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- Editorial - We'll Soon Know About Tide
- Depth Chart
- Coach Shula Says
- Scouting Report
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Emphasis On Tide In Season Opener
By Kirk McNair
When Alabama opens a football season, there is enough interest that none additional is needed. For instance, there is no reason to have to worry about the weather–particularly a weather phenomenon such as a hurricane that no one can do anything about. Fortunately, as the Crimson Tide prepared to open the 2006 season, it appeared that Earnesto would not threaten the state of Alabama.
That means normal conversation in the state. To wit: the quarterback (and back-up quarterback), how many prospects will make unofficial visits for the opening game, what those prospects will think of remodeled and exspanded Bryant-Denny Stadium, whether Andre Smith is as good as advertised, etc.
There may also be some discussion of the opponent, Hawaii, but for the most part the interest is on Alabama.
Preparation for Hawaii began soon after Jamie Christensen's 45-yard field goal slipped over the crossbar in Dallas to give Bama a 13-10 win over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl and a 10-2 record. Last year has been forgotten (including by most of those making pre-season predictions, which have not been flattering to Crimson Tide coaches and players).
There was the off-season conditioning program, spring practice, summer conditioning and pass skeleton work, and then the start of pre-season camp in early August. That is the heavy lifting phase in which the Crimson Tide had both drills on fundamentals and the implementation of offensive and defensive schemes and the kicking game.
When classes started on August 23, Alabama went into game-specific mode. All that was installed in the way of offensive and defensive schemes in pre-season camp was honed down to what will be used against the Warriors. There was less contact.
It is also a time when additional players are added to the roster, though few of those two dozen who were not on the 105 are expected to figure much into Saturday's game plan.
Alabama opens the season at 6 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium hosting Hawaii. The only telecast of the game will be on a pay-per-view basis. Some 92,138 will be on hand for the game in the remodeled and expanded stadium, the largest crowd ever to see a football game in the state of Alabama.
And the game against the Warriors marks the start of 12 consecutive Saturdays Alabama will play football games.
Over the years, Alabama has had very good success in season-opening games. Of course, Bama has had good success in games of all sorts. Frequently–like most teams–the Tide has opened the season with a lightweight. Hawaii may not contend for the national championship, but the Warriors are considered good competition.
Hawaii headed to Atlanta for a couple of days of work this week before busing to Tuscaloosa for a walk-through at Bryant-Denny Stadium Friday.
Early in the week there was a concern about the weather. No doubt Alabama Coach Mike Shula has kept up with developments in South Florida, where he has family and friends, but indications were that Earnesto would not cause bad weather in Tuscaloosa.
We'll Soon Know About 2006 Crimson Tide
By Kirk McNair
Anyone paying attention has a sense of what the 2006 Alabama football team can be. On Saturday evening in Bryant-Denny Stadium, in front of the largest crowd ever to witness a football game in the state of Alabama, the Crimson Tide will ge to show if it can be a contender a year after finishing eighth in the nation with a 10-2 record.
Not many are giving Alabama much respect. Generally, the Tide is ranked just in or just out of the nation's top 25 and most pick Bama to finish third or fourth in the Southeastern Conference Western Division.
To some extent, Alabama is rebuilding this year.
It starts with quarterback. John Parker Wilson is not Brodie Croyle. Croyle broke the passing records of numerous outstanding Alabama quarterbacks. Wilson has never started a Bama game, never played when the game was on the line. But he has a lot of good attributes and is not considered a liability. His ability to turn a potentially bad play into a good play with his running ability adds an extra dimension.
But when it comes to running, all eyes should be on Kenneth Darby. Just as Croyle broke records of past Crimson Tide quarterbacks, Darby has a chance to set new marks for all Alabama running backs, including Shaun Alexander—last year's NFL Player of the Year.
Although Darby was overlooked on many pre-season all-star teams, anyone watching Bama practices would conclude that he is more impressive than he has been in his three previous years.
And it's not just Darby. While he is clearly number one, a handful of young Tide runners have been impressive over the past months and weeks and days. Glenn Coffee, last year's top back-up, will be out for another couple of weeks with a bruised knee, but Jimmy Johns proved his value at halfback last year and Roy Upchurch had a bang-up spring. This fall one of the big stories was the running of true freshman Terry Grant, who followed Johns to Alabama as consecutive Mississippi Mr. Football honorees to become Crimson Tiders.
It would not be a shock to see Alabama attempt to control games with a running game. In addition to Darby and company, the components leading to that conclusion include: ·
• Left tackle Andre Smith and left guard Justin Britt added to an otherwise veteran offensive line that includes all-star candidate Antoine Caldwell at center and great competition at right guard (returning starter B.J. Stabler, Marlon Davis, Michael Johnson) and right tackle (2005 starters Chris Capps, who will return to the left side in relief of Smith from time to time, and Kyle Tatum).
