Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.
2009 final record (overall, conference): 14-0, 8-0
Bowl Game: BCS National Championship (W 37-21 vs. Texas)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): 1, 1
Conference finish: SEC Champions
Offensive rank: 42
Defensive rank: 2
2009 Individual Statistical Leaders
Rushing: Mark Ingram, 1,658 yards, 17 TD
Passing: Greg McElroy, 2,508 yards, 17 TD, 4 INT
Receiving: Julio Jones, 596 yards, 4 TD; Marquis Maze, 523 yards, 2 TD
Tackles: Rolando McClain, 105 total tackles
Sacks: Marcell Dareus, 6.5 sacks (6 solo, 1 assisted); Eryk Anders, 6 sacks (5 solo, 2 assisted)
Interceptions: Mark Barron, 7 interceptions (1 touchdown)
2010 Season Outlook
SSeptember 11 vs. Penn State: This is one of the biggest and most anticipated non-conference matchups in college football this season. The game will be played in Tuscaloosa and will be nationally televised, allowing the country to get its first real glimpse of what the Tide is made of this season.
September 25 @ Arkansas: Don't underestimate Arkansas. Their offense should be one of the best in the SEC with a Heisman candidate leading the charge. This will be an important contest for the Alabama defense with the Gators a week away.
October 2 vs. Florida: In what world is this not a key game? It might be a prequel to the SEC Championship in December, or could ultimately decide whether one of these teams is left out in favor of division rivals Georgia in the East or LSU, Arkansas or Auburn in the West. One loss may not be enough to keep either team out of the championship game, but with a few key departures littered across both rosters, winning this one would quell a lot of pressure moving forward.
November 6 @ LSU: 'Bama will play their two biggest divisional games on the road this year. The Auburn matchup at the end of the season is always big and could be a trap for a Crimson Tide team that could very well be looking at another trip to the BCS National Championship Game, but taking care of business against an LSU team that won't sit idly by while Alabama makes another run at the title is vital to Alabama's season.
Colin Peek, TE; Mike Johnson, G; Terrence Cody, NT; Brandon Deaderick, DE; Rolando McClain, LB; Kareem Jackson, CB; Javier Arenas, CB; Leigh Tiffin, K
Key Returning Players
Greg McElroy, QB; Mark Ingram, RB; Trent Richardson, RB; Julio Jones, WR; Barrett Jones, G; Marcell Dareus, DE, Dont'a Hightower, LB; Mark Barron, S
Running back Mark Ingram is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, but he'll again share the backfield, this time likely to a greater degree, with Trent Richardson. Richardson came away with 751 yards and eight touchdowns compared to Ingram's 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns. While Ingram is without question the number one back on this team, Richardson could see a few more carries than he did last year to keep fresh legs in the backfield at all times. However the carries are divvyed up, the running game should be just as explosive as it was last year.
Ingram and Richardson will run behind another talented offensive line. Three starters return from last year's unit including tackle James Carpenter and center William Vlachos. Guard Barrett Jones also returns with D.J. Fluker taking over at the other tackle spot and Chance Warmack taking over at guard opposite Jones. The line should be up to par with last year's squad, leading the way for the running game and providing nice pass protection for the quarterback.
Greg McElroy will return as the starting quarterback after leading the Tide to the national championship last season. McElroy has taken heat for being simply a game manager and 'good-enough' to maintain the passing game as Ingram and Richardson got it done on the ground. But McElroy, with a year of experience under his belt and a crop of talented receivers at his disposal, will be relied upon to throw the ball more than he did last year. He won't pass for 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns, but his numbers should improve even with two future NFL backs on the roster.
Julio Jones will be the leader of the receivers corps. He came away with less than 600 yards receiving and found the end zone just four times in '09, but much of that was due to the penchant to run the football. Jones is a good blocker, but he needs to break away as an all-SEC receiver in his junior season. He has the talent to go for 1,000+ yards and score double digit touchdowns. Darius Hanks and Marquis Maze round out the top three pass catchers with Michael Williams the starter at tight end. Williams should emerge as a nice mid-range option in the passing game and should be excellent as a blocker. The receivers corps is one of the best in the SEC and will get more action this season with a more experienced, and likely more confident, McElroy under center.
