Post-scrimmage depth chart: Offense

Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione has said the coaches are placing less of an emphasis on the depth chart this spring, but fans (of course) remain interested. Here's our best guess at what the breakdown looked like Saturday on offense.

Quarterback

NOTE: Tyler Watts worked almost exclusively with the first-team offense versus the first-team defense. Brodie Croyle worked mainly with the second ‘O' versus the second ‘D,' though he also mixed in with the first teamers. Spencer Pennington got somewhat less reps, working exclusively with the 2s and 3s. Matt Miller did not play Saturday.

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Quarterback Tyler Watts Brodie Croyle Spencer Pennington Matt Miller

There's no denying Croyle's obvious physical talent.

Though Watts did not have a particularly effective day Saturday throwing the ball, Watts' arm strength and release are both somewhat improved. On the day, Watts was 12-of-20 passing for 109 yards. The senior also ran 10 times for 14 yards (several QB sacks for losses figured in that total) and one touchdown. Watts' experience, proven ability to protect the football and talent for reading opposing defenses gives him the clear edge right now. Plus, his effectiveness running the football simply will not show up in spring stats, given the quick whistles to protect the quarterback.

As usual, Croyle showed an excellent arm during the scrimmage. His stats included 7-of-17 passes for 66 yards. Due to several sacks, he was also saddled with eight rushes for minus eight yards. There is no doubting Croyle's ability to make numerous throws, nor his long-term potential as a quarterback. Experience and more reps against SEC competition is all he lacks right now.

Pennington is playing baseball and football this spring.

Like most strong-armed QBs, Croyle does have a potentially dangerous habit of relying on his velocity to force balls into close coverage. Against second- and third-string Tide defensive backs, Croyle can get away with that. Versus All-SEC competition, the results may be different. But there is no reason to assume that he won't learn to protect the football as well as Watts.

Pennington had one of the prettiest long passes on a near-TD pass Saturday, but frankly his reps were limited. Though he attends every practice session, it's possible that the burden of playing two sports has hindered his progress. Certainly he has all the physical talent to be very good. Pennington was 1-of-2 passing for 16 yards and was credited with running the ball three times for minus six yards.

Running Back

NOTE: Fullback Donnie Lowe was held out of action Saturday, recovering from a lingering concussion. In his absence, walk-on Nick Signaigo was the only "pure" fullback to get any significant action.

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Tailback Santonio Beard Ahmaad Galloway Josh Smith John Caldwell
Fullback Nick Signaigo Nathan Cox
A-Back Shaud Williams Ray Hudson

Beard had the best run of Saturday's scrimmage.

There has been no announcement that Beard has overtaken Galloway for No. 1 at tailback. But Beard clearly brings a touch of flash to the position that Bama's other tailbacks do not possess. Plus, the former finesse runner has added layers of muscle to his upper body, allowing him to lower his shoulder and punish would-be tacklers when called for.

On the day, Beard's numbers Saturday were an impressive 10 rushes for 74 yards in limited work. And his 52-yard touchdown scamper up the middle of the Bama defense was the highlight run of the afternoon.

Given Galloway's key position on the team--he was recently elected again a member of the Leadership Council--it wouldn't surprise if he remains a co-No. 1 into the fall. Plus, the hard-working senior is a genuinely effective runner and a proven commodity versus SEC competition. Considering the rigors of conference play, having a potent one-two punch at tailback can only be positive for the Tide.

Galloway ran eight times for 44 yards in the scrimmage.

Smith ran hard Saturday, but his most impressive numbers came in the passing game. The junior walk-on had two catches for 25 yards, and what would have been a long touchdown pass trickled off his fingertips as Croyle led him barely too much out of bounds on the wheel route.

Caldwell, a little-used walk-on from Hoover High School, carried the ball twice for 11 yards and a touchdown.

Hudson is playing the hybrid A-back position.

