Saban's focus shifts to 2013
FORT LAUDERDALE - It's becoming a familiar January scene for Nick Saban. The Alabama coach plastered a smile on his face for a series of posed photos next to the various trophies awarded to college football's national champions and then proceeded to talk about the challenges facing his team. Maybe Saban let the Gatorade dry from the celebratory drenching before thinking about the 2013 season. Maybe. "The team next year is 0-0," Saban, who is on a 61-7 run the past five seasons, said Tuesday. "Even though I really appreciate what this team accomplished and am very, very proud of what they accomplished, we need to prepare for the challenges of the new season very quickly with the team we have coming back. "It didn't take Saban long to refocus after Monday night's 42-14 demolition of Notre Dame that secured a second straight BCS title, the Crimson Tide's third in four seasons and the seventh straight for Southeastern Conference teams. Shortly after the game, he was already talking about getting back to the office by this morning. Alabama players, meanwhile, finally were able to say the "D-word." Center Barrett Jones, who played his last college game Monday night, said he had a Sports Illustrated cover from a couple of years ago. "It says, 'Dynasty. Can anybody stop Alabama?' I'll never forget looking at that thing and wondering if we really could be a dynasty," said Jones, who mainly put it on the wall because he's featured. "I think three out of four, I'm no dynasty expert, but that seems like a dynasty to me. I guess I can say that now that I'm gone. Don't tell coach I said that." The 2013 team will almost certainly be regarded among the preseason favorites to get back to the summit, even though three Tide stars — tailback Eddie Lacy, cornerback Dee Milliner and right tackle D.J. Fluker — could decide to skip their senior seasons and turn pro. All-American linebacker C.J. Mosley has said he'll return. So has quarterback AJ McCarron, who had his second straight star turn in a BCS title game. "We certainly have to build the team around him," Saban said, adding that a late-game spat with Jones showed the quarterback's competitive fire. "I've talked a lot about, it's difficult to play quarterback when you don't have good players around you. I think we should have, God willing and everybody staying healthy, a pretty good receiver corps. We'll have to do some rebuilding in the offensive line. Regardless of what Eddie decides to do, we'll probably still have some pretty decent runners. But I think AJ can be a really good player, maybe the best quarterback in the country next year." The biggest question mark is replacing three, maybe four, starters on an offensive line that paved the way. Amari Cooper, who broke several of Julio Jones' Alabama freshman receiving marks, and freshman running back T.J. Yeldon give McCarron and the Tide a couple of potent weapons. "I am going to try to win three or four," said Cooper, who had 105 yards and two touchdowns in the title game. "This season was good, but I expected it to be even more. There is so much more that I can do."