Deserving walk-ons, victimized by sanctionsThe recently announced penalties imposed by the NCAA were obviously carefully designed to hurt the Tide football program. Reductions in scholarships, bowl bans and limitations on official visits will damage Bama's recruiting for the next several seasons. But whether intentionally or not, one element of the sanctions will victimize some of the most selfless athletes on the squad.
For a major program like Alabama, walk-ons are frankly invaluable. These young men are genuine student-athletes, players that pay their own expenses to college for the chance to be a part of Tide football. A school is allowed up to 85 players on scholarship, but Alabama's team numbered more than 130 players last season. So as many as 50 walk-ons filled out the roster.
With attrition taking its inevitable toll on the roster, several of the most deserving walk-ons could normally expect to be placed on scholarship each year. For example, current team members Waine Bacon, Corey Ferguson and Lane Bearden received full grants last season.
But in addition to limiting the number of new players Alabama could bring in each fall (so-called initial counters), the NCAA also imposed a ceiling of 80 total scholarships at any given time.
Of course regular infusion of new talent at the beginning of each year is essential for a team's long-term success. Cut those numbers too deeply and the effects down the road will be severe. Understanding that fact, Coach Franchione simply has no choice but to make certain Alabama brings in the maximum number of players allowed by the NCAA the next three years. For next September, even though the Tide appears to have only 16 spots available right now, bet on 17 new players reporting.
What that means is that deserving walk-ons like long snapper Nick Ridings, fullback Nick Signaigo, slotback Joel Babb and strong safety Marc Miller--athletes that without the 80 limit would be prime candidates to be added to the scholarship list--will instead, likely become just more collateral damage from the NCAA's recent bombshell.
‘Twan's still a growing boyMost of the anticipation surrounding spring practice this year will be targeted at freshmen redshirts like Charlie Peprah and Freddie Roach, athletes that fans have heard a lot about but not yet seen in action. But the most physically improved player on the team from last summer to now could well be Antwan Odom.
First arriving on campus in the summer of 2000, Odom was listed at 6-5, 247 pounds. But while the height was accurate, Odom's then reported weight was probably on the generous side. He saw a fair amount of action that first year, playing in every game and accumulating 13 tackles. But with his combination of size and speed, those numbers only hinted at his long-term potential. Of course Odom's 2001 season was short-lived, as a shoulder injury sidelined him after only two games. His surgically repaired shoulder is now fully healed, but that's not the biggest news.
Over the last several months, Odom has spent his down time wisely, lifting weights and conditioning at a frenzied pace. That combination of exercise, proper diet and the natural process of a still-maturing athlete growing into his frame, has produced a monster.
A month or so back Odom let slip to a well-meaning fan that he had gained up to 260 pounds. That information was duly "reported" on the Internet, which promptly set off speculation that Bama's prototype defensive end might be moved to tackle. "I've got to stop talking to fans," Odom said yesterday as he laughed at the suggestion.
Proving that Ben Pollard knows his business, the Bayou LaBatre native is now up to 365 pounds on the hang clean (300 is considered good--Kenny King holds the record at 410). And those fans excited by the number ‘260' had better sit down.
"I'm up to 275 pounds, now," Odom reported.
Fastest player on 2001 squad is still at itOne of the more interesting questions every year is "Which player is the fastest on the team?" Though obviously the answer would depend in part on how you define the term, football speed is most often reported in terms of the 40-yard dash. And last season's champion was Jason McAddley. Bama's coaches timed him at 4.40 last spring, and NFL scouts this season have adjusted that just slight upward to 4.41 (which still makes him the fastest receiving prospect the Sporting News' draft board).
Having just completed his senior year for the Tide, McAddley's Crimson football days are done. But in between competing in the Senior Bowl and getting ready for the NFL Combine, J-Mac has found the time to compete for Coach Harvey Glance and the Alabama track team. At the Barnett Bank Invitational last week in Gainesville, Florida, McAddley was timed at 7.97 in the 60m hurdles. That mark was the seventh fastest time in Tide track history.
But McAddley still came up short of teammate Ron Bramlett. Bama's world-class hurdler turned in a 7.54, which was the fifth-fastest time in college track history.
By the way, based on last year's clockings, tailback Ray Hudson (4.41) inherits McAddley's spot as fastest player on the team--at least until the squad is timed again later this spring.
Updating the rosterAs a service to the really dedicated (compulsive?) fans out there--you know who you are--we're passing along some changes to the team roster. Some athletes transfer to a smaller school in search of playing time. And some walk-ons choose to spend more time on academics. But every season several players leave the team for one reason or another.
An absolutely accurate list probably doesn't exist, except in Charley North's desk drawer. And Alabama's Director of Football Operations has better things to do than report every change as they occur. But here are several players BamaMag.com has identified as no longer being on the team.
- Sophomore guard Eric Boschung
- Freshman quarterback Al Burgess
- Sophomore tight end Beau Haginas
- John Mark Harrison
- Defensive tackle Rhodie Larson
- Sophomore cornerback Brett Moore
- Junior safety Kyler O'Neill
- Jay Pierce
- Senior guard Keith Stephens
- Senior tackle Patrick Tate
- Senior fullback Jason Williams
Please note, these are just the subtractions from our working list, which is almost certainly incomplete.