Inside the newsletter: Number 3 - September 14, 2005
- Editorial: Better To Be Good Than Lucky
- Tide Gets By Golden Eagles
- Scouting Report
- Coach Shula Says
- Season Statistics (PDF version only)
Better To Be Good Than Lucky
Schedule luck and injury luck have always been considered crucial to college football success. Last year Alabama certainly did not have good injury luck. In fact, it was about as bad as any ever suffered by a college football team, perhaps the reason it continues to be discussed as the Crimson Tide approaches the quarter point of the 2005 season. And even though it is just two games in, and there are a couple of spots where there are depth concerns (halfback and the offensive line among them), almost anyone in the Alabama camp would have settled for quarterback Brodie Croyle, halfback Kenneth Darby, and fullback/halfback Tim Castille being as healthy as they are.
Most analyses of the Bama schedule prior to the start of the season would have it that the schedule set up nicely. There were a couple of games against mid-majors, Middle Tennessee and Southern Mississippi. Then South Carolina was rebuilding under a new coach (albeit, a highly respected head coach in Steve Spurrier) and Arkansas was without super quarterback Matt Jones. Finally, most of the tough games were at home, the obvious exception being Auburn at the end of the season. And Auburn was something of a question mark, too, with some critical losses to the NFL.
In addition to injury luck (which so far has been above average) and schedule luck (too early to say on some opponents), Alabama has had some on-the-field luck, too. Not to take anything away from the catch by Tyrone Prothro that turned the Southern Miss game around, it is unlikely that any of the greatest all-time receivers in football history-Hutson, Rice, Newsome, anyone-would make that reception one time in one hundred.
And it was probably lucky that the Southeastern Conference put in a replay system this year and staffed it with men like Steve Landis and Dick Burleson. Otherwise, who knows what the final call by the on-the-field officials might have been. (One official ruled it incomplete and another ruled it a touchdown, and both were wrong.)
Injury luck and schedule luck and on-the-field luck are all helpful. But as in so many areas, it is not really better to be lucky than good. It's better to be good.
Just how good is Alabama? Obviously, it is early, and the competition has not been what it will be. But it's not likely that anyone is chomping at the bit to play Alabama.
The defense has picked up about where it left off last year, which was among the best in the nation. The offense has its problems, primarily because of an inexperienced line, but all-in-all the Tide should be able to utilize its skill position players to effectively move the football.
As for special teams: well, Alabama is lucky to have Tyrone Prothro.
Alabama will have a little better opportunity for preparation for South Carolina. The Tide's first two games were against teams that had not played a game this year, and so there was no film swap and Tide coaches had to guess what new coordinators from MTSU and USM would have in store. South Carolina has played two games. Moreover, one of them was against Georgia, and so Spurrier and the Gamecocks likely showed most everything in their arsenal. (The one disappointing thing is that neither of South Carolina's first two opponents have an offense anything like Alabama's.) Obviously, being able to see it and being able to do something about it are two different things, but it still makes preparation a bit less dicey. –Kirk McNair
Tide Bests Golden Eagles In Final Game Of Series
Talk about a game of inches. The most obvious was a 41-yard Brodie Croyle pass finding the exact spot on the back of a Southern Mississippi defender so that it smacked into the hands of Tyrone Prothro, who couldn't see the football. That was a play for all-time in Alabama football history, akin to George Teague's theft of the ball in the 1993 Sugar Bowl game. When Alabama took advantage of the Prothro catch to get a touchdown just before halftime, the unexpected deficit to Southern Mississippi was manageable. And, as had been expected, the Crimson Tide rolled to a 30-21 victory that should not have been that close.
The defense had its "inches" play, too. Southern Miss had rebounded from a 10-0 Bama lead to take a 21-10 advantage in the second quarter. And it looked like it was going to be 28-10 when Alabama misplayed a screen pass. But end Wallace Gilberry chased down the Golden Eagles receiver and made a shoestring, touchdown-saving tackle. The Golden Eagles did not get another point.