• Three fine tight ends in Travis McCall, Nick Walker, and Charlie Hoke, who can be used in a two tight end set.
• Excellent blocking fullbacks in LèRon McClain and Tim Castille.
While everyone at Alabama would agree that Bama has the potential to be a devastatingly effective running team, and though all with a sense of history know that teams that have been traditionally strong in the Southeastern Conference have been good running teams, in modern football the ball must go into the air.
Balance, it's called, and everyone wants it.
So Alabama will have a passing game.
The biggest news in work among wide receivers in the fall is that Assistant Coach Charlie Harbison wasn't able to do much coaching. Early in fall practice, Harbison went down with a knee injury that required surgery and knocked him off the field. Former Alabama wide receiver Tim Bowens, who serves as assistant director of football operations, moved into Harbison's spot in pre-season practice.
Alabama does have two returning starters, men who have made big plays at wide receiver, in Keith Brown and D.J. Hall. What Alabama does not have is Tyrone Prothro, who will sit out at least this year after suffering a broken leg last October 1.
Matt Caddell has come on and performed well in the spring. But the biggest story has been the play of Will Oakley. Oakley, a sophomore, was out all of the past two years and in the spring with hamstring pulls. He appears to have solved that problem and has been a bright spot of fall work. The Tide hopes to get at least one more receiver into the mix, either transfer Nikita Stover or one or two of a couple of freshmen, Mike McCoy and Earl Alexander.
Alabama has not thrown a lot of passes to the tight end in recent years, but that could change this season. That's partly because the offensive line is blocking well and may not have to have the extra protection offered by the tight end as often and partly because the tight ends are catching the ball better in practice.
Backs are also eligible receivers. The best receiver among the backs is Castille.
Although Hawaii has an interesting running game that features huge backs, the defense must be first and foremost concerned with the Warriors' passing attack. While Bama is replacing no fewer than seven starters in the opener, almost everyone who will be playing substantial minutes Saturday has been in the fray. It would be a huge surprise if most of the evening does not see the Crimson Tide defense primarily in nickel and dime packages, five and six defensive backs.
There have been a few very pleasant surprises on defense, beginning last spring with the emergence of junior Keith Saunders at end and senior Dominic Lee at tackle.
Prince Hall is coming on at middle linebacker.
Jeffrey Dukes could be outstanding at safety.
There's no DeMeco Ryans, but if Ryans had not played at Alabama it is likely Bama would be considering Terrence Jones one of the returning stars of the defense. Instead of being a three-year back-up to Ryans, the most honored player in Alabama history, Jones might be a returning three-year starter.
Ramzee Robinson is a solid left cornerback and Simeon Castille should be at least as good as the graduated Anthony Madison at right corner. That is, if Castille is at cornerback. One has a sneaking suspicion that Castille will be at nickel, where he has performed so well in the past, against the pass-happy Warriors. That would elevate one of a handful of young players into the starting lineup at cornerback. Eric Gray was listed firs or second team through the spring and pre-season camp, but Lionel Mitchell, true freshman Marquis Johnson, and Chris Rogers have had big moments in fall practice.
One matter to be resolved as kickoff approaches is who will actually kick off for Alabama. That's because Bama's returning specialist, junior placekicker Jamie Christensen, suffered a groin pull in fall camp. That's a bad injury for a kicker. If he's unable to go, freshman Leigh Tiffin is expected to do the extra point and field goal kicking and Tiffin or Andrew Friedman will kick off.
Although special teams takes in a lot of positions, most want to know about the actual kickers. Alabama will have a new punter this year. P.J. Fitzgerald has held off newcomer Adam Hill and will likely be the punter (as well as the holder). Fitzgerald is a good athlete, something important for both those jobs in case of a bad snap.
Last year Alabama lost almost 900 yards in punt exchanges. That can be made up partly in punting, partly in coverage and partly in returns.
Alabama is a very fast team, and that pays off on special teams in coverage and returns.
The return men will be watched. There probably isn't a Tyrone Prothro among them, but freshman Javier Arenas has been impressive. He could be both a punt return man and kickoff return man. Speedster Terry Grant is also a candidate for both jobs. There are a handful of other Tiders who could be used in those spots, including Ramzee Robinson, D.J. Hall, and Matt Caddell.
Alabama 2006 Pre-Season Depth Chart
Information is subject to change. Not all players are included.