Note that Alabama's tailbacks are being utilized more this year as receivers, especially on screen passes and safety-valve options. Plus, the fullback position per se may be disappearing from the Bama offense, having been replaced by the hybrid ‘W,' a combination of weakside tight end and fullback.

Officially Williams and Hudson are considered co-starters at the A-back slot. But based on experience and reliability, Williams likely holds the edge. Hudson is a touch faster in straight-ahead speed, but Williams yields to no one on the team (except possibly Brandon Brooks) in terms of cutting and making defenders miss. Plus, Williams' proven ability as a receiver gives him an edge.

Tight end

NOTE: David Cavan, a highly regarded sophomore pass-catching specialist that the coaches definitely have in their plans at tight end, is missing all of spring drills recovering from ACL surgery.

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Weakside ‘W' Theo Sanders Clint Johnston Marquez Dupree
Strongside Donald Clarke Clint Johnston Matt Mynes Teddy Gryska

Sanders will be a key part of 2002's offense.

Several of the current tight ends are "dual training" at both the strongside and ‘W' positions. Long-range plans are for every member of the unit to dual train.

Actually working at three different positions (‘W,' strongside tight end and fullback), the coaches can't say enough good things about Theo Sanders. At 6-3, 248 and both strong and fast, he's the prototype for the hybrid ‘W' position. He needs to continue improving as both receiver and blocker, but a lot of the success next year for the new scheme will rest on his shoulders.

Johnston is working at both strongside (blocking) and ‘W.' Dupree is exclusively a ‘W.' And Clarke exclusively a blocking tight end--at least for now.

Offensive Line

NOTE: Former "swing tackle" Atlas Herrion worked exclusively on defense Saturday. Injuries and the qualifying status of a couple of incoming players will likely determine which side of the ball he plays on in August. But for now, we don't list him on our O-Line depth chart.

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Quick Tackle Wesley Britt Lannis Baxley 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 Boone Stutz

Britt returns to handle quick tackle.

The depth chart on the offensive line is one of the more stable on the team, with returning starters solidly entrenched at all five positions. Most of the "action" can be found farther down list, as former redshirts try to work themselves into the playing rotation.

Led by All-America candidates Ephraim and Smiley, the starters are all having good springs. Mathis often labors, but that's due to health concerns--not ability. As he put it, his leg is "still broken," which obviously limits his effectiveness. Following the A-Day game, Mathis will likely undergo surgery to have a steel rod inserted into his leg to "fix" the fracture and allow it to heal. Identical to the surgery basketball player Kenny Walker had two years back, the procedure will allow Mathis to quickly resume off-season training and compete in 2002 with no ill effects.

Portis is one of the squad's most powerful athletes.

With Herrion's move to defense, Baxley moved up to second string by default--a move that may or may not hold.

Assuming all the reserves are back in the fall, this will be an extremely solid unit.

Of last year's redshirt freshmen, center J.B. Closner is farther along. But both Sanders and Ewing have made progress. A walk-on from Hayneville's Central High School, Walker is viewed as a "find" at center.

Wide Receiver

NOTE: Two-year starter Sam Collins is being held out of all contact work this spring, so he's not listed on our depth chart. And junior-college transfer Zach Fletcher will not arrive on campus until summer. Also, the Tide coaches divide the receiving positions into slotbacks, flankers and split ends. For now we make no such distinctions.

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Receiver Antonio Carter Lance Taylor Brandon Brooks
Receiver Dre Fulgham Brandon Greer Joel Babb
Receiver Triandos Luke Thurman Ward Tarry Givens Leslie Williams

Babb wants in the playing rotation.

At this point, Fulgham, Carter and Luke are solidly ahead. But the depth chart scrambles quickly behind those three. Receiver is a position where the coaches are clearly looking for some more athletes to step up---possibly from among this year's incoming class.

Brandon Greer and Joel Babb have been having good springs. Right now both appear to have helped themselves.

The coaches are excited about the addition of Ward's athleticism to the mix. Expect him to be given every opportunity to prove himself.


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