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The 2012 Crimson Tide | Returning Starters

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Getty Images

Before we go all out on the individual position previews, let's first take a quick minute and go through the returning starters. Most preseason magazines credit the Tide with either 12 or 13 after graduation and early entry into the NFL last season, with the lion's share on offense, but there are several players that are not being counted with some starting experience in their time at Alabama so we'll detail them as well:

Player Position Year Career Starts
AJ McCarron QB Junior 13
Kenny Bell WR Junior 4
DeAndrew White WR Sophomore 2
Michael Williams TE Senior 26
Barrett Jones C Senior 36 (25 RG, 11 LT, 0 C)
Anthony Steen, Jr. RG Junior 9
Chance Warmack LG Senior 25
DJ Fluker RT Junior 21
Damion Square DE Senior 19
Jesse Williams NT Senior 13 (DE)
CJ Mosley LB Junior 9
Nico Johnson LB Senior 16
Dee Milliner CB Junior 17
Robert Lester SS Senior 26
Cody Mandell P Junior 26
Cade Foster K Junior 26
Jeremy Shelley K Senior 26

From this list there are actually 17 players on the current roster with starting experience. Most don't consider Cade Foster, Kenny Bell, DeAndrew White, and Dee Milliner as returning starters, but each have started games. Bell and White have only six starts between them and not much in the way of stat lines (though Bell is actually the leading returning receiver with 17 catches), but Foster has been our kick off specialist over the past two seasons and Dee Milliner started most of his true freshman season in 2010 and was on the field so much in 2011 he might as well have been a starter, so their exclusion is rather curious.

Looking further, it's fairly obvious the offensive line is the most experienced group on the team. Four upperclassmen with 90 starts between them is pretty impressive, but as phenomenal as Barrett Jones has been at both positions he's played so far, center is a new position with which he has no live game experience so those 36 starts come with a caveat, albeit a very small one. What's more important in that group to me is that both Warmack and Fluker now have two season's worth of starting experience under their belts and have improved each season. It's no wonder Tide linemen made up 3/5 of the CBS Sports preseason All-American team.

Another caveat that should be mentioned are the starts of NG Jesse Williams. Williams played DE last season, starting all 13 games, but moved over to tackle after the graduation of Josh Chapman left Alabama with no real solutions in the middle of the defensive line. Williams isn't wholly unfamiliar with the position, though, having moved inside in certain rush packages in 2012, and his size (6-4 319) actually suits the tackle position better than DE. But with Chapman performing at a very high level (on a torn ACL, no less) and the need for better consistency from the DE rotation, having Williams work at DE along with Square allowed Alabama to utilize the best three down linemen even if one of them was a bit out of position.

The linebacking corps has some deceptive numbers as well since both Johnson and Mosley's numbers don't adequately reflect the amount of quality snap they've actually played during their careers. Johnson has been the top backup to both Dont'a Hightower and Rolando McClain at Mike and has rotated with Mosley over the last two season at the Will. Both have played such an integral part in the LB rotation that they may as well be considered co-starters over the last two seasons.