Possible Newcomers For 2011 Offense

Alabama doesn't have a lot of starters to replace for 2011 football, but when the Crimson Tide has 15 days of spring practice in March and April, those spots when new men are needed should have good competition. Here's a look at what might be going on with the offense.

There is no urgency for Alabama Coach Nick Saban to determine the starters at all offensive, defensive and special teams positions until about a week before the Crimson Tide takes on Kent State to begin the 2011 season. That doesn't mean most of the starters won't have been determined quite a while before that final week or so of game preparation following fall camp.

It is reasonable to believe, though, that most spots will be determined long before Saban issues a depth chart, usually about Monday before the first game. Bama hosts Kent State on Saturday, September 3.

Some decisions likely will be made during spring football practice, tentatively scheduled to begin March 21 (following Spring Break at The University) and conclude with the A-Day Game on April 16. In fact, barring some unforeseen development, an educated guess can be made at a lot of positions today.

For instance, the tight end (Michael Williams) and four starters return in the offensive line. Almost no one would expect anyone but Barrett Jones to be at right guard, William Vlachos at center, Chance Warmack at left guard. The only reason returning right tackle D.J. Fluker is not penciled in at right tackle (other than the fact that almost no one uses a pencil these days) is that Fluker might move to left tackle, where the one vacancy must be filled. James Carpenter was the lone senior starter in the offensive line, manning that important left tackle spot the past two years.

There are other possibilities. Aaron Douglas, a junior college transfer who was a Freshman All-America at Tennessee two years ago as a right tackle, has arrived at Alabama from Western Arizona Junior College. Alfred McCullough has been a back-up at both tackle spots the past two years. Also expected to work at tackle this spring are Arie Kouandjio, a redshirt freshman; junior Tyler Love; and redshirt freshman Austin Shepherd.

The competition of most interest on any football team is when a new quarterback is taking over. Alabama lost an outstanding player and leader in Greg McElroy. Top contenders are sophomore A.J. McCarron, who was McElroy's back-up the past two years and who has limited game experience, and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims, who will be going through his second spring practice. As Sims did last year, Phillip Ely has entered Bama for the spring semester and will compete at quarterback.

A reasonable expectation is that Saban will not declare a starting quarterback until August practice.

Alabama also lost a former Heisman Trophy winner—Mark Ingram--at the important tailback position. Trent Richardson has been the back-up the past two years and is the heir apparent. Eddie Lacy had an outstanding Capital One Bowl game and will be joined by the likes of Demetrius Goode, Jawlston Fowler, Corey Grant, and new arrival Dee Hart in the competition.

Alabama often uses a second tight end as an H-Back or fullback, a position manned by Preston Dial the past two years. There are a number of possibilities, but the player who has backed up Dial in the past is upcoming senior Brad Smelley.

The most critical loss among wide receivers is Julio Jones, Alabama's all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving yards in a game. He was also excellent as a blocker in the running game and his spot will not be easy to fill.

Alabama uses a lot of wide receivers, frequently three or more together. Top returning wide receivers with experience are Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks, Brandon Gibson, Kevin Norwood, Michael Bowman, and Kenny Bell. There have been rave reviews for redshirt freshmen speedsters DeAndrew White and Keiwone Malone, and also for versatile Blake Sims. Additionally, Ronald Carswell, a 2010 signee who delayed entrance as a full time student until this semester, will begin practicing with Bama in the spring.

There is something of a rebuilding job to be done on offense, and there will be new assistant coaches for the offensive line and wide receiver. But the material is there to fill the gaps left from offensive losses.

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