2004 Crimson Tide Football Season Preview

<b>Head Coach:</b> <A HREF=[PlayerNode:1438285]>Mike Shula</A> (4-9) <br><br> <b>Last Season's Record:</b> 4-9 (2-6 SEC) <br><br> <b>Last Bowl Appearance:</b> 2001 Independence Bowl (14-13 victory over <A HREF=http://iowastate.TheInsiders.com>Iowa State</A>) <br><br> <b>Key matchup(s):</b> Sept. 11 <A HREF=http://mississippi.TheInsiders.com>Ole Miss</A>, ESPN2 ­ 8 PM

Star Power: Brodie Croyle, QB, JR, 6-3, 203; Wesley Britt, LT, SR, 6-6, 309; DeMeco Ryans, LB, JR, 6-2, 235; Charlie Peprah, SS, JR, 5-11, 196.

Notable Additions: Chris Turner, DE, NW Mississippi JC, 6-3, 287; Jeffrey Dukes, SS, NW Mississippi JC, 6-3, 195; Justin Britt, DT, Cullman, 6-4, 270; Simeon Castille, CB, Briarwood Christian, 6-1, 185; Keith Brown, WR, Pensacola, 6-3, 190

Notable Subtractions: Antwan Odom, DE (NFL); Justin Smiley, LG (NFL); Triandos Luke, WR (NFL); Shaud Williams, HB (graduated); Derrick Pope, LB (NFL)

Notable Returnees: Anthony Bryant, DT; Evan Mathis, OL; Tim Castille, HB; Tyrone Prothro, WR; David Cavan, TE; Roman Harper, S; Juwan Garth, LB; Freddie Roach, LB; Jeremy Clark, DT

09/04/04Utah State
09/18/04Western Carolina
10/02/04South Carolina
10/16/04Southern Mississippi
11/06/04Mississippi State
11/13/04@Louisiana State
Offensive Overview: A year ago Alabama¹s offensive coaching staff arrived in Tuscaloosa just weeks before the start of the season, and a new scheme was installed in August. Coupled with both quarterbacks being injured, the result was an inefficient offense, one of the reasons for a poor record (4-9). And this year Alabama goes into the season having lost halfback Shaud Williams (1,367 yards rushing) and the top four wide receivers (133 receptions, 1,843 yards). This year Alabama¹s pro-style offense will rely on a healthy quarterback junior Brodie Croyle being able to utilize a young receiving corps and the Tide getting good production from a handful of halfback candidates. If A.C. Carter, a rare sixth-year senior, can return from injury, that will be a bonus at wide receiver. Ray Hudson is expected to take over at halfback, but Kenneth Darby and last year¹s fullback, Tim Castille, are in the wings. Tackle Wesley Britt, also returning from injury, and guard Evan Mathis are three-year starters and JB Closner returns at center, Danny Martz at guard, and David Cavan at tight end. Kyle Tatum has moved from defensive tackle to right tackle. Offensive line depth is thin and inexperienced. Tyrone Prothro, a true freshman last year, is the only wide receiver with playing time in this offense. While wide receivers are young, there is talent, including among incoming freshmen. Head Coach Mike Shula has predicted 10-13 newcomers will play, and among them will likely be freshmen receivers Keith Brown, D.J. Hall, and Will Oakley.

Defensive Overview: Alabama returns a corps of linebackers among the best in the league to anchor its defense, but an unproven, new-look secondary and a thin line leaves questions for 2004. DeMeco Ryans (SLB) and Juwan Garth (WLB) are listed as starters. Cornelius Wortham, who redshirted to return this year after and elbow injury derailed his senior campaign a year ago, will battle returning starter Freddie Roach for the middle linebacker spot. The line returns starters Jeremy Clark and Anthony Bryant (pending completion of needed academic work) at tackle, and Mark Anderson at end. Todd Bates, who served an NCAA mandated suspension last year, will start at the other end. Anderson is undersized for run-stopping purposes, but is relatively unknown and underrated as a pass-rusher. Bates is on the Hendricks watch list for the nation¹s best defensive end. Dominic Lee (DT) is the only experienced back-up on the line, but transfer Chris Turner should be ready to contribute, as should true freshman Justin Britt (DT). In the secondary, Alabama returns 5-9 Anthony Madison at right corner, and will start Ramzee Robinson at left corner. Tide coaches said Robinson was the best corner on the team in spring, allowing two-year starting corner second-team preseason All-SEC Charlie Peprah to move to safety. Roman Harper started at strong safety last year and has moved over to free safety, a minor adjustment for the junior. Depth in the secondary will be provided by newcomers. NW Mississippi transfer Jeffrey Dukes should be ready to help at safety, and could facilitate a move back to corner by Peprah. True freshmen Travis Robinson, Marcus Carter and Simeon Castille will almost assuredly be used this year.

Special Teams Overview: Alabama¹s placekicking was woeful at times last season, but Brian Bostick is the leader to keep field goal and extra point kicking duties. Competition might come from walk-on C.J. Rhody. Bo Freelend needs to add consistency to a booming leg at punter. He was named third team All-SEC by the league¹s coaches. Alabama must replace four-year long snapper Nick Ridings, and might use true freshman Trent Davidson. Two of the Tide¹s top two return men from 2003 are back (Tyrone Prothro and Brandon Brooks).

The Crimson Tide should have a winning season and go to a bowl this year if... Alabama can avoid the injuries that plagued the squad last year, find an adequate replacement at halfback for Shaud Williams, and Brodie Croyle can optimize production from a young receiving corps.

TheInsiders.com 2004 College Football Preview
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