Life After Prothro

Slowly but surely, the Alabama football offense is learning how to live without Tyrone Prothro. When Prothro – the Crimson Tide's best all-around playmaker – broke his left leg against Florida on Oct. 1 – Alabama's attack went into a serious funk. Over its next two games, against Ole Miss and Tennessee, the Tide scored a grand total of one touchdown (a 48-yard Kenneth Darby rush).

So you'd better believe Saturday's 35-3 Alabama victory over Utah State soothed Offensive Coordinator David Rader's soul a bit. While the Crimson Tide wasn't perfect – four consecutive three-and-outs after running up a quick 14-0 lead – it did score five touchdowns, four through the air, and displayed a spark for the first time in a month.

Rader is happy, mostly because young wideouts like D.J. Hall (21 receptions, 296 yards and two scores in his last two games), Ezekial Knight (three catches, 59 yards and a score Saturday) and Keith Brown are filling the void Prothro left behind.

"That wound of losing Tyrone needs to be healing more every week, and it's not just DJ," Rader said. "Keith had a good game post-Tyrone, he's going to have to have another one. Matt Caddell came in and made a nice catch, and Zeke came in. "There are signs that everyone's starting to take little steps. Not just wearing something on your wristband to remember Prothro not being there, but taking it into your being and saying, ‘I'm going to play better.'"

Replacing a star of Prothro's magnitude can't be accomplished in one week. It's far too difficult.

"We are, but it takes time to get over a blow like that," senior quarterback Brodie Croyle said. "He was our playmaker, a guy we went to in clutch situations. DJ's stepped up and picked up and then some. But we've got to get Keith Brown back out there and get Caddell and Zeke going again.

"We're starting to click again, and we're looking to build on what we did last week."

Hall has picked up more of Prothro's slack than anyone. Against Tennessee, his crucial 43-yard catch on third-and-eight late in the game set up Jamie Christensen's game-winning field goal.

And against Utah State, he had 11 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown, losing a second score when he fumbled the ball out of bounds over the end zone pylon from the one-yard line after a 56-yard reception.

"It was an opportunity for DJ to show his character," Rader said. "It was a situation where if they call your name, you're going to catch it – and that takes a strong-character individual. It translates from the classroom to the field in the way he handles himself. It takes a lot of pride."

Knight came up huge, too – he scored the game's first touchdown, which was his first career touchdown. His three receptions and 59 yards were also career highs.

It was a sign he could be a functional No.3 receiver, something Alabama has lacked since Prothro's awkward end-zone landing against Florida.

"Zeke showed a lot of nice things," Rader said. "What he showed too was that he didn't finish the way he started, so it really makes you excited about what he did. He was there to make the plays (at the end). The first part of the game he made the plays but another part he didn't, so we're really excited about (how he finished). He put himself in position to make the plays."

In all, Croyle threw to eight receivers Saturday. It's a sign the offense has regained its multiplicity lost after Prothro's injury.

The Tide will need it to survive its season-ending stretch against Mississippi State, LSU and Auburn unbeaten.

"The guys see the opportunities there, because we have a quarterback who's going to throw it all over the field," Rader said. "And here's a great Saturday to do it. An SEC game on the road, and we're going to need everyone's catches to win this ballgame."

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