Saban: ‘Complacency is why the mighty fall’

editor’s note: I enjoyed my first vacation in over a decade last week, so there are a few stories that I’m behind in posting.

Alabama is atop the AP preseason poll, but Alabama’s football coach warns that there are pitfalls. Here is the AP’s story on it.

AP: As for Alabama, Bryant was coach the last time the Crimson Tide was the AP’s preseason No. 1. The Tide started and finished that 1978 season on top of the rankings, the first of two straight national championships for Alabama. The only other time Alabama was preseason No. 1 was 1966, when Bear’s boys were coming off back-to-back national championships.

Saban’s Tide, led by Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, will try to make Alabama the first program to win back-to-back AP titles three times. Oklahoma and Nebraska also have done it twice.

But please don’t call Alabama the defending champion — at least not in front of its coach.

“What was accomplished by last year’s team has nothing to do with this year’s team. The players have to understand that,” said Saban, who in three seasons has fully restored Alabama’s status as an elite program. “This team has to develop an image, an identity of its own by its performance. What was accomplished last year is just a standard for somebody else to top.

“Complacency is why the mighty fall.”

Saban has been trying to downplay this team’s No. 1 worthiness since the morning after the Tide beat Texas 37-21 at the Rose Bowl to win the BCS championship.

Back in January he practically was lamenting the fact that his team likely would be preseason No. 1 in 2010, quick to point out that while the Tide’s offense would be returning most of its stars, its dominant defense was facing major turnover.

Gone are All-Americans Terrence Cody, Rolando McClain, Javier Arenas and six other starters from last season.

Stepping in will be a cast of former five-star recruits and talented players who will be asked to expand their roles.

“We have confidence in our defensive players. I think it’s more a matter of knowledge and experience and maturity that the defense is going to have to develop,” Saban said.

Dont’a Hightower returns from a knee injury to fill McClain’s spot at middle linebacker and defensive end Marcell Dareus, the star of the BCS title game, becomes the headliner up front — as long as an NCAA investigation doesn’t sideline him.

“You can’t really promote guys into leadership roles,” Saban said. “I think that it’s something that sort of grows, develops and happens because of personality types and respect that other players have.”

Saban has little to worry about on the offensive side. Ingram and sidekick Trent Richardson will run behind an experienced line, so the ground game should continue to churn out big yards.

Greg McElroy returns for his second season as starting quarterback and he has plenty of enticing receivers, led by NFL prototype wideout Julio Jones.

“We played early on last season and at times during the season to protect the quarterback a little bit,” Saban said. “We thought we had a really good defense and we could run the ball well, we could afford to do that. But I don’t think that’s going to be the case this year. We have too many good skill players on offense.”

There’s no doubting Alabama has the credentials to be No. 1, but poll history suggests the odds are against the Tide finishing on top again. Read the entire AP report on the preseason poll below: