College Football's New Look

This season, Jack will become the focus of a lot more attention. Mora plans to play a lot of nickel this season against the league's spread offenses, which will move Jack from outside linebacker to the middle of the field, where he will be more of a run-stopper and have to perform more vertical drops.

As for running back, that remains the whipped cream on the sundae. Jack said last month that he wants his legacy to stand as one of UCLA's great linebackers, in the footsteps of Barr. He didn't say anything about Maurice Jones-Drew.

The Contenders

Editor's note: used a mock selection committee of 13 college football experts to chose the 16 best teams in the nation for the 2014 season.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- In winning 60 of 67 games and three national championships over the last five seasons, Alabama has maintained its dominance while having its best talent cherry-picked by the NFL.

Nowhere has that been more evident than on defense, which has been the engine of this historic run. Ten starters have left early for professional football in the last five seasons. To put a sharper focus on it, five of those 10 have played in the secondary, head coach Nick Saban's private stash of talent.

This year, safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri decided to forgo their senior seasons, joining Dee Milliner (2013), Dre Kirkpatrick (2012) and Kareem Jackson (2010) on the list of early departures.

The steady drain of talent, as well as Sunseri's midseason knee injury, caught up to Alabama's secondary last season. Eight players started at least one game as Saban searched for consistency. Interceptions fell from 18 in 2012 to 11 last season.

The news didn't get much better up front, where sacks plummeted from 35 to 22. There were other ways in which to measure Alabama's defensive dip: Texas A&M's 628 yards; Auburn's 296 rushing yards; Oklahoma's 348 passing yards.

This will be the third time in the last four seasons that Alabama returns fewer than half of its defensive starters. Middle linebacker Trey DePriest is the anchor, having started 24 games over the last two years. Nose guard Brandon Ivory, strong safety Landon Collins and defensive back Jarrick Williams also bring a lot of experience.

But the onus, once again, will be on young players and their ability to ramp up quickly to SEC speed. Alabama opens against West Virginia and its spread offense, the style that became the bane of Saban's offseason existence. Saban got sucked into the on-again, off-again rules change regarding pace of play, and didn't like it one bit.

On the other hand, SEC West quarterbacks Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) and Zach Mettenberger (LSU) also left for the NFL. That alone should be cause for optimism that the Alabama defense will improve.

AUBURN, Ala. -- The Auburn defense lost end Dee Ford, a veteran and a star who led the team in tackles for loss (14.5) and sacks (10.5). Ford will suit up for Kansas City, which took him with the 23rd pick of the NFL draft earlier this month.

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