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Richardson, meanwhile, has run for 1,451 yards and 14 touchdowns the past two seasons behind Ingram, and he’s already fielding questions about being a potential Heisman Trophy contender.

He shrugs off the hype surrounding the Tide.

“It’s like that every year,” Richardson said. “It’s not a shock to me, but at the same time, everybody that picked us to win it, we can’t let them down. We can’t let them down at all.”

Saban’s take: The preseason No. 1 ranking in some preseason magazines “means nothing”.

“Whatever we do this year, we’re going to have to do it on the field,” he said.

Alabama was in the same position this time last year. And the defense is drawing comparisons to the 2009 group that paved the way for that national title run.

Used to it or not, the preseason hype still creates a challenge in not getting swept away by the praise.

“We don’t really want to see any of that stuff in the media,” Hightower said. “Maybe last year, some guys looked too far into it and got a big head. But this year it’s not about that. We’re trying to stay out of the media and all the All-SECs and All-Americans. We’re just trying to get better.”

And, as Saban readily points out, there are question marks. The defense is loaded at linebacker and in the secondary, but the defensive line is short on proven pass rushers.

“I think we have some good players coming back on defense that have talent and experience,” he said. “Are we going to take that talent and experience and challenge ourselves to a high standard of what we want to accomplish or is that going to create a comfort zone for our players in thinking that they don’t need to work as hard?”