Before we go on, I feel the need to relive this.
Gets better every time.
Here, then, is some of the best from those who took a few minutes to join the roundtable.
1. Can't we just keep re-living 2009 forever?
Capstone: We could, but then we’d be resting on our laurels. And how does that fit in with the process? Hmm? You don’t think Nick Saban is reliving the 2009 season repeatedly, do you? There were too many mistakes. Seriously. Who could be happy when you let Auburn score on a stupid play where a guy loses containment? Who could be happy with a defense that lets a backup quarterback come into the BCS National Championship Game and toss a couple of touchdown passes? Nope. There is room for improvement in 2010. Do these guys only want to win one championship?
(Note: I think he's joking here. I think.)
RBR: That's not to say we as fans can't revel in a perfect season and celebrate the tremendous plays and all the effort put in by the team to achieve it, but that's all past and come spring practice none of it matters. Which brings us to the "why would we just keep re-living 2009 forever?", 'cause it's not like this was our only opportunity at glory. Think about it this way; there's a whole boatload of blue chip talent from the last two top rated recruiting classes (as well as from this year's top five rated class) that have yet to see the field in any meaningful way. As great as the 2009 team was and as much as Cody and Javy and Anders and Ro and Peek and all the others guys that have moved on will always have a special place in our hearts for the crystal they brought home, there's a whole slew of guys on the bench just waiting to do the same thing and with just as good of a (if not a better, considering the returning talent on offense and all the blue chippers waiting their turn on defense) chance to do it, too. So yeah, it's fun to re-live it all right now but once spring practice starts and we're combing over every minuscule shred of intel we can get to see how the secondary is shaping up and so forth, speculating on the future will be a hell of a lot funner.
Tower: I spent the last half of 2009 sleeping in a hastily assembled altitude tent, just so I could preserve that 2009 feeling as long as possible (via an increased red blood cell count). I’m conceivably looking at another month or two with that championship blood doing victory laps through my circulatory system.
2. Who's the hardest player from 2009 to replace?
3rd Saturday: I think it has to be either McClain or Javy. We know how valuable McClain was to the defense, and Arenas effected so many facets of the game that either would be a good pick. But I'm going with Rolando because while it may take more than one player to give the team everything that Arenas did, I think it's much harder to replace a guy that from the moment he arrived on campus he was the best player on the defense, both physically and mentally, with the possible exception of Rashad Johnson on the mental part.
Tower: Long Snapper Brian Selman! As noted in our 2008 feature “stick your head behind your legs and kiss your long snapper” the long snapper is an integral part of a trouble-free special teams, like a high fiber diet and a nice regular gastrointestinal system. But if you subtract the few successful cogs from the 2007 – 2009 special team unit? I worry that kicking game buffoonery will be at an all high levels in 2010. Some Cirque du Soleil looking stuff going on. Beamer-ball in reverse. A plague of locusts.
3. Which player — or facet of the game — should we expect to make the biggest jump in 2010?
RBR: Probably easiest answer is McElroy and the offense. By the end of the season (barring the MNC game where he played with a cracked rib), McElroy had ridden the first year starter roller coaster from dark horse Heisman candidate to OMG worstest ever to game manager back to solid QB that can win a game for you. With a season under his belt, conference and national title rings on his fingers, all of his top targets at wide receiver, a ridiculously loaded backfield, and three of five starters on the line returning there's no reason to think the offense as a whole and the passing game in particular shouldn't be taking a big leap forward.
3rd Saturday: I'm going with the pass rush. As salty as our defense has been, the team's ability to get to the quarterback isn't at the truly elite level yet. While it has improved each season under Saban, I think this season we'll see Bama lead the SEC in sacks (you heard it here first!). Expanded roles for players such as Marcel Dareus, Courtney Upshaw, and Jerrell Harris among other athletic freaks coming from the recruiting juggernaut Saban has established will have more opposing quarterbacks pulling chunks of sod from their facemask because they dared to try and throw the football.
4. Is there one aspect that concerns you going into 2010?
Capstone: Attitude. Will the players have the right attitude to achieve success. 2007 was rough because of lingering attitude issues. 2008 was a salutary improvement thanks to the correct attitudes. In fact, reports from fall camp in 2008 were important indicators of the team’s progress of buying into the “process.” Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has said the year (2004) following his LSU national championship was a very difficult season. The 2010 Alabama campaign will hinge on player leadership. Does Alabama have enough hunger in its leadership?
3rd Saturday: If I was forced to pick just one, I'd go with the kicking game/special teams. Remember how good Tiffin was last season? Remember what happened to him as a freshmen during a certain road game in the Ozarks? True freshmen will more than likely be handling the vast majority of the kicking duties this season for the Tide. Yowza! Yeah, and we lose the best punt returner the SEC has seen in a while.
RBR: As for Cody? Jury is still out on whether Josh Chapman can fill that gap (or two, as it were). He's a fine nose tackle on his own, and there are plenty of fresh bodies to rotate (Kerry Murphy, Luther Davis,and Darrington Sentimore all spring to mind), but man, you just didn't run against Cody and he made life so easy for the LBs.
5. What is a reasonable expectation for 2010?
Tower: think its reasonable to expect some of the best young whippersnappers in the conference to compete with each other and produce a solid, exciting team. I think repeat talk isn’t very realistic unless we see some Florida 2007 to 2008 level improvement. I reasonably expect to see some bone-headed calls and hear some hits that leave my balls bruised. I expect to see teams punt when they should go for it, because this is old school footbaw. BUT As for me, to hell with expectations. I am going turn on my oven, crawl inside, and literally bake in the warm glow of the BCS Championship and the Saints Super Bowl that now power my house.
Capstone: Alabama fans reasonably should expect a 10-11 win regular season and the SEC Western Division. Another undefeated regular season (that would be three in a row) would be great, but the team has to lose sometime in SEC play. How the team responds to that will be the difference in a nice BCS bowl and a trip to defend the BCS National Championship.
3rd Saturday: I'd say reaching the SEC title game would be reasonable. There's only one team in the West with comparable talent to Alabama and that's LSU. Arkansas will be better, but they need to get MUCH better at defense. Ole Miss is breaking in a new quarterback (that might not be a bad thing), and they have to somehow replace Dexter McClusterBomb's production. Auburn..eh, they're not going to be sneaking up on anyone this season. But LSU has the talent to win the West race, I just don't think they have the coaching. So I think we can expect to make it to Atlanta. Once you get there, the game can go either way, at least from this far out anyway.
RBR: Coach Saban does not approve of this question.