Opportunities For Offensive Players

One of the last things anyone who has been paying attention would expect is that Alabama football players would be complacent. Certainly, there are players who can be expected to be starters. But the way Bama has recruited and developed players, the advice of former baseball pitching legend Satchell Paige is appropriate: "Don't look back; someone may be chasing you."

As Alabama began fall camp, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban confirmed there are "opportunities at a lot of positions. We're all about playing the best players. We're not about seniority. Just because a guy's been here doesn't mean somebody else can't be better than him."

Saban acknowledged that there are players who "have been starters and proven that they can play winning football at their position. They certainly have an opportunity to improve. But if somebody challenges them and actually performs better and has better consistency at their position, I have no problem playing those guys. That's what I mean by opportunities."

Alabama started fall camp Friday. The Crimson Tide will have Fan Day Sunday with an open practice at Bryant-Denny Stadium beginning at 2:30 p.m. CDT and a brief opportunity for autographs following the practice. Bama opens the season September 3 hosting Kent State.

Saban also reiterated that Alabama football doesn't "really have a depth chart now. We don't have one. Ours is for administrative purposes now. Everybody's out there competing."

The fall camp competition is important. Ten days or so before the first game the Tide will begin preparation for Kent State.

"We'll do what we always do," Saban said. "When we're done with camp we'll decide the 55 guys we're going to play on special teams and the two-deep."

He then discussed some specific areas where there are opportunities. Here is what he had to say about those opportunities at offensive positions:

"Everybody wants to talk about the quarterback situation," the coach said. Third-year sophomore A.J. McCarron and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims are considered the contenders with true freshman Phillip Ely the only other scholarshipped quarterback candidate.

"That's something we're going to evaluate on a day-to-day basis," Saban said. "We're pleased with where both guys are and what they're doing. We'll see how it shakes out."

Moving to wide receiver, where the Tide must replace Julio Jones, Saban said, "We've got some young receivers who have a real opportunity to show what they can do. It will be interesting to see what they can do. DeAndrew White was very impressive in practice. He's got really good size and speed and has developed the kind of maturity to be the kind of player that we need."

There has been much talk about tailback this summer. After having a half dozen competitors in the spring, Bama lost two runners (Demetrius Goode and Corey Grant) to transfer and freshman Dee Hart to a knee injury. Trent Richardson is considered the leader. The junior is listed as an All-America candidate after sharing time the past two seasons with former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.

Eddie Lacy, who was reported earlier to have an injury to his pectoral muscle (and appeared to have some sort of padding in the shoulder area on the first day of practice) and Jalston Fowler remain from the big group of spring competitors behind Richardson. Freshman Brent Calloway joined the Tide Friday, but because of academic obligations was unable to participate with other freshmen in summer conditioning (and learning) work.

Saban said numerous possibilities will be examined and assessed. "We're going to look at some different guys on the team that have played running back before," Saban said. "Brent Calloway gets here, he'll give us a fourth. We feel like we've got three good guys. That's about as many as usually play in the season. We just don't have the kind of guys behind those guys we'd like to have in case we have issues and problems during the season.

"But there are some other guys on our team that have played running back before and we will look at those guys throughout the course of camp, whether it's Blake Sims, Christion Jones, Vinnie Sunsieri. We got all kinds of guys that we could look at at running back."

He even joked that All-America safety Mark Barron had been a good prep running back.

"I'm not telling you what we're going to do because we're going to do it on a day-to-day basis and see how it goes."

Alabama returns four starters on the offensive line. Two of them, center William Vlachos and Barrett Jones, who has started the past two years at right guard, are All-America candidates. The other two, upcoming junior left guard Chance Warmack and sophomore right tackle D.J. Fluker, were pre-season second team All-Southeastern Conference.

"But, obviously, the offensive line is not settled," Saban said. "There's an opportunity there for somebody, whether they play guard and the guard plays tackle, or whether we have a left tackle that comes through and Barrett Jones goes back and plays guard.

"We probably have more depth on the offensive line than we've had in a while. But how it shakes out from a starter standpoint remains to be seen and we have some young guys that can make a contribution there."

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