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2014 Alabama Recruiting Class Analysis

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Feb 6, 2014


2014 Alabama Crimson Tide ... Head Coach: Nick Saban


Alabama Crimson Tide

2013 Record: 11-2
8/31 Va Tech (in Atlanta) W 35-10
9/7 OPEN DATE
9/14 at Texas A&M W 49-42
9/21 Colorado St W 31-6
9/28 Ole Miss W 25-0
10/5 Georgia State W 45-3
10/12 at Kentucky W 48-7
10/19 Arkansas W 52-0
10/26 Tennessee W 45-10
11/2 OPEN DATE
11/9 LSU W 38-17
11/16 at Miss State W 20-7
11/23 Chattanooga W 49-0
11/30 at Auburn L 34-28
Allstate Sugar Bowl
1/2 Oklahoma L 45-31
Crimson Tide football tickets at TicketCity


Alabama | The Entire 2013 Recruiting Class

Team Concerns For 2014: The Tide has to figure out how to deal with mobile quarterbacks, struggling against Johnny Manziel, Nick Marshall and Trevor Knight in two losses and a close call. The defense was its normal, dominant self against everyone’s running game but Auburn’s, but the secondary will receive special attention this offseason. The offense that has to replace AJ McCarron needs to convert better inside the red zone, coming away with points just 80% of the time.

The 2014 Class Is Heavy On ... Offensive linemen. As if the class wasn’t already one of the best in the Nick Saban era of tremendous recruiting hauls, there was a terrific little twist, stealing away No. 1 linebacker Rashaan Evans away from his hometown Auburn Tigers. The Tide came up with several players who would’ve been classmakers for just about anyone else, but they were just part of the haul for Saban.

The offensive line received an upgrade with the nation’s top tackle, Cameron Robinson out of Louisiana, and received some instant help with JUCO transfer Dominick Jackson for one of the tackle jobs. The line also landed two of the nation’s two best centers – J.C. Hassenaure and Joshua Casher – to potentially help pave the way for massive Signing Day RB Bo Scarbrough. The offensive prospects were good, but the defensive talents are better.

Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey might be turnkey options at corner with an NFL combination of size and speed, and massive defensive tackles Josh Frazier and JUCO transfer Jarran Reed fit the type. Evans might receive all the headlines, but Christian Miller and Ronnie Clark are wonderful outside linebacker prospects, too. Even the kicking game received some help with J.K. Scott one of the nation’s better punters.

2013 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 1. That Class Was Heavy On ... Running back. When you crank out NFL quality backs like Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, it's easy to pique the interest of the star running back recruits. Derrick Henry is a massive back who could project into a whale of a linebacker, while Tyren Jones is a dangerous speed option. Not fearing a little competition, Alvin Kamara spurned Georgia on Signing Day to join the pack. Robert Foster is an NFL-caliber receiver, while tight end O.J. Howard is a mortal lock to play at the next level.

Defensive end Jonathan Allen is a superior pass rushing prospect, while JUCO transfer Leon Brown could step in somewhere on the offensive line right away. Dee Liner made a great class phenomenal, but it was the signing of No. 1 defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson out of Texas and top middle linebacker Rueben Foster away from Auburn that took the Tide haul to a whole other level. 

2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 3. That Class Was Heavy On ... The Tide loses plenty of good defensive starters, but there are more waiting in the wings. The stockpiled depth after years of great recruiting classes is amazing, but it would be nice if a stud No. 1 receiver could come in and take over a big role early on. The Tide needs a boost for the receiving corps after the start of the last few classes for the defensive side, and the stars appear to be coming. 

2011 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 5. That Class Was Heavy On ... Defensive linemen. With yet another phenomenal class, the rich get richer ... while also sticking it to Auburn with OT Cyrus Kouandijo verbaling to the Tigers and signing with the Tide. The receiving corps is awesome with 6-4 Marvin Shinn and 6-2 Danny Woodson bringing the size, and Bradley Sylve providing the speed. Ha’Seaon Clinton-Dix might be the nation’s best safety prospect, and Trey DePriest is Scout.com’s No. 1 ranked middle linebacker, but the key to the class could be up front on defense with JUCO transfers Quinton Dial, a 6-5, 310-pound future NFL draft pick, and 6-4, 340-pound Jesse Williams, ready to clog the inside. Xzavier Dickson fits the Bama scheme perfectly at one end, and Jeoffrey Pagan should be a strong pass rusher with a little bit of time.

