Rader schemes for next season

Dave Rader's hiring as offensive coordinator was only announced Tuesday, but he and Head Coach Mike Shula have already put long hours in planning next year's offense. <br><br>And the key word will be "balance."

Whenever possible, the goal will be to control the clock and basically be your own defense's best friend.

"We'd like to stay out there a long time," Rader explained to BamaMag.com in an exclusive interview Wednesday. "Keep our defense on the bench; and score touchdowns. That's your goal."

Rader spent the past four years in business in Tulsa, but before that he was head coach at his alma mater for the better part of 12 seasons. Overmatched personnel-wise for most of that period, Rader developed a reputation for doing whatever it took to move the chains. Very often that translated to throwing the football.

Coach Rader believes in a balanced attack, including running the football to control the clock. That will be good news for Ray Hudson (#27) and Shaud Williams (#21).

But at Alabama talented running backs abound, and Rader plans to take full advantage. "Being balanced gives you a chance in every game," he explained. "If (during) one game one aspect of your offense isn't working very well, then you have something else ready to roll. That helps you."

Mike Shula and Rader first met up when Bama's new head coach was a quarterback for the Tide. Back then Rader was a young assistant, brought to Tuscaloosa by Ray Perkins fresh from the NFL playing fields for the New York Giants.

But this time the situation is different. A coaching veteran now, Rader is being counted on for maturity as well as his offensive acumen. "There's no question it's a different experience for me this time around," he acknowledged. "Hopefully I've gained some maturity."

His first tenure in Tuscaloosa was a period of transition for Crimson Tide football. The retirement and subsequent death of Paul W. Bryant following the '82 season marked the end of an era, and the ensuing years were not easy. 1983 to '84 saw the Tide go 8-4 and 5-6 before rebounding in 1985 behind the quarterbacking of Mike Shula to finish 9-2-1.

That season Shula's quarterbacks coach was Dave Rader. "I had a great time before and thought we did a lot of good things," Rader said of those years. "But there has been a lot of water gone down the Black Warrior River between then and now."

Rader still has friends in Tuscaloosa from those years. But spending long hours meeting and watching film the past few days, he hasn't had time to look anyone up. "We've got to assess our talent quickly," he explained. "Not only are (Coach Shula and I) talking about what we'd like to do as an offense, but ‘Who are we going to do it with?'"

Thankfully, Rader has already identified a team strength.

Justin Smiley (left) and Evan Mathis (right) following practice. Coach Rader quickly identified the Alabama offensive line as a team strength.

With Evan Mathis, Justin Smiley and Wesley Britt, he'll have three starters returning on the offensive line. Dennis Alexander is a former starter as well, and J.B. Closner had a solid spring. All are talented. Of course Smiley and Britt were named All-SEC in 2002, and both players are receiving All-America recognition this year.

Rader talked about his linemen. "You have to do what your personnel allows, and the strength of our personnel starts up front. We've got an excellent offensive front. It's great to have those guys in front of us. I think we have 10-12 linemen that can play. We can really build around that strength."

With proven linemen, strong-armed quarterbacks, experienced receivers and gifted runners, Bama's offense sports plenty of talent. But Rader knows he has precious little time to put all the pieces together.

"Our offense is embryonic right now," he said. "(Coach Shula and I) are formulating that plan right now. But there are so many things happening at this time that have to be dealt with.

"We have a vision for the offense and how it will work. But right now there have been just a few strokes put to the canvas."

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