Breaking Down the Biggest Keys to Another Alabama Football National Championship
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The University of Alabama is on top of the college football world, after winning its third national championship is four years, and it will look to do the unthinkable and win a third consecutive title in the upcoming season.
But the Crimson Tide are not invincible to obstacles that every program faces during the offseason. No, Alabama must overcome the departures of several key contributors and groom inexperienced players into elite playmakers before the Tide's Aug. 31 matchup with Virginia Tech.
There are pieces already in place for Alabama to reach the same level it met in 2012, but there are still aspects of the game that need to be addressed before head coach Nick Saban and Co. can begin to think about the coveted three-peat.
Here, we break down the biggest keys for Alabama to obtain yet another national championship.
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This has been a question mark for Alabama since the season ended in January. How will the offense be able to succeed with so many starters gone from the offensive line?
There is an answer, but it's not a simple one. The Crimson Tide have a bevy of talent across the offensive front, even with the departures of current pros Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker and Barrett Jones. The new-look offensive line will add Ryan Kelly at center, Arie Kouandjio at left guard and Austin Shepherd at right tackle, along with returning starters Cyrus Kouandjio and Anthony Steen.
It's a more than formidable first group, but three of the players have yet to take a meaningful snap in their careers. And the offensive line is an important aspect to Alabama's offensive philosophy. It is the reason the Tide have had so much success running the football under Saban.
If this unit can mesh and build cohesion, Alabama will have little to worry about in 2013. This has to be the No. 1 concern for the coaching staff and fanbase entering the upcoming season, and it is most certainly the biggest key for Alabama to return to play for a national championship.
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Unlike the offensive line, the secondary had question marks last season, and those same questions linger heading into the 2013-14 season. Does this group possess a No. 1 corner? Can they eliminate the deep ball? It's issues like these that have made the Crimson Tide vulnerable to offenses like Texas A&M.
But Saban, being the defensive back specialist he is, has a talented group of players fighting for playing time in the secondary, and the competition among the group can only make it better.
Players like corner Deion Belue and safety Vinnie Sunseri still have a lot to prove in terms of how consistently they can play during the upcoming year.
Saban and his staff had added even more competition to the group by throwing offensive players into the mix. This spring, wide receivers Christion and Cyrus Jones saw plenty of snaps at cornerback and could continue to see time at the position in the fall.
The depth is there for the secondary, but experience and pure playmaking ability is absent. Safety Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix is the only player who has his job under lock and key. It will be up to the rest of his teammates to rise to the challenge and assert themselves as full-season starters.
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It's easy for players on Alabama's roster to become arrogant and complacent. They just won their third national championship in four years. They welcome back their leaders on offense and defense in quarterback AJ McCarron and linebacker C.J. Mosley. And they reeled in the country's No. 1 recruiting class.
There's not much that can dampen the spirits of the Crimson Tide. Well, not except the loathing attitudes of every other team in the country, especially their fellow Southeastern Conference members.
With that being the case, Alabama must not waver in the "process" that Saban has preached into their skulls since their recruitment.
If they put in the time and eliminate mistakes in the system down in Tuscaloosa, this team can be great. It just has to approach one game at a time—just like Saban always says—and play the game to their tempo.
The schedule is in the Crimson Tide's favor, and the pieces are back in place to reach the promised land for an unprecedented fourth year out of five. All Alabama has to do is stay hungry for more crystal and it stands a strong chance of showing up in Pasadena come January.