TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Behind the green fence and inside the high walls of the indoor practice facility, there's something taking shape. The University of Alabama, fresh off a national championship in January, is tuning up for another run to the BCS in secret.
The Alabama defense lost three-quarters of its starters from a season ago, the offense its leading rusher and top three receivers. The new faces are familiar, yet unknown. A bevy of four- and five-star recruits appear to be ready to make an impact, but their roles are still a mystery.
Damion Square has seen what's coming, but like everyone around the program, the defensive end treats the matter as if it were information only accessible to those with the highest clearance. In other words, those drawing up the game plan to beat Michigan in Week 1.
"Some of these guys are a secret," Square said. "Some guys don't know exactly what we got over here at the university. They're kind of downplaying, but I know what we have and I know what it looks like. I know that we got something real special here."
When H-Back Brian Vogler walked into the media room on campus Wednesday, he brought up Michigan five times, all without giving so much as a hint of what to expect against the Wolverines.
"The things that we can do in the passing game are ... it's hard to explain," he said. "I guess you guys will see during Michigan."
The world will get its first glimpse of Alabama on Sept. 1 against the Wolverines. Preseason polls rank UA anywhere from No. 1 to No. 3. But with so many players gone from a year ago, the number of questions outnumber the number answers available, like who will start at safety, linebacker or defensive end? Who will start at receiver, H-Back or on special teams?
Those answers won't come until kickoff, and coaching staff would like to keep it that way.
You can't game plan for what you don't know is coming.
"We're going to have a different look every week, but right now, we're working toward Michigan," Vogler said ambiguously.
One thing is certain: A number of talented underclassmen will be filling roles this season. For Saban, that means teaching as much as he can before the month is out. For veterans like Square, it's a chance to sit back and watch prospects become players.
"It's kind of a talent overload, man," Square said. "There's just so many guys that are great. You go out there on the field for practice and you're like, 'Who is going to do this or who is going to do that? What guy is going to separate from the pack?'
"When I first got here, it was pretty distinct who the guy was. The next guy was somewhat close and then it was a drop off. Now, we got eight guys at one spot that can just go. However you want to do it, they can get it done."
One player ready to step up and provide depth at jack linebacker is sophomore Xzavier Dickson. The former four-star out of Georgia is ready for action, but doesn't want to be compared to the man he's tasked with replacing.
Asked what he'll do differently than the former All-American Courtney Upshaw, Dickson said simply, "nothing."
It was another cryptic answer, but it had a ring of truth. Why try and put that pressure on yourself?
"Coach didn't recruit that guy to come be somebody else," Square explained. "He recruited him because he liked what he does. If he comes and does that well, then you have a good chance of being on the field."
Where on the field, though, is another question. For a few more weeks, it's still a secret.