The entire football-watching world saw Alabama wide receiver Tyrone Prothro make an "I remember when..." catch that changed the course of the Crimson Tide's game against Southern Miss two Saturdays ago. Last week Prothro had another critical play, this one from the unexpected position of tailback.
Bama was clinging to a 14-7 lead against South Carolina in Columbia early in the second quarter. The Tide faced third-and-11 from its own 25. Everyone knew what to expect. Brodie Croyle would be passing downfield. But the Alabama offensive brain trust crossed up the Gamecocks.
Prothro was lined up behind Croyle, took a handoff at left tackle, and scooted 41 yards to a first down in South Carolina territory. Although the Tide had to settle for a field goal, those were important points and also changed ball position to Bama's favor.
Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula was asked, "What was the inspiration for that call?"
"Inspiration?" Shula asked back with a smile. "It was maybe just to catch them off guard lwith something different. And to get the ball into Prothro's hands."
Offensive Coordinator David Rader was also asked about the call. "It was a great call by Coach Shula," Rader said. "Instead of a trick play to get the ball to Prothro, he just gave it to him. You want to get the ball into the hands of your play-makers."
Getting the ball into the hands of the play-makers in general and into the hands of Prothro specifically is a theme frequently repeated by Alabama's coaching staff.
"He's a good athlete and you want to give him the ball," Shula said. "That evolved from last year after Brodie got hurt and we knew we needed to get the ball to Prothro any way we could."
Shula said that Prothro reminds him of former Florida State star Warrick Dunn, who Shula coached in professional football. The two are about the same size, 180 pounds or so, and although Dunn was primarily a running back and Prothro primarily a receiver, both have the ability to make plays as runner, receiver, and return man.
Although South Carolina couldn't stop Prothro as a runner (he had three carries for 64 yards, including an 18-yard run on Bama's opening touchdown drive), the Gamecocks held Prothro to only one pass reception, which ended up as short yardage when Prothro uncharacteristically lost the handle on the ball and it was eventually booted out of bounds for a four-yard loss.
That was his 21st consecutive game with at least one pass reception, the most by any active player in the Southeastern Conference.
The junior from Heflin had a monster game the previous week, 279 all-purpose yards. He had a career-high seven receptions for a career best 134 yards.
Prothro went into the game as the SEC's top kick return man, but the Gamecocks didn't let him do that thing. South Carolina kickoffs were deep into the end zone and not returned and the Gamecocks punted away from Prothro.
Prothro was late coming out at halftime because of a foot injury, but he is back at work this week preparing for Arkansas. Alabama hosts the Razorbacks at 11:30 a.m. CDT Saturday.
through three games, Prothro has 450 all-purpose yards–143 pass receiving, 78 rushing, 156 kickoff return, and 73 punt return.