2012 College Football Team Previews

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The talk amongst Alabama's players and coaches hasn't exactly been typical of a reigning national champion.

Instead of discussing how they plan to repeat all the glory of the 2011 season, this year's Crimson Tide players have been focused on how they won't repeat the missteps of 2010, the 10-3 season following Alabama's 2009 national championship.

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Such are the advantages of having a roster with a significant amount of players who have won two national titles.

"The first time, Coach [Nick] Saban said 'No Complacency' and we talked about it and said to each other but for some reason, we just didn't buy into it," center Barrett Jones said. "This year, it's started with the older guys talking to the younger guys. It's not going to sneak up on us this year. We know that we have to if anything, work harder this year than last year."

In a conference like the SEC and in a division like the SEC West, that kind of mindset will be necessary, even with a roster as loaded with talent as Alabama's will be in 2012.

The schedule, especially early, leaves no room for error from an Alabama team that will be breaking in a slew of young players on both sides of the ball. The Crimson Tide opens with Michigan, which is projected to be a top-10 team, and travels to division rival Arkansas two weeks later.

"We've obviously learned a lot at Alabama over the last five years," Saban said. "The most important thing we've learned is you got to stay on top of the little things. Things don't happen by accident. You don't win a play by accident. You don't win a game by accident. You don't win a division by accident. You have to make it happen, and you have to make it happen by what you do every day."

That wasn't happening in 2010, Alabama's players say. Led by players such as Jones, veteran quarterback AJ McCarron, linebacker Nico Johnson and defensive end Damion Square, the Crimson Tide has repeatedly vowed it won't be an issue in this installment of "how to defend a national title."

"This team," Square said, "will be remembered for what we do this year."

HEAD COACH: Nick Saban, sixth year at Alabama, 55-12 at Alabama, 146-56-1 in 17 years as a head coach.

MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER: QB AJ McCarron -- He falls into this category not only because of how good he personally is, but how questionable the players behind him are if he were to miss some time because of an injury. McCarron was the unsung hero of last year's team, taking a backseat to Trent Richardson and the rest of the run-heavy Alabama offense. What few failed to appreciate was McCarron's league-best completion percentage and the five interceptions he threw over the course of 13 games. With no Heisman trophy caliber running back to hand the ball to this year, McCarron should have more opportunities to air it out this season -- or at least as many as he did in his MVP performance at the BCS National Championship Game. Behind McCarron are plenty of question marks, as reliable backup Phillip Sims, who transferred to Virginia during the summer, is no longer an option.

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BREAKOUT STAR: LB Adrian Hubbard -- His exact position on the field is yet to be determined, but he's clearly going to play. Whether he's a JACK linebacker or a SAM linebacker, Hubbard figures to make plenty of appearances in opposing teams' backfields during his sophomore season. The former high school basketball star has added 25 pounds since joining the Crimson Tide three years ago. He played sparingly as a freshman this season, but will be in position for major time in 2012 now that players such as Courtney Upshaw, Dont'a Hightower and Jerrell Harris are in the NFL. Hubbard was named Alabama's top lineman at its spring game after recording three sacks and four tackles for loss.

NEWCOMER TO WATCH: RB T.J. Yeldon -- The former five-star recruit who infamously flipped from Auburn to Alabama at the last minute has already displayed that the hype surrounding him is legitimate. He was named Alabama's offensive MVP at its spring game after racking up more than 170 yards of offense. While Saban hasn't exactly thrown a freshman running back into the fire as a starter since he took over at Alabama, he hasn't hesitated to make one a reliable option in the No. 2 position. Both Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson made a significant impact as freshmen. Yeldon could very well be the next to do that.

KEYS TO SUCCESS: Alabama's offense is at its best when it's slowing the game down, but still moving the clock. Even without a Heisman trophy caliber running back, the Crimson Tide should have no issues running the ball and moving the chains behind an offensive line that is one of the most talented and experienced in the entire country. Mimicking last year's unprecedented success on defense is asking a lot, but Alabama's defense should strive to continue to be among the best in the country. It will have to do that with some new faces in new places -- end Jesse Williams is moving to nose guard -- and, simply, some new faces. Saban's recruiting over the years has spoken for itself. The Crimson Tide will just have a number of talented players seeing the first significant action of their respective careers.

AREAS OF CONCERN: The Crimson Tide are still searching for a wide receiver to establish himself as AJ McCarron's No. 1 option. The position group as a whole is young, and junior Kenny Bell might be better suited as a No. 2 guy. The offensive line might be one of the best in the country, but there's reason to worry if one or more of the starters has to miss time with an injury. The secondary has the potential to be very good, but there are a number of talented youngsters who will be receiving their first significant action since joining the team. Some programs would kill for that kind of "problem," but after a year like 2011, anything that is short of perfection comes under the microscope.


-- Running back Eddie Lacy should be fully ready to participate when Alabama opens practice. Lacy, a junior who is projected to start after two years of backing up Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, sat out the spring with a turf toe injury. Lacy ran for 674 yards on just 95 carries and seven touchdowns last season. "The spin move," tight end Michael Williams said, "is back."

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