A lot has been made of the losses the Alabama defense suffered after last season. Gone are three starting defensive backs in Kareem Jackson, Javier Arenas and Justin Woodall, an anchor of a nose tackle in Terrence Cody and the leader of the defense in linebacker Rolando McClain. The talent is there to come in and not miss a beat, but, as with any team replacing so many starters, that's not always the case.
The biggest concern is in the secondary, where three starters are gone from a unit that ranked 10th in pass defense. Mark Barron is the only returning starter. Starting at safety last season, he led the team with seven interceptions, tying him for the SEC lead in that category as well. He'll be the leader of a young group of defensive backs that will include cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick, B.J. Scott, Phelon Jones and DeMarcus Milliner, as well as safeties Robert Lester and Rod Woodson.
The biggest news for the Alabama defense is the return of Don't'a Hightower, who will serve a variety of roles in the second line of defense. He is an excellent pass rusher and will be the leader of the unit from the middle linebacker spot, taking over for McClain at the position and as the defensive leader. Nico Johnson, Courtney Upshaw, Jerrell Harris, Ed Stinson and Chris Jordan join Hightower in a linebackers corps that should be effective against the run and that can get into the backfield as well.
Up front, the Tide loses Cody at nose tackle, but returns Josh Chapman who they hope can anchor the line. He may not be Cody, but at 6'1, 310 pounds, he should be a nice plug on the interior. Kerry Murphy, at 6'4, 323 pounds, could also see time at the nose. Marcell Dareus will be the star of the defensive line…if he's on the active roster. Dareus was indefinitely suspended pending clarification of his status stemming from an NCAA investigation regarding the infamous Miami party. The coaching staff hopes to know something before the season starts, but it's possible the defensive end could miss a game or two before his status is determined. Undra Billingsley and Luther Davis could be the starters at end if Dareus is unable to go.
Special Teams Overview
True freshman Cade Foster replaces placekicker Leigh Tiffin and his production of 30 for 35 in field goals and 42 for 46 in extra points. Taking over for punter P.J. Fitzgerald is another true freshman in Jay Williams. What's more, return man Javier Arenas will have to be replaced as well. Several options exist and it's possible the Tide will try out various players to find a fit. Julio Jones and Trent Richardson are possibilities. With newcomers all over the place at key special teams positions, finding a way to be productive in the first couple of weeks will be important.
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Nick Saban has cemented himself as one of the college game's finest and most successful head coaches. He's already won two national championships (2004 with LSU and 2009 with Alabama) and has not once in his 14 seasons as a college football head coach finished with a sub-.500 record overall or in the conference (*five wins from his 2007 season with Alabama were vacated due to NCAA violations). He's won three SEC titles (two with LSU, one with Alabama) and has taken his teams to eight straight bowl games (nine if you include his 1999 season with Michigan State in which he resigned before his team played in the Citrus Bowl.
Top 2011 Draft Prospects
Greg McElroy, QB; James Carpenter, OT; Luther Davis, DE
While they're my favorite to win the SEC Championship, winning the National Championship is far from a lock. They lose a lot of experience on defense and their special teams loses its kicker, punter and return man. The offense should come out firing, but it was the defense that really carried this team to the title in 2009. There's enough talent to come in and make another run at the title and with no team the clear cut favorite to win it all, the situation is ideal for a defending champion with a little rebuilding to do (experience wise, that is) to come in and make a go at repeating as national champs.
The conference schedule will pit the defending champs on the road against Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU. They do, however, catch a break with Florida coming to Tuscaloosa, as well as with Auburn coming to town for the Iron Bowl. What's more, 'Bama fans are well aware that a number of their opponents this season will have a week off to prepare. It's a perfect recipe for a team as talented as Alabama to drop a game or two this season, but in the end, Nick Saban won't let his players buy into the schedule hoopla and definitely won't let them use it as an excuse.
I made the argument that Florida, who loses arguably their best player at every position, should not be ranked as high as #3 in the country until this year's squad can prove they can live up to the standards set by the Gator squads of the past few years, no matter how much talent and potential they have. It's a bit different with Alabama. Just about everybody is back on offense, including two of the game's best running backs. 'Bama ranked 12th in rushing offense a year ago and they should see some improvement in their 92nd ranked passing offense. As the defense adjusts to the new personnel, the offense should carry them with only one real test in the first three weeks (vs. Penn State). If they've worked out the kinks by the time the trip to Arkansas rolls around, this year's Tide should be all right and I have no problem with them starting #1 without a clear cut favorite coming into this season. - Danny Hobrock
Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.
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