Inside the newsletter: Number 2 - September 8, 2005
- Editorial: Difficult Circumstances for Games
- Tide Tops MTSU
- Depth Chart
- Coach Shula Says
- Scouting Report
Difficult Circumstances For Games
In the wake of the catastrophe that was Katrina, there is a sincere feeling among many that football is not so important. It is never more important than life, and it pales in comparison to the losses of loved ones and property and jobs. The storm that hit the Gulf Coast just over a week ago will affect millions for weeks, months, years; forever in many cases.
But the advice of the experts is to try to get normalcy back as quickly as possible. And in the South, a part of that normalcy is football games in football season. This week the Crimson Tide will play its second game of the year, hosting a team that was unable to open the season last weekend. Southern Mississippi is under extreme stress. The Hattiesburg campus was wrecked by the storm. The Golden Eagles' opening game was to have been against Tulane, which will not have classes for at least a semester. USM had to pack up and head to Memphis to resume practice, and the Golden Eagles will head to Alabama from Memphis on Friday.
While evacuees from Louisiana and Mississippi are housed throughout Tuscaloosa and West Alabama, over 80,000 will again crowd into Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday, as they will in football stadia around the nation, including the Southeast. But not including Tulane and LSU and some others.
Playing football games is not wrong. Nothing would be served by cancelling games or seasons where those games can be played. And at Alabama, the games have been integrated into the recovery process. Crimson Tide fans have given up tickets and motel reservations for evacuees, even paying for the rooms for the disaster victims in some cases. Alabama athletes and staff have made time to help in the comfort of those forced into shelters. The athletics department and Bama fans have opened their pocketbooks.
Southern Miss is a victim, too. In most years there is talk of how many of the USM players are from the state of Alabama and how they will be trying to prove a point when playing against the Crimson Tide. This year the thought is that most of the Golden Eagles players are from South Mississippi and Louisiana, and how they and their families have suffered.
Because there are no classes at Southern Miss, the Golden Eagles have not been under the 20-hour clock of NCAA practice regulations. USM coaches and players have been able to practice and meet as long as they wish in preparation for the Alabama game. Because Southern Miss did not play last week, Bama coaches do not have an updated videotape to watch, to see what the Golden Eagles new offensive and defensive coordinators might have in store. But no one would seriously suggest Southern Miss has an advantage via its misfortune.
Southern Miss will likely play well against Alabama. The Golden Eagles almost always do. But it won't be because of extra practice time and meeting time. It will be in spite of the circumstances that put USM's football team in Memphis. It will be because Southern Miss has good players who are well-coached.
As much as Alabama hurts for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the Crimson Tide must prepare for a formidable football opponent. Yes, Alabama almost always wins this game. Bama has a 33-6-2 record against the Golden Eagles. But the Crimson Tide always knows it has been in a game when it faces Southern Miss.
This is the last meeting between the two schools. Alabama elected to not renew the contract with Southern Miss, even though the Golden Eagles had always been willing to come to Alabama to play. Both sides will want to go out a winner.
Stars Come Back To Lead Tide Win Over MTSU
Bama vs. MTSU Game Stats
Alabama had a satisfactory 2005 football season beginning as three offensive stars who had suffered serious injuries in 2004 came back in impressive fashion and Bama defeated Middle Tennesseee State University 26-7 in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night.
Quarterback Brodie Croyle, halfback Kenneth Darby, and fullback-halfback Tim Castille all made major contributions in Alabama's season-opening victory.
Croyle, coming off knee surgery, finished with 16 completions in 24 attempts for 210 yards with one interception and one touchdown. Darby, who had surgery to repair a sports hernia last winter, had 17 carries for 90 yards and caught two passes for 17 yards.
Most of Alabama's total offense came after halftime adjustments.
"I was a little nervous at halftime because I couldn't tell where we were as a team," Head Coach Mike Shula said. "I didn't know if we were a little down. We've got some veteran guys and they went out and did their job.
