Alabama's Saturday Lineup

Among the cliches thrown around by coaches is one that the media and the fans are more concerned about who starts (or the depth chart) than the coaches are. And, coaches often add, it doesn't matter who starts because (a.) they are all going to play or (b.) what matters is who plays the most, or all of the above. And yet coaches also say they are going to play the best players.

All of that is true given certain circumstances.

Sometimes there are decisions based on factors beyond skill levels of the players. If a team starts two tight ends and two running backs and a quarterback, it can have only one wide receiver (a flanker). That was the case last week for Alabama. And the lineup can be determined based on the play the team wants to run on the first down of the game. That, too, probably was the case last week as the Crimson Tide started the game with regular starting fullback Tim Castille at halfback and back-up fullback Le'Ron McClain at fullback, the "Big Load" scheme designed to get yardage running up the middle.

Alabama Football Coach Mike Shula said there would be no changes in the starting lineup this week based on last week's play, but pointed out that personnel groupings for a certain situation could alter the lineup.

Last week the starting lineup and substitution rotation by Alabama was good enough for a 48-17 win over Utah State in the season-opener. This week the Crimson Tide will try to win its Southeastern Conference-opener when Bama hosts Ole Miss. Kickoff will be at 8 p.m. CDT from Bryant-Denny Stadium with national television coverage by the cable network ESPN2.

Shula noted that he was pleased with the rotation in the defensive line and at wide receiver and running back last week. "And we were able to play and alternate two tight ends, which we haven't been able to do in a while," he said.

He said "We need to have good rotation offensively."

An interesting note last week was that while Tyrone Prothro (flanker) and Matt Caddell (split end) are listed as the number one wide receivers, Shula used two true freshmen–D.J. Hall and Keith Brown–last week before he used Caddell. And, Shula said, "Those true freshmen are making plays for us. They may be first in this week."

A change in SEC rules this year allows the home team to dress out 95 players, although only 80 may be designated to play in the game. (It is almost unheard of for a team to play 80 men.) Shula said the additional 15 men are not allowed to "make the trip" the to the hotel across the street from the practice field where Friday's walk-through will be held. They will join the team in the lockerrom Saturday evening. The additional players can take part in warm-ups.

It's a nice reward for players, and also is valuable in a couple of other ways, Shula said. He said the 15 would be some freshmen who might play later this year, plus "some guys who have been busting their tails out here in practice." He said the players learn something about what it is like to make a game trip and what is expected of them. And when the game starts, he said, they can be valuable on the sidelines, talking to their teammates and creating a good atmosphere.

The SEC rule restricts visiting teams to 70 players.

Following Thursday's workout in shorts, Shula said, "It was a better practice today, better tempo than last week at this time. We've got a few things we've got to clean up, but overall everyone was moving around pretty good."

Shula added that the team's schedule will be slightly different from last week due to a later kickoff time, mostly in the area of meetings on Saturday morning, but that the key was individual preparation for the game. "Our schedule will be changed just a little bit," said Shula. "We've got to get ourselves ready between now and then, mentally. We talked about each guy having a plan for what he has got to get done on Saturday night."

On the injury front, Shula said, "Some guys were moving around better today." He mentioned linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who didn't start last week's game, as one of those. Later he also said freshman cornerback Travis Robinson is recovering from his strained knee and could see more action on special teams and in the secondary.


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