How do you keep plugging away after being the national title game MVP? "I think it should drive you to want more," McCarron said. "I know a lot of people get complacent when they achieve what they've always wanted and what their goal's been their whole life. But if I have one and I have a chance to get three while I'm here, I'm going to try to get three. I'm not just going to stick with that one. That's not the way I was raised. "That's not how I play sports. If I'm going to play it, I might as well be the best at it and push myself to be the best at it. That's the way coach Saban thinks. That man doesn't care how many national championships he wins, he just wants to keep winning. I think that's the mind-set that I've taken from him."
"We’ve had a good week this week and really improved on some things," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "We’ve got a lot of work to do still though, especially depth wise, but we are looking forward to the first game. I’m sure our players are tired of practicing against each other and look forward to the challenge of practicing something different that they can get prepared for."
As for the possibility of preparing too little for a season opener, Saban said that’s why he likes playing a big-name opponent in the first or second game of the year. A big game tends to create some momentum through August practice. For example, Alabama opened with Clemson in 2008 and Virginia Tech in 2009. The Tide played Penn State in its second game of the year in 2010 and 2011. "The players get excited about that," he said. And as for getting to know Michigan? That’s starting to improve. "We brushed up on it today," Alabama guard Chance Warmack said after Thursday’s practice. "What I can tell you is they are a physical team, very physical team, come off the ball quick. We’ll have to look at film more and get a better shot of how they run their defense."
Senior defensive end Quinton Dial might not be a starter in Alabama’s season opener against Michigan, but he’s expected to receive the number of snaps typically afforded to one. This wouldn’t be anything new to the senior, who didn’t start once last season but was a regular contributor, piling up 24 tackles in 12 games. And it shouldn’t feel like a snub, either, as Alabama ideally plans to rotate six or seven players along the defensive line this season. "They’ll all have some sort of role," Alabama coach Nick Saban said Thursday. "Quinton is certainly one of those guys who will rotate in or start the game, one or the other. "We feel like he’s a starter whether he starts the game or not."
Williams has been an anchor of the nation's top run defense last season and the No. 2 defense against the run in the junior college ranks two years ago, playing inside. That experience has made this transition easier for a guy who didn't take up football until 15 after starting out playing rugby and basketball. "I think it's just a different mindset," Williams said. "It's really close quarters down there, not as loose as the five (end). But I played there in junior college and I'm just trying to find my feet again and get back to the technique I was using." Saban said Tide coaches were initially concerned about Williams' football instincts when he arrived because of his limited experience. It proved not to be much of an issue. "Jesse's a very smart guy," Saban said. "He's very prideful. He's a hard worker. It's really important to him to get it right. He competes with a lot of character. He has improved and improved last year dramatically through the season and was a very, very consistent player for us. Now, he's playing a little different position because he's playing nose and didn't play it a lot last year.
5 Consecutive seasons in which Alabama has increased its average yards per rushing attempt. In 2006, the season before Nick Saban became the Crimson Tide’s coach, Alabama averaged 3.5 yards per carry. Under Saban, that increased to 4.0 in 2007, 4.6 in 2008, 5.0 in 2009, 5.1 in 2010 and 5.5 in 2011. The school record for best average per rushing attempt in a season is 6.1 yards set in 1973.
Alabama won a national championship with defense last season. The Crimson Tide led the nation in rushing defense, passing defense, total defense and scoring defense — the only team to accomplish this since the NCAA began keeping those statistics. Six Alabama defenders went in the first five rounds of the NFL draft, including three in the first round. But seven starters from that defense are gone, and when head coach Nick Saban talks and talks about the 2012 building its own identity, it isn’t "coach-speak." It really does seem like a different team poised to go its own direction. "You have to create your own identity by what you do," Saban said. "You have to create your own momentum by what you do. Everybody has a new role. We have new people who have new opportunities. This is their opportunity to make this their team."
Like Nick Saban, Gene Stallings has some experience defending a national title. His advice: Don't worry about defending the national title. "I will assure you, winning the national championship is not even on their radar," Stallings, who led Alabama to the 1992 national crown, said of Saban's Tide. "All they're trying to do is get ready to win that first game. I know when I was coaching, I didn't even think about the national championship until we were 9-0. ... I'm sure coach Saban's the same way."
Deion Belue, CB, Jr.: Following in the footsteps of former junior college transfer DeQuan Menzie, Belue has staked his claim to the starting cornerback job opposite Dee Milliner.
Jones was the primary backup to Marquis Maze last year on kickoff and punt returns. He broke a 15-yard punt return in the BCS title game against LSU after Maze exited with a hamstring injury. As a receiver, he made just three catches for 49 yards. This fall, however, he is expected to be more involved in Alabama's passing attack. "I think he's the kind of guy who can make a lot of big plays out there. I think he's a lot more confident at the receiver position now," Saban added. "He's had a really good camp and has done a really good job making explosive plays, and being a consistent performer throughout."
Coach Geis sees Walker fitting in well with Alabama especially at the 'Jack' linebacker position. "Everyone says he can't play the 'Jack' linebacker, but [Courtney] Upshaw did it at 280-pounds," he said. "He plays on the line of scrimmage. Every once in a while he may drop back into coverage. "There is no reason he can't play that spot. He can do all that stuff. Now if he gets to 290, 300-pound range that's when you may find him as a four technique. As his body develops we'll see how it plays out. He's very athletic. He played in the slot during our spring game. He had five catches for 95 yards. I think he'll be fine in coverage."