We kick off our post-spring superlatives look at all 12 SEC teams with defending national champion Alabama.
Strongest position: Running back
Key departures: Roy Upchurch (48 carries, 299 yards, two touchdowns)
The skinny: Good luck in finding a better and more explosive running back tandem anywhere in the country than Ingram and Richardson. Ingram is coming off a Heisman Trophy season in which he established himself as a punishing runner after contact. He also caught 32 passes for 334 yards and three touchdowns. Richardson is equally good after contact and has the kind of speed to turn missed tackles into touchdowns. Look for his carries to increase in 2010. The Crimson Tide will also add redshirt freshman Eddie Lacy to the mix. He would be starting for a lot of teams and showcased his talents with a very good spring. Alabama won’t have a problem in finding a way to utilize all three in the fall.
Weakest position: Secondary
Key returnees: Junior safety Mark Barron (seven interceptions, 18 passes defended, 76 tackles)
Key departures: Cornerback Javier Arenas (12 tackles for loss, five interceptions), cornerback Kareem Jackson (14 passes defended), cornerback Marquis Johnson (18 passes defended), safety Justin Woodall (three interceptions), safety Robby Green (7 passes defended, one interception)
The skinny: The good news is that Barron led the SEC with seven interceptions last season and was second only to Rolando McClain on Alabama’s team with 76 tackles. But he’ll be surrounded by a ton of inexperience, which is never a good thing in the defensive backfield. That said, the Crimson Tide won’t be short on talent. Sophomore cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is a budding star, and LSU transfer Phelon Jones has at least played in the SEC. True freshman cornerbacks DeMarcus Milliner and John Fulton both went through spring practice and will challenge for playing time. Sophomore B.J. Scott, who moved from receiver to cornerback last season, also made a lot of progress this spring. One of the keys will be settling on the other safety opposite Barron. Alabama had hoped that junior college signee DeQuan Menzie would be able to come in and help right away, but he tore his Achilles tendon and will likely redshirt. Green also would have been a candidate for a starting spot, but will sit out this season because of an NCAA-imposed suspension.