Alabama LB C.J. Mosley headlines a ferocious group of Tide linebackers.
With potentially the most talented roster in all of college football, it’s easy to understand why Alabama’s program has turned into the sport’s premier powerhouse.
One glance at the Tide’s roster shows a wealth of former stud recruits and no discernible weaknesses.
The Tide appear to possess at least one elite player at nearly every position.
So which are the strongest areas on the 2013 roster?
Nick Saban’s strength throughout his coaching career has been developing dominant secondary units.
The Tide’s group of safeties will take a backseat to no one, with juniors Vinnie Sunseri and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix forming one of the nation’s better tandems. Seniors Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams are also experienced veterans who are reliable options.
However, after recording five tackles, two pass breakups and an interception in the Tide’s spring game, sophomore Landon Collins is the guy that has Tide fans buzzing (h/t Travis Reier, BamaOnline).
The corner unit isn’t as settled. Seniors Deion Belue and John Fulton and sophomore Geno Smith appear to be the team’s top three corners. While all three have shown flashes, none of them appear to be the dominant force that former Tide stars such as Dee Milliner and Dre Kirkpatrick have been in recent years.
However, with the arrival of freshmen corners Maurice Smith, Jonathan Cook and Eddie Jackson, help is on the way.
While there may be some concern about the cornerbacks, there is enough talent on hand for Saban to mold them into a unit that plays up to the Tide’s lofty standards.
The Tide’s biggest concern this season is replacing three All-American offensive linemen who were selected in April’s NFL draft.
However, the Tide still have a pair of anchors to build around in left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and right guard Anthony Steen.
Additionally, projected starters Ryan Kelly (center), Arie Kouandjio (left guard) and Austin Shepherd (right tackle) have all gained valuable experience as backups (h/t TideSports.com). Also, juniors Chad Lindsay (guard and center) and Leon Brown (right tackle) are capable players who are still battling for a spot in the starting rotation.
Considering that Alabama still has a number of talented options, its recent history of dominant play in the trenches is a trend that should continue.
Alabama’s stable of running backs largely consists of underclassmen. However, what the Tide’s cast of rushers lack in experience, they make up for with talent.
T.J. Yeldon is the latest stud rusher to occupy the starring role in the Tide’s backfield, but he won’t be alone.
Sophomore Kenyan Drake averaged nearly seven yards per carry and scored five touchdowns last year. Plus, the Tide added four decorated true freshmen to the backfield in the 2013 recruiting class.
The headliner is 6’3”, 240-pound hammer Derrick Henry, who enrolled in January and impressed coaches and teammates during the spring before a leg injury sidelined him (h/t Sporting News).
Even though the Tide have a young group of backs, they still have the ability to produce one of the country’s top rushing units.
The case can be made that the Tide’s pass-catching unit was the roster's biggest weakness heading into the 2012 season.
What a difference a year makes.
The emergence of freshman All-American Amari Cooper and the return of hobbled veterans such as Kenny Bell, Kevin Norwood and DeAndrew White give quarterback A.J. McCarron the most dangerous group of receivers he’s had during his legendary career.
Plus, with the arrival of promising freshmen such as O.J. Howard, Chris Black, Robert Foster and Raheem Falkins, more talent is on the way.
With so much firepower on hand and an experienced signal-caller leading the way, the Tide could have their most potent passing attack in school history.
With Alabama employing a 3-4 scheme, the success of the defense is predicated on having versatile athletes with the size and speed necessary to be effective against the pass and the run.
Alabama returns starters at all four linebacker positions, headlined by the return of All-American inside linebacker C.J. Mosley.
Outside linebackers Xzavier Dickson and Adrian Hubbard both came on strong toward the end of 2012, and inside linebacker Trey DePriest was solid in his first year as a starter.
But what makes this group the strongest unit on the Tide roster is the horde of promising young depth at the position.
Players such as Denzel Devall, Ryan Anderson, Tana Patrick, Dillon Lee and Reggie Ragland would start in most FBS programs. With incoming 5-star recruits Reuben Foster and Jonathan Allen set to join this cast, it becomes clear that Saban will have an embarrassment of riches to work with at linebacker for the foreseeable future.