'BAMA Newsletter: Week 6

'BAMA Newsletter Number 6 October 6, 2005

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Inside this issue of the 'BAMA newsletter:
- Editorial: This Could Be Special Tide Season
- Alabama Gets Stunning Romp Over Florida, 31-3
- Tide Notes
- Alabama Depth Chart vs. Florida
- Recruiting Update: Big Win Pays Recruiting Dividends
- Coach Mike Shula Says
- Season Statistics (PDF Version Only)

This Could Be Special Tide Season

Does it seem as though the rest of the Southeastern Conference is like a man in the drunk tank, realizing that the time of revelry is over and the punishment likely will be severe? The worst nightmare for Alabama's football rivals seems to have come true. The bully is back.

One game does not a recovery make, but Alabama's unexpected romp over Florida in clamorous Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday was stunning. And the significance could be felt for several years, because Bama's preparation and performance and the atmosphere of the game made an obvious impact on the many top prospects attending the game.

Alabama's Mike Shula, characterized by so many as not ready for the prime-time job as head coach of the Crimson Tide, has surely quieted his critics. The Bama coaches left Florida's glamorous staff reeling. A Tide team made up primarily of home-grown talent, young men who wanted to play for Bama the ravages of NCAA sanctions notwithstanding, made a statement for football Alabama style.

It was the best football Saturday of Mike Shula's two-and-a-half-year head coaching career, and one of the most joyous for Bama fans in several years.

And one of the best things is that Alabama had a few days to enjoy it, not having to turn around and immediately prepare for another game. Bama has an open date this week before going to Mississippi on October 15. (NOTE: There will be no ‘BAMA Newsletter next week.)

And while Alabama players could bask in the win, Crimson Tide coaches could hit the road recruiting with the attention of top prospects.

The win over Florida doesn't mean that Alabama is over the hump. Anyone who has followed football at all knows that Bama made the plays by inches to roll over the Gators. A few of those passes being just off the mark or being dropped might have meant the game going in a different direction.

And there are huge obstacles ahead.

The Alabama schedule set up very well for a good start to the season with four of the first five games at home and the one road game a trip to South Carolina, where the Gamecocks of Coach Steve Spurrier have a long way to go to repair the mess left by Lou Holtz.

Most would now consider Alabama to have an almost sure opportunity to equal last year's six-win season in the first six games of this season. A weak Ole Miss team is next, and even the game being in Oxford isn't expected to have a detriment on Alabama's chances.

But then the task gets tougher with the likes of Tennessee and LSU, as well as the season finale at Auburn. Like Florida, all of those SEC teams were ranked ahead of Bama in the pre-season.

Moreover, Alabama has to spend the rest of the season playing without perhaps its finest player. Although the carnage has been nothing like last season, the loss of Tyrone Prothro to injury brings back memories of the terrible injury luck of 2004.

But this is another year. And five games into the season, it looks as though it could be special.
–Kirk McNair

Alabama Gets Stunning Romp Over Florida, 31-3

Call it what you will. The nation sees it as evidence that "Bama's Back!" And that's horrible news to most college football teams. Alabama may or may not be back–that can better be determined on several Saturdays to come–but it was obvious that the Crimson Tide has made some steps when Alabama crushed Florida, 31-3, at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday.

The victory did not come without cost. Tyrone Prothro, the Tide's outstanding wide receiver, was leaping for a pass in the end zone with just under nine minutes to play. Prothro, who had two touchdown receptions, including an 87-yard reception for a touchdown on Bama's first play of the game, suffered a broken leg, fractured tibia and fibula, on the play. Prothro had five receptions for 134 yards. The junior will be lost for the remainder of the season.

He underwent surgery at DCH Regional Medical Center Saturday night after the game with Dr. Les Fowler putting a steel rod in his leg. Coach Mike Shula said there is hope that Prothro could return for spring practice. The injury is not considered career-ending. The injury comes too late in the season for a redshirt.