2010 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 5. That Class Was Heavy On ... Defensive backs. How good is Nick Saban and his staff when it comes to recruiting? The Tide didn't have a ton of needs with so many great classes brought in over the last few years, and the monster class that capitalizes on the national title is supposed to come in next year, but that doesn't mean that several top players available this season didn't want to come wear the Crimson uniform. Phillip Sims is by far the most talented quarterback prospect the Tide has had in several years, and the receiving corps will be loaded with DeAndrew White, Ronald Carswell, Blake Sims and Keiwone Malone would all be No. 1 targets at just about anywhere else. The defensive backfield is amazing with the best class in America led by top corner prospect Demarcus Milliner and big-time safety Jarrick Williams. Johnavon Fulton has NFL corner speed and JUCO transfer Dequan Menzie could see time immediately.

2009 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 2. That Class Was Heavy On ... linemen. Nick Saban and his staff brought in yet another loaded class that is among the best in the country with RB Trent Richardson leading the way, but the bulk is up front. From JUCO transfer James Carpenter, who might get a starting spot on the offensive line right away, to Darrington Sentimore, Chris Bonds, and Anthony Orr, who’ll load up the defensive front, the Tide secured the lines for the next several years.

Allstate Sugar Bowl
Oklahoma 45, Alabama 31
Basically … In one of the most shocking performances in the history of the BCS, Trevor Knight threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns, coming up with two touchdown passes to Jalen Saunders from eight and 43 yards out in the first half, and hitting Lacoltan Bester on a 45-yard scoring play in the first and Sterling Shepard on a nine-yard pass in the fourth – looking Joe Montana-like to Dwight Clark. But Alabama was able to keep up the pace early, highlighted by a AJ McCarron 67-yard touchdown pass to DeAndrew White in the second quarter, and then it was the Derrick Henry show. The freshman running back tore off a 43-yard touchdown run in the third to pull the Tide within seven, and took a pass 61 yards for a score late in the fourth to once again makie it a seven-point game, but the OU defense took over late. Eric Striker came around the edge to sack McCarron, Geneo Grissom picked up the fumble, and he took it in from eight yards out to put the game away.

- Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight completed 32-of-44 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns with a pick, and he ran five times for seven yards.
- Alabama QB AJ McCarron completed 19-of-30 passes for 387 yards with two touchdowns and two picks.
- Alabama RB Derrick Henry ran eight times for 100 yards and a score and caught a pass for 61 yards and a touchdown.
- Alabama WR DeAndrew White caught three passes for 139 yards and a score, and Amari Cooper caught nine passes for 121 yards.
- Oklahoma DE Eric Striker tied for the team-lead with seven tackles with three sacks and a game-sealing forced fumble that led to a touchdown. - Oklahoma DE Geneo Grissom made two tackles, two sacks, two fumble recoveries, and scores one touchdown.

at Auburn 34, Alabama 28
Basically … In one of the most improbable endings in the history of college football Chris Davis returned a missed 57-yard field goal attempt, officially, 100 yards for a touchdown to give Auburn the shocking win. It looked like the game was going to overtime after Auburn’s Nick Marshall found a wide open Sammie Coates for a 39-yard touchdown with 32 seconds to play, but Alabama tried to get into scoring position and got what seemed like a big break at the time when a second was put back on the clock after a T.J. Yeldon run, but that led to the final big play. Before the final few minutes, the signature play appeared to be a 99-yard Amari Cooper touchdown catch that gave the Tide the lead, but four missed field goals, including a late one that would’ve made it a ten point lead, proved costly.

Nick Marshall started the scoring for the Tide with a 45-yard touchdown dash, but Alabama owned the second quarter with 21 straight points on two AJ McCarron touchdown passes and a one-yard touchdown run from Yeldon, but Auburn fought back with a one-yard Tre Mason run late in the first half and a 13-yard C.J. Uzomah touchdown catch early in the third to tie it up.

- Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 11-of-16 passes for 97 yards and two scores, and he ran 17 times for 99 yards and a touchdown.
- Alabama LB C.J. Mosley made 14 tackles. Trey DePriest made 11 tackles with a sack and a forced fumble
- Alabama QB AJ McCarron completed 17-of-29 passes for 277 yards and three scores. T.J. Yeldon ran 26 times for 141 yards and a score.
- Auburn RB Tre Mason ran 29 times for 164 yards and a score.

at Alabama 49, Chattanooga 0
Basically … Alabama didn’t have any issues with the layup getting a 75-yard Christion Jones punt return for a score and two AJ McCarron touchdown passes from 28 yards out to Kevin Norwood and a 38-yarder to Amari Cooper. Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry each ran for first half scores.
- Alabama QB AJ McCarron completed 13-of-16 passes for 171 yards and two scores.
- Alabama outgained Chattanooga 435 yards to 175.
- Chattanooga S D.J. Key made ten tackles with a broken up pass. S Chaz Moore made ten tackles with two tackles for loss and a broken up pass.
- Alabama RB Kenyan Drake ran 11 times for 77 yards and a touchdown.

Alabama 20, at Mississippi State 7
Basically … Alabama wasn’t sharp, but it wasn’t threatened after a Brian Vogler 18-yard touchdown catch with 20 seconds to play in the first half. Mississippi State pulled within three on a fumble recovery in the end zone by tackle Charles Siddoway, but that was it for the Bulldog offense. Kevin Norwood gave the Tide a comfortable lead with an 11-yard touchdown catch, and Cade Foster hit his second field goal.
- The Tide outgained Mississippi State 383 yards to 197
- Alabama RB T.J. Yeldon ran 24 times for 160 yards. AJ McCarron completed 18-of-32 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns with two picks
- Mississippi State S Kendrick Market made ten tackles with a forced fumble.
- Alabama P Cody Mandell averaged 55 yards per punt on his four kicks, putting two inside the 20.

at Alabama 38, LSU 17
Basically … With the game tied at 17, the Alabama offensive line took over leading the way to 21 unanswered points over the final 20 minutes. T.J. Yeldon ran for two short scores and Jalston Fowler ran for a three-yard touchdown to put the game away. LSU was great early, but it failed on the goal line on a fumble from fullback J.C. Copeland, but a Jeremy Hill three-yard run made it 7-3. The Tide struck with a 52-yard O.J. Howard touchdown catch, blowing past the LSU secondary, and Kevin Norwood caught a nine-yard touchdown pass for a 17-7 lead. Zach Mettenberger tightened things up late in the first on a six-yard touchdown pass to Travin Dural, but the offense only managed a field goal in the second half.
- Alabama QB AJ McCarron completed 14-of-20 passes for 179 yards and three scores. T.J. Yeldon ran 25 times for 133 yards and two scores.
- Zach Mettenberger completed 16-of-23 passes for 241 yards and a score, and while he didn’t throw any picks, there were some close calls.
- LSU LB Lamin Barrow made 11 tackles, but the Tiger D couldn’t get off the field in the fourth quarter. Alabama had the ball for 11:24 in the fourth.
- Alabama LB C.J. Mosley led the way with 12 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss with two broken up passes.

at Alabama 45, Tennessee 10
Basically … Alabama took control from the start with Amari Cooper taking a short pass 54 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the game, and T.J. Yeldon and Kevin Norwood added to the first quarter fun with scores. The first of Yeldon’s two one-yard touchdown runs added to the lead in the second quarter, and then the defense got into the act with an 89-yard interception return for a score from Landon Collins. Tennessee didn’t get into the end zone until early in the fourth on a three-yard Rajion Neal run.
- The Tide never let Tennessee think for a single, solitary second that this was going to be a game. A.J. McCarron will get the statistical credit for having a huge game, going 19-of-27 for 275 yards with two scores, but the receivers made big things happen with Amari Cooper weaving his way for a score and Kevin Norwood coming up with a brilliant grab on his way to a six-catch, 112-yard, one score day.
- The appetizers are done. Now it’s time for Alabama to fully focus on LSU and the last real hurdle before closing out the regular season at Auburn. There aren’t any flaws in the Tide right now with the lines playing at the highest of levels and the skill players humming. McCarron is getting all the time he needs.

