Ready Or Not, Here Comes Football

I awoke this morning with a gasp. Football starts this week! Am I prepared? Well, I'm always ready for football in the sense of enjoying it. But it seems there are many questions as we prepare for 2011.

The Alabama football team reports Thursday. That is almost laughable. College football has changed from the days when football players got construction jobs in the summer to give them a little spending money and, presumably, help them get in shape by working hard in the hot sun.

Crimson Tide players, like those at every other college where football is serious business, have been on campus all summer, working out together in drills that don't include coaches, but do include position specific skill sets. They have also been in class. So they'll report for meetings Thursday.

Practice begins Friday and Alabama will open the season September 3 against the Kent State Golden Flashes, the alma mater (class of '73) Nick Saban.

It has been an eventful summer.

Tailback has been depleted somewhat, and not just by the departure of Mark Ingram to the New Orleans Saints. Approximately 100 per cent of college football teams would love to have Trent Richardson, but Bama has to worry about the rest of the running back corps. After Demetrius Goode and Corey Grant transferred and Dee Hart suffered what is believed (but not confirmed by anyone in Alabama's athletics department) to be a season-ending knee injury and the reported (but not by Alabama athletics) injury to Eddie Lacy, the cupboard is somewhat bare.

True, the Tide has Jalston Fowler and can move versatile Blake Sims to tailback. And if Brent Calloway can take care of an academic situation that never should have existed (Calloway blames the former academic counselor at Russellville High School), he might get in the mix. But Calloway missed the important summer workouts where incoming freshmen learn the playbook and nomenclature from the older players.

At wide receiver, one of the two returning starters, Darius Hanks, will miss the first two games. I thought I had heard every NCAA rule, but it was a new one that Hanks wasn't redshirted in 2007. The Alabama media guide has been reporting that he received a medical redshirt that year, when he played in the first game and caught a pass for six yards. For whatever reason, that was not the case. But the NCAA isn't going to charge Hanks an entire year for the mistake. He has two sit out the first two games of the season.

Prior to that there was a question about wide receiver because of the move of Julio Jones from Bama to the Atlanta Falcons. Jones was the man who attracted double coverage and made the big plays. For the first two games, at least, the Tide's most experienced wide receiver will be Marquis Maze. It was also reported that Keiwone Malone, who had been in the Saban doghouse, is transferring to Memphis in his hometown. Alabama has a large number of wide receivers, but not much experience.

How much time will be spent on NCAA matters? The biggest concern about the current menswear store displaying Alabama memorabilia is that the NCAA seems to be serious about being tough. Although there is no reason to believe there is an investigation pending for Bama (as we all are aware, they'll let you know), the new climate at the NCAA seems to be one of thorough investigation, not the old "this is what we believe and you'll be punished by the kangaroo court we call the committee on infractions."

At least we hope so.

There's also the matter of possible change in the Southeastern Conference membership. Is Texas A&M about to bolt from Texas and the old Big 12, and if so are the Aggies going to be accepted into the SEC? Is it going to be a 13-member (or any other odd number) league, or will another team or three be added? And will the East and West stay the same, only with additions?

Look at a map and you'd probably move Auburn to the East and Vanderbilt to the West with no additions. Add a couple from the old Big 12 and they'd probably go to the Western Division. In that case, Vandy stays in the East and Auburn goes to the East. And who knows how the schedule works with 14 teams?

But back to football. Who wins the quarterback job, who plays left tackle, who's the rush end, will kicking be a strength or a weakness? And on and on.

That's what they practice for. It begins Friday, ready or not.

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