Blame Letterman For Another Top 10

David Letterman, the late night CBS television comic and host, didn't event the Top Ten List, but he raised it to a new level. His lists are humorous. As we approach Southeastern Conference Media Days, there are serious questions. What are the top ten questions about 2012 Alabama football?

It is reasonable to presume that there are dozens and dozens of questions on the minds of Alabama coaches, players, and fans, and with the progressions of practices and games that other questions will arise.

Alabama has been in this position before under Coach Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide won the 2009 national championship and then had a disappointing 10-3 season in 2010. The Crimson Tide won the 2011 national championship. So question number one is:

Can Alabama avoid the mistakes of 2010 in search of the 2012 national championship?

Obviously, this has been a point taken by Saban and his players since the end of the 2011 season. There are no guarantees, of course, but the spring game exhibition indicated a number of players who will be counted on to fill holes will be able to get the job done. Saban said the 2010 problem was the team did not improve as the season went along. Players from that team who are still at Bama say leadership within the team must be better than it was in 2010.

Specifically, what about the experiment of moving the Outland Trophy winner, Barrett Jones, from left tackle to center and moving Cyrus Kouandjio into Jones's spot?

As Saban pointed out, this wasn't a spring experiment. Before he was injured midway through his freshman season, Kouandjio was considered a first team player at left tackle. Moreover, Jones had playing time at center behind the graduated William Vlachos last season. So the experiment was concluded last fall.

Is the injury (and subsequent surgery) to tailback Eddie Lacy a concern with the start of fall camp just a couple of weeks away?

Eddie Lacy suffered a turf toe last season and had radical surgery in the post-season. He has had a couple of follow-up sessions with the surgeon who did the work. There hasn't been a recent official update on his condition, but an orthopedic surgeon not involved in Lacy's case said that the timeline for the recovery should have him back for football in late summer.

A follow-up question: If Lacy can't go, who is the number one tailback?

Jalston Fowler was the third man behind Trent Richardson and Lacy last year and seemed to be the top guy in the spring with Lacy out of action. But true freshman T.J. Yeldon was winner of the Dixie Howell Award as the most outstanding player in the A-Day Game. If Fowler will use his size (6-1, 246) to become a good blocker, the sky is the limit for him. Not so well known is that Fowler had a couple of post-spring surgeries, but he is reported to be 100 per cent.

Will the change in offensive coordinator, Doug Nussmeier coming from Washington to replace Jim McElwain, have any affect on Bama's offense?

Probably, but not appreciably. As Saban said, it is Alabama's offense, and the coordinator runs that offense. But, the head coach said, when a new man comes in he brings new ideas. Nussmeier worked under one of the great offensive minds in football at Washington where Steve Sarkisian is head coach.

A.J. McCarron, the Most Valuable Offensive Player in Alabama's dominating 21-0 win over LSU to win the national championship, is clearly the Tide's first quarterback. Who is number two, and why aren't the fans clamoring to see more of him?

Phillip Sims was the number two quarterback last year, but his performances in early games was clearly not up to McCarron's, so there was no quarterback controversy. Sims went through spring practice, but was injured and unable to make long passes, and following the spring semester transferred to Virginia in his home state. Phillip Ely was number three last year as a freshman, but did not play and is a redshirt freshman this year. Although he is slight of build (6-1, 187) he was effective in the spring game and could be number two. Or it could be a case like 2009 when McCarron was a late season designee over Star Jackson as Greg McElroy's back-up, even though McCarron never played in that season. Alec Morris (6-3, 225) is coming in as a true freshman and could be the man.

Is the wildcat going to be significant in the Alabama offense?

Alabama has a good man for the wildcat position, Blake Sims. Sometimes we list him as a tailback, sometimes as a quarterback. He can run and pass. Although Saban has said Bama will have a package for Sims, that doesn't fit with what we see as the Saban offensive philosophy. So, maybe in spots, but not as a staple.

What was the biggest loss to the defense, and how will the Tide replace him?

Middle linebacker on defense is almost the equivalent of quarterback on offense, the most important player because he puts everyone else into position and because he is expected to be a force on run defense and as a pass rusher. There's a reason that last year's man, Dont'a Hightower, was a first round NFL draft choice. There's also a reason Trey DePriest was ranked the number one middle linebacker prospect prior to signing with Alabama in 2011. He showed his mettle on special teams and when called upon to play middle linebacker last fall, and had a very good spring and should make this a surprisingly seamless change.

Is it an Italian thing that sophomore Vinnie Sunseri reminds one of 1970s wishbone halfback Joe LaBue, a happy-go-lucky personality off the field, and a double-tough guy in games?

Losing Mark Barron, a first round NFL draft choice after three years as a starting safety, is significant, but Alabama fans can hardly wait to see Suneri on a regular basis. He has a nose for the football and goes full speed from snap to whistle. It also helps that he comes from a football family (his father was an All-America linebacker, his brother is quarterback at Pittsburgh) and the son of a Saban-like defensive coach, new Tennessee Defensive Coordinator Sal Sunseri.

How many questions is that?

Counting that one, ten.

There's no room for trickery in this article, so here's the real 10th question: Who will be the kick return ace?

Losing Marquis Maze as a punt and kickoff return man was big, but in the BCS National Championship Game we got a glimpse of a likely replacement. Christion Jones handled punts in clutch situations and had good runbacks on both punts and the lone kickoff against a good LSU kick coverage team. Jones is the logical choice, but watching T.J. Yeldon in the A-Day Game gave thought to the freshman handling the chore on kickoffs.

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