Conventional thinking was that Southern Miss would have an emotional advantatge to start the game against Alabama. The Golden Eagles had been cooped up in Memphis for a week after having their scheduled opening game postponed. It was Bama that got off to the fast start at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night. But the Crimson Tide had to come from behind to defeat USM.
Alabama had a big night statistically, but had to overcome a costly turnover, special teams miscues, and some defensive lapses. The result was that Bama opened up with a 10-0 lead, fell behind by 11 points at 21-10, then shut out the Golden Eagles in the second half while putting up three straight touchdowns in the comeback.
It took Alabama less than a minute to score a touchdown after receiving the opening kickoff. Croyle hit Prothro on a 52-yard bomb on first down. Three plays later, Croyle connected with D.J. Hall on a 26-yard touchdown pass and with 14:04 to play in the first quarter Jamie Christensen kicked the extra point and Alabama had a 7-0 lead.
Croyle, Prothro and Hall all had impressive statistics. Prothro finished with seven receptions for 134 yards, two rushes for 14 yards, four punt returns for 34 yards, and two kickoff returns for 97 yards. That's total yardage of 279. Hall had five catches for 130 yards and a touchdown. Croyle completed 21 of 37 passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns.
Alabama extended its lead to 10-0 with 8:53 remaining when Christensen connected on a 33-yard field goal.
The Crimson Tide defense was keeping Southern Miss in check, but Bama's offense and special teams would put the Golden Eagles into the lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Bama running game was almost nonexistent, and Southern Miss got a gift touchdown with an uncharacteristic poor throw by Croyle. Croyle overthrew his receiver and the pass was picked off by the Golden Eagles linebacker Gerald McRath, who returned it 32 yards untouched for a touchdown, cutting the Tide lead to 10-7 with 3:32 remaining in the first quarter.
A poor punt by Jeff Aul and much worse punt coverage (Aul had to make the tackle) set the Golden Eagles up to take the lead. Aul's punt carried only 24 yards and was returned 36 yards to the Bama 12. On first down Dustin Almond hit Anthony Perine for the touchdown and a 14-10 USM lead with 53 seconds to play in the first quarter.
At the end of the first quarter, Southern Miss had more points–14–than yards of total offense–8.
Early in the second quarter, the Alabama defense had its problems with the Golden Eagles, allowing a USM drive of 64 yards in six plays, the final play a 37-yard Almond to Perine connection for a 21-10 Southern Miss lead.
Prothro gave Bama a boost with a 65-yard kickoff return to the USM 35. Croyle hit Hall on a 17-yard gain. But the offense stalled, ending with an eight-yard sack of Croyle and forcing a 41-yard field goal try, which was no good.
Wallace Gilberry saved a touchdown on USM's next possession with a shoestring tackle at the Alabama 49 on Larry Thomas, who was behind everyone after taking a short screen pass. A 28-10 lead might have been too much to overcome. The Bama defense held and USM got a 15-yared penalty, but field position was lost for the Tide.
Alabama's final possession of the half was a dynamic of fits and starts with penalties the key "plays" until Prothro's heroics. A personal foul against Southern Miss sustained the drive when it seemed destined for another quick offensive failure. Then Bama managed to get good gains negated by penalty. All the while center B.J. Closner's snaps to Croyle were tough to handle.
Then on fourth down with 29 seconds remaining from the 43, Bama elected to go for it. Croyle connected with Prothro near the goalline, a play in which USM interferred. Prothro reached around the defender and made the catch against his back, then tumbled into the end zone. The first call was incomplete pass. That was changed to touchdown. Neither was correct, but for the first known review of an Alabama play in the new SEC policy, the ball was correctly placed at the one yard line with 17 seconds to play. With 12 seconds to play Croyle hit LéRon McClain on the touchdown to close the score to Southern Miss 21, Alabama 17 at halftime. It was officially an 11-play, 72-yard drive that took three minutes.
