Trying To Calm Worries About Tide
As Alabama has finished fall camp and pulled to within two weeks of its opening football game, I begin to lose my appetite. Not enough, but some.
As I've often explained, my overriding personal conviction is that I always think Alabama is going to win and I'm almost always right. Still, sometimes I worry. And two weeks before the start of a football season against a quality opponent is as good a time as any to get a bit anxious.
I did hear an interview with the lone sportswriter who voted Michigan number one in the Associated Press poll. Is his so-called explanation of the merits of Michigan against Alabama cause for worry? Uh, no. I may worry about my gut, but not about someone's elses "gut feeling."
Perhaps it is because I have heard it so much from so many coaches, but when I worry it isn't about the opponent. My concern is not Michigan. The apprehension is regarding Alabama.
If I had an analyst, the advice would probably be to talk out my worries. Okay. Here goes:
What if A.J. McCarron is unable to play? It goes without saying that Alabama would be greatly diminished without its quarterback, but you could say that about almost every top school. Would Michigan be less without Denard Robinson? Georgia without Aaron Murray? Arkansas without Tyler Wilson? This is why I don't worry about injuries before they occur.
Eddie Lacy has been hurt since last season. Can Alabama make it without Lacy at tailback? I think Eddie Lacy can be a big time tailback, but I think T.J. Yeldon and Jalston Fowler and Dee Hart can run the ball behind Alabama's offensive line.
Speaking of that offensive line, what about the back-ups? (If you thought I was going to worry about Cyrus Kouandjio, you didn't see the same A-Day Game that I did.) I'll admit to some concern about back-up center. Barrett Jones, who moved to center this year after winning the Outland Trophy playing left tackle last season, is not a concern. And Jones had said that Ryan Kelly, a top center prospect a couple of years ago, was doing fine working as the number two center. Kelly got hurt in Saturday's scrimmage, which is a concern, but word on the street is that Kellen Williams moved from back-up tackle to center and did just fine.
Nothing could make me worry about tight end (where Michael Williams returns) or H-Back. Nick Saban recruits plenty of men each year to play those positions. And if he has to, he'll move someone like Jalston Fowler in to strengthen the position.
And I haven't worried about wide receiver, although it does bother me that the youngster who has been most mentioned by Alabama Coach Nick Saban, Amari Cooper, has been injured, and that there is some problem with Kenny Bell. But I think any of a half dozen, led by Kevin Norwood and emerging redshirt freshman Marvin Shinn, can get the job done.
The defensive line is not a worry. Bama lost Josh Chapman as a starter, but moving Jesse Williams to nose tackle and bringing in any of a handful of ends (Quinton Dial and Ed Stinson to name two possibilities) makes this a stronger area than last year.
Linebacker has some holes to fill. Eventually, Trey DePriest may be better than Dont'a Hightower, but not in the next two weeks. Courtney Upshaw had a handful of truly fantastic games, and Bama may not get those on a consistent basis from Adrian Hubbard or Xzavier Dickson. But we didn't get them consistently from Upshaw, either. And although Jerrell Harris had a great BCS game against LSU, overall the Tide could be as good at outside linebacker. Weakside linebacker is not a worry with both Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley back.
Dee Milliner returning at cornerback is scant comfort when Dre Kirkpatrick, DeQuan Menzie, and Phelon Jones are all gone to the NFL. Deion Belue may be capable, but Bama needs more than one. John Fulton may be getting there and Saban seems okay with Bradley Sylve. Still, I'd probably be worried about cornerback if they weren't coached directly by Saban...who is the reason Kirkpatrick, Menzie, and Jones are all gone to the NFL.
I worry about moving Eddie Williams from wide receiver to safety. But, I confess, I just wonder how Williams can possibly get any work with Robert Lester back for a senior year and young ones Vinnie Sunseri, HaHa Clinton-Dix, and Landon Collins all getting high marks from practice. I guess I can let Williams worry about that.
Remember last year going into the BCS National Championship Game? One of the reasons the experts were picking LSU was that Brad Wing was the most fabulous punter since Ray Guy and Alabama had Cody Mandell. All Mandell did was out-punt Wing. Jeremy Shelley, who had missed a handful of field goals in a 9-6 overtime regular season loss to LSU, made five of them in the game that counted against LSU. And now the news from training camp is that newcomer Adam Griffith has pushed returning long kicker Cade Foster into being better.
That leaves worrying about coaching. Pullleease!
So, I guess -- What, me worry?
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