Football notes: Alabama, Arkansas & Auburn

To the rest of the country, college football is an enjoyable pasttime. But in the South, it borders on religion. <br><br>For the football-starved among us, we pass along spring notes from SEC West programs Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn.

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

The close of spring practice at Alabama found several position changes. Senior Atlas Herrion moved from the offensive tackle to the defensive tackle; Thurman Ward from cornerback to wide receiver; Mark Anderson from defensive end to linebacker; Bart Raulston from offensive tackle to defensive tackle and Marvin Brown from fullback to linebacker.

Marvin Brown

Spring practice also brought about the emergence of the A-back and W-back positions. The A-back is a hybrid tailback/receiver position, while the W-back pulls together the talents of a fullback and tight end.

Tide coach Dennis Franchione enters the 2002 season ranked No. 11 on the list of winningest active division 1A coaches. Franchione, starting his 31st year as a college coach, has a 145-70-2 overall record, good for a .673 winning percentage.

Only one change took place on the Tide's coaching roster. Melvin Smith took over the duties as safeties coach, replacing the retiring Ron Case.

Coach Smith

Alabama opens the 2002 season riding a four-game winning streak. Bama closed out the 2001 season with wins over Mississippi State, Auburn, Southern Miss and Iowa State.

The Crimson Tide, while led the SEC and was 9th in the nation in rushing last season (226.4 yards per game), returns 96.5 percent of that total in 2002. Leading rushers Ahmaad Galloway (881), Santonio Beard (633), Tyler Watts (564) and Ray Hudson (205) all return. Add transfer Shaud Williams, who had a freshman record 658 yards at Texas Tech and the Tide should be a potent running team again this season.

Alabama returns all five starting offensive lineman from 2001, including tackles Wesley Britt (6-8, 304, So.) and Evan Mathis (6-5, 288, So.); center Alonzo Ephraim (6-4, 295, Sr.) and guards Justin Smiley (6-4, 292, So.) and Marico Portis (6-3, 308, Sr.).

Alonzo Ephraim

In all, Alabama returns 44 lettermen, including seven offensive starters and eight defensive starters.

Defensively, seven of the Tide's top ten tackle leaders from 2001 return, led by linebacker Brooks Daniels who had 102 tackles, one sack and one TBL.

ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS

Arkansas' quarterbacks combined to throw only two interceptions in five spring scrimmages. Sophomores Matt Jones and Ryan Sorahan as well as freshman Tarvaris Jackson are all competing for the starting quarterback position.

Houston Nutt

Arkansas' spring practice was delayed to allow sophomore quarterback Matt Jones to take part in the full allotment of practices. Jones was a forward on the Razorback basketball team and averaged 4.2 points and 2.3 rebounds for the Hogs on the hardwood last season.

Transfer wide receiver Carlos Ousley made great strides in the spring. Ousley transferred to Arkansas from Wake Forest and will be a redshirt freshman in the fall. In five spring scrimmages, Ousley made 10 catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns.

Arkansas' secondary is listed among the nation's best by several preseason magazines. Junior free safety Ken Hamlin led SEC defensive backs and ranked third overall in the league in tackles last season with 118 stops. Junior cornerback Lawrence Richardson led the SEC and ranked sixth in the nation with 20 pass deflections. Sophomore cornerback Ahmad Carroll was tied for second in the league with 13 pass deflections.

Sophomore wide receiver George Wilson underwent arthroscopic surgery for torn cartilage in his right knee on April 16 after suffering the injury in spring practice. Wilson is expected to be available for the start of fall practice. The Paducah, Ky., native set a UA freshman record with 40 catches in 2001.

Five Razorbacks either missed or spent limited time in spring football practice while competing for John McDonnell and the UA track and field team. Richard Smith, Eddie Jackson, Ahmad Carroll, Tom Crowder and Lawrence Richardson all competed in the outdoor track and field season. Fred Talley competed for the Razorbacks in indoor track and field.