The game was one of the biggest in the nation, drawing national television coverage from CBS. And afterwards Bama students stayed in their seats and greeted their fellow students, Bama football players, who exited the dressing room for a brief and enthusiastic post-game celebration.

Alabama sprinted to a 17-0 first quarter lead with innovative offense and punishing defense.

It was 24-3 at halftime, and probably should have been 31-3. Prothro had what appeared to be a 64-yard punt return that was called back on what apppeared to be a missed block-in-the-back call.

Bama extended its lead to the final margin on the first drive of the second half.

Prothro had started the game with goat horns. After Bama's defense held Florida on the Gators' first series, Prothro made an unwise decision to field a punt without a fair catch with a Florida coverage man right on him. Prothro caught the punt, but then took the hit and fumbled, Alabama's first turnover since the Southern Miss game on September 10. Bama held again the got the ball at Alabama's 13-yard line.

Alabama has opened every game offensively this year with a pass play, and Saturday's was the most dramatic yet. Quarterback Brodie Croyle had good protection, Protro got half a step on the lone defender covering him, and Croyle delivered a perfect pass. Prothro caught it in full stride. Twelve seconds after the play started, Bama had a touchdown. Jamie Christensen, who made four extra points and the only field goal he attempted, made it 7-0.

Florida had come into the game with a reputation for excellent one-on-one pass coverage. The Gators had not given up a touchdown pass in six quarters before the Croyle-to-Prothro bomb. Croyle exploited Florida's man coverage all day.

Back-up defensive end Chris Harris was in on the left side for Bama on Florida's second offensive series. Harris had one of the biggest plays in his Crimson Tide career when he knocked down a pass on first down. But that play was exceeded on second down. Florida quarterback Chris Leak had a second consecutive pass batted, this time by Mark Anderson coming from right end, and Harris picked it off, running it down to the Florida two-yard line. It took three plays, but Alabama's "Jumbo Package" punched it in, Tim Castille following fullback Le'Ron McClain into the end zone for a 14-0 lead.

At that point, Bama had two touchdowns on just four plays and just 1:33 time of ball possession.

Bama ran it to 17-0 on its third possession following Florida's third punt of the first quarter. Halfback Kenneth Darby had not touched the ball while Bama opened up its 14-0 lead, but was both pass receiver and runner on the scoring drive. He took a swing pass rfor 17 yards on first down and rushed over right tackle for 26 yards on second down. The march fizzled at the Florida five and the Tide settled for a 22-yard Christensen field goal.

At the end of the first quarter, Florida Coach Urban Meyer had time to think about a big decision. The Gators had the ball at Bama's one-yard line on fourth down to start the second half. The Florida braintrust decided to go for the touchdown rather than get points via a field goal. Mark Anderson and Freddie Roach held Florida running back DeShawn Wynn for no gain.

Eventually the Gators did get a field goal, a 37-yarder by Chris Hetland.

Croyle quickly doused any hopes of a Florida comeback. After the Gators kicked off out-of-bounds, it took Croyle one play to put the Tide up by 24-3. Croyle hit Keith Brown on a quick slant and Brown was much quicker than any Gators, racing 65 yards untouched.

Alabama seemed to have another touchdown with just under two minutes to play until halftime. Bama forced another Florida punt, and Prothro took it 64 yards to the end zone. But an official thought he detected a block in the back by a Bama players (videotape relays indicated otherwise, but that is not the kind of call that can be overruled by the SEC's new replay officials).

Alabama got the kickoff to start the second half and went 80 yards in seven plays. Croyle hit Le'Ron McClain for a 20-yard gain and Darby rushed 33 yards to the Florida 16 before the drive seemed to stall. Croyle missed a pass, then Castille picked up just one yard. Then Croyle connected with Prothro on a 15-yard score that made it 31-3 and made Croyle the most prolific touchdown passer in Bama history. It was his 36th.

Florida had a couple of chances to perhaps get back in the game. On a fourth-and-four at the Alabama 11, the Gators went for it. Leak's pass was good enough and Chad Jackson was past the first down marker, but Jackson–a former Alabama prep great at Hoover–dropped the ball.

