Alabama Crimson Tide


Quarterback Greg McElroy still hasn't lost a game.

The Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 12:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 12:14 p.m.
Across the southeast, spring has sprung, bringing SEC football with it. Gatorsports.com provides you with in-depth previews of all 12 teams.

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
2009 record: 14-0 (BCS National Champions)
Practice starts: March 12
Spring game: April 17, 3 p.m., ESPN (A-Day)
Recruiting: The Tide hauled in a consensus Top 5 class for the third straight year and were able to address various deficiencies, especially in the secondary. Alabama was able to get six defensive backs to help shore up a depleted unit. The Tide signed a class of 26.
Early enrollees: DB DeMarcus Milliner, QB Phillip Sims, OL Austin Shepherd, OL Chad Lindsay, DT Brandon Lewis, DB John Fulton, RB Jalston Fowler and K Cade Foster
Offseason changes: Alabama loses nine defensive starters who made a huge impact on the national title team. They lost a first-team All-SEC selection on the defensive line (Terrence Cody), at linebacker (Rolando McClain, who declared early for the draft), and cornerback (Javier Arenas). The Tide also lost kicker Leigh Tiffin and tight end Colin Peek.

Top priorities for spring
Defense: All of it. The Tide lost seven seniors and two juniors who were starters in 2009. That is the bad news. The good news is that they have All-SEC safety Mark Barron, who had seven interceptions in 2009, returning for his junior year. Bama also gets back Marcell Dareus, who led the team in sacks last season with 6.5. It is the other nine positions that will be battled for this spring. Replacing linebacker Rolando McClain will be important during the spring. Nick Saban will have Nico Johnson, who played last year as a freshman, but not Dont'a Hightower, whom Johnson replaced last season. Hightower suffered a knee injury and likely won't be back at full speed until August. Alabama certainly has no lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball, it just needs to be developed. The Tide also have five-star defensive back DeMarcus Milliner as an early enrollee, as well as another defensive back and a defensive tackle. Saban would love emerge from spring practice with a set starting lineup on the defensive side of the ball.
Special teams: Alabama needs a kicker and a return specialist. The departure of Arenas, a dangerous returner, and Tiffin, a first-team All-SEC kicker, have left a huge void. Bama will need to find a playmaker in the return game and an accurate kicker to take out of spring drills.

Spring strengths
Offense: All of it. Greg McElroy hasn't lost a game as a starting quarterback. Running back Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy last season. Alabama also returns receiver Julio Jones, who will look for a better season after a subpar 2009. The Tide also have Trent Richardson behind Ingram, and teams will not be able to rest when Richardson comes into the game. As much as Alabama's defense is a question mark going into spring practice, its offense is an exclamation point. Alabama does lose tight end Colin Peek, who accounted for 313 yards and three touchdowns last season. Bama has plenty of time to develop another tight end, even well into the season. Peek had nearly a third of his yardage (92) and two thirds of his touchdown receptions (2) in the Tide's last three games. They also lose two offensive linemen but have some experienced backups.

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