Alabama Crimson Tide: Offseason storylines

Editor's note: The season is over and the Alabama Crimson Tide are national champions yet again. But what happens next? TideNation examines the most pressing storylines of the offseason as the Tide gear up for another title defense.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Spring practice is roughly two months away. The start of another Alabama title defense is right around the corner.

Nine early enrollees are already on campus. The offseason conditioning program is in full swing. Rest assured Scott Cochran, the Crimson Tide's raucous strength and conditioning coach, has put the 2012-13 championship to bed. Inside the football offices, the page has been turned. The time for competition is now.

With that in mind, let's break down the four most intriguing position battles set to unfold over the coming months.

Editor's note: The season is over and the Alabama Crimson Tide are national champions yet again. But what happens next? TideNation examines the most pressing storylines of the offseason as the Tide gear up for another title defense.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It's not that Alabama's offense wasn't effective. It's not that it didn't have home-run capability before. But in the last year coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier have taken it to another level. The Crimson Tide, once thought of as a "three yards and a cloud of dust" operation, are finding more and more big plays in the passing game.

How? Well, if you can't beat them, join them, right?


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Editor's note: The season is over and the Alabama Crimson Tide are national champions yet again. But what happens next? TideNation examines the most pressing storylines of the offseason as the Tide gear up for another title defense.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- There's a lot of good that could be said about the Alabama defense of 2012. It was strikingly efficient and balanced. The Tide finished No. 1 against the run nationally and No. 7 against the pass. They gave up the fewest points per game in the country and put a bow on it all with a dominating performance against Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship.

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Editor's note: The season is over and the Alabama Crimson Tide are national champions yet again. But what happens next? TideNation examines the most pressing storylines of the offseason as the Tide gear up for another title defense.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Often the one thing standing between a team and a berth in the national championship is health. The quarterback or running back might fall and the season quickly circles the drain. There's nothing to be done about it. Sometimes the ball just bounces the wrong way.

Luckily for the University of Alabama, the ball careened a few times but never hit any irreplaceable parts. Several talented players who were injured and replaced can now enjoy a championship ring -- but their offseason now revolves around finding playing time on a roster that won a title without their help.


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Editor's note: The season is over and the Alabama Crimson Tide are national champions yet again. But what happens next? TideNation examines the most pressing storylines of the offseason as the Tide gear up for another title defense.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The departing junior offered some insight. Dee Milliner, another in a long line of Alabama underclassmen to bolt for the NFL, knows a thing or two about being the man on deck. He played the part of understudy to Dre Kirkpatrick a year ago. Before that, Kirkpatrick was the heir to Javier Arenas. Year over year under coach Nick Saban, the factory of defensive backs has continued churning along without fail.

"You’ve got to be prepared and ready at any time," Milliner, a potential first-round pick in April's draft, said. "It’s just buying into what you’re supposed to do and trying to be your best. We always talk about that. You’re competing with yourself, because you’re competing to be the best within yourself. We try to do that each day we get on the field, and I think that plays a role in high draft picks each year."

Alabama will have a new crop of defensive backs to incorporate next season as both Milliner and safety Robert Lester step away to the NFL.


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Editor's note: The season is over and the Alabama Crimson Tide are national champions yet again. But what happens next? TideNation examines the most pressing storylines of the offseason as the Tide gear up for another title defense.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Dee Milliner said it before he left for the NFL draft. The junior cornerback knew the kind of talent Alabama had at receiver then and what it would look like a year from now with quarterback AJ McCarron at the helm.

"When he comes back next year, that’s just even more experience on top of what he’s got now," Milliner said. "With the weapons we have at receiver, he can be unbelievable as a quarterback."


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Editor's note: The season is over and the Alabama Crimson Tide are national champions yet again. But what happens next? TideNation examines the most pressing storylines of the offseason as the Tide gear up for another title defense.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It's the "What if?" no Alabama fan wants to consider: What if AJ McCarron went down with a serious injury? What if he was gone for two or three games? What if the injury were so egregious he had to be sidelined for an entire season? Who would be the starting quarterback then?


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Editor's note: The season is over and the Alabama Crimson Tide are national champions yet again. But what happens next? TideNation examines the most pressing storylines of the offseason as the Tide gear up for another title defense.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The heart of the defensive line is gone. So is its vocal leader. Its best backup is leaving, too. Three of the top four defensive linemen played their final game with the Alabama Crimson Tide on Monday night in South Florida.

This week marked the beginning of a new era on the defensive front at Alabama. Nose guard Jesse Williams and defensive ends Damion Square and Quinton Dial are all awaiting their heirs. The unit that garners little of the credit yet bears the brunt of the responsibility on defense is getting a makeover.

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Editor's note: The season is over and the Alabama Crimson Tide are national champions yet again. But what happens next? TideNation examines the most pressing storylines of the offseason as the Tide gear up for another title defense.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Who would have thought that after losing Trent Richardson the Alabama running game would become more dynamic in 2012? For that matter, who would have thought that when Mark Ingram left two years ago the production on the ground would actually improve? Losing back-to-back Heisman Trophy-caliber tailbacks has done nothing to slow down the Crimson Tide. Alabama has instead improved its number of rushing yards, yards per carry and rushing touchdowns in each of the last three seasons despite watching some of the best running backs in the country move on to the NFL.

[+] EnlargeT.J. Yeldon
AP Photo/Romeo GuzmanT.J. Yeldon thrived as a freshman in Alabama coach Nick Saban's established two-back system.
"There’s a standard," UA running back Eddie Lacy said. "They left a high standard here. So coming into this season I didn’t want to shoot straight for their standard, I just decided that I would play the game that I know how to play and whatever the outcome may be, let it be what it is. It ended up pretty good and I’m pretty much up there with those guys."

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Editor's note: The season is over and the Alabama Crimson Tide are national champions yet again. But what happens next? TideNation examines the most pressing storylines of the offseason as the Tide gear up for another title defense.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- There was no more dominant an offensive line in college football than Alabama's. In fact, it's hard to recall a line in recent memory that performed as well. But what made the Crimson Tide's front five so solid -- its talent and experience -- will take a serious hit next season as center Barrett Jones and left guard Chance Warmack graduate to lives in the NFL and junior right tackle D.J. Fluker likely follows their lead and strikes while the iron is hot.

With three-fifths of the offensive line gone, where does coach Nick Saban turn? Who will offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland prepare as their replacements? Will it be an incumbent or a rookie who wins the jobs of tackle, center and guard?


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