Senior Nathan Ball has been moved back to offensive guard after spending last year at tight end. Ball has played at offensive guard, tackle and tight end in his career at Arkansas.

Junior Brennan O'Donohoe is listed as the first team placekicker coming out of spring drills. O'Donohoe was 12 of 17 on field goal attempts last year, but was challenged by sophomore David Carlton in the spring. The post-spring depth chart lists O'Donohoe for placement kicks and Carlton for kickoffs.

For the first time in the Houston Nutt era, Arkansas finished the spring with a player draft and a red vs. white game. Traditionally, the Razorbacks staged a light scrimmage to finish spring drills, but this spring teams were drafted and a game was played. A pair of injured Razorbacks acted as the head coaches for the game. Defensive tackle Jermaine Brooks led his Red squad to a 13-7 win over split end George Wilson's White Team.

AUBURN TIGERS

Senior Daniel Cobb and sophomore Jason Campbell will continue their battle for the starting quarterback position in two-a-days. Cobb, who received a sixth year of eligibility, was the Most Valuable Player of the A-Day game, but, Campbell had strong showings in Auburn's other two scrimmages. Last season, Campbell started eight games while Cobb had four starts for the Tigers.

Tommy Tuberville

Auburn had several players change positions during spring drills with the most notable switch being Jay Ratliff who moved from tight end to defensive end. Junior Rosegreen moved from corner to strong safety and Rashaud Walker moved from safety to corner.

The A-Day Most Valuable Players were: Offense-Daniel Cobb; Defense-Reggie Torbor; Special Teams- Philip Yost

Carnell Williams was Auburn's top rusher in the A-Day game with eight carries for 61 yards. He scored on a 38-yard touchdown run. Williams led Auburn in rushing in 2001 with 614 yards on 120 carries and six touchdowns.

Auburn's defense had an extremely productive spring with the linebacker corp leading the way. A year from struggling with injuries and depth problems, Auburn has one of its deepest and most talented group of linebackers in recent history. The group includes the leading tackler from a year ago, junior Dontarrious Thomas (122 tackles), senior Mark Brown, junior Karlos Dansby, sophomore Mayo Sowell and newcomers Lemarcus Rowell (true freshman), Travis Williams (redshirt freshman) and Antarrious Williams (redshirt freshman).

Two of the young players that made an impact in the spring included redshirt freshman tight end Cooper Wallace who had four catches for 77 yards in the A-Day game and redshirt freshman noseguard Wayne Dickens who totaled five sacks in Auburn's three scrimmages.

Several players missed all or most of the spring with injuries including noseguard DeMarco McNeil (knee), fullback Brandon Johnson (shoulder), offensive lineman Steven Ross (knee) and offensive lineman Taylor Bourgeois (shoulder). All are expected to be recovered in time for two-a-days.

With a new offensive (Bob Petrino) and defensive coordinator (Gene Chizik), Auburn spent the spring implementing its new offense and defense schemes. Head coach Tommy Tuberville's impressions on the offense: "It was obvious that we were installing a new offense with a lot of different terminology. It was tough to communicate when you have to change your terminology. We made some progress. We worked two quarterbacks, new offensive linemen, new receivers and running backs. We have a long way to go, but we showed a lot more mental and physical toughness than we did last year. We're improving. I think we're going to be a better offense than we were last year because we have more experience."

Tuberville's impression of the defense after spring practice: "We changed some things on defense from last year. We've gone a little bit more to a four man front on defense. We changed a few of our coverages. We used a lot of our same terminology, so we had more carry over on defense. We made a lot more progress on defense because of that. We have a lot more depth on defense and we should be better than we were last year."

Center Ben Nowland is currently growing his hair to donate to a charity "Locks of Love" which provides hair to cancer patients. He has been growing his hair for over a year and will have it cut in the beginning of the summer. Nowland graduated with a degree in Industrial Design in December and is slated as a starter at center for the third consecutive season.


BamaMag Top Stories