Athlon tabs Alabama No 21

Alabama head coach Mike Price faces an uncertain future in the wake of scandal, but his Crimson Tide should get back on track according to Athlon's pre-season poll.

High-impact wide receivers are an urgent recruiting priority. Dre Fulgham will suffice this season but all are entering their final year of eligibility.

Tide faithful will be getting used to seeing empty-backfield and one-back sets. Tailback returnee Justin Smiley are battle-hardened and accomplished.

Ahmad Childress will step into the defensive tackle vacancies without missing a beat, and the top three tacklers from last year all return in the back seven.

Home cooking: Alabama starts the 2003 season with five home games.

Typical Tide: Alabama finished 2002 ranked fourth nationally in rushing defense and third in total defense.

The family way: Mike Price's sons, Eric and Aaron, will serve as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach respectively.

2002 results: 10–3 (6–2 SEC)

Bowl Game: None (probation)

Returning starters: 6 offense, 6 defense, placekicker

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