Leak had not suffered an interception in 120 consecutive pass attempts before Saturday. When he tossed his second of the game, picked off by Ramzee Robinson with just under 13 minutes to play, the fat lady was clearing her throat.


The new college football rankings are out and there is Alabama in the top ten of the Associated Press, USA Today coaches', and the Harris Poll. Bama is seventh in the AP poll and 10th in the coaches' poll. The Harris Poll, which was created with 114 highly-qualified voters to help deterring the Bowl Championship Series contenders, has Bama eighth.

Alabama now has three consecutive victories over Florida. The first two in that streak came in 1999 when Alabama, ranked 21st in the nation, defeated Florida, ranked third in the nation, 40-39 in overtime in Gainesville. The teams were re-matched in the Southeastern Conference championship game with seventh-ranked Bama crushing the fifth-ranked Gators, 34-7.

Bama now has a 21-12 all-time record vs. Florida.

Alabama is 5-0 for the first time since 1996 when the Crimson Tide opened the season with seven consecutive wins. Bama is 3-0 in SEC games for the first time since 1996 when Alabama won its first four conference games.

Alabama has opened the season with five or more consecutive wins on 36 occasions.

Alabama did not play its marquee games in Tuscaloosa until 1999, and thus the Crimson Tide had not previously defeated a top-five ranked team in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Brodie Croyle became the all-time Alabama leader in touchdown passes thrown with his three scoring tosses against Florida. He now has 36. He broke the record of two former quarterbacks, both of whom were on hand to see Croyle moves past them. Tied with 35 before Saturday were Andrew Zow, who delivered the game ball in Alabama's weekly ceremony, and Mike Shula.

Croyle was the national player of the week, the SEC offensive player of the week, and on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. Mark Anderson was SEC defensive player of the week.

It didn't take Tyrone Prothro long to extend his SEC-leading streak of games with a reception. On the first play of the game Prothro caught a pass from Croyle and turned it into an 87-yard touchdown. It marked Prothro's 23rd consecutive game with a pass reception. When Chris Harris turned in an interception against Florida, it gave Bama a streak of 22 games with at least one turnover caused.

Alabama has not given up a point to an opponent in the third quarter in the five games this season.

Alabama vs. Florida was one of three games Saturday matching teams with 4-0 records. (Virginia Tech at West Virginia and Minnesota at Penn State were the others.)

Alabama is open this week. The Tide had a normal Sunday meeting and practice and its normal Monday off day. Practices wee Tuesday through Thursday, with players getting Friday and Saturday off.

Alabama's next game is October 15 at Ole Miss. The game either will be part of a CBS national doubleheader with the Tide and Rebels kicking off at 11 a.m. CDT or the game will be at 6:15 on ESPN2.
–Kirk McNair

Alabama Depth Chart Vs. Florida

Alabama was able to dress 95 players with 80 designated as eligible to play for its Southeastern Conference home game against Florida Saturday, and 63 of them saw action. (An SEC visiting team is limited to 70 players dressed.) Bama played 28 on offense, 26 on defense and nine just on special teams. Senior tight end Greg McLain made his 2005 debut in the win over Florida. McLain, who suffered a separated shoulder in the second scrimmage of preseason camp, missed Alabama's first four games of the season. Linebacker Terrence Jones returned to action after having missed several games with a turned ankle. Cornerback Eric Gray and fullback Kyle Bennett had seen action on special teams prior to Saturday, but saw their first action of the year on defense and offense, respectiovely. Here are those who played with starters listed first. Alabama opened offensively in normal personnel (five linemen, one tight end, two wide receivers, quarterback, halfback and fullback), but on defense the Tide started with just one defensive tackle (Rudy Griffin) and an extra defensive back (Simeon Castille). The number in parenthesis is the number of plays, and if there are two numbers the second is the number of plays on special teams.

