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“The good news is we have options at the position and a lot of places in the country are searching for a guy to get back there,” offensive coordinator Jim McElwain said.

All-SEC guard Barrett Jones could be protecting their blind side at left tackle, where he has logged practice time since the spring. Freshman Cyrus Kouandjio, one of the nation’s top recruits, also could develop into that role.

At receiver, both Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks have experience but always in a supporting role to Jones. Other candidates include redshirt freshman DeAndrew White and junior college transfer Duron Carter _ who couldn’t practice to start fall camp while awaiting on approval of his transcript.

Hanks will miss the first two games, including a rare visit to Penn State, under the NCAA participation rule because he played in a game as a freshman and wasn’t allowed to claim a redshirt year.

The Tide’s road won’t be easy. Alabama also visits Florida, Mississippi State and defending national champion Auburn.

Some of the preseason hoopla stems from the Tide’s going away party last season, when the team blasted Michigan State 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl in a performance that added to the what-could-have-been sentiment from 2010.

The previous game, a collapse against rival Auburn after leading 24-0, led to “Never Again” signs in the weight room and even players’ houses. But the Tide is hoping that finale is a more accurate barometer for this team’s potential.

“Finishing is a big thing for this team,” Saban said. “I don’t think we finished well last year whether it was plays, games, season or however you want to look at it. I think that’s all about mindset.”