81 Keith Brown (6-3, 192, Senior)
11 Matt Caddell (6-0, 181, Junior)
80 Mike McCoy (6-3, 195, Freshman)
82 Earl Alexander (6-4, 208, Freshman)
39 Darwin Salaam (6-3, 187, Sophomore)
22 D.J. Hall (6-3, 190, Junior)
7 Will Oakley (6-1, 188, Sophomore)
9 Nikita Stover (6-1, 200, Sophomore)
25 Aaron McDaniel (6-1, 176, Sophomore)
84 Jake Jones (6-0, 185, Freshman)
71 Andre Smith (6-5, 333, Freshman)
72 Chris Capps (6-6, 286, Junior)
79 Drew Davis (6-6, 290, Freshman)
50 Justin Britt (6-4, 294, Junior) 73 Justin Moon (6-5, 290, Junior)
74 David Ross (6-4, 295, Freshman)
59 Antoine Caldwell (6-3, 296, Sophomore)
70 Evan Cardwell (6-3, 290, Freshman)
66 Brian Motley (6-2, 274, Freshman)
67 Morgan Garner (6-2, 262, Sophomore)
61 B.J. Stabler (6-4, 295, Sophomore)
76 Marlon Davis (6-4, 315, Sophomore)
78 Mike Johnson (6-6, 285, Freshman)
62 Alex Stadler (6-6, 300, Freshman)
60 Scott Deaton (6-5, 295, Freshman)
72 Chris Capps (6-6, 286, Junior)
58 Kyle Tatum (6-8, 290, Senior)
75 Cody Davis (6-7, 279, Sophomore)
68 Taylor Pharr (6-6, 290, Freshman)
83 Travis McCall (6-2, 250, Sophomore)
88 Nick Walker (6-5, 245, Sophomore)
89 Charles Hoke (6-6, 240, Sophomore)
85 Preston Dial (6-4, 242, Freshman)
87 Cole Harvey (6-3, 250, Freshman)
14 John Parker Wilson (6-2, 215, Soph)
18 Marc Guillon (6-3, 212, Senior)
15 Jimmy Barnes (6-5, 229, Freshman)
17 Greg McElroy (6-2, 210, Freshman)
34 Kenneth Darby (5-11, 215, Senior)
10 Jimmy Johns (6-2, 225, Sophomore)
5 Roy Upchurch (6-0, 193, Freshman)
9 Terry Grant (5-10, 188, Freshman)
26 Ali Sharrief (5-9, 208, Freshman)
38 Glen Coffee (6-1, 207, Sophomore)
33 LéRon McClain (6-1, 256, Senior)
19 Tim Castille (5-11, 236, Senior)
40 Baron Huber (6-4, 240, Freshman
30 Patrick Hanrahan (6-0, 245, Freshman)
91 Will Denniston (6-3, 221, Junior)
86 Jamie Christensen (6-0, 178, Junior)
31 Leigh Tiffin (5-10, 168, Freshman)
15 Andrew Friedman (6-2, 215, Freshman)
66 Luke Spaulding (6-0, 213, Junior)
69 Brian Selman (6-0, 195, Freshman)
92 Wallace Gilberry (6-3, 254, Junior)
91 Chris Harris (6-5, 244, Senior)
90 Milton Talbert (6-3, 240, Freshman)
99 Jeremy Clark (6-3, 305, Senior)
95 Brandon Deaderick (6-4, 230, Freshman)
97 Lorenzo Washington (6-4, 265, Freshman)
98 Brandon Fanney (6-5, 270, Freshman)
96 Dominic Lee (6-2, 303, Senior)
67 J.P. Adams (6-3, 288, Senior)
77 Byron Walton (6-4, 298, Freshman)
94 Keith Saunders (6-3, 246, Junior)
93 Bobby Greenwood (6-6, 260, Sophomore)
47 Zeke Knight (6-3, 227, Junior)
42 Juwan Simpson (6-3, 222, Senior)
44 Demarcus Waldrop (5-11, 190, Junior)
6 Marcel Stamps (6-3, 215, Junior)
48 Travis Sikes (6-4, 195, Freshman)
56 Matt Collins (6-1, 241, Junior)
21 Prince Hall (6-0, 240, Freshman)
57 Darren Mustin (6-2, 246, Junior)
35 Charlie Kirschman (6-3, 255, Freshman)
53 Ken Vandervoort (6-3, 216, Junior)
55 Terrence Jones (6-1, 223, Senior)
46 Zach Schreiber (6-2, 240, Freshman)
32 Eryk Anders (6-2, 220, Freshman)
45 Charlie Higgenbotham (6-1, 210, Freshman)
1 Ramzee Robinson (5-10, 190, Senior)
8 Chris Rogers (6-1, 178, Freshman)
24 Marquis Johnson (6-0, 180, Freshman)
23 Tremayne Coger (5-11, 180, Freshman)
2 Simeon Castille (6-1, 188, Junior)
16 Lionel Mitchell (6-2, 180, Sophomore)
36 Eric Gray (5-11, 188, Junior)
28 Javier Arenas (5-9, 175, Freshman)
20 Marcus Carter (6-1, 200, Junior)
49 Rashad Johnson (5-11, 178, Sophomore)
13 Cory Reamer (6-3, 198, Sophomore)
30 Bryan Kilpatrick (6-4, 197, Senior)
3 Jeffrey Dukes (6-2, 205, Senior)
27 Justin Woodall (6-1, 200, Freshman)
41 Andy Davis (6-0, 205, Freshman)
43 Sam Burnthall (6-3, 195, Freshman)
11 P.J. Fitzgerald (6-0, 190, Freshman)
37 Heath Thomas (6-3, 202, Freshman)
29 Adam Hill (6-2, 195, Freshman)
23 Justin Martin (5-10, 205, Freshman)
35 Patrick Eades (6-2, 185, Junior)
Coach Mike Shula Says By Kirk McNair
Alabama Coach Mike Shula said the Hawaii team coming to Tuscaloosa "is probably one of the best they've had since June Jones has been there." And, he said, "Hawaii is, by far, our toughest opponent for a season-opener."
