Alabama Football: Biggest Problem Areas for Defending Champs

James ShimCorrespondent IAugust 14, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 10:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide talks to the media during a press conference following the win over Louisiana State University Tigers in the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship Game on January 10, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Alabama head coach Nick Saban has really catapulted himself into one of the elite NCAA coaches, and one of the greatest college coaches of all time. With three national championships in his résumé, he has really cemented himself as a first-class coach. 

With great recruiting ability, Saban has been able to reload rather than rebuild this Alabama squad. Even with players leaving for the NFL, Saban finds a way to retool, and have this team contend year in and year out.

With four players drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft coming from Alabama, it just goes to show the type of talent that Saban can produce.

Shutting out the LSU Tigers in the National Championship game last season, the defending champions head into the 2012 season ranked No. 2 in the USA Today preseason poll. 

With the Crimson Tide returning only six starters on offense, and four starters on defense, Saban must find a way to retool once again. Much like in 2010, Saban will be depending on younger players to step in and help them reach their ultimate goal of another National Championship. 

Heading into this season, as much talent this roster possesses, the two biggest problem areas that may stop Alabama from winning another national title may be replacing the key starters from last season on defense as well as No. 3 overall pick running back Trent Richardson. 

Even for a great coach like Nick Saban, losing great players always hurts. The top running back prospect last season, Richardson was able to rush for 1,679 rushing yards, break Mark Ingram's record for most rushing yards in a season, and score 21 touchdowns.

With Richardson now with the Cleveland Browns, and the Crimson Tide going with a new offensive coordinator, Alabama's consistency and continuity on offense will be something to watch. 

The man to replace Richardson is most likely to be Eddie Lacy, as he is the most experienced tailback in the roster. However, Lacy missed the spring as he was recovering from turf-toe surgery. It will be interesting to see if Lacy can bounce back from his surgery, and give another dimension to Alabama's offense.

Another problem for the Crimson Tide heading into the 2012 season is replacing stars on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the secondary. 

Alabama had one of the nation's top defenses last season, anchored by a strong secondary with safety Mark Barron and cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzi. Those three players, as well as Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower, have all left for the NFL, and Saban needs to find a way to replace this stellar defense. 

Senior safety Robert Lester and junior corner Dee Milliner will look to lead the secondary to another great year on defense. However, whoever lines up on the opposite of Milliner is still up in the air. There will be heavy competition between junior John Fulton, as well as junior-college transfer Deion Belue. 

With Lester being the only starting secondary player to return, the development of the rest of the secondary will be vital if Alabama wants to have another year with a stingy defense. 

The developments of both the secondary and the running game of the Crimson Tide will be vital if they want to return to the national championship stage. Although a difficult task, Nick Saban has what it takes to develop these players and lead Alabama to another great season with aspirations of a national title.