at Alabama 52 … Arkansas 0
Basically … Alabama dominated on both sides of the ball from the start as Kenyan Drake ran for two scores and AJ McCarron threw three touchdown passes including a 30-yarder to Amari Cooper. To add to the domination, Derrick Henry tore off an 80-yard scoring run in the final minute. Arkansas was held to 256 yards of total offense and turned it over three times.
- Another day at the office for Alabama. While the rest of the SEC was crashing and burning, the Tide went about its business and never let this be interesting, scoring on the opening drive of the game and never letting up. This was a fully focused effort.
- Arkansas is still in rebuilding and reloading mode – it’s Alabama; you blow this off. Alex Collins ran for 77 yards and had a few decent runs, but there wasn’t any passing game as Brandon Allen completed 7-of-25 passes for 91 yards with two picks. Again, it’s Alabama – it does this to just about everyone.
- Now on a five-game losing streak, the once-fun season has gone into the tank in a big hurry, and now the Hogs have to deal with a rolling Auburn team followed up by a road game at Ole Miss. They have to win three of their final four games to go bowling, and unless the offense starts to work after scoring 17 points in the last three games, that’s not going to happen without a little bit of luck. Fast.
- CJ Mosley might not be dynamic and he might not put up huge stats, but he was all over the Arkansas running game and made plays all over the field. He led the team with ten tackles with a tackle for loss, but he was also terrific in pass coverage and was decent at getting behind the line.

Alabama 48, at Kentucky 7
Basically … The Crimson Tide scored the first 31 points of the game with T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake each running for two scores. Following a 30-yard Javess Blue touchdown catch for UK in the third, it was all Bama the rest of the way with 17 unanswered points, highlighted by a 20-yard Kevin Norwood touchdown catch.
- Outside of two lost fumbles, there isn’t a lot for Nick Saban to complain about. The offense was sharp and balanced, cranking out 668 total yards, and AJ McCarron was excellent, completing 21-of-35 passes for 359 yards and a score. The 1-2 punch of T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake each rumbled for over 100 yards.
- Kentucky was playing the No. 1 team in the country, and it looked like it. There was one nice drive that led to points, and that was it for an offense that was stuffed on drive after drive. The Cats couldn’t keep the chains moving with too many misfires on third downs.
- The Wildcat defense has been fine at times this year, but it didn’t have any ideas to slow down the Tide attack. The defensive front was blasted off the ball throughout the game, and the Bama backs ran for too many big yards. Once again, Avery Williamson was the team’s defensive star with 13 stops and a fumble recovery.
- Yawn. Once again, Alabama was able to go through the motions, for the most part, in yet another cold, cool performance without having to work too hard. The No. 1 team in the country is making it look easy, and now the task is to stay interested with Arkansas and Tennessee up next before dealing with LSU.

at Alabama 45, Georgia State 3
Basically … Alabama did whatever it wanted, scoring 38 first half points on four AJ McCarron touchdown passes to four different receivers, and T.J. Yeldon added a four-yard touchdown run. Georgia State got on the board in the third quarter with a 53-yard field goal from Wil Lutz, but the Tide called off the dogs, only scoring on a ten-yard Blake Sims pass to Chris Black in the fourth.
- Alabama was able to get in a nice, light scrimmage just to get all the parts of the offense tuned up. AJ McCarron missed one pass, connecting on 15-of-16 throws for 166 yards and four scores, and Blake Sims wasn’t much word, hitting 14-of-18 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.
- Georgia State star receiver Albert Wilson led the team with four catches for 60 yards, but the Tide put the clamps down on him, and nothing else worked. The ground game finished with just 15 net yards.
- This was empty-the-bench time for the Tide with several young players getting in some meaningful work. Star recruit A’Shawn Robinson made two tackles with a tackle for loss, leading a young group that didn’t have any problems keeping GSU under wraps in the second half.
- The Panthers made Alabama work a little bit on field position. Punter Matt Hubbard had a terrific game averaging 46.6 yards per try with a 65-yard blast.

Alabama

at Alabama 25, Ole Miss 0
Basically … Alabama overcame a slightly sluggish first half – getting three Cade Foster field goals – to explode in the second with T.J. Yeldon tearing off a 68-yard score in the first minute of the third, and Kenyon Drake running for a 50-yard touchdown in the fourth. The Tide defense outscored the Ole Miss offense 2-0 with a C.J. Mosley tackle of Bo Wallace for a safety.
- Ole Miss, you’re not there quite yet. The defense did a decent job, but the offense couldn’t find any room to breathe. Jeff Scott was bottled up, gaining just 28 yards on eight carries, and Bo Wallace didn’t have anywhere to go down the field. There were a couple of nice pass plays, but they didn’t lead to anything.
- Much will be made out of Alabama’s offense being slightly off yet again, but it controlled the clock for over 38 minutes, and only turned the ball over once. With the defense humming, there was no reason to do anything crazy. AJ McCarron completed 25-of-32 passes for 180 yards and a pick, but he didn’t take any big chances. When the running game really needed to work, it did with T.J. Yeldon running for 121 yards and a score and Kenyan Drake tearing off yards in chunks on the way to 99 yards on 12 carries.
- Yes, Denzel Nkemdiche was back at linebacker for the Rebels, but he only came up with four tackles with a forced fumble. The back seven had to make too many plays.
- And now we wait. Georgia State, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee – it’s going to be long, long time before LSU comes to town on November 9th.

