Week in review: Tide taking shape

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The week at the University of Alabama started off slowly. The Crimson Tide put on shells, then went into full pads. The sun rose, the sun set.

It was fun, bordering on something similar to excitement. Football, after months away, was back with us.

Nick Saban went on a rant about expectations, we got to speak with both coordinators for one of the few times all year and Jesse Williams finally got the chance to speak out about his weight room prowess.

Then, real life (also known as breaking news) happened. Chris Black went down with a shoulder injury, Travell Dixon left the team and Jarrick Williams tore his ACL.

"Boom!" is right. The calm couldn't last forever, and frankly, where would be the fun in that?

Are the Crimson Tide better off today than they were a week ago? Probably not.

Are they hurt beyond repair? Absolutely not.

Losing three players is never a good thing, but if you're going to suffer injuries there are far worse scenarios one could dream up. The defense is still young, talented and deep. The offense still possesses one of the most impressive line's in recent memory, AJ McCarron continues to blossom as a leader and the receivers are still an upgrade over last year's bunch.

If we're grading Alabama's start to camp, let's say they passed. And with 12 practices in the books and 13 to go, passing isn't bad thing.

Looking back, here are a few things we learned this week:

  • Saban doesn't care about outside expectations, but they're out there and they're big. ESPN.com's preseason poll had Alabama at No. 3 behind LSU and USC, respectively. The USA Today poll couldn't help itself either, awarding Alabama the most first-place votes of any team despite finishing just behind LSU for the No. 1 spot. The AP Poll won't be released until Saturday, but expect the Tide to place somewhere in the top three. It's curious that the same voters who cried foul before the LSU-Alabama rematch are the same ones voting them 1-2 in the polls.

  • Doug Nussmeier is ready for the challenge of taking the Alabama offense to another level. The former offensive coordinator at Washington is looking to put his own spin on an already successful product. "Obviously, the things that we've done offensive here have been very, very successful," he said. "So you try and look at everything we've done, be objective about what really is good, what maybe can we grow and get better at and what background do I bring that maybe is something a little new that we can add to help the system be better as a whole."

  • Jesse Williams can lift … a lot. The senior defensive lineman made waves when he bench pressed 600 pounds, but teammates say it's just the tip of the iceberg. His raw strength and athleticism are undervalued, says center Barrett Jones. Eddie Lacy told reporters that if there's one guy he doesn't want to see in front of him on defense, it's Williams. "There's no spinning away from Jesse," Lacy said.

  • Speaking of Lacy, the junior tailback is ready to assume his role as the Tide's leading rusher. Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson are gone, and the lineage of great Alabama running backs falls to Lacy. Health seems to be the only thing holding the Louisiana native back, but after offseason surgery, Lacy says he's close to being 100 percent again. As a matter of fact, Lacy says he gained something from playing through the pain: mental toughness.

  • Saban doesn't want a repeat of 2010. When speaking about the secondary, he drew the comparison with two years ago, and it fits. At the time, Alabama lost Javier Arenas and Kareem Jackson to the pros. Sophomore Dre Kirkpatrick stepped up and junior college transfer DeQuan Menzie stepped in. Now that both Kirkpatrick and Menzie are in NFL camps, it's up to junior Dee Milliner to become a leading man and transfer Deion Belue to learn how to play SEC defense on the fly. Like 2010, Alabama's success on defense will depend heavily on how an inexperienced unit catches on.

  • The top four pass-catchers from a year ago may be gone, but the unit as a whole could be better this season. With a number of underclassmen pushing for playing time, the competition has been heated. "It's been a battle," Kevin Norwood said. The group took a hit, though, when news of Chris Black's injury surfaced. The true freshman will require shoulder surgery and miss 3-4 months.