Countdown to kickoff: 37

From now until kickoff in Arlington, Texas, we'll be counting down the days before Alabama and Michigan get the season started. Today, we move to No. 37 and what it means to UA football. See all the previous editions here.

The University of Alabama secondary experienced an overhaul when the season ended. Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie all left for the NFL. But one man with his own pro prospects decided to stick around: No. 37 Robert Lester.

For a unit introducing new starters at cornerback and safety, Lester's return for his senior season was huge. The continuity he brings at safety is invaluable to newcomers like Deion Belue, Travell Dixon and Landon Collins, as well as underclassmen like Vinnie Sunseri and Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix.

Lester, who could blend in with strong personalities like Barron and Dont'a Hightower before, is now taking on more of a leadership role as an elder statesman on defense. He told reporters this spring that there are, "a lot of areas that we want to improve on. Less mental errors. Pick up on the loafs, stop loafing around. Just execute more. You can never be perfect out there and we want to get as close to that as possible.

"We want to keep the standard. We have a lot of high expectations from last year’s team. Defensive-wise, we were No. 1 in a lot of areas and we don’t want to slack off. If you want to come in and play on this defense, you have to pick up the slack were we left off. You have to contribute.”

Lester finished last season sixth on the team with 39 tackles. He was second on the team with two interceptions. Heading into the 2012 season, expectations for Lester are high. He was voted to the pre-season All-SEC team and was on the watch list for the Thorpe, Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski Awards.