at Alabama 31, Colorado State 6
Basically … Alabama slogged its way through a mediocre performance, getting up 17-0 in the first half on a blocked punt for a score and a three-yard Kenyan Drake touchdown run before Cade Foster nailed a 46-yard field goal. Colorado State managed two third quarter Jared Roberts field goals, but that was it for the offense. DeAndrew White put the game away in the fourth on a 30-yard touchdown catch.
- It’s natural for Alabama to let down, but this is now the second mediocre offensive performance in the first three games. The offense couldn’t seem to find any sort of a groove, even though AJ McCarron connected on 20-of-26 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown with a pick. After sitting out the first quarter, T.J. Yeldon ran for 49 yards on seven carries, but most of his production came on one 39-yard run – nothing else for the ground game seemed to work.
- Colorado State was outgunned from the start, but it held up extremely well under the pressure. The defense didn’t get overwhelmed by the Tide O line, and Garrett Grayson hung tough completing 24-of-38 passes for 228 yards.
- It’s just not Alabama’s defense, but at some point it wouldn’t be a bad thing to find a pass rush from the outside. The linebacking corps is great against the pass, as always, and the CSU running game wasn’t going anywhere, but the D has to be even more disruptive to make up for the inconsistent O.
- There were times with Colorado State linebacker Aaron Davis was the best player on the field. He made 11 tackles with a tackle for loss, and he was flying to the ball.

- Fiu Stream-of-Consciousness Comments
Alabama 49, at Texas A&M 42, Sept. 14
Basically … In a wild shootout, Alabama overcame a 14-0 lead with 35 straight points, but Texas A&M kept coming back time and time again, with Johnny Manziel throwing his fifth touchdown pass of the game with 15 seconds to play to pull the Aggies within seven. Alabama recovered the onsides kick to escape the shootout. Alabama took control with the power running game in the second half, but just when it looked like the game was going to be put away, T.J. Yeldon fumbled near the goal line. Instead of 49-28, a few plays later Manziel found Mike Evans for a 95-yard touchdown to make it 42-35. But the Tide responded with a nine play, 65-yard drive with AJ McCarron finding Jalston Fowler for a five-yard score for what would be the winning points.
- The 95-yard touchdown from Evans – who caught seven passes for 279 yards and a touchdown - was the final big home run, but Manziel made magical play after magical play, including a scramble out of a sack for an Eli Manning-to-David Tyree-like play on a 12-yard heave pass to Edward Pope, but the drive stalled with a pick in the end zone. That seemed to spark the Tide.
- The banged up Bama secondary was torched, and it couldn’t handle Evans, but Vinnie Sunseri came up with the team’s signature play, taking an interception 73 yards for a touchdown. However, John Fulton and Cyrus Jones had a nightmare of a time.
- AJ McCarron was outgunned statistically by Johnny Manziel, but he was flawless, completing 20-of-29 passes for 334 yards and four scores. T.J. Yeldon had the big late fumble and took a bad unsportsmanlike penalty, but he ran for 149 yards and a score.
- Manziel’s day? 28-of-39 for 464 yards and five touchdowns with two picks, while running for a team-leading 98 yards on 14 carries. He was sacked just once.

Alabama 35, Virginia Tech 10, Aug. 31
Basically … Christon Jones made up for a lackluster day from the Tide offense with a 72-yard punt return for a score, a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 38-yard scoring catch. Virginia Tech got a plucky day from its defense, but the special teams were a disaster and Logan Thomas threw a not-his-fault – the receiver quit on the route – pick six to Vinnie Sunseri. 77 of the Hokie 212 yards of total offense came on a 77-yard scoring dash from Trey Edmunds late in the first.
- Everyone is going to wonder what is wrong with a Crimson Tide offense that wasn’t sharp and gained just 206 yards of total offense. It’s simple. The Virginia Tech defense is just that good. Corner Kyle Fuller looked like a starting NFL corner on Amari Cooper, who was held to 38 yards on four catches.
- It’s almost perfect for Nick Saban. His team wins by 25 and he gets to spend the next two weeks hammering the living spit out of his team to prep for Texas A&M.
- It might sound absolutely insane, but Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas actually didn’t look horrible despite completing just 5-of-26 passes for 59 yards and a pick. Okay, that’s a major reach, but he got absolutely no help whatsoever from his receivers and had nowhere to go with the ball. He appeared to be more poised with improved mechanics.
- AJ McCarron was under pressure, but nothing more than he was on a regular basis last year behind his epic line. He completed just 10-of-23 passes for 110 yards and a score with a pick. There were some drops, but he threw a bad pick and was hardly sharp.

Spring Analysis

Why To Be Excited ... Remember, last season was supposed to be the rebuilding campaign. While the team had its problems once the schedule started to toughen up – struggling against LSU and Texas A&M before finishing with the fight against Georgia – everything obviously turned out okay. With yet another phenomenal recruiting class on top of past tremendous hauls of talent, it really is a case of Next Man Up in several spots. While the running game shouldn’t struggle, the passing game should be even more dangerous and more effective after leading the nation in passing efficient. AJ McCarron is a legitimate pro prospect and Heisman candidate with two national titles under his belt, and now he has a loaded receiving corps to throw to with Amari Cooper, Kevin Norwood and Christon Jones all back.

The defense shouldn’t take any sort of a step back helped by the return of linebackers Trey DePriest and Adrian Hubbard including several stars in the secondary. Again, with the talent level waiting in the wings, losing a superstar corner like Dee Milliner or a defensive tackle like Jesse Williams doesn’t matter, but …

Why To Be Grouchy ... Yes, it’s Alabama and there are always more NFL talents where the old ones came from, but you don’t get better by losing Chance Warmack, Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker off the offensive line. Cyrus Kouandijo might be the first lineman taken in the 2014 NFL Draft, and guard Anthony Steen – a one man wrecking crew in the BCS championship – will play on Sundays, but the offseason will still be a fight to find the right combination. Remember, last year it was the big move of Jones kicking inside to center, but that was nothing compared to what the coaching staff has to figure out this year. On the other side of the ball, losing Jesse Williams as the anchor up front is a bigger deal than many will admit.

What Needs Working On ... Being ready to roll out of the box. There wasn’t much of an issue destroying Michigan in last year’s season opener, and if everything is working right, beating Virginia Tech might not be a problem to kick of this year, but next up is a trip to Texas A&M with Ole Miss lurking a few weeks later. Realistically, it’s a three game season against the Hokies, Aggies and LSU, with no Florida, Georgia or South Carolina to deal with from the East, but last season the Tide had problems against the three truly elite teams – with some due respect to Michigan – on the schedule giving up the most yards all year in the battles against Georgia, A&M and LSU. Those three games were dogfights because the respective quarterbacks were fantastic even with a steady and consistent pass rush. It just so happens that the three best quarterbacks on the slate this year are Logan Thomas, Johnny Manziel and Zach Mettenberger.

Non-Conference Games: Virginia Tech, Colorado State, Georgia State, Chattanooga
Games Against The East: at Kentucky, Tennessee
Realistic Best Case Record: 12-0
Worst Case Record: 9-3
Likely Finish: 12-0

Pre-Preseason Projected Wins: Virginia Tech, at Texas A&M, Colorado State, Ole Miss, Georgia State, at Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU, at Mississippi State, Chattanooga, at Auburn

Pre-Preseason Projected Losses: None

Schedule Analysis: Nick Saban doesn’t let his team take any game lightly, but if the Tide is 2-0, it’s going to take something crazy to not go 12-0 – or at least 8-0 before getting LSU. The season kicks off with a bang going to Atlanta to deal with a Virginia Tech team looking to rebound from a mediocre 2012, and then comes the revenge date against Texas A&M in College Station. Fortunately, there’s a week off before dealing with Johnny Football, and then the sailing is relatively smooth the rest of the way.