"Emotion can only last at start the of the first half or start of second half. Our guys played better as the game went on and I think that's something good that came out of it."
Castille, who had surgery to repair two torn knee ligaments, had five carries for seven yards, but had two touchdown runs. He also had two pass receptions for 13 yards.
Alabama's defense was expected to be strong this year. Still, it was something of a surprise when the first score of the year for the Crimson Tide was defensive end Mark Anderson catching MTSU quarterback Clint Marks in the end zone for a safety. That was the only score of t0he first quarter.
"It's never as good as you think and never as bad as you think," Shula said. "We had the one drive we gave up and got more guys to the football. It's so important to get off on third down. We got continue to do a good job on third down.
"We won on first down. They were in second and long and third-and-long, and that's they type of things we were trying to get done."
Castille, who had been questionable for this season after undergoing knee surgery in the middle of the 2004 season, scored the first touchdown of the season for Bama, going in from a yard out to cap a 10-play, 51-yard drive that consumed 4:30. A key play in the drive was Croyle connecting with Ezekial Knight on a third down play. Knight also had a 15-yard reception to get the drive started. Ryan Saxby's extra point made it 9-0.
The Blue Raiders didn't roll over. MTSU came back with a three-minute scoring drive, going 80 yards in nine plays with the touchdown a 14-yard pass from Marks to fullback Nick McAbee. Marks made an excellent fake and McAbee was open behind the Tide defense in the end zone to cut the Bama lead to 9-7, which was the halftime score.
Marks finished 12-of-18 for 117 yards.
Alabama looked to be off and running on MTSU's first punt of the second half when Tyrone Prothro returned it 54 yards to the Blue Raiders' 14-yard line. However, a questionable clipping call put Bama back at its own 32. Darby had five straight runs for 55 yards to set the Tide up at MTSU's 13 yard line. From there Croyle hit Tyrone Prothro on a 13-yard scoring pass. The drive took six plays and covered 68 yards in 2:38. That made it 16-7.
Bama got a quick break when the ensuing kickoff was fumbled and recovered by freshman Chris Keys at the MTSU 19. But Darby lost four yards on first down and failed to gain on second, and a Croyle pass was incomplete, forcing a 41-yard field goal. Saxby made it, but Bama had only 10 men on the field and the 46-yard re-try was no good.
Alabama came back with an impressive drive, 59 yards in six plays. With Croyle hitting Matt Caddell on a 24-yard pass and Darby running tough inside, the Tide went to a first down inside the one-yard line. Tim Castille took it in from there for a 23-7 lead with just under three minutes to play in the third quarter.
It may have been a bit of a surprise that Croyle returned to action in the fourth quarter. The senior quarterback, who had been injured in mop-up duty last year, drove the Tide deep into MTSU territory where Saxby was good on a 32-yard field goal to give Bama a 26-7 lead.
With 10:13 to play, Alabama's second offense–including back-up quarterback freshman John Parker Wilson–took over.
Shula was ambiguous about the status this week of the four players who were suspended for Saturday's game: Aaron Johns, Marc Guillon, Marcus Carter and Jamie Christensen.
"As of right now, everyone should be ready to go," he said. "If I have any other announcements I will make those later on or when we're ready to make them."
Christensen was the favorite to win all placekicking duties in the preseason and Carter is key special teams player and back-up at safety. Guillon is third-team quarterback and Johns is buried at the bottom of the depth chart at halfback, working with the scout team this week.
Shula announced the suspensions in a statement distributed in the press box before the game. Specific reasons for the suspensions were not given, and the statement said the they were for "a violation of team policy."
Alabama had a new kickoff return alignment with Tyrone Prothro lone deep man. He fumbled the opening kickoff, but it was recovered by Ezekial Knight. Prothro was also the punt return man.
