The Alabama football team has won two consecutive national championships, but can they make it a third in 2013? Things seem to be falling into place for a run at yet another title.
Last year Nick Saban’s offense finished fourth overall in the SEC, with an average of 445.5 yards per game, and that was after they sat starters in several games – ten of their wins were by 20 points or more. Quarterback A. J. McCarron threw 30 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. The Tide lost Eddie Lacy, the running back who dominated Notre Dame in the BCS championship game, to Green Bay. But the team has always been known for running backs, and has an effective core to depend on this year, including sophomore T. J. Yeldon, who rushed for 1108 yards in 2012. Speedy Derrick Henry should be effective in goal-line situations, and Kenyan Drake can be a runner or receiver in screen passes.
In fact, the offense promises to be more versatile this year. Better pass protection means that McCarron will pass more, and Alabama has some formidable wide receivers, including sophomore Amari Cooper, who had 999 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. All the receivers are back, including DeAndrew White and Kenny Bell, who were injured during last season. Alabama will still run the ball, of course. But in 2012 McCarron threw for 2933 yards and had a completion percentage of 67.2%. This year the team can take better advantage of McCarron’s arm and baffle defenses with more offensive options.
Where does Alabama’s vaunted defense stand in 2013? Since 2007 the Tide has allowed an average of only 14.3 points per game. The defense should be outstanding this year as well. Eleven defensive starters from 2012 are returning this year, and in the backfield, six of eight starters will return.
Among the returners is formidable senior linebacker C. J. Mosley. In 2012, Mosley had a total of 107 tackles, 66 of them solo, and 4-1/3 sacks. Trey DePriest, who had 59 tackles, missed spring practice due to foot surgery. But he’s expected back in the fall, and Nick Saban, who values depth, is giving younger players some reps, which should only improve the defense in the long run. A strength of the Alabama defense is its mixture of youth and experience.
This year Saban plans to put more emphasis on the pass rush and putting pressure on the quarterback. One key is returning veteran Ed Stinson, who led the nation last year with 8.5 tackles for loss. The team is looking to LaMichael Fanning, a sophomore defensive end, and Dalvin Tomlinson, a redshirt freshman interior lineman, to play a big role. Fanning has dropped weight and increased his speed, and Tomlinson is big and explosive. Although the team had 35 sacks last year, Saban wants to increase that number. Mosley should be a big help, and so should junior linebacker Adrian Hubbard, who had seven sacks last year.
So with a beefed-up offense and better-than-ever defense, Alabama looks poised to earn another BCS championship, and in fact, as of June their odds were 3-1. Can any team find a weakness in the Tide to exploit? It’s not looking that way!
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