HOOVER, Ala. — Alabama's Barrett Jones knew the question was coming: How can the defending champion Crimson Tide avoid the missteps that caused the 2010 team to stumble?
Winning two national championships in three years gives Alabama veterans like Jones some perspective on how to handle attempts to repeat.
"Obviously, complacency is a big word for us this year and we want to avoid it at all costs," said Jones, last year's Outland Trophy winner, at Southeastern Conference media days Thursday." In 2010 — which I'm sure one of you (reporters) is going to ask about eventually — coach Saban really preached to us to avoid complacency and warned us about what was going to happen the year after a national championship, but I really don't think the leaders bought into that.
"And I think the difference this year is that we realize it's more than just a coach saying something. It's realizing the 2012 Alabama team has zero wins and zero losses. We have a lot to prove and a target on our back."
Then again, the SEC Western Division is a target-rich environment. After all, Alabama is among the preseason favorites to win the national title, but media covering the SEC picked West rival opponent LSU — not the Tide — to win the league the West in balloting released Thursday.
Those two teams split last season, with LSU winning in the regular season and taking the SEC title and Alabama capturing the national title game in New Orleans.
Alabama did lose 13 starters, including a handful of All-Americans like tailback Trent Richardson and safety Mark Barron.
The strength might lie on the offensive line. Jones, who has moved from left tackle to center, and fellow offensive linemen Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker, are all first-team preseason All-SEC picks.
There's little question about the Tide's talent. Saban has been bringing in top recruiting hauls annually.
"We know we have the talent," tight end Michael Williams said. "We also feel like we are the best team.
"But we know if a football team doesn't play their best, they're not the best that day."
Saban said the challenge of repeating in college football is that teams must often replace a quarter of the players each year, with graduation and early exits. Richardson and fellow underclassmen cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and linebacker Dont'a Hightower all left with eligibility remaining and were NFL first-round draft pick.
"This team that we have this year seems to be less affected by the past and really more focused on trying to create their own identity, which I think is a good thing," Saban said.
Saban and the three players who appeared at media days — Williams, Jones and defensive end Damion Square — all sprinkled in the C-word, "complacency," on Thursday.
They are confident this season will be different than two years ago, when Alabama was preseason No. 1 but wound up losing three games.
"It's going to be different because 2010 happened," Square said. "Something can happen one time, but we're not going to let it happen twice. You know how to make adjustments for it not to happen again. When you haven't seen something like that before, it's easy for it to happen."
Saban named Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls, the New York Yankees and tennis star Roger Federer as examples of teams and individuals who have managed sustained, consistent success.
"Things don't happen by accident," Saban said. "You don't win a play by accident. You don't win a game by accident. You don't win a division by accident. You have to make it happen, and you have to make it happen by what you do every day."