This morning saw the release of the preseason USA Today Coaches poll. Oklahoma is No. 1, with Alabama and Oregon respectively rounding out the Top 3. Last year's champion, Auburn, has fallen to No. 19.
Is Alabama worthy of the No. 2 spot after winning 10 games in 2010? In my opinion, the answer is yes. And why not? Let's look at some question marks the Crimson Tide faces heading into the 2011 season.
One of the first things detractors will point to is a very inexperienced quarterback taking over the offense, likely A.J. McCarron. Well, you know what? These detractors said the same thing when Greg McElroy took over in 2009, and McElroy led Alabama all the way to the National Championship.
That's not to say that A.J. won't make costly mistakes in his new role, because any new QB does, but I think his surrounding cast will help him out a lot and won't force him to carry the offense.
Other question marks include the losses of familiar names like productive wide receiver Julio Jones and dominant defensive end Marcel Dareus. Well, Nick Saban has done an outstanding job of recruiting these positions and there are plenty of young guys ready to step up and make a name for themselves.
I believe Alabama's worst loss, possibly outside of Greg McElroy, is left tackle James Carpenter. Carpenter was a stalwart on the offensive line and it was a very rare sight to see him allow a sack. He also did an excellent job of run blocking.
Now, let's talk a little about why Alabama does indeed deserve to be No. 2.
Most importantly, it all boils down to the defense. 'Bama will have what looks to be the best group of linebackers in the nation with seasoned vet Dont'a Hightower, young up-and-comer C.J. Mosley, a healthy and dangerous Courtney Upshaw, Nico Johnson, Jerrell Harris and a lot of other names you will be quite familiar with by season's end.
In the secondary, top recruiting prospects who gained valuable experience last year, such as Dre Kirkpatrick, DeMarcus Milliner and John Fulton, will look to make an impact alongside more experienced guys like Mark Barron, Robert Lester and Phelon Jones.
On the defensive line, guys like Ed Stinson, Jesse Williams and Damion Square will make you forget about Marcel Dareus.
Now on to the offensive side of things. We've already been over the quarterback position, so there's no reason to discuss that further.
One guy who is ready to make a Heisman run is running back Trent Richardson. Trent shared the load last year with 2009 Heisman winner Mark Ingram, and although the two didn't enjoy the same kind of success they had in 2009, they still made a solid duo.
However, Trent is now ready to step out on his own and be the "go-to" guy in the backfield. I can't remember a time when I've seen Trent tackled by one man; his powerful running style meshes well with Alabama's smash-mouth philosophy.
The offensive line should be solid. There will be plenty of playmakers like Marquis Maze, Kenny Bell, Eddie Lacy, Duron Carter, and Kevin Norwood to put points on the board.
In summary, while there will certainly be shortcomings in Alabama's 2011 team, right now they look like they will contend for the national title if they play to their potential. And that means they rightfully deserve to be No. 2 heading into the 2011 season.
Do you think Alabama deserves the No. 2 spot? Let me know in the comments section. Roll Tide!!
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