Alabama regained the lead on its first possession of the second half with Croyle hitting another bomb to highlight the drive. Facing third and 18 from the Bama 32, Croyle hit Hall down the left sideline for a 47-yard gainto the 18. A couple of penalties against the visitors, including an offsides on what appeared to be a third down sack of Croyle, helped Bama to a first down inside the USM five. Tim Castille moved to halfback for the jumbo backfield attack and ran it in on two plays. But on the "routine" extra point, Alabama failed to have seven men on the line of scrimmage. And on the kick after the penalty, Christensen missed, leaving Bama up by only two points at 23-21 with 9:19 left in the third quarter.
Alabama extended its lead with an excellent drive that began in the final seconds of the third quarter. Bama went 85 yards in 11 plays and took 4:20 off the clock. With 11:06 to play, Castille's two-yard run made it 30-21, Bama. A key play was Croyle connecting with Hall on a 24-yard pass play on third-and-17.
Alabama missed a chance to tack on a last score in the final moments when Castille fumbled inside the Southern Miss three-yard line. A final hail Mary by USM was intercepted by Jeffrey Dukes at the Alabama two-yard line with 14 seconds to play.
TIDE NOTES: Several recruits were spotted on the sideline before the kick-off of Saturday's game against Southern Miss.
Anthony Dixon, from Terry, Mississippi, was spotted on the Alabama sideline. Dixon is one of the top running backs in the Magnolia State. He is listed as a three-star prospect by Scout.com.
Wide receiver Jeff Ogren, from American Christian, was on an unofficial visit to the Capstone. Ogren committed to Clemson during the summer, but living in Northport makes it an easy drive to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The class of 2006 Tide commitments was well represented with Bryan Motley, Taylor Pharr and Charlie Higgenbotham all taking in the pre-game activities. Andy Davis has not been confirmed, but he was expected. Davis had a big game Friday night for Briarwood as well as Charlie Higgenbotham for Mountain Brook.
This was the final game in the Alabama-Southern Mississippi series and no future games are under discussion. Alabama's 30-21 victory was Bama's fifth in a row over the Golden Eagles and the 10th in a row in Tuscaloosa. Bama leads the all-time series, 34-6-2.
Alabama's tradition of having a former player deliver the game ball had a unique twist Saturday night when the Crimson Tide hosted Southern Miss at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Two balls were delivered, one each by brothers Gary Rutledge and Jeff Rutledge. The two are the only brothers in college football history to quarterback two teams at the same university to national championships.
Gary Rutledge was quarterback of the 1973 Crimson Tide, while Jeff was quarterback of the 1978 national championship team.
Alabama frequently has a national championship theme. This weekend the Crimson Tide welcomed back members of the 1965 national championship team. Members of the squad returning were introduced at halftime.
Doug Woodman, an Alabama graduate and member of the Florida Citrus Bowl committee in Orlando, was the lone bowl scout in attendance at the game.
Tyrone Prothro had seven catches for 134 yards and D.J. Hall five catches for 130 yards, both career highs for both men. It was the third time in Alabama history two receivers had over 100 yards receiving in the same game. And it was the first time it had happened in a winning effort. Freddie Milons (124) and Antonio Carter (104) did it in a 2001 loss to UCLA and David Bailey (187) and Bubba Sawyer (110) did it in a 1969 loss to Auburn.
Prothro has at least one reception in 20 consecutive Alabama games.
Brodie Croyle's 330 passing yards was a career high and is ninth best in Alabama history. Alabama is 5-0 in Croyle's last five starts and he is 9-9 as an Alabama starting quarterback for his career.
Alabama has missed three field goals in the first two games. Last season Alabama was 16-19 with three misses for the year.
When Jeffrey Dukes intercepted a Southern Miss pass with 14 seconds remaining in the game, it extended Alabama's streak of forcing at least one turnover to 19 games.
Jamie Christensen returned to starting place-kicking duties after having served a one-game suspension for the opening game. Christensen and back-ups quarterback Marc Guillon, safety Marcus Carter, and halfback Aaron Johns were all reinstated for Saturday night's game.