There’s no Florida from the East. There’s no Georgia or South Carolina, either. Instead, it’s Kentucky and Tennessee as part of a run of six home games in the next seven after facing A&M. The lone road game is at UK with Colorado State, Ole Miss and Georgia State before and Arkansas and Tennessee after. And then comes the week off and then comes the build up for LSU. Closing out with two road games in the final three weeks would normally be tough, and it still might be if Mississippi State and Auburn get their acts together and turn things back around. It’s okay to already start rolling your eyes at how Saban will play up how Chattanooga has to be taken seriously the week before the Iron Bowl.

Team Concerns For 2013: The Tide are loaded and ready for a run at a third straight national championship, but it's not going to be a walk in the park. Losses on the offensive line - center Barrett Jones, guard Chance Warmack and tackle D.J. Fluker - are going to be bigger than it might appear, and while T.J. Yeldon leads a strong young group of running backs, not having Eddie Lacy will hurt. The defensive line could miss unsung rock Jesse Williams on the nose, and even though there are always great players waiting in the wings, not having Dee Milliner or Robert Lester in the secondary could be a problem. It's nitpicking for the nation's No. 1 defense, but getting more plays behind the line would be nice.

The 2013 Class Is Heavy On ... Running back. When you crank out NFL quality backs like Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, it's easy to pique the interest of the star running back recruits. Derrick Henry is a massive back who could project into a whale of a linebacker, while Tyren Jones is a dangerous speed option. Not fearing a little competition, Alvin Kamara spurned Georgia on Signing Day to join the pack. Robert Foster is an NFL-caliber receiver, while tight end O.J. Howard is a mortal lock to play at the next level.

Defensive end Jonathan Allen is a superior pass rushing prospect, while JUCO transfer Leon Brown could step in somewhere on the offensive line right away. Dee Liner made a great class phenomenal, but it was the signing of No. 1 defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson out of Texas and top middle linebacker Rueben Foster away from Auburn that took the Tide haul to a whole other level. 

2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 3. That Class Was Heavy On ... The Tide loses plenty of good defensive starters, but there are more waiting in the wings. The stockpiled depth after years of great recruiting classes is amazing, but it would be nice if a stud No. 1 receiver could come in and take over a big role early on. The Tide needs a boost for the receiving corps after the start of the last few classes for the defensive side, and the stars appear to be coming. 

2011 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 5. That Class Was Heavy On ... Defensive linemen. With yet another phenomenal class, the rich get richer ... while also sticking it to Auburn with OT Cyrus Kouandijo verbaling to the Tigers and signing with the Tide. The receiving corps is awesome with 6-4 Marvin Shinn and 6-2 Danny Woodson bringing the size, and Bradley Sylve providing the speed. Ha’Seaon Clinton-Dix might be the nation’s best safety prospect, and Trey DePriest is Scout.com’s No. 1 ranked middle linebacker, but the key to the class could be up front on defense with JUCO transfers Quinton Dial, a 6-5, 310-pound future NFL draft pick, and 6-4, 340-pound Jesse Williams, ready to clog the inside. Xzavier Dickson fits the Bama scheme perfectly at one end, and Jeoffrey Pagan should be a strong pass rusher with a little bit of time.

2010 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 5. That Class Was Heavy On ... Defensive backs. How good is Nick Saban and his staff when it comes to recruiting? The Tide didn't have a ton of needs with so many great classes brought in over the last few years, and the monster class that capitalizes on the national title is supposed to come in next year, but that doesn't mean that several top players available this season didn't want to come wear the Crimson uniform. Phillip Sims is by far the most talented quarterback prospect the Tide has had in several years, and the receiving corps will be loaded with DeAndrew White, Ronald Carswell, Blake Sims and Keiwone Malone would all be No. 1 targets at just about anywhere else. The defensive backfield is amazing with the best class in America led by top corner prospect Demarcus Milliner and big-time safety Jarrick Williams. Johnavon Fulton has NFL corner speed and JUCO transfer Dequan Menzie could see time immediately.

2009 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 2. That Class Was Heavy On ... linemen. Nick Saban and his staff brought in yet another loaded class that is among the best in the country with RB Trent Richardson leading the way, but the bulk is up front. From JUCO transfer James Carpenter, who might get a starting spot on the offensive line right away, to Darrington Sentimore, Chris Bonds, and Anthony Orr, who’ll load up the defensive front, the Tide secured the lines for the next several years.
 

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