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Alabama Football 2013 Team Program

Sanjay KirpalaniNational Recruiting AnalystAugust 18, 2013

Alabama Football 2013 Team Program

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    The goal this season for Alabama is clear: Win its third consecutive national championship and make BCS history.

    Nick Saban’s club begins the season well-positioned to do just that. The Crimson Tide are No. 1 in the preseason AP  and USA Today coaches polls.

    Alabama returns 13 starters, with several All-American candidates on both sides of the ball.

    On offense, quarterback AJ McCarron, running back T.J. Yeldon, receiver Amari Cooper and left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio rate among the best in the nation at their respective positions.

    Linebacker C.J. Mosley and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix lead the way for a defense with seven starters back from a unit that led the nation in total defense last season.

    What can Tide fans look forward to from the 2013 edition of the Crimson Tide?

Video Preview

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    B/R lead writers Barrett Sallee, Michael Felder and Adam Kramer assess the chances for Nick Saban’s club to three-peat. 

Recapping 2012

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    Starting with a 41-14 drubbing of then-No. 8 Michigan, Alabama cruised through the first two months of the season, winning its first eight games by an average margin of more than 32 points per game. 

    After a thrilling 21-17 comeback victory over then-No. 5 LSU, the top-ranked Tide were upended 29-24 by Texas A&M, a loss that seemed to derail their national title dreams.

    However, chaos ensued later in November, and the Tide went on to clinch the SEC West and the right to face Georgia in the conference championship game with a berth in the BCS title game on the line.  

    The Bulldogs pushed the Tide to the limit before ultimately falling 32-28 in a game dubbed as the top contest of the 2012 season by ESPN

    Alabama would go on to finish 13-1, capping off the school’s 15th national title by throttling previously unbeaten Notre Dame 42-14 to claim its third crystal football in the last four seasons. 

Depth Chart/Returning Starters

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    *Returning starters in bold.

    Quarterback

    1. SR AJ McCarron 6'4", 214
    2. JR Blake Sims 6'0", 202

    Running Back

    1. SO T.J. Yeldon 6'2", 218
    2. SO Kenyan Drake 6'1", 201

    Tight End

    1. JR Brian Vogler 6'7", 260
    2. SO Malcolm Faciane 6'5", 267

    Wide Receiver

    1. SO Amari Cooper 6'1", 202
    2. SR Kenny Bell 6'1", 180

    Wide Receiver

    1. SR Kevin Norwood 6'2", 195
    2. JR DeAndrew White 6'0", 190

    H-Back

    1. SR Jalston Fowler 6'1", 250
    2. FR O.J. Howard 6'6", 237

    Left Tackle

    1. JR Cyrus Kouandjio 6'6", 310
    2. FR Grant Hill 6'6", 301

    Left Guard 

    1. JR Austin Shepherd 6'5", 315
    2. SR Kellen Williams 6'3", 302

    Center

    1. SO Ryan Kelly 6'5", 290
    2. JR Chad Lindsay 6'2", 302

    Right Guard

    1. SR Anthony Steen 6'3", 309
    2. SO Isaac Luatua 6'2", 313

    Right Tackle

    1. SO Arie Kouandjio 6'5", 315
    2. JR Leon Brown 6'6", 313

     

    Defensive End

    1. JR Jeoffrey Pagan 6'4", 290
    2. JR Xzavier Dickson 6'3", 265

    Defensive Tackle

    1. JR Brandon Ivory 6'4", 310
    2. SO Darren Lake 6'3", 324

    Defensive End

    1. SR Ed Stinson 6'4", 292
    2. FR Dalvin Tomlinson 6'2", 287

    Outside Linebacker 

    1. JR Adrian Hubbard 6'6", 252
    2. FR Ryan Anderson 6'2", 255

    Inside Linebacker 

    1. JR Trey DePriest 6'2", 245
    2. SO Reggie Ragland 6'2", 259

    Inside Linebacker 

    1. SR C.J. Mosley 6'2", 232
    2. SR Tana Patrick 6'3", 238

    Outside Linebacker 

    1. SO Denzel Devall 6'2", 250
    2. JR Xzavier Dickson 6'3", 265

    Corner

    1. SR John Fulton 6'0", 186
    2. SO Cyrus Jones 5'10", 196

    Safety

    1. JR Vinnie Sunseri 6'0", 210
    2. SR Nick Perry 6'1", 212

    Safety

    1. JR Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 6'1", 208
    2. SO Landon Collins 6'0", 215 

    Corner 

    1. FR Deion Belue 6'0", 170
    2. SO Geno Smith 6'0", 186

     

    Punter

    1. SR Cody Mandell 6'4", 213

    Kicker

    1. FR Adam Griffith 5'10", 187
    2. SR Cade Foster 6'1", 224

    Kickoff

    1. SR Cade Foster 6'1", 224
    2. FR Adam Griffith 5'10", 187

    Holder

    1. SR AJ McCarron 6'4", 214

    Long Snapper

    1. SO M.K. Taylor 5'10", 208
    2. FR Cole Mazza 6'1", 246

    Kick Return

    1. JR Christion Jones 5'11", 185
    2. SO Cyrus Jones 5'10", 196

    Punt Return

    1. JR Christion Jones 5'11", 185
    2. SO Dee Hart 5'9", 187

Injuries

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    Alabama has a pair of starters who are limited in fall camp due to injury, according to Andrew Gribble of AL.com. However, both players, receiver Amari Cooper (foot strain) and corner Deion Belue (hamstring), are expected to return to full strength soon.

    H-back Jalston Fowler and receiver DeAndrew White, both of whom missed the majority of last season with ACL injuries, have shown no ill effects from their injuries and look to be solid contributors this season.  

    All in all, the Tide appear to be in good shape heading into their season opener against Virginia Tech on Aug. 31.

Players to Watch

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    Stars

    Offensively, McCarron, Cooper and running back T.J. Yeldon form one of the nation’s most explosive triumvirates. Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and right guard Anthony Steen join that group as players who are among the nation’s best at their respective positions.

    Defensively, senior linebacker C.J. Mosley and junior safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are All-American candidates.

     

    New Starters

    The biggest question on offense is figuring out who will join Kouandjio and Steen in the trenches. Austin Shepherd (right tackle), Ryan Kelly (center) and Arie Kouandjio (left guard) appear to be in line to fill the three vacancies up front.

    On the other side of the ball, defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan and defensive tackle Brandon Ivory step into starting roles on the line. Senior John Fulton and sophomore Cyrus Jones will battle for the corner spot opposite Belue.

     

    Freshmen

    Alabama has another star-studded class of impact freshmen who are getting their feet wet in fall camp. Running back Derrick Henry is one of four new and talented rushers who are fighting to back up Yeldon.

    According to Andrew Gribble of AL.com, defensive linemen A’Shawn Robinson and Dee Liner have looked impressive early, and linebackers Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster add to the loaded linebacker unit.

    Eddie Jackson, Maurice Smith and Jonathan Cook may get a chance to contribute due to the lack of quality depth at corner.

     

    Redshirts

    Per Mark Heim of AL.com, redshirt freshman receiver Chris Black has been tabbed as a potential breakout star by ESPN’s Tom Luginbill.

    Black figures to push veteran Christion Jones for the Tide's slot receiver in three-receiver sets.

     

    Player Under the Most Pressure

    Despite having his struggles a year ago, Belue enters the season as the Tide’s top corner. Without a lockdown presence such as Dee Milliner waiting to take over one side of the field, the pressure is on Belue to become an elite corner and set the standard for the rest of the players in his unit.

Coaches

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    Alabama lost three assistants in the offseason who received promotions, with two offensive assistants (receivers coach Mike Groh and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland) leaving for NFL jobs and one defensive assistant (secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt) leaving to become a defensive coordinator at another BCS school (Florida State).

    Billy Napier, who spent 2011 at Alabama in an administrative capacity in between coaching stints at Clemson and Colorado State, replaces Mike Groh as the Tide’s receivers coach.

    Former FIU head coach Mario Cristobal replaces Jeff Stoutland as the Tide’s offensive line coach. Cristobal, who played offensive tackle for the University of Miami, has prior experience as a line coach during a stint at his alma mater.

    Greg Brown filled the void in the secondary when Jeremy Pruitt left to become the defensive coordinator at Florida State. Brown was the defensive coordinator at Colorado the last two seasons.

2013 Schedule and Most Important Games

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    2013 Schedule

    Aug. 31: vs. Virginia Tech (Chick-fil-A Classic, Atlanta, Ga.)

    Sept. 14: at Texas A&M

    Sept. 21: vs. Colorado State

    Sept. 28 vs. Ole Miss

    Oct. 5 vs. Georgia State

    Oct. 12 at Kentucky

    Oct. 19 vs. Arkansas

    Oct. 26 vs. Tennessee

    Nov. 9 vs. LSU

    Nov. 16 at Mississippi State

    Nov. 23 vs. Chattanooga

    Nov. 30 at Auburn

     

    Most Important Games

    Virginia Tech: The Hokies are coming off a disappointing 7-6 season, but Frank Beamer's club still has enough talent to be a dangerous team, especially if the Tide are peeking ahead to the showdown with Texas A&M. Quarterback Logan Thomas and eight returning starters on Bud Foster's defense make the Hokies a formidable challenger in the season opener.

    Texas A&M: This has been billed as the game of the year by most pundits, thanks to the Aggies' 29-24 victory over the Tide in Tuscaloosa last November. While the off-field controversy surrounding Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has dominated recent headlines, per CBS Sports' Bruce Feldmanthis game will still have huge national and conference implications regardless of whether or not he plays.  

    Ole Miss: The Rebels are a trendy pick to make noise in the SEC West this season, and they did put up a fight in last season's 33-14 loss to the Tide. Ole Miss loses just two starters off last season's club, and its up-tempo offense should be much improved in its second year under Hugh Freeze.  

    LSU: The Tigers lost a ton of talent off their defense, but Les Miles' club should be reloaded in time for the visit to Tuscaloosa in November. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger and a talented collection of skill players gave Alabama fits last season, and the offense could ascend to another level under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.  

    Auburn: The Iron Bowl has lost some of its luster thanks to the beatings the Tide have delivered to their in-state rivals the last two seasons. New Tigers coach Gus Malzahn is hoping to breathe life into an offense that was anemic a year ago.  By season's end, Auburn could be a much improved club that will be fired up to host its most hated rival. 

What to Look for on Offense

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    Alabama has proven how efficient a balanced attack can be, but this year's club could have the most explosive offense in school history.  

    The talent and depth at receiver, tight end and running back is as strong as it's been under Saban.  

    McCarron is 25-2 as a starter with two national championships to his credit. Even though the offensive line must be retooled, Alabama has more than enough horses to field one of the better lines in the SEC.  

    While the Tide have the personnel necessary to air it out or play smashmouth football, the offense will continue to hinge on its balance. That strategy allows the flexibility to beat teams with explosive plays or methodical drives, depending on how defenses choose to scheme against it.

What to Look for on Defense

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    With the proliferation of spread offenses, one of the most notable changes to Alabama's defense could come up front with the defensive ends.

    According to Alex Scarborough of TideNation, Saban is looking for "pass-rushing, athletic guys" on the defensive line. Players who fit that description are outside linebacker Xzavier Dickson and redshirt freshman Dalvin Tomlinson.  

    The linebacker unit is versatile and deep, with starters returning at all four positions, headlined by C.J. Mosley.  

    While the situation at corner remains unsettled, the presence of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and junior Vinnie Sunseri at safety somewhat helps to ease that concern. Rising sophomore Landon Collins is a player who appears headed for a breakout season at safety. 

    While Saban is still searching for answers at defensive end and corner, the Tide's defense is still expected to be one of the nation's most dominant units.  

X-Factors for 2013

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    The schedule sets up for another run at a national title. The two toughest games on the schedule, against Texas A&M and LSU, are each preceded with a bye week.  

    Aside from the trip to College Station, Mississippi State represents the only other road trip against a team that had a winning record a year ago.

    Additionally, the Tide have a freshman on both sides of the ball who can add a dimension that was missing last season.  

    Former 5-star recruit, per Rivals.com, and true freshman tight end O.J. Howard gives Alabama a pass-catching option at a position normally reserved for a player who excels as a blocker. The 6'6", 237-pound Howard gives offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier an intriguing option to attack the middle of the field.  

    Defensively, with Saban's desire to add more athleticism at defensive end, Dalvin Tomlinson has the strength and quickness to make an impact as an edge-rusher in certain situations. As Don Kausler Jr. of AL.com notes, Saban singled him out as a player who could be effective against spread offenses.  

Top Storylines to Watch

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    Considering history is at stake with the program's quest to win its third consecutive national title, all eyes will be on the Tide as they look to put a stamp on their newly crowned dynasty.  

    AJ McCarron figures to play the most prominent role in that narrative, and he could project favorably as a Heisman Trophy candidate if he keeps producing solid numbers and winning games.  

    Even though he's only heading into his sophomore season, Amari Cooper needs only eight touchdowns to break the school record of 18 career receiving touchdowns.  

    With Saban already in rare territory with four national titles to his credit, adding another crystal football would place him only one behind former Tide coach Paul "Bear" Bryant.  

Season Prediction

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    Season Prediction: 14-0 (9-0, SEC)

    Bowl Berth Prediction: BCS National Championship Game

    Assuming the Tide get past Virginia Tech in the opener, they will bring a ton of momentum into the much-hyped showdown against Texas A&M. With the clouds of Manziel's alleged transgressions hanging over the Aggies' program, per Outside the Lines (via Darren Rovell and Justine Gubar of ESPN.com), Kevin Sumlin's club will face an uphill battle trying to tune out the noise and knock off the defending champs for the second straight season. 

    If the Tide can leave College Station with a 2-0 record, the rest of the schedule looks manageable. Home games against Ole Miss and LSU are seemingly the only things standing between the Tide and a return trip to the SEC title game.

    Considering the mix of experience and young talent that Saban has at his disposal, Alabama's juggernaut appears to show no signs of slowing down this season. Until someone is able to knock the Crimson Tide off their perch, Alabama is the clear-cut favorite to win its third straight BCS national title. 

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