Southern Mississippi scored its first offensive touchdown against Alabama in 13 quarters when Dustin Almond threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Perine with 53 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The last time USM scored an offensive touchdown against Alabama was in the third quarter of the 2001 game at Legion Field in Birmingham. Bama won that game, played in a driving rainstorm, by 28-15.
All of a sudden Alabama's depth at halfback could be a question mark. Freshman Jimmy Johns, who played on kickoff teams, appeared to have a shoulder injury. He was in warm-ups in the second half. Freshman Glen Coffee was thought to have suffered a concussion. Earlier in the week it had been announced that freshman halfback Roy Upchurch would have foot surgery and be held out this year.
With 8:14 to play in the game, competition was halted briefly when the sprinkler system at Bryant-Denny Stadium was activated, spraying the field for about a minute.
Kevis Coley, a Southern Miss linebacker, was ejected from the game in the final two minutes after a personal foul. –Kirk McNair
Alabama Depth Chart Vs. Southern Miss
Tyrone Prothro doesn't ordinarily start for Alabama, although he is considered a first team player. Prothro did start Saturday night at flanker, and opened the game with a 52-yard pass reception from quarterback Brodie Croyle. Keith Brown was also a first time starter this year at the split end spot. Alabama used 58 players in the game. The Tide played 21 on offense, 21 on defense, and 16 just on special teams. True freshman Marlon Davis got start at right guard for Alabama. Mark Sanders, who started last week but sprained his knee and ankle, was not dressed. Freddie Roach was back as starter at middle linebacker, but Terrence Jones–who got the start last week when Roach was injured–was on the sideline in street clothes. Jones sprained an ankle. Simeon Castille started ahead of Ramzee Robinson at left cornerback for the second consecutive week, but Robinson–who was out much of fall camp with a back injury–started the second half after Castille got burned a couple of times. Jamie Christensen was back as placekicker after a one-game suspension. Redshirt freshman right guard B.J. Stabler, who had been out with knee surgery, made his first college appearance. Jeffrey Aul had a tough night punting in the first half and was replaced by Jeremy Schatz. Here are those who played against Southern Miss 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.
Split End–Keith Brown (43), Matt Caddell (25), Zeke Knight (20-18)
Left Tackle–Chris Capps (31-3), Cody Davis (48-3)
Left Guard–Antoine Caldwell (78-6)
Center–J.B. Closner (79)
Right Guard–Marlon Davis (12-1), B.J. Stabler (48-2), Taylor Britt (20)
Right Tackle–Kyle Tatum (79-6)
Tight End–Nick Walker (51-6), Travis McCall (28-13), Charles Hoke (5)
Quarterback–Brodie Croyle (79)
Fullback–LéRon McClain (40-15), Tim Castille (36)
Halfback–Kenneth Darby (47), Glen Coffee (6)
Flanker–Tyrone Prothro (58-12), D.J. Hall (36-4)
Right End–Mark Anderson (46), Chris Harris (12), Keith Saunders (10)
Tackle–Justin Britt (2), Jeremy Clark (21), Dominic Lee (15)
Nose Tackle–Rudy Griffin (36), J.P. Adams (12)
Left End–Wallace Gilberry (38), Bobby Greenwood (8)
Strongside Linebacker–DeMeco Ryans (57-5)
Middle Linebacker–Freddie Roach (51), Matt Collins 6-11)
Weakside Linebacker–Juwan Simpson (55-5), Demarcus Waldrop (2-14)
Right Cornerback–Anthony Madison (54-8)
Left Cornerback–Simeon Castille (25-8), Ramzee Robinson (35-5)
Strong Safety–Charlie Peprah (57-2), Jeffrey Dukes (28-18)
Safety–Roman Harper (57-5)
Placekicker–Jamie Christensen (6 KO, 2 FG, 4 PAT)
Punter–Jeffrey Aul (3), Jeremy Schatz (2)
Snapper–Drew Lane (2 FG, 4 PAT, 5 P)
Holder–Matt Miller (2 FG, 4 PAT, 13 other)
Coverage and Returns–Marcel Stamps 18, Jimmy Johns (11), Cory Reamer 1, Lionel Mitchell (7), Marcus Carter (8), Bryan Kilpatrick (5), Chris Keys (6), Juke King (6), Rashad Johnson (23), Justin Moon (3), Theo Townsend (1)
Scouting Report: South Carolina More Than Just Spurrier
Despite what some may think, South Carolina Football Coach and offensive guru Steve Spurrier will be simply walking–not levitating–on the sidelines of Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday afternoon when the Tide and Gamecocks kick off.
