Tide checks in at No. 21

Brodie Croyle started two games as Alabama's quarterback a year ago and takes over full-time in 2003. He completed less than half his pass attempts and broke even on his touchdown-to-interception ratio (5/5), but now he will be managing the whole game with a chance to get into a rhythm. And he will have some potent weapons at his disposal.

Last year's top Tide target, Triandos Luke, is back along with Antonio Carter, who redshirted in 2002 to rehab a leg injury. Carter's 106 career receptions tie him for fourth in Bama history. Shaud Williams spearheads the ground game after rushing for 921 yards at 7.1 per carry last fall.

The offensive line is short on numbers, but tackle Wesley Britt and guard Justin Smiley are among the best in the SEC. Anthony Bryant and Ahmad Childress will step into the defensive tackle vacancies without missing a beat, and the top three tacklers all return in the back seven.

Home cooking: Alabama starts the 2003 season with five home games.

Typical Tide: Alabama finished 2002 ranked fourth nationally in rushing defense and third in total defense.

2002 results: 10–3 (6–2 SEC)

Bowl Game: None (probation)

Returning starters: 6 offense, 6 defense, placekicker

2003 Schedule
A. 30 #South Florida
S. 6 Oklahoma
S. 13 Kentucky
S. 20 Northern Illinois
S. 27 Arkansas
O. 4 at Georgia
O. 11 Southern Miss
O. 18 at Ole Miss
O. 25 Tennessee
N. 8 at Mississippi State
N. 15 LSU
N. 22 at Auburn
N. 29 at Hawaii
#Birmingham, AL

Schedule analysis: Alabama gets another shot at knocking off Oklahoma early in the season, something it almost pulled off in Norman last year. Southern Miss is another non-conference challenge on the home slate. The SEC season will come down to road games against Georgia and Auburn and home dates with LSU and Tennessee. A 2-2 split in those four games, and the Tide will likely carry nine wins out to their unofficial bowl game in Hawaii.

Final Word: It will be another year of adjustment for the Crimson Tide faithful, no matter who the coach is in the fall. Defensively, Alabama will have to replace some talent along the defensive front, and the usual depth on the roster is thinning a bit due to probation. Croyle has some veteran receivers, but everyone on the team is a first-year player when it comes to the new coaching staff.

To pre-order the 2003 Athlon Sports Southeastern edition, click on the magazine icon below. The Southeastern and National editions are set to hit newsstands June 6.



#21 Alabama





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