TUSCALOOSA, Ala. _ How quickly they forget.

It’s only been 19 months (and 27 days if you really want to know), since the University of Alabama put on an amazing display while dismantling Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game.

The names and faces of those who contributed to that impressive performance are still fresh in the minds of Crimson Tide fans even though 19 of the players are now in the National Football League. That includes five first-round draft selections and the 2013 offensive rookie of the year.

Meanwhile, including special-teams players there are only four who started against the Fighting Irish who are still on the Crimson Tide. Tight end Brian Vogler was on the field for the first offensive snap because of the formation, linebacker Xzavier Dickson was credited with his sixth start, and wide receiver Amari Cooper his ninth as a true freshman.

There’s only one player who was full-time starter in 2012 and still is, senior linebacker Trey DePriest.

Alabama’s play-caller on defense didn’t suit up last Saturday for the season opener against West Virginia, a 33-23 victory, instead serving a one-game suspension for an undisclosed NCAA violation.

“He’s our leader,” senior safety Nick Perry said. “We definitely missed him.”

Without him the Crimson Tide had two players at the interior linebacker spots making their first career starts, Reuben Foster and Reggie Ragland.

Considering that they were going against a coach who is highly proficient at confusing defenses through misdirection and screen passes it was like asking someone to pass their driver’s test while in Friday rush-hour traffic in a city like Chicago.

“We didn’t play very well in the secondary at all. We didn’t play very at linebacker,” Saban said. “We had too many miscommunications, too many missed coverages, too many missed assignments.

“I don’t think we did a very good job of executing pressures. The four guys who played up front, I don’t think we played the blockers like we need to. And I think we have a lot to improve on defensively all the way around.”

But both interior linebackers were looking a little wide-eyed during the first half while trying to adjust to the tempo. Considering how fast the Mountaineers were snapping the ball, at times their heads were going back and forth as if they were trying to watch “The Flash” play tennis.

That’s understandable. Neither of them was C.J. Mosley, winner of the 2013 Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker, or DePriest.

“Even though we tried to make it simple, they did a few different formations and things and sort of got their composure a little bit ruffled, and I think that affected everybody around them,” Saban said. “But I also think those guys settled down and played a little bit better in the second half, which is encouraging.

“This is probably the toughest situation for new players with no experience as a signal caller, trying to go out there and try and make those kind of adjustments in a game. They are all going to benefit tremendously from that experience, which is probably the most important thing.”

Alabama also had a first-time quarterback, a freshman left tackle and a new coordinator, but with arguably eight returning starters still managed 538 yards of total offense.

The opposite was true of the defense, which gave up 393 total yards, including 365 in the air, which even the players deemed acceptable.

“I can’t really pinpoint an exact time when (everything) slowed down, but we definitely got more comfortable as the game wore on,” junior cornerback Cyrus Jones said. “They came out blazing fast, so it definitely was good that we showed a lot of poise and were able to be effective.”

But the doom-and-gloom faction of Crimson Tide hasn’t quite seen it that way, not only regarding cornerback Bradley Sylve, who struggled against a bigger receiver even when he had good coverage, or the defense in general. In addition to the “overrated” word, some the things being heard around Tuscaloosa this week include:

“What’s wrong with Jacob Coker that he can’t get on the field?”

“Kirby Smart can no longer be considered a great defensive coordinator, he’s only a good one.”

“They don’t look like a championship team.”

This after one game … of a team that’s essentially had complete turnover since facing Notre Dame.

Actually, one doesn’t need to go back that far to see the contrast. Consider Alabama’s starting lineup for last year’s opener against Virginia Tech: NG Brandon Ivory, DE Jeoffrey Pagan, DE Ed Stinson, MLB DePriest, SLB Adrian Hubbard, WLB C.J. Mosley, CB John Fulton, CB Deion Belue, Star Jarrick Williams, SS Vinnie Sunseri, FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Only one of those players started Saturday, Williams, who sustained a foot fracture and is out for a month.

Saban has asked for patience at the quarterback position, talked about extensively about how the experience factor can’t be easily replaced, and said that most of the mistakes the Crimson Tide made against the Mountaineers are correctable. They are.

This is a team that will grow and improve over the course of the season. Roles have to be defied, newcomers have to figure things out and everyone has to have a chance to develop.

After all, it’s one thing for players to learn what they’re supposed to do, yet quite another to know it like a veteran.