Split End–Keith Brown (32), Zeke Knight (10-17), Matt Caddell (13), Matt Miller (3-14)
Left Tackle–Chris Capps (47-5), Cody Davis (12-1)
Left Guard–Antoine Caldwell (56-5), Justin Moon (2-5)
Center–J.B. Closner (54), Taylor Britt (4)
Right Guard–B.J. Stabler (58)
Right Tackle–Kyle Tatum (57-4)
Tight End–Nick Walker (41-5), Travis McCall (18-7), Charles Hoke (3), Greg McLain (4)
Quarterback–Brodie Croyle (54), John Parker Wilson (4)
Fullback–LéRon McClain (34-9), Tim Castille (17), Kyle Bennett (4-3)
Halfback–Kenneth Darby (32), Glen Coffee (7), Jimmy Johns (8)
Flanker–Tyrone Prothro (25-8), D.J. Hall (31-2), Will Oakley (4), Marcus McKnight (4)

Right End–Mark Anderson (39), Keith Saunders (20)
Tackle–Jeremy Clark (19), Justin Britt (14)
Nose Tackle–Rudy Griffin (20), J.P. Adams (12), Dominic Lee (13)
Left End–Wallace Gilberry (40), Chris Harris (21), Bobby Greenwood (18)
Strongside Linebacker–DeMeco Ryans (59-4), Terrence Jones (7-6)
Middle Linebacker–Freddie Roach (56), Matt Collins (5-8)
Weakside Linebacker–Juwan Simpson (62-4), Demarcus Waldrop (4-12)
Right Cornerback–Anthony Madison (57-5), Simeon Castille (51-5), Eric Gray (4-11)
Left Cornerback–Ramzee Robinson (62), Lionel Mitchell (4-1)
Strong Safety–Charlie Peprah (62-1), Jeffrey Dukes (7-14), Cory Reamer (4-12)
Safety–Roman Harper (62-4), Chris Keys (4-8)

Punter–Jeremy Schatz (4)
Placekicker–Jamie Christensen (11, 1 FG, 4 PAT, 6 KO)
Holder–Matt Miller (1 FG, 4 PAT, 3 split end, 10 other special teams)
Snapper–Drew Lane (9, 1 FG, 4 PAT, 4 P)
Coverage and Returns–Marcel Stamps (13), Marcus Carter (3) , Juke King (4), Rashad Johnson (16), Theo Townsend (6), Justin Ballard (1)

Recruiting Update: Big Win Pays Recruiting Dividends

The timing of Alabama's biggest win under Head Coach Mike Shula couldn'thave been better from a recruiting standpoint. About one hundred high school prospects were on the sidelines and in the stands for the Tide's 31-3 thrashing of Florida last Saturday, and Bama's form made an impression on the prospects.

Homewood interior offensive lineman David Ross had been thinking about making a commitment recently, and his trip for the Florida game put him over the top Tuesday night when he committed to Alabama.

"I fit in better at Alabama and in Tuscaloosa than I do at Auburn. I decided after the game. Our season is about to heat up two weeks from now. I wanted to go ahead and get it out of the way," Ross told BamaMag.com.

"It was good to see my number one team on my list beat a team I had marked off my list. It was good to see I made a good decision with that. I had been telling close friends and family that if Alabama got that win, then I would commit. It worked out exactly how I wanted it. I am feeling pretty good about it," he said.

Ross said he will not take official visits to any other schools.

Alabama also got a commitment from 6-1, 180-pound defensive back Marquis Johnson of Booker High School in Sarasota, Florida.

"I am very happy and a lot of people in Alabama are going to be happy to see me play for the Tide," Johnson said. "I talked to (defensive backs) Coach (Chris) Ball," He told me he was excited. He can't wait to coach me. I was recruited to play cornerback."

Johnson said he chose Alabama after his visit because it was a better fit for him than other schools. He had narrowed his decision to Alabama and Maryland.

"I had a great trip," Johnson said. "The difference between Alabama and Maryland is that I have never seen more traditional older people going crazy about their team than I saw at Alabama. Everyone is crazy about Alabama. They love their team. At Maryland, there were more students than older people."

The nation's top offensive lineman, Birmingham Huffman's André Smith, was one of three five-star recruits in attendance at the game.

