Speed lacking at tailback?

As the old anti-drug slogan from the ‘60s goes, "Speed kills." But more importantly, a lack of speed at key skill positions on a football team can cripple an offense's chance for success. Whether or not he'll be able to bring enough tools to the table to beat out established players ahead of him on the depth chart remains to be seen, but the recent move of Ray Hudson from the secondary to offense was clearly designed to add speed at tailback.

Coaches are reluctant to criticize their players in public--especially when the subject is one essentially beyond the athlete's control. After all, an often-quoted sports cliché' holds that ‘What God left out, no amount of coaching can put in.' But reportedly one of the first assessments made by the new Bama staff was that speed was lacking at the critical tailback slot.

Shown last fall on reporting day, walk-on Josh Smith had the fastest 40 time for Bama's tailbacks last spring with a mark of 4.62.

And results from spring testing in which the entire squad was timed in the 40-yard dash would tend to bear that out.

Just who was the fastest Tide running back on that day? The results are likely to surprise.

Redshirt freshman walk-on Josh Smith (out of Birmingham's Mountain Brook High School) turned in the best mark with a time of 4.62 in the 40. Specific times for Ahmaad Galloway, Brandon Miree and Santonio Beard (all athletes ahead of Smith on the depth chart) have not been released. But assuming they were tested that day--and barring injury the entire squad was--it's safe to assume their times were slower.

Pictured relaxing after practice, Ray Hudson's 4.41 time in the 40-yard dash makes him one of the fastest athletes on the Tide squad.

Smith, as only the most rabid Tide fan knows, is a talented back easily good enough to start for smaller schools. After a senior prep season in which he ran for more than 1,600 yards (with 23 touchdowns), the Birmingham native received feelers from such schools as Furman and West Point. Unlike most Alabama teens, he didn't really grow up a fan of any school in particular, but the one-hour drive to home (and home cooking) undoubtedly factored into Smith's decision to walk-on at Alabama.

As informed Tide fans know, Smith is a talented runner with the ability to make tacklers miss. But despite his spring clocking, he isn't likely to gain the starting role any time soon. Which brings us to the fastest defensive back timed in the spring. Because the swiftest time among that group of athletes was a 4.41, achieved by Ray Hudson.

Hudson had finished spring no better than third-string at cornerback, making the decision to move him to offense an easy one. Having spent an extra year in high school dealing with eligibility issues, Hudson is more mature than the average redshirt freshman, and he obviously hopes the position move will be an easier path to playing time. The Tide coaches are withholding judgment until they see him in practice, but after watching high-school film of Hudson at running back they're optimistic that he can at least make an impact as a receiver out of the backfield. As a high school senior Hudson gained 1,160 yards and scored 16 TDs.

Shown kneeling with Saleem Rasheed during practice last fall, Cox has returned to defense after giving running back a try during spring.

The other recent position move announced by Franchione at Media Days returns senior Adam Cox to defense where he played the last two seasons. A three-time 6A all-state player in high school, Adam averaged 8.8 yards per carry his senior year and arrived on campus back in 1997 with high hopes of carrying the football at Alabama. But after scout-team duty, a redshirt year and duty on special teams as a second-year freshman, Cox was moved to linebacker in an attempt to get his athleticism on the field.

This past spring he asked for and was granted permission from Franchione to give offense one last try. During spring drills he played well, but was unable to climb higher than third string at either tailback or fullback, leading the coaches to suggest he might get some snaps as an H-Back specialist. But with Donnie Lowe, Nick Signaigo and possibly Marvin Brown (should he get eligible) blocking his path at fullback, the offensive handwriting was on the wall for Cox. And his recent decision to return to linebacker clearly represents his best chance at playing during his last season at Alabama.

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