2011 overall record: 12-1
2011 conference record: 7-1 (T-2nd)
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 5; kicker/punter: 2
2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Trent Richardson (1,679 yards)
Passing: AJ McCarron* (2,634 yards)
Receiving: Marquis Maze (627 yards)
Tackles: Dont'a Hightower (85)
Sacks: Courtney Upshaw (9.5)
Interceptions: Dee Milliner* (3)
1. McCarron taking ownership: The junior signal caller had a voice in the Alabama locker room in 2011, but this spring he seems to have dialed up the volume. Many of the leaders from last year’s team are gone and it’s up to McCarron to keep an offense that is as inexperienced as it is talented on track. Coach Nick Saban had praised his command under center during spring practice and all signs point to the tall righty taking the offense and making it his.
2. Linebackers coming together: Adrian Hubbard put on a show at A-Day in April, posting three sacks against the first-team offense. The 6-foot-6, 248-pound linebacker has big shoes to fill with Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw both off to the NFL. Given his solid spring, defensive coordinator Kirby Smart can check off one of those spots.
3. Stable of backs: Trent Richardson is gone, but that doesn't mean the running back corps can't improve in other ways, namely depth. While projected starter Eddie Lacy missed the spring recovering from offseason surgery, it gave other the chance to step up. Jalston Fowler is a bulldozer at tailback, Dee Hart a speedy slasher and freshman T.J. Yeldon a little bit of both. Yeldon had a coming out party at A-Day, rushing for 88 yards and catching five passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns.
1. Wide receiver options: The unit will be more explosive than in years past, but it will also be more inexperienced. How true freshmen Amari Cooper and Chris Black continue to develop will be key. Both had good springs and will help provide depth to sophomores Christion Jones and DeAndrew White, and juniors Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell.
2. Secondary shaping up: Nick Saban and Kirby Smart have to replace three positions in the secondary and beginning this spring, the results have been good. Vinnie Sunseri and Ha'Sean Clinton Dix are two talented underclassmen ready to play alongside Robert Lester at safety. Meanwhile Dee Milliner moves into a starting role and will likely line up alongside either junior college transfer Travell Dixon or Deion Belue.
3. Special teams: By fall, we likely mean the season opener. By all indications, kickers Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster had good springs, but neither were forced to do much at A-Day and we won't know their true improvement until the lights go up in Arlington, Texas. Shelley proved a lot in the BCS title game but there are still concerns whether the kicking game will be a handicap, as it was last year, or a boon to an offense with a fresh start. Keep an eye on incoming freshman Adam Griffith, who is expected to get a look at placekicker.