“I don’t think any of us will understand the magnitude until a couple of years from now,” said McElroy, who helped the Tide win their first title since 1992. “We haven’t had the chance to bask in the glory.”

Despite losing nine defensive starters, Alabama is too strong at too many positions to fall out of SEC contention—even with Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram out to start the season.

Ingram and sophomore Trent Richardson combined for 2,409 yards and 25 touchdowns last season and figured to make McElroy’s job easier this fall, but Ingram might not be available for weeks. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Tuesday.

That could mean more passes to wideout Julio Jones, who has surefire NFL ability and is finally healthy entering his third season.

Gone are defensive leaders such as linebacker Rolando McClain, tackle Terrence Cody and cornerback Javier Arenas.

End Marcell Dareus, the defensive MVP of the BCS title game, will be held out until the NCAA determines whether he had illegal contact with a sports agent over the summer.

The good news: Linebacker Dont’a Hightower hasn’t lost a step on his surgically repaired knee.

Though coach Nick Saban trusts his group, he’s pushing them physically like never before, McElroy said. The mindset: Winning is what you’re supposed to do. The 2009 title was the goal, not a surprise.

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