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SEC subplots: What’s going to stop Alabama in 2013?

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SDS kicks off a series looking in-depth at teams and their biggest subplots heading into 2013. Finishing us up: Alabama.

SEC Subplots

1. Area of concern

Two teams on the regular season schedule can upset the Tide: Texas A&M and LSU, not to mention a worthy opponent in the SEC Championship Game. If you’re looking for one matchup to exploit against Alabama, it’s the secondary. With Dee Milliner and Robert Lester now gone, Deion Belue and HaHa Clinton-Dix emerge as the two best in the secondary. But replacing Lester and Milliner could be difficult. Corners John Fulton and Geno Smith look the part, and Vinnie Sunseri and Landon Collins do, too. Johnny Manziel and Zach Mettenberger can both exploit the secondary if given time. That’s not to say they will, but corner is the Tide’s weakest position entering 2013. I’m not buying all the Belue hype yet, and replacing Milliner could be trouble. However, the secondary is Nick Saban’s baby, and he has more than enough talent and depth to fill both positions.

2. AJ and legacy

AJ McCarron’s main agenda at SEC Media Days was to make sure everyone knows he’s the anti-Manziel, in a very polite manner. Although they’re close, he’s the antithesis of Manziel. He’s all about winning and not about himself. He’s Alabama’s focused and poised leader Nick Saban knows he can trust and can ultimately gel a unit for a greater accomplishment. McCarron will go down as Alabama’s best quarterback ever, and I’m sure that’s fine with McCarron as long as winning is part of the recipe.

3. No. 2

Who’s going to become Bama’s No. 2 RB to share carries with TJ Yeldon? There’s a slew of talented rock toters already assembled. Kenyan Drake, Jalston Fowler, Derrick Henry, Dee Hart, Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara and Altee Tenpenny. That’s a stacked and loaded depth chart with not enough carries to go around. The one guy to look for here is Henry. He’s a mountain of a young man at 6-3, 245 pounds, and the early enrollee is already familiar with the offense and physically ready to compete now. Drake will also work into the rotation. All combine to help keep Yeldon healthy and physically rested.

4. Staff

Nick Saban has primarily held his staff together throughout his tenure. But the one assistant who is likely to take another head coaching position isn’t Kirby Smart. It’s offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. He led the Tide offense to new heights in 2012, averaging a Saban-era high 38.71 points per game. Nussmeier is innovative, and he’s a better offensive mind than most think. He’s a future head coach.

SDS takeaway: The Tide enter as the favorite to play for and win their third national championship in a row. If that happens, how will AJ McCarron and Nick Saban’s legacies play out? Saban has already topped the Bear, and would that move McCarron into the realm or make him better than BCS greats Cam Newton, Tim Tebow, etc.? While Texas A&M and LSU will scare folks, the Tide should roll in 2013.

Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports





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Comment 1

  1. I think you’re spot on with the concerns in the secondary. Belue is going to have to step up and use his experience at Corner to be a leader. I think this will be a breakout year for Geno Smith. He has all the makings of an elite corner, but he’ll have to settle in quickly. John Fulton has been in the system long enough to be relied on, but Alabama will need to be able to count on their newcomers come September. I think Landon Collins and HaHa Clinton-Dix are a pretty sound duo at safety, and veteran hype guy, Vinnie Sunseri, will be a key sub in run stopping. Bama has a slew of talent at LB, and that will probably be their strong-suit this season. Bama also has a scary group of defensive lineman, but I’m curious to see what schemes they run against the up-tempo offenses. Bama replaces 3 of the starting lineman from a year ago, but the talent level doesn’t drop off much. It’s key for there to be some intense battles during Fall camp in order to produce a solid starting 5. Alabama’s skills positions on offense are loaded, and I’m sure Nuss is ready to use a threatening balanced attack throughout the season. One other concern is keeping McCarron healthy. Alabama has a ton of talent in the reserves, but I don’t think anyone is ready to take over at QB yet. Saban has as easy of a schedule as you can hope for, but focus has to be the priority during the less exciting spans during the season. It also helps that the Tide take their BYE weeks before A&M and LSU. I don’t see many potentials for “trap games” either – maybe Virginia Tech in the opener, or Ole Miss in Week 5. And if Alabama should run the table, they’ll have to endure another solid program in Atlanta. My new faces to watch out for this year are WRs Raheem Falkins and Chris Black, LG Arie Kouandjio, RB Derrick Henry, and S Landon Collins. A’Shawn Robinson, Dee Liner, and Reuben Foster could also make immediate impacts on the defense. Roll Tide Roll!