"It was a great game," Smith said. "I thought the game would be a lot closer than it was. The ball bounced Alabama's way the entire game. They didn't make any mistakes. They didn't have many penalties. I thought the atmosphere was pretty good."

Smith's decision will almost certainly go right up to national signing day in February. Smith has not narrowed his list from a dozen or so favorites.

In addition to Alabama, Smith has listed in Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami and Tennessee among others competing for his signature.

Scout.com five-star quarterback Tim Tebow (Jacksonville, Florida,Nease) enjoyed his visit and loved hearing his name chanted by the crowd.

"It was an exciting game," Tebow said. "The fans were awesome. I don't think anyone expected Alabama to do what they did. It was just incredible. They completely dominated Florida. I talked to all of the coaches before and after the game. The coaches were excited. They were confident going into the game and very excited after the game,"

Alabama is in good shape to receive Tebow's first official visit. He said he is planning to visit for either the Alabama-Tennessee or Alabama-LSU game in Tuscaloosa as an official visit.

Five-star defensive lineman Deantwan Whitehead (West End, Birmingham) is another blue-chip prospects who attended . Whitehead left the game speechless after the Tide's blowout win over the Gators.

"I was shocked," he said. "There are no words to describe how great the defense played. They just have great coaching. The atmosphere was off-the-chain. I talked to all the coaches even the head coach (Mike Shula). I hung out with Tim Tebow, Andre Smith and Tim Hawthorne the entire time."

Whitehead said Alabama had "moved up on my list" after Saturday's game. His list has some 15 of favorites. Whitehead has arranged visits to Arkansas and Louisville.

The Crimson Tide is also in the mix for four-star receiver Tim Hawthorne. Hawthorne was in Tuscaloosa for an unofficial visit for the Tide-Gator game and could join Homewood teammate Ross next fall in Tuscaloosa.

"I talked with Coach Shula, Coach Cheese (Charlie Harbison) and Coach (Dave) Rader," Hawthorne said. "I talked to all the coaches. They want me to return for the Tennessee game. I will definitely make an unofficial for that."

Hawthorne said that Alabama has been "at the top of my list for a while. They're not moving up because they were already up there."

Hawthorne plans to attend the Tennessee-Georgia game this weekend.

Scout.com four-star receiver London Crawford (Mobile-Davidson) was one of many players that traveled to the big Alabama-Florida game on Saturday.

"I talked to the wide receiver coach and Coach Shula. They just told me to have a great year and finish strong and that hopefully there was a high possibility of me coming to Alabama."

Georgia linebacker Toryan Smith (Rome, Georgia) was impressed with his unofficial visit to Tuscaloosa.

"Oh man it was awesome. The atmosphere, it was one of the loudest places I've been. It was serious over there," Smith said. "I talked to all of the coaches. They just talked about how they're losing Roach and Ryans and they need people to come in and make plays next year. That was pretty much about it."

Smith had not listed Alabama among his favorites, and he already has official visits set up to Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Michigan and Florida.

"I'll be at Tennessee for the Georgia game next weekend," he said. "Tennessee is picking it up on me and I'm going to be checking them out and Georgia as well. I want to compare it to my trip to Alabama and my last trip to Tennessee when they played Vanderbilt."
–Andrew Bone
EDITOR'S NOTE: Scout.com's Ryan Jordan contributed to this report.

Coach Mike Shula Says

Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula was in a congratulatory mood Saturday after Alabama's 31-3 drubbing of fifth-ranked Florida, and after a 5-0 start the coach welcomed an off week to catch his breath for the second half of the season.

"Things went our way early," Shula said "We were able to cash in and the momentum never left. I'm proud of our players for the way they prepared and the way they played. I would hate not to mention the way our crowd was into the game. Our players feed off that. The crowd gets you going early but it's up to us to keep it going."

The win over Florida was temporary vindication for Shula. "There were questions with how we would match up but we answered some of those questions today."