Jones, Hawaii's head coach, has a background in the NFL, as does Shula, and as does Hawaii's defensive coordinator, Jerry Glanville. Shula was asked when he last had contact with the two Warriors' coaches. Shula said, "The last time with Coach Jones was probably when we played out there (in Shula's first season, 2003), and with Coach Glanville when he was doing television. They probably know me more as Don's son than as Mike. They are good people. I've always had a lot of respect for them."
Most Alabama fans are looking forward to the play of Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson when the Crimson Tide kicks off the season against Hawaii Saturday evening. Shula is among those. But Shula also has concerns about Hawaii's quarterback.
Alabama is going to have to defend against the defending national champion in Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan. He ended last season as major college football's top performer in five statistical categories, including total offense (371.2 yards per game), passing touchdowns (35), passing yards (4,301), passing yards per game (358.42), and points responsible for per game (19.17).
In his regular Tuesday meeting with sportswriters, Shula said, "I think he's a dangerous quarterback for a team to have to defend. He's got a strong arm, he's accurate and he's not going to go down easy. And he can create on his own. Combine that with the fact they have some receivers that can go downfield, it makes it dangerous for a defense."
Brennan isn't the only concern for Shula and the Alabama team. Bama's head coach said, "Defensively they like to blitz. They are very opportunistic. They feed on turnovers."
While Shula emphasizes the challenge, he said, "Our football team is excited about the season starting. The men have worked hard to come together as a football team."
He said if there is one thing that has pleased him most it has been the steady improvement of the squad. "You go back to the first day of spring practice and see where we were when we ended in the srping, and then again when we came back for pre-season camp, the improvement we've had. It has been a matter of not just getting better individually, but learning to play as a unit. Now, everyone is anxious to see where we are."
Shula said that Alabama would dress a large number of players, probably the entire 105 who were on the pre-season camp reporting roster and perhaps some who have joined the squad since classes began a week ago. "It's not a conference game and it's a home game, so we can dress a lot of guys," Shula said.
He said, "We are going to have a lot of new guys on the field, but they are excited."
Early, Shula said he expected perhaps five or six true freshmen to contribute to this year's team. Now he sees the possibility for more, particularly if placekicker Jamie Christensen is not ready to play Saturday. Christensen suffered a groin injury. If he is unable to kick the job will go to Leigh Tiffin.
The number one true freshman in camp is left tackle Andre Smith, who has earned the starting job. "He's done a lot of good things," Shula said. "He's untested, but we think physically he's pretty good. Otherwise he wouldn't be listed number one. Coach (Bob) Connelly's done a good job with him. Hopeflly he's got a good feel for what he's doing now and he's got some confidence."
Some other true freshmen expected to participate include cornerbacks Marquis Johnson and Javier Arenas, strong safety Justin Woodall, safety Sam Burnthall, running back Terry Grant, and wide receivers Earl Alexander and Mike McCoy. Some may be on special teams, including Arenas and Grant as possible punt and kickoff return men.
Shula pointed out some experimentation in an attempt to add some depth on the defensive line. He said that Brandon Deaderick (6-4, 271), who came to Bama as a defensive end, is now working at defensive tackle. He noted there is more expereinced depth on the defensive line at end with Keith Saunders and Bobby Greenwood at right end and Wallace Gilberry and Chris Harris at left end. Former wide receiver Ezekial Knight is also working at right end. The only experienced tackles are Jeremy Clark, Dominic Lee, and J.P. Adams.
There has also been some movement on the offensive line, but Shula said he is not concerned about continuity. "We have been moving guys around a little," Shula said. "If they hadn't played it might make you nervous, but most of them have experience."
For example, Chris Capps is listed as the starter at right tackle after having started at left tackle last year. Capps will back up Smith at left tackle and 2004-05 starter Kyle Tatum will back up Capps at left tackle. