Published August 14, 2012 - 9:00am
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The 2011 Championship has come and gone, and now the focus is squarely on the 2012 season. Despite a similar loss of talent after the 2009 Championship, Saban and Co. are focused on avoiding a repeat of the three-loss 2010 campaign.
Nick Saban has drilled his team about the letdown in 2010, a season that saw the Tide lose three games – two to Auburn and LSU by a combined four points – and trounce Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl. Alabama did not fall off the face of the earth, but they finished with less than a Saban-desired season of perfection.
The reason the Tide had a letdown in 2010? The players and Saban attribute it to a lack of leadership and increasing selfishness among the star players.
AJ McCarron knows it was a lack of leadership and selfishness.
“I think it fell back on the leaders back then. Coach will tell you: We didn’t have a lot of leadership. We had a lot of great players coming back, but I think the team kind of felt like everybody went their own personal way, tried to look out for (themselves) following the ‘09 season and help their draft status.”
Bama boasted one of the best defenses in the modern college football era last season. The Tide led the country in every defensive category there is: scoring defense, rush defense, pass defense and total defense.
But much like 2010, Alabama finds itself looking at replacing several key members of the defense. Corners DeQuan Menzie, Dre Kirkpatrick, safety Mark Barron, linebackers Jerrell Harris, Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw and nose tackle Josh Chapman are all gone and will have to be replaced. Not to mention Alabama lost the top running back in the country in Trent Richardson.
You don’t just pencil in players and reload with that much talent lost.
In 2010, Alabama lost linebacker Rolando McClain and three out of four starters in the secondary. Sound familiar?
It’s virtually the same position they are in entering 2012.
Here’s a statistical look at the 2009-11 seasons:
|Year||Def. Yds/G||Rush D||Pass D||Off. Yds/G||Scoring O||Pass D|
There is very little difference in the stats from 2009 to 2011, but the noticeable difference is the rushing yards allowed, as 2010 allowed over 100 yards per game on the ground. I’m not sure Alabama’s defense can match 2009 or 2011’s numbers this season.
Alabama returns an experienced quarterback who can make some plays when called upon, but he is primarily a ‘game manager’ instead of a playmaker, as was Greg McElroy in 2010. Also, Bama returns a strong backfield – not Mark Ingram or Trent Richardson strong – but nonetheless it’s a position of strength.
The Tide returns four of fives starters on the offensive line.
He thinks this team is different than the ’10 team.
“I think every team has a personality and every team has strengths and weaknesses,” Saban said. “I think this team is completely different from the 2010 team. I think the strengths of this team are different. The character and attitude of this team has been different in, I think, a good way. But, I think there is still a lot this team has to prove in terms of how hungry they are and how willing they are to make the sacrifices we need to make.”
Here are three reasons why 2012 can be different than 2010:
1. Leadership: Leadership is key on any football team, and leaders are coveted and priceless all in one. OL Barrett Jones, QB AJ McCarron, RB Eddie Lacy, OL Chance Warmack, DB Robert Lester and LB Nico Johnson are just a handful of players who were leaders on the team last year. That leadership returns, and their voices will be heard in the locker room and on the field.
2. Schedule: In 2010, six SEC teams had bye weeks before they played the Tide. The SEC nipped that in the bud in 2011. The schedule sets up nicely, with Bama playing Missouri and Tennessee from the East. Both are middle-of-the-pack East teams right now that have explosive offenses. But much like ’10, Bama goes on the road to LSU and Arkansas. Overall, the schedule will be easier because of the bye-week issue in 2010.
3. Experience: Nearly everyone on the roster returns with playing experience. Maybe they all weren’t starters in 2011, but they all were able to get their feet wet in big-time games and atmospheres. That will bode well in close SEC games this season when the players can draw on that experience.