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July 19, 2012
HOOVER | It will be about four months before it's clear how effectively the University of Alabama football team put its national championship of a year ago behind it.
But from whatever early indication the offseason might provide, UA coach Nick Saban likes what he sees.
"We have had a really good offseason with our team. This team seems to be less affected by the previous year, what has happened in the previous year," Saban said Thursday at SEC Media Days. "They're not really the 2010 team, they're not really the 2011 team. There's a lot of players on this team that this is the opportunity for them and their season."
Later, the sixth-year UA coach indicated the Crimson Tide had turned the offseason page better "than any championship team I've been around."
The follow-up teams to Saban's previous national champions, at LSU in 2004 and at Alabama in 2010 each lost three games. The challenge for the Crimson Tide in 2012 will be to provide a better sequel.
Senior tight end Michael Williams made it emphatically clear that he expects nothing less of his final season.
"Losing three games is an embarrassment," Williams said. "We don't live that way, and I don't think we'll ever live that way again."
Returning strengths are a veteran offensive line that includes three Outland Trophy preseason candidates, a more seasoned quarterback in AJ McCarron and at least one senior starter in each of the three defensive units.
Two of the Crimson Tide's tallest hurdles in 2012 will challenge its new starters early in the season, with ranked opponents Michigan and Arkansas highlighting the September portion of the schedule. Neither game will be at home for UA.
Defensive end Damion Square is especially looking forward to the Michigan game in Arlington, Texas.
"I'm born and raised in Texas, so this is a great way to start my senior year," Square said. "To go play in (Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones') house and play a great team like Michigan - there's no better way to start the season."
How the season finishes, however, is what matters most. And offensive lineman Barrett Jones said the team's veterans set a no-complacency tone with the rest of the team in the offseason without first being prompted by Saban.
"(In 2010) Coach Saban said no complacency and we talked about it, but for some reason we just didn't buy into it. This year, it started with the older guys talking to the younger guys," Jones said. "It's not going to sneak up on us this year. ... We have a lot of guys from that 2010 season and we all had a bad feeling from that season."
Fall camp opens in two weeks for the Crimson Tide.
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.