Depth chart guess: offense

Short of talking to Dennis Franchione, any attempt to put together a depth chart after the first scrimmage of spring is at best an in exact science. But based on what we saw Saturday and have observed earlier during practice, here's <I></I>'s best effort on the offensive side.

Offensive Line

                 First           Second            Third
Quick tackle:  Wesley Britt    Atlas Herrion     Von Ewing
Quick guard:   Justin Smiley   Matt Lomax        Danny Martz
Center:        Alonzo Ephraim  J.B. Closner      Montre Walker
Strong guard:  Marico Portis   Dennis Alexander  Mark Sanders
Strong tackle: Evan Mathis     Dante Ellington   Lannis Baxley

Wesley Britt and Justin Smiley

Ephraim (ankle sprain), Smiley (knee cartilage), Portis (shoulder) and Mathis (leg stress fracture) are all slowed to one degree or another by injury. But all are expected to fully recover. And when they're all healthy, it could well be the best unit in the SEC. Two former starters (Ellington and Alexander) along with one near-starter (Herrion) and one future star (Closner) make the second unit both talented and versatile.

Sanders is probably still a year away, and Ewing may need two. For redshirt sophomore Danny Martz, his time to step up is now. Baxley was once seen as a future starter, but now provides depth. And though slightly undersized, Walker is an athletic walk-on.

Boone Stutz, who worked exclusively as a long snapper last season, saw action at tackle Saturday.

Tight end, H-back

  first         second         third           fourth
Theo Sanders  Donald Clarke  Clint Johnston  David Cavan

It would probably be more accurate to break down the tight end position into traditional (strong-side blocking) and ‘W' or weakside positions. But we'll let that one play out over the next few weeks.

Theo Sanders

Sanders is both athletic and very strong. In Donnie Lowe's absence, he actually got as much work at fullback as anyone else, scoring one touchdown and catching a pass.

At 6-6, 260 pounds, Clarke is more in the mold of a traditional blocking tight end, though he shows some promise as a receiver.

Johnston is the classic overachieving athlete, having built himself into a physical specimen in the weight room. But he has also shown good ability as a receiver, including nifty footwork.

Cavan is injured, recovering from off-season ACL surgery. But he is seen as an excellent receiver, with perfect size and speed for the ‘W' position.

Other players getting attention at tight end are Teddy Gryska, Matt Mynes, T.J. Davidson, Adam Signaigo and Charles Linderman.

Running back

            first           second           third        fourth
Tailback: Santonio Beard  Ahmaad Galloway  Josh Smith   Marquez Dupree
A-Back:   Shaud Williams  Ray Hudson
Fullback: Donnie Lowe     Nick Signaigo    Nathan Cox

Santonio Beard

We chose to separate the ‘A-back' from the regular tailbacks, mainly because it allows for more slots on the depth chart. However, should injuries dictate it, Williams would likely be No. 3 at tailback.

Beard and Galloway are essentially 1a and 1b, and the coaches could well list Galloway ahead of Beard based on blocking. But though a hard, dependable runner, Galloway is a shade behind Beard in talent. Assuming he continues to work hard in the weight room, Beard could be as good a back as Alabama has seen in awhile. Together, the duo comprise a talented and dangerous tandem.

Shaud Williams

Smith has gotten stronger since first arriving on campus, and Saturday he had the longest run from scrimmage. Dupree will likely move to another position before he'll see any game action.

Early indications are that the ‘A-back' position could well pay dividends for Franchione. Hudson has responded to the competition and is running hard. Williams has the speed to get outside and the toughness (and footwork) to be effective between the tackles. Hudson needs to work on his receiving.

With a combination of two-tailback formations and the use of the tight end as an ‘H-back,' the fullback position may be less utilized next season. When healthy, Lowe is good. But he sat out Saturday's scrimmage with another mild concussion. Signaigo had his best day in Crimson, running hard and blocking well, including some duty as a pass receiver.


  first        second         third               fourth
Tyler Watts  Brodie Croyle  Spencer Pennington  Matt Miller

Tyler Watts

There isn't a lot new to be said about quarterback. Watts is the clear leader, though until the final drive, Saturday wasn't his best day. However, his combination of experience and toughness will be hard to dislodge from the top spot. Plus, his arm strength is improved this year. After throwing a poor pass incompletion on an out pattern, he dropped back and delivered a perfect strike to Dre Fulgham on a post pattern to set up the first-string offense's only touchdown.

Croyle continues to show an outstanding arm. Like most young guns, he can sometimes rely on his strength too much, occasionally forcing balls into tight coverage. But he also clearly has the complete package when it comes to throws. Assuming he continues to gain strength and stays healthy, there is no reason to think he won't be very good.

Brodie Croyle

It's tempting to label Pennington as a cross between Watts and Croyle, but that wouldn't be entirely correct. He's genuinely talented in his own right, and shows good poise directing the offense. The idea of a two-headed Croyle/Pennington quarterback in 2003 is not an unpleasant prospect at all.

Miller is good for a fourth-string quarterback, but there simply aren't that many snaps to go around.

Wide Receiver

  first           second         third
Antonio Carter  Brandon Greer  Brandon Brooks
Dre Fulgham     Joel Babb      Lance Taylor
Triandos Luke   Tarry Givens   Leslie Williams

AC Carter

The Tide coaches designate receivers as split ends, flankers and slot backs, but for our purposes we're simply listing three spots. Having lost Freddie Milons and Jason McAddley to the NFL, several players need to step up next season.

Carter, Fulgham and Luke are entrenched for now as starters. Carter of course is a known commodity, so there is no reason to overwork him this spring. Fulgham and Luke both look improved, Fulgham especially.

Behind the three starters Givens and Williams have the most long-term potential, but Williams is very raw. Babb, Taylor and Greer are all gutty veterans who will make the tough catch. Brooks may be too small to compete effectively in the SEC.

As usual, a host of other wideout candidates are taking their shot this spring. But so far none has followed Babb's and Taylor's earlier lead by really emerging from the crowd.


Mike McLaughlin

As Coach Fran said following the scrimmage, he's not certain who is in front in the race to replace Neal Thomas. Mike McLaughlin, Brian Bostick and Michael Ziifle are ahead of the rest, and all three had their moments Saturday. Consistency will be the key to this battle. Alex Fox and Gabe Giardina also got a chance to kick Saturday.

Placekick attempts were very much a part of Saturday's scrimmage, but no kickoffs were attempted.

Veteran Nick Ridings quite ably handles the long-snapping duties. And last year's punter, Lane Bearden, was the only holder on placekick attempts.

BamaMag Top Stories