Despite the losses of Dont'a Hightower and Heisman Trophy winner Trent Richardson, Alabama has their leader returning in head coach Nick Saban. It is hard to argue against him not being the best coach in the country. He has three BCS National Championship rings, two with Alabama and one with LSU. Saban is already one of the best coaches in the history of the game and he still has a long way to go. Alabama lost a ton of talent to the next level, but they had the top recruiting class in 2012, to go along with some very good players returning.
Junior quarterback, A.J. McCarron, was one of the best game managers last season. He threw for 2,634 yards and 16 touchdowns. The most important stat was he only had five interceptions. This year more weight will be put on his shoulders. They lost a ton of talent on defense along with one of the best running backs in the country. McCarron proved a lot in last seasons National Championship game. He was 23-34 for 234 yards against one of the best defenses in the nation. The most important stat: zero turnovers.
Without Richardson Alabama will still have plenty of depth at running back. The Crimson Tide will depend heavily on junior Eddie Lacy. As a sophomore last season he rushed for 674 yards on only 95 carries. He averaged over seven yards per carry and scored 7 TD's. Just as Trent Richardson seemlessly transitioned into the starting tailback role, expect Lacy to do the same.
T.J. Yeldon is a name to remember. The five-star recruit out of Daphne High School will see a lot of action this year as a true freshman. He is drawing a lot of comparisons to another former great SEC running back: Darren McFadden. The 6-foot-2 215-pound running back is just as good as a receiver as he is running back. He showed his talents in Alabama's A-Day game earlier in the spring. He won the MVP as he rushed for 88 yards on 16 carries and had five receptions for 91 yards and a TD. Youtube this kid to check out how nasty his game is.
Alabama comes into the 2012 season with arguably the best offensive line in the country. They lost one starter from last years' National Championship team. Alabama led the SEC in rushing last year averaging 214.5 yards/game. They were tops in the SEC with fewest sacks allowed last season only allowing 17. Barrett Jones leads the way on the O-line and won the Outland Trophy last season. Cyrus Kouandjio is a name to remember too. He was having a stellar freshman campaign last season before he suffered a season ending injury against Tennessee. Bama's O-line will be the vocal point for the Tide's success this season, and will make McCarron's job that much easier running the offense.
Alabama arguably had the best defense in modern college football history last season. They led the nation in scoring defense, rushing defense, pass defense, total defense, and pass defense efficiency. Alabama has to replace seven defensive starters, six of the seven heard their name called in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Kirby Smart is one of the best defensive coordinators in the nation. Smart and Saban form a scary combo when it comes to teaching defense.
It all starts with senior linebacker, Niko Johnson. He was the fourth leading tackler on Alabama last season. Just as Dont'a Hightower preceded Rolando McClain, expect Johnson to be the main catalyst for Bama's defense in 2012. Junior, C.J. Mosley, is another outstanding linebacker who will make a name for himself this season.
Junior defensive back, Robert Lester, will be the leader in the secondary. Alabama lost three of their four starters in the secondary. Lester is an absolute ball hawk, and was second in the nation with eight interceptions as a sophomore. He is an outstanding tackler too and he has all the tools to be one of the best defensive backs in the nation. Dee Milliner will be a starter this season, and played well in nickel and dime packages last year. He has 81 tackles, four interceptions, and has broken up 16 passes in his two-year career at Alabama.
Senior, Damion Square, will be the leader on the defensive line. He is a great run stopper and has the power and athleticism to bring down the quarterback. Seniors Quinton Dial and Jesse Williams will be crucial pieces on the defensive line. Williams started all 13 games last season for Alabama and is one of the best run stoppers in the nation.