Alabama has earned the benefit of the doubt. After all, coach Nick Saban's ability to replace departed stars with stars-in-the-making who bust out with record-setting seasons is well-documented. As such, it will be no surprise when the reigning national champions are ranked in the top three -- if not No. 1 -- heading into the 2021 college football season.
This offseason could be different, though. Unlike other seasons, the Crimson Tide have experienced a mass exodus -- some due to graduation and others by choice -- on the offensive side of the ball. That side, as we've seen over the last decade, has erased the defense-wins-championships mentality. Gone are Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith, star quarterback Mac Jones (who finished third in Heisman voting) and running back Najee Harris (who finished fifth).
Those departures alone should raise the eyebrows of fans around the country. But wait ... there's more.
Wide receiver/returner Jaylen Waddle, perhaps the most dangerous "Swiss Army knife" in the game, declared for the draft. Rimington Award-winning center Landon Dickerson and Outland Trophy-winning offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood are gone, too. Plus, Broyles Award-winning offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian left Alabama to take the head coaching job at Texas.