It's true that Spurrier's Gamecocks are an able passing team–starting quarterback Blake Mitchell leads the Southeastern Conference averaging 283 passing yards per game and he's fourth in passing efficiency with a 169.7 rating.
Mitchell, the 6-3, 194-pound redshirt sophomore has completed 70.2 percent (40-of-57) passes for 566 yards. For comparison's sake, 2004 South Carolina starter Syvelle Newton led the team with 1,093 passing yards for the season.
Notably, Mitchell has been sacked seven times in two games, only besting Kentucky's nine sack SEC futility mark by two. Conversely, Alabama has blitzed only a handful of times in its first two games, but has an SEC-leading nine sacks to its credit.
Another danger sign for the South Carolina offense is that the Gamecocks have converted just five of 20 third down plays in their first two games, 11th-best in the league. The Bama defense has allowed a 26.1 percent (six-of-23) third down conversion rate, which is second-best in the league.
Mitchell has distributed the ball well in two games, with completions to 11 receivers. Last year's starting quarterback Syvelle Newton (6-0, 214 pounds) has been the most popular receiving early-season target for Mitchell as a junior with nine catches for 111 yards.
Kris Clark (5-10, 191 pounds) plays opposite Newton, and has caught six pass for 56 yards thus far. Clark is a senior and former walk-on for the Gamecocks, and is listed ahead of the top returning receiver, junior Noah Whiteside (5-11, 169 pounds).
Whiteside had 20 catches for 290 yards in 2004, and has four for 91 yards this year, including a 49-yard scoring pass in South Carolina's opener.
South Carolina will start either freshman Jonathan Hannah (6-3, 251 pounds) or sophomore Robert Pavlovich (6-5, 244 pounds) at tight end Saturday in place of the injured Andy Boyd. Hannah had his first catch of the year last week, a 24 yarder against UGA.
Blake's good numbers are heavily tempered by the fact that the Gamecocks can't run a lick. Specifically, South Carolina has totaled 75 rushing yards in their two games against Central Florida and Georgia. They are 111th in the nation and dead last in the SEC, averaging just one and a half yards per carry.
True freshman Mike Davis (5-9, 209 pounds) is listed atop the Gamecocks depth chart at tailback. Davis rushed eight times for a season high 38 yards last week against Georgia. He had 11 carries for 14 yards in game one.
The diminutive Bobby Wallace (5-7, 179 pounds) is listed as back-up to Davis. Wallace was the first player signed at South Carolina by Spurrier and was the starter in the season opener against UCF. He has totaled a laughable five yards on one carry.
Starting senior fullback Daccuss Turman (5-11, 229 pounds) is actually the second-leading rusher on the squad with 22 yards on five carries. Turman was suspended for the UCF game, but he caught seven passes for 30 yards against Georgia in addition to his rushing totals.
The Gamecocks' starting offensive line averages 303 pounds, with 270 pound left guard William Brown the only player under the 300-pound mark. Brown is a first year starter, as is senior right guard Freddy Saint-Preux.
Left tackle Jabari Levey is touted as an All-SEC candidate and has started 20 games in his career. Junior center Chris White was a 10-game starter last year and has 18 career starts to his name, while right tackle Na'Shan Goddard has made 27 starts in his impressive career.
If South Carolina has done one thing well on defense in its first two games, it has been getting after the quarterback. The Gamecocks are second only to the Crimson Tide in sacks through two games with seven.
