Spring lookahead: Alabama Crimson Tide

It’s tough to improve on perfection, but to hear Nick Saban talk, the Alabama Crimson Tide was far from perfect last year. Next year’s squad won’t be perfect either, even if they win every game by 50. That’s Saban. Still, the future looks bright again in Tuscaloosa as the Tide get ready to suit up for the spring.  

2012 Record: 13-1 BCS National Champions 

Spring Practice: The A-Day Game is scheduled for April 20th and will be televised on ESPN2.  Last year’s attendance was 78,526, but the 2011 A-Day game topped 90,000 with I-20 jammed all the way back to Bessemer. With three BCS Championship titles in the last four years, this year’s scrimmage could set a new record.  

2012 in review: They were almost flawless. A comeback win against LSU and down-to-the-wire thriller against Georgia in the SEC Championship game stand out as some of the best college football games in years. The only blemish came at home at the hands of Johnny Football and the Aggies of Texas A&M. And even that one was uncertain until the final seconds of the game. The Tide’s domination of Notre Dame in the BCS Championship won over any remaining doubters. Now the word “dynasty,” which Nick Saban abhors, is used freely in and around Tuscaloosa. 

Biggest Hole to Fill: Should actually be called the biggest hole to open, because the men who will be missed the most were the ones who made the running game look so easy. Offensive linemen Barrett Jones, guard Chance Warmack, and tackle D.J. Fluker comprised one of the finest offensive lines in college football history, one that left defensive coordinators shaking their heads. But only guard Anthony Steen and tackle Cyrus Kouandjio will be returning. The best skill players in the world can’t compete in the SEC without solid support up front. So, you can bet everyone will be watching the offensive line progression throughout the spring.  

Watch out for: In a team that always seems to field its fair share of surprises, one of the biggest last season was freshman receiver Amari Cooper who had 59 catches for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns during the championship campaign. Cooper earned comparisons to Alabama’s last great receiver, Julio Jones, and deservedly so. Like Jones, Cooper stretches the field and forces defensive backs into coverages they would rather not run.  If he remains healthy he will certainly be the number-one go-to down-field weapon for Nick Saban’s offense.