Alabama Football: 7 Reasons Crimson Tide Will Improve over Last Year
Alabama is coming off its second national championship victory in three years. It is hard to truly improve on that success when you were crowned the best team in the country, but if you know Nick Saban, you know there are always things that he is looking to get better at.
The Crimson Tide returns 12 starters from a year ago, including seven on the offensive side of the ball. There are issues that must be addressed if this team expects to repeat, but there are plenty of reasons to believe that this is a team that will be in the thick of the national championship race once again.
As the season is less than two months away from kicking off, here are a few reasons why Alabama will have an even better season in 2012.
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Alabama won the national championship in 2009 with an undefeated record, and it entered the 2010 season as one of the favorites to repeat. The problem is that it didn't quite go as planned. The Crimson Tide finished with a 10-3 record and had to settle for the Capital One Bowl instead:
"That wasn't a good year," Tide linebacker Nico Johnson said. "We lost to South Carolina, LSU, Auburn. It was different. We don't want that to ever happen again. What we do year in and year out is try to get to a national championship. If we don't get there, it's kind of depressing. We're trying to prevent that from happening." (via the Gadsden Times)
Having failed once, it should really have this team focused and help players not take anything for granted this time around. This should help Alabama moving forward and should prevent any letdown that many teams suffer from after achieving success.
Defense Is Still There
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We all know how great Alabama's defense was last season, as it was shoved down our throats the entire year. And even with seven starters no longer around, you better believe that it will once again be a force to be reckoned with.
The defensive line should be one of the best in the country, with players such as Damion Square, Quinton Dial and Jesse Williams returning from a squad that finished fourth in the SEC with 30 sacks. You also can't forget about a solid linebacker combination in C.J. Mosley and Nico Johnson, who will provide experience to the back end.
The secondary is the weak point, with Mark Barron and Dre Kirkpatrick gone, but several of these players have seen playing time, so the transition shouldn't be as painful.
Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has his fair share of work to do, but this is Alabama—you should expect a competitive unit, regardless of how many players that it has left.
Strong Offensive Line
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Alabama only allowed 17 sacks last season, which was the best in the SEC and was tied for 24th in the country. What makes things even better is that four starters from that unit are returning, including versatile lineman and Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones, who will either play left tackle or the center position once the season begins.
The Crimson Tide has a mammoth right tackle in D.J. Fluker, an experienced left guard in Chance Warmack and Anthony Steen at right guard, who has a lot of potential.
Overall, this is an offensive line that should be one of the best in the entire country, and it will just help improve this offense as a whole in 2012.
Running Back Depth
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Eddie Lacy is more than capable of replacing Trent Richardson, who left a year early for the NFL draft. He has only carried the ball 151 times throughout his two-year career, but he has racked up over 1,000 yards and scored 13 touchdowns.
He has a terrific combination of size and power, and he can either run you over or run by you with his underrated speed.
Demetrius Hart is another back that Alabama fans need to be excited about. He is a 4-star recruit from the 2011 class who missed the entire season due to a leg injury. Now that he is healthy, he should get his touches, considering he is a big-play threat who has great hands and blazing speed.
This doesn't even include the big running back in Jalston Fowler, who averaged seven yards a carry and scored seven touchdowns last season. Or true freshman T.J. Yeldon, who impressed everyone during the spring game.
Combine all of this talent with a huge offensive line, and you have a recipe for another solid rushing attack.
T.J. Yeldon and Other Freshmen
photo via: al.com
Speaking of running back T.J. Yeldon, he is the type of player who can become the X-factor for a football team. At 6'1", 215 pounds, he has a great combination of size and underrated speed. He knows how to make defenders miss, has great instincts on the football field and is fabulous at catching the ball out of the backfield.
He was the star of the spring game and has already set himself up for huge expectations in the 2012 season. Expect to see the former 5-star recruit get a lot of playing time his true freshman year.
Other freshman that could see early playing time include wide receiver Amari Cooper, Cyrus Jones, linebacker Dillon Lee, safety Landon Collins, cornerback Geno Smith and linebacker Reggie Ragland.
Alabama had one of the top recruiting classes in 2012, landing a total of 26 talented players.
Polished A.J. McCarron
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Everybody was optimistic about quarterback A.J. McCarron early in the year. But as the season went on, he began to show us a little bit more, making good decisions with the football and completing a high percentage of his passes.
Then, in the national championship game, he completed 67 percent of his passes and threw for 234 yards against one of the best defenses in the country.
McCarron did throw three interceptions in the spring game, but he also threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns.
It seems like the junior quarterback is growing in confidence as each day passes by, and his play continues to improve. Give this offense a consistent passing game with the running game it already has, and this will be an even tougher team to slow down in the upcoming season.
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How could you possibly forget about head coach Nick Saban?
He is arguably the best college football coach in the country and is one of the greatest of all time. He is a monster at recruiting, has won 72 percent of his games in his career, is 4-1 in bowl games at Alabama and will have this team focused on the task at hand.
We can talk about the talent all we want, but it takes a great head coach to make everything work. That is exactly what Saban is, and he is one of the main reasons this Crimson Tide team will once again be in the running for the national championship.