Shula said there's never a time when a week off isn't welcome, but this one comes at a particularly good spot. "Overall it's good to have the bye week and get rested up a bit," Shula said. "We feel like there's so much work left to be done. Obviously it was difficult to lose (receiver Tyrone) Prothro (broken leg), but we have to move on and other guys are going to have to step up."

Prothro was expected to be out of the hospital on Thursday. Shula said, "It was a dangerous injury which is why he is being kept in a couple of extra days. Our doctor, Dr. (Les) Fowler, did the surgery and he feels very good about the success of the surgery. Now he'll start recovery and rehab…Hopefully we'll have him back in the spring. His spirits are up."

Shula said, "We've got some guys at that position and they're going to have to step up. The rotation changes a little bit…Now Ezekial Knight and there are some other guys in the mix that are going to have to step up and be ready."

On Alabama number seven ranking, Shula said, "As far as the polls, the only reaction is that it gives us a chance to get to where we want to go. Hopefully if you have success it's going to put you at the top toward the end of the year where we want to be."

A letdown is low on the list of worries for Shula and his staff because of the senior leadership. "I really believe, I've been here–going on my third year. I think teams that have a lot of seniors that play have benefited from leadership," Shula said. "I think we're doing that right now. Those guys kept our players focused on the job at hand."

Shula said he's expecting the same leadership that got the Crimson Tide to 5-0 to maintain the squad's focus in the second half of the season.

"Am I worried about it? I'm not sure," he said. "I feel good about our seniors and the leadership they've shown. In this uncharted territory be focused and be as disciplined as they have been."

Shula also credited his staff as a key to the first-half success.

"You can't say enough about them," Shula said, "especially Joe (Kines). He's our assistant head coach, our defensive coordinator. We've got some guys on this staff that have a lot of leadership and provide a lot of experience for a young head coach–although I'm 40 now, maybe I'm not so young anymore–that have really, really helped me and meant a lot to me personally: Joe Kines, David Rader, Sparky Woods. They deserve all the credit.

"Probably one of the best things I do as a head coach is listen, listen to a lot of good advice and make good decisions because of it. If you don't have good coaches that can provide good advice I might be in trouble."

Saturday night's has been impactful from a recruiting standpoint, too. Alabama has two verbal commitments since the Florida game and scores of prospects were in Tuscaloosa to experience one of the loudest crowds ever to fill Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"The whole atmosphere- once you got on the campus and found out what football means to our fans, how our players responded to the enthusiasm and how our fans responded to them. It's an incredible atmosphere," Shula said. "Hopefully some of these guys can see that and feel good about putting themselves in a crimson jersey."

Shula classified tight end Trent Davidson, who missed the first half of the season after pre-season foot surgery, as a "lean" towards being redshirted. "We've got a bit of a luxury with him right now. We could redshirt him and get him ready for next year. We're leaning towards that unless there is an emergency," he said.

Shula he would not be able to update the status of freshman running back Roy Upchurch, who is out for the season after ankle surgery earlier in the year, until "at least December." Upchurch has a bone defect in his ankle similar to that of Garrison Hearst, who missed two seasons.

Bama had limited practice work in the off week, but got some work done for the Ole Miss game. "We do a self-scout of all three of our systems: offense, defense and special teams," Shula said. "We look at some personnel, look at how we can look at some guys either down the road this year or in the future, after that. We'll get at least one good day in, probably two in our preparation for Ole Miss."

Shula isolated offensive penalties, especially the Tide's two or so pre-snap penalties per game, as a focus for improvement during the off week. "We attack those by execution. We'll work on those Wednesday and Thursday," Shula said.

Shula has been pleased with the defense, with the small exception of a few big plays allowed. "We've had some young guys in there, but we can't have any lapses and give up big plays. It can hurt you against a good football team. We did that as well as have all year last week, so that was good to see."

Shula said the special teams units had improved in their coverage over the first five games, but kick returns are another area where the Tide must eliminate penalties. "The penalty on that return (in the Florida game) was good effort by Cory Reamer, but they called a penalty. We can't have penalties on our return teams," he said.
–Mitch Dobbs

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