In early action, South Carolina has allowed 185 yards per game through the air and 160.5 on the ground. Senior DéAdrian Coley (6-2, 240 pounds) and sophomore Josh Johnson (6-4, 230 pounds) are starters at opposite defensive end positions, and both are relatively inexperienced. Coley Appeared in 10 games last season, but made just nine tackles after transferring to South Carolina from Georgia Military. Johnson is alos a first-year starter for the Gamecocks, and was credited with 2.5 tackles last week against Georgia.
South Carolina's defensive tackles don't fare much better on the experience spectrum.
Marque Hall (6-2, 286 pounds) started three games as a freshman last year and senior nose tackle Chris Tucker (6-1, 288 pounds) played on offense and on defense at times last year. He did record a sack against UCF. Back-up nose tackle Stanley Doughty is the biggest player on the team at 6-1, 328 pounds. Doughty will get significant playing time for the Gamecocks after having four tackles against Georgia last week.
The most experienced among South Carolina defenders is 6-2, 235-pound senior linebacker Lance Laury. Laury, who has 21 career starts to his credit, had two and a half tackles for loss against UCF.
Middle backer Ricardo Hurly (6-1, 242 pounds) might be the best defender, however. The senior has made 16 career starts and recorded 53 tackles last season.
Mike West rounds out the linebacking corps adding a dimension of speed. West (6-0, 211 pounds) is undersized by current standards but boasts a sub-4.4 second 40-yard dash time. He played last year at Butler Community College in Kansas. He is South Carolina's leading tackler with 18.
In the secondary, junior cornerback Johnathan Joseph (5-11, 187 pounds) is the speedster of the squad. He took a Georgia pass 42 yards the other way last week for a defensive score.
Fred Bennett (6-1, 194 pounds) brings the experience at the opposite cornerback position. The junior has started 13 straight games, and has had five interceptions over the past season plus two games this year.
Sophomore safety (or Rover) Ko Simpson (6-1, 201 pounds) is the most well-known Gamecock defender, and for good reason. Simpson is a pre-season all-America candidate this year after a team-leading six interceptions as a true freshman.
Another sophomore startes at the free safety spot, sophomore Chris Hampton (5-11, 186 pounds). Hampton started against Georgia and has five tackles and a sack through two games.
South Carolina has senior Josh Brown handling both placekicking and punting duties, and doing a pretty good job. Brown has made 11 of his last 12 field goal attempts after beginning his career making just one of five kicks. He's had six punts for a 40.7 yard average with a 51-yard long.
Freshman Ryan Succop has handled the kickoff duties, with six of his nine kickoffs going for touchbacks.
Ike Crofoot is a junior who is instrumental in both the punting and placekicking game, but in different ways. He is the long snapper for punts, but on field goals he is the holder and junior Scott Morgan snaps. –Mitch Dobbs
Coach Mike Shula Says
As is often the case when a college football coach assesses the week or the season, the injury situation is addressed quickly. And that is the case this week for Alabama Coach Mike Shula as he looks at a long list of wounded Crimson Tide players.
The word of the day was "questionable" during Shula's regular Tuesday press briefing. Most players who have injuries fell into the category of "questionable" for Saturday's game at South Carolina.
Early in fall camp, offensive line seemed to be hardest hit by the injury bug. Then it got to the tight ends. Most recently it has been the tailback position.
Still, Shula and most Crimson Tide fans would probably take the trade of the nicks where they have fallen in exchange for the good injury luck of having quarterback Brodie Croyle, halfback Kenneth Darby, and fullback Tim Castille showing no ill effects of injuries that resulted in surgery over the past year.
In last Saturday's game against Southern Miss, defensive tackle Justin Britt played only two snaps before going out with a subluxation (less than a separation) of his shoulder. Britt said he probably could have returned to action, but that the cautious approach was to hold him out. He expected to be back at practice as early as Wednesday and felt he would be ready to play at South Carolina.