Freddie Roach did not start at middle linebacker. He injured an elbow on Bama's first punt. The starting linebackers had DeMeco Ryans in Roach's spot and Terrence Jones starting for Ryans at strongside linebacker. Roach was in street clothes in the second half with his arm in a sling, but returned to practice on Wednesday and is hopeful of playing.
"We can move DeMeco in the middle and bring Terrence Jones in, or put Matt Collins in the middle," Shula said. "I'm not sure now there's any freshmen that will be ready to play."
Jones turned his ankle late in the game and had ice on his foot at the end of the game. Jones was limping considerably during Tuesday and Wednesday's practice while wearing and orange "no-contact" jersey.
Offensive right guard Mark Sanders appeared to suffer a knee and ankle injury in the third quarter. Sanders is possibly out for this week's game, but B.J. Stabler might be back in at right guard.
"We think Tuesday he's got a chance to come back and start getting back into practice, Shula said of Stabler, who had arthroscopic surgery on August 17. "I don't know if that will be the whole practice, but he has a chance to get into some individual work. He is on or ahead of schedule."
"We can't force B.J. to come back too soon," Shula cautioned.
Junior safety Jeffrey Dukes was the nickel back when Alabama went to a five-man defensive secondary scheme.
Tim Castille's first appearance of the year was at halfback on a third-and-one play when the Tide went to its jumbo package to make a first down.
In the first game with a replay official in the press box (new in the Southeastern Conference this year), the replay official was Ben Oldham and the communicator working with him was Jimmy Harper, the most legendary official in SEC history.
The game ball was delivered by Jim Bunch, a 1979 All-America offensive tackle.
In temporarily-reduced Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Crimson Tide had a sellout of 81,018. The stadium is short about 2,000 seats due to construction that will boost capacity to some 92,000 by the start of the 2006 season.
Alabama Depth Chart Vs. Middle Tennessee State
Alabama dressed the 105 men who reported for pre-season camp for the Crimson Tide's season-opening game against Middle Tennessee State Saturday night. Fifty-nine Crimson Tide players saw action in the game. There were eight first-time starters, four each on offense and defense for Alabama. The offensive starters were left tackle Chris Capps, left guard Antoine Caldwell, right guard Mark Sanders, and tight end Nick Walker. The first time defensive starters were defensive end Wallace Gilberry, defensive tackle Justin Britt, strongside linebackeer Terrence Jones, and left cornerback Simeon Castille. Jones started because middle linebacker Freddie Roach was injured covering a punt. DeMeco Ryans moved to middle and Jones started in Ryans' normal strongside slot. Castille started in place of Ramzee Robinson, who has nursed a sore back through much of fall camp. Robinson did see action in the game, although his string of 13 consecutive starts ended.
Four men who dressed and did not play were suspended for the opening game. They are placekicker Jamie Christensen, quarterback Mark Guillon, strong safety Marcus Carter, and halfback Aaron Johns.
Right offensive guard Marlon Davis was the first true freshman to see action in the game, coming in on the third series. Other true freshmen playing were halfbacks Glen Coffee and Jimmy Johns, quarterback John Parker Wilson, , tight ends Travis McCall and Charles Hoke, defensive end Bobby Greenwood, and safeties Cory Reamer and Chris Keys (Reamer and Keys both on special teams).
Alabama used 25 on offense, 21 on defense, and 13 just on special teams. Here are those who played with starters listed first and the number of plays in parenthesis. If there are two numbers, the second is the number of plays on special teams. Some played more than one position, such as Tim Castille at both halfback and fullback, Cody Davis at both left and right tackles, Jeffrey Dukes at both safety positions plus serving as the nickel back.
