Alabama Football: 4 Biggest Worries Nick Saban Has Heading into Spring Practice
On the heels of three BCS national titles in just four years, Alabama head coach Nick Saban should be resting comfortably in his Tuscaloosa home. Believe it or not, though, there are still a few things that may be keeping the great one up at night.
Now that the heat of the recruiting season is in the rear-view mirror and spring camp is more than a month away, coaches across the country are building their mental checklist of top concerns going into next season.
Saban and the Tide are no exception. "The Process," as Saban call it, is never-ending and the coach is assuredly already well ahead of the game at this point. He did take two days off following January's title game, after all.
Looking ahead to spring camp and the 2013 season, there are four key concerns that Saban and Company are undoubtedly working on already. With the right answers to these four questions, Alabama will be well on its way to an unprecedented third consecutive national crown.
Retooling the Offensive Line
If there is one area where the Tide is facing a significant overhaul, it is the offensive line. Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker are long gone and Saban will enter the 2013 season without the stability up front that he has grown accustomed to.
The pieces are in place. Anthony Steen and Cyrus Kouandjio both return. Ryan Kelly, Chad Lindsay and Arie Kouandjio are among those that will look to replace the departed.
But if there is any single unit that must be on the same page at all times, it is the offensive line.
Is everyone in the right position? Do we have the right guys? Are they capable of handling such an important responsibility? What is someone gets hurt? How is our depth?
It is these questions that Saban and his staff must find the answers to as quickly as possible.
If the Tide can come away from the spring game with a clear picture of what the front line is going to be, it will be way ahead of schedule. If not, what should be Alabama's best offense in decades could get off to a slow start.
Keeping AJ McCarron Healthy
One of the benefits of returning for his senior campaign is that AJ McCarron is now without a doubt the leader of the Alabama offense.
He will enter the 2013 season with an outside shot of making a Heisman Trophy run and a better shot of ending his collegiate career as the winningest quarterback to ever play the game.
Unfortunately, even with the talent that Alabama has backing him up, it has very little experience waiting in the wings. Going back to the offensive line, Alabama absolutely has to keep McCarron healthy in 2013.
McCarron has more talent at receiver than he ever has had before. He brings back a stable of talented running backs. He has everything he needs to lead the Tide to even more staggering numbers than what they put up last year—provided the front line can protect him.
To ensure his safety, Saban and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will have to work harder than ever to keep opposing defenses off-balance until the front line earns the coaches' trust and respect.
The 2013 schedule for Alabama is favorable. Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies are the one exception.
The Tide should roll through Virginia Tech in the opener just as it did the last time the two met in Atlanta. After a bye week, Alabama then travels to College Station for a rematch with Johnny Football.
Let's face the facts: Manziel chewed up the Tide last year in Tuscaloosa and ruined what would have been a perfect season for Alabama.
With another year of experience, home-field advantage and an impressive recruiting class coming in to support him, Manziel and his Aggies may well be a national title contender with another win over the Tide.
If 'Bama can survive the trip to Texas, the rest of the schedule is favorable.
In conference games, Alabama hosts Ole Miss, Tennessee, Arkansas and LSU (after another bye). The road schedule after A&M includes only Kentucky, Mississippi State and Auburn.
The Texas A&M game is without a doubt the biggest on the slate for Alabama in 2013.
It is not easy for young men to maintain focus. Throw together a group of alpha-males coming off of back-to-back national titles and it becomes even harder to accomplish.
Expectations in Tuscaloosa are at an all-time high. National titles are expected more than ever and this is not limited to just the fans and alumni. The players are right there with them.
The most daunting task that the coaching staff has at this time is that of keeping the team's eyes on the prize. If the players begin to slip and lose their motivation, the season could quickly fall into a monstrous disaster.
Fortunately, Saban is the master of motivation and knows the right buttons to push in order to keep his team on task.
This year, though, it will be even more difficult than after his precious two titles in T-Town. With the second title in a row, the pressure to perform and win once again is doubled.
Keep them in line, though, and the never-before-seen national trifecta may be the reward.