A key area is halfback, where Alabama has lost three true freshmen in recent days. Roy Upchurch was to have foot surgery and be held out this year. Last Saturday the Tide lost Glen Coffee, the number two tailback, with a concussion and Jimmy Johns, number three halfback, with a shoulder injury.
Shula noted that Castille can play halfback as well as fullback if needed. "And we'll look at Ali Sharrief (a freshman who is expected to be redshirted). And we have other personnel groupings."
Freshman right guard Marlon Davis was also injured Saturday, logging just 12 plays. Shula expects Davis to be able to play Saturday.
The Tide coach also hopes to get a couple of men back who were injured and missed Alabama's 30-21 win over Southern Miss Saturday. Linebacker Terrence Jones (ankle) and offensive guard Mark Sanders (knee and ankle) should be ready to play.
Right guard has been hit hard this year with Marlon Davis, B.J. Stabler, and Mark Sanders all playing the position and all having been injured.
Shula said, "I hope we can get all those guys on the (practice) field Wednesday or Thursday and have them ready to play."
Shula did not mention either of the tight ends who have been out since fall camp. Soph Trent Davidson had surgery on a broken foot and senior Greg McLain suffered a separated shoulder that did not require surgery. Both were expected to miss at least two games, and perhaps more. South Carolina marks the thrid game for the 2-0 Tide.
Shula said, "Obviously, this is a big week as we go on the road in the SEC against a tough, tough South Carolina football team. South Carolina came in here and beat us last year and they are doing a great job under Coach Spurrier. They run great routes, they have a great defense, and they are very sound in special teams."
Shula said, "I've learned since I've been here that there is a bigger difference than I might have thought in taking players on the road for games. I'm particularly talking about young players who haven't had that experience. We have some guys who have been on the road and we know how they'll react. We have quite a few that haven't been on the road. We'll work with crowd noise this week." He said that older players had already been addressed and asked to talk to the younger players about going on the road in the SEC.
An area of concern for Shula is the Alabama kicking game. Last week Bama had a punt returned 32 yards to set up a touchdown, missed an extra point and a field goal, and had some penalties. "We didn't have a good night last week," Shula said. "But kickers are like other players. If they have a bad game, they have to regroup and do better. They have to work harder and do better."
Against Southern Mississippi, Alabama used three players at right guard and a fourth right guard may come off the injury list this week. True freshman Marlon Davis started last week, but he was replaced by B.J. Stabler, a redshirt freshman, who was then relieved by senior Taylor Britt. (Britt is also a back-up center and left guard.) And this week Mark Sanders, who started the opening game, could return. Shula said that based on last week that Stabler and Britt would be the top two.
Shula didn't announce a change in the starting lineup at left cornerback, but most expect 2004 starter Ramzee Robinson, who missed much of fall camp with a back injury, to be back as starter ahead of Simeon Castille. Shula said, "We consider all those guys starters. Simeon got beat a couple of times in the first half, but came back and played better in the second half."
Left tackle is considered one of the most important positions on the football field because that is the man who has responsibility for blocking against what is usually the best pass rusher on the opposing team. And when a team has a right-handed quarterback, as does Alabama, the left tackle must protect the quarterback's blind side. When soph starter Chris Capps allowed a few pressures on Tide quarterback Brodie Croyle Saturday, Bama went to redshirt freshman Cody Davis to work the position. "That's another position where we have good competition," Shula said. "Chris played better when he came back in. They are both young and both are going to have to play."
Shula almost couldn't talk enough about Tyrone Prothro's amazing catch that sparked Alabama's comeback against Southern Miss. Almost, because the one thing he didn't want to talk about is the sophomore's pro football potential. "He has explosiveness and speed," Shula said. "He's not tall, but he's got a thick body. And he rarely takes a hit." But, the coach added, "He still needs to work on his routes."
Alabama gave up a touchdown on a turnover last week. "Turnovers will hurt you if you can't overcome them," Shula said. "Last year we couldn't overcome two interceptions against South Carolina. Turnovers are going to happen. You have tgo play well enough to overcome them." –Kirk McNair