Split End–Matt Caddell (27-3), Zeke Knight (9-15), Keith Brown (32)
Left Tackle–Chris Capps (50-4), Cody Davis (24-1)
Left Guard–Antoine Caldwell (50-3), Justin Moon (12-2)
Center–JB Closner (50), Taylor Britt (12)
Right Guard–Mark Sanders (20), Marlon Davis (42-5)
Right Tackle–Kyle Tatum (50-5)
Tight End–Nick Walker (37-5), Travis McCall (21-8), Charles Hoke (3)
Quarterback–Brodie Croyle (50), John Parker Wilson (12)
Halfback–Kenneth Darby (32), Glen Coffee (13), Jimmy Johns (6-9)
Fullback–LéRon McClain (29-11), Tim Castille (26), Vic Horn (7)
Flanker–D.J. Hall (38-4), Tyrone Prothro (30-11)
Right End–Mark Anderson (25), Keith Saunders (13), Chris Harris (12)
Tackle–Justin Britt (20), Jeremy Clark (16)
Nose Tackle–Rudy Griffin (20), J.P. Adams (6), Dominic Lee (9)
Left End–Wallace Gilberry (30), Bobby Greenwood (10)
Strongside Linebacker–Terrence Jones (28-12)
Middle Linebacker–DeMeco Ryans (43-3), Matt Collins (13-8)
Weakside Linebacker–Juwan Simpson (35-3), Demarcus Waldrop (10-14)
Left Cornerback–Simeon Castille (24-9), Ramzee Robinson (24-2)
Right Cornerback–Anthony Madison (42-7),
Strong Safety–Charlie Peprah (45-8)
Safety–Roman Harper (43-2), Jeffrey Dukes (27-16)
Punter–Jeffrey Aul (3)
Placekicker–Ryan Saxby (5 KO, 2 FG, 3 PAT)
Snapper–Drew Lane (3 P, 2 FG, 3 PAT)
Coverage and Returns–Marcel Stamps (16), Freddie Roach (1), Cory Reamer (3), Lionel Mitchell (5), Bryan Kilpatrick (2), Chris Keys (5), Matt Miller (13, including 5 as holder), Juke King (4), Rashad Johnson (15), Theo Townsend (13)
Top Prospects Watch Alabama
Several Alabama prospects as well as several verbal commitments for the Crimson Tide's 2006 football recruiting class were on hand for Bama's season-opening 26-7 victory over Middle Tennessee State University at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night.
The biggest name on campus was the man who is Alabama's top prospect, five star offensive lineman Andre Smith from Huffman High School in Birmingham. Smith ranks as the nation's top offensive lineman and the number two overall recruit by Scout.com.
Smith traveled to Tallahassee Monday night to see the defensive struggle between Florida State and Miami. The Seminoles were victorious over Miami 10-7. Smith was on his second unofficial visit in three days at Doak Campbell Stadium.
The top signal caller on hand for the Tide's first game was American Christian quarterback Chris Smelley. Smelley was not reached for comments, but his mother said the entire family had a great time at the game.
Hoover wide receiver Cornelius Williams made the trip down to Tuscaloosa after a scare Friday night when Thompson came close to defeating Hoover. The Bucs prevailed 21-18 as Williams tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass on a fourth down conversion late in the fourth quarter to give Hoover the lead.
Williams had a great trip in Tuscaloosa and is seeking an offer from the Tide.
Several of Alabama's 2006 verbal commitments were on the sideline prior to the game. They included Andy Davis, Tremayne Coger, Brian Motley, Taylor Pharr and Nikita Stover.
Scouting Report: Southern Miss Always Has Motivation
One thing not to be overlooked when scouting Southern Miss is motivation: the Golden Eagles always have plenty of it when coming to play Alabama, and that factor will be heightened this year.
First, it's the last game in a long-running series. The two teams have played in all but three years since 1980, but Saturday's game is the last for the foreseeable future. The Golden Eagles have seven players on their two-deep roster from the state of Alabama, including three who start (wide receiver Antwon Courington, cornerback Caleb Hendrix and safety Ladarius Webb).
Second, the season-opener for a team is always full of mysteries. Alabama's most recent scouting report was one put together by Defensive Ends Coach Paul Randolph in the summer–based on spring reports and film from late 2004. That will likely force Alabama to play conservative early and be ready to adjust to any unfamiliar plays or formations.
Finally, it's hard to know how Southern Miss will respond to the camp-like atmosphere it has been in for the past week and a half. The team evacuated from Hattiesburg to Memphis because of Hurricane Katrina and has yet to return. Several Southern Miss starters' hometowns were destroyed by the storm. Has the getaway steeled their focus and unified the team or have the effects of the hurricane made for a counterproductive trip?
It's difficult to predict what Southern Miss will come with offensively from first-year Coordinator Jay Johnson, who spent the last two years as running backs and tight ends coach, respectively. His only previous Division I-A stop was at Kansas (pre-Mark Mangino) where he was running backs coach.
Southern Miss returns five starters on offense: quarterback Dustin Almond, fullback Bobby Weakley, wide receiver Antwon Courington, right guard George Batiste and left guard Travis Cooley.
Much like Clint Marks was the focal point for MTSU, Almond is the heart and soul of the Southern Miss offense. But Almond gets more of his yardage down the field, and with a lower completion percentage than Marks.
He made his first start against Alabama in 2003. It was a 17-3 losing effort for the Eagles, but Almond completed 16-of-28 passes for 196 yard and didn't throw an interception. It was a performance good enough to earn the sophomore a starting job, which he held until the week before last year's Alabama-Southern Miss game, when Damion Carter started for the first time in place of an injured Almond and had a lousy day (5-for-20, 16 yards, one interception).
Carter split time between quarterback and receiver last year, and is now a full-time wide receiver. He's not a starter at split end, but Carter had one of the most productive springs among receivers, with five catches in the Eagles' spring game.
Almond completed 51.3 percent (138-of-269) of his passes for 1,848 yards in his junior season. He threw 12 touchdown passes and six interceptions.
The offensive line averages 293 pounds, skewed heavily to the right side with 309-pound Batiste and 314-pound right tackle Neal Mead. Batiste and Cooley are both third-year starters as juniors, and anchor a unit that gave up nine sacks a year ago, but drove just 1,739 rushing yards.
The two new tackles will have more than a handful with Bama's Mark Anderson and Wallace Gilberry rushing off each end. Chris Clark, the 6-4, 280-pound soph starting left tackle, was an all C-USA player last year as a back-up, but the New Orleans native will probably need help blocking Anderson every time Southern Miss wants to pass.
Neal Mead is the 6-4, 314-pound right tackle. He had six starts in 2003, but only 140 snaps last season.
Junior Robby D'Angelo will also be a vulnerable target making his first start at center. The 6-1, 277-pound Gulfport native played around just 10 snaps per game a year ago. Tight end Pedi Causey (6-3, 244 pounds) is expected to help with the pass protection if he's in the game on pass plays. Causey is not known as a receiver, with only one catch last year in back-up duty.
Southern Miss will have to try to use screens and draws to counter the pass rush.
If Almond can use the screen pass effectively, or duck-and-chuck quickly, the Southern Miss receivers could be an asset. Senior Antwon Courington (6-2, 209 pounds) was the leading pass-catcher a year ago with 47 catches for 659 yards and five touchdowns. Along with being the number one receiving target, the Jasper native is also considred to be the best blocking receiver on the squad.
Anthony Perine provides the speed to complement Courington's size. Perine (5-11, 174 pounds) ramped up his production at the end of 2004, with 18 of his 24 receptions coming in the team's final five games. He tallied 332 yards and a lone touchdown.
Bobby Weakley (5-10, 241 pounds) started the final game for Southern Miss at fullback last year, and was expected to play back-up to redshirt freshman Cole Mason entering the fall. He's now listed atop the depth chart at fullback. Mason (6-2, 232 pounds) was a fullback turned tight end in the spring, but he's since been moved back to fullback.
Larry Thomas was the team's third-leading rusher in 2004, and he'll be expected to carry the load for the Eagles this year. The 6-0, 197-pound speedster had a 79-yard run last year as a part of his 340 total yards on 49 carries.
As on offense, a new defensive coordinator moves in for the Golden Eagles this year. Jay Hopson was a defensive backs coach at USM from 2001-2003 before going to Mississippi for a year. He could sport either a four-down or three-down linemen look with six returning starters listed.
One thing the Southern Miss defense is sure to have: street cred (aka street credibility) in 6-3, 240-pound Marcus Raines, a transfer from Pasadena (California) Community College.
Raines is a reclamation project. As a 17-year-old, Raines did time in a juvenile facility and then in state prison for involuntary manslaughter. He was originally charged with second-degree murder for his involvement in a fight at a party that resulted in a beating death. He's now a weak-side linebacker for the Golden Eagles, listed second on the depth chart behind Wayne Hardy (6-0, 223 pounds), a junior who played fullback a year ago.
Two of the returning defensive starters are along the line: junior end Matthew Chatelain (6-2, 245 pounds) and senior tackle Terrance Ford (6-1, 300 pounds). Chatelain started seven games a year ago, his first against Alabama where he made five tackles. Chatelain finished the year with 22 tackles.
Ford started five games a year ago and had just 16 tackles. Ford is considered the team's strongest player.
Tom Johnson is a 6-3, 277-pound defensive end turned nose tackle. The senior transferred to Southern Miss last year from Gulf Coast Community College and played approximately 60 snaps, making three tackles.
Listed at the Bandit position, Akeem Lockett (6-2, 250 pounds) started all 12 games in his junior season and led the squad in sacks and tackles for loss. Lockett had a good spring, and makes plays using his speed and athleticism. He had 39 total tackles a year ago.
Gerald McRath is expected to start as a redshirt freshman. A shoulder injury prevented him from playing a year ago, but the 6-2, 212-pound came out atop the depth chart at strong side linebacker.
Kevis Coley (6-1, 228 pounds) will get the start at middle linebacker after having his best year last year with 55 tackles, including two sacks. The senior might be Southern Miss's hardest-hitting player.
His twin brother, Trevis Cole (6-2, 223) will get the start at free safety. Trevis was the team's second-leading tackler last year with 104 stops in his 12 starts. Trevis Coley was a 2004 All-C-USA team member, and is being touted as an All-America candidate this season.
Junior Caleb Hendrix (5-10, 185 pounds) and senior John Eubanks (5-11, 175 pounds) are both returning starters in the secondary. Hendrix made nine starts at cornerback last year, had 42 tackles, one interceptions and four pass break-ups. Hendrix was a receiver his first year at Southern Miss.
Eubanks was a first-team All-C-USA member as a defensive back, with nine pass break-ups, three interceptions and 47 tackles, but he's best known as an All-America special teams player and C-USA's special teams player of the year.
Redshirt Freshman Ladarius Webb (5-10, 164 pounds) won the Rover (safety) position in the fall. The Opelika native led the state with 10 interceptions as a senior, and rushed for 738 yards on offense.
Eubanks is a threat to any kick coverage team. He posted 21 kickoff returns for 618 yards and one touchdown a year ago (29.4 yards per return), ranking him tops in C-USA and fifth in the nation. His return skills were highlighted by a 97-yarder against Houston.
Eubanks is a possibility for punt returns, but the Eagles list junior Jasper Faulk (5-10, 183 pounds) in that position currently. Faulk was no slouch as a kickoff returner last year, with 104 yards on five attempts.
Junior Darren McCaleb is a rock-solid placekicker for Southern Miss. He had 75 points last year and was Lou Groza Award finalist. He hit 16-of-19 field goals and with a long of 45. His career long is a 47 yarder.
Senior Luke Johnson handles punts and kickoffs. He adds the kickoff duties this year, but last year he averaged 41.8 yards on 67 punts. Johnson also holds for field goals.
The long snapper is Stephen Daigle, who held the job last year. He had seven tackles a year ago in punt coverage, and is expected to be a solid snapper.