5. Another top-ranked recruiting class - During the later half of the Franchione era and progressing throughout the Price and Shula years, depth seemed to be an ever-present concern for the Tide. And while Alabama still has concerns about how deep they are on the offensive front and at quarterback, the team looks especially stacked at running back (providing Roy Upchurch and Mark Ingram heal adequately during the summer), tight end and on the defensive side of the ball. The 2009 signing day haul, including potential early contributors Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick and Kendall Kelly, will allow coaches to substitute more effectively during games, keeping starters fresh through the fourth quarter.
4. A favorable schedule - Aside from the opening night tilt with Virginia Tech, Alabama's non-conference schedule is laughable. North Texas, Florida International and Chattanooga were a combined 7-29 in 2008 (with FIU and UTC each finishing 1-11). So, it looks as if Bama begins the season knowing they have three victories in the bag. Two of the Tide's three biggest rivals (LSU and Tennessee) come to Tuscaloosa this season and only one of the four SEC teams Alabama plays on the road (Ole Miss) will be ranked to start the season.
3. The return of Terrence Cody - Sounds like a Western, doesn't it? The Return of Terrence Cody. Only they'd have to convince Michael Clarke Duncan to squeeze into a No. 62 jersey. The big man was the talk of the football world last year, and many experts thought that he might jump to the NFL while his stock was high. But Cody realized that he was relying too much on his massive frame rather than proper technique. While he learns the finer points of playing the nose, he'll be able to simultaneously tutor young-ins like Josh Chapman and Kerry Murphy, as well as make men out of the poor kids that line up across the line of scrimmage from him in practice.
2. Bizarre changing of the guards in Auburn and Knoxville - Win: Your rival undergoes a coaching change. Win-ier: Your two biggest rivals go through a coaching change at the same time. Win-iest: They both make highly dubious replacement hires at the same time. The two coaches that Auburn and Tennessee fired had a combined 262-112 overall record. The two coaches that Auburn and Tennessee hired have a combined 10-34 record. Armed with that knowledge, Alabama should have a distinct advantage in the ruthless recruiting wars that rampage incessantly year-round.
1. A natural quarterback depth chart - A coach told me once: "If you have to play two quarterbacks, that means you ain't got one." It's bad enough losing an experienced signalcaller, but a long, protracted quarterback battle during the following season only makes matters worse. Going into the spring, Alabama had four candidates to replace departed senior John Parker Wilson: Greg McElroy (a junior), Star Jackson (a redshirt freshman), Thomas Darrah (a sophomore) and A.J. McCarron (an incoming freshman). Although McCarron hasn't made it onto the field just yet, chances are he won't challenge McElroy for the starting job, considering the junior has effectively separated himself from the rest of the pack through the spring. Who says so? Nick Saban says so: "I think he knows that somebody has to beat him out."
So now, with the starting argument likely settled, the offensive coaches can go about grooming a backup to move into the No. 2 spot.