have an entire year of experience under their belts.
The deficiencies entering 2013 will be far greater than the ones that could plague the Tide in 2012. The good news is that the 2013 Tide will be more experienced on defense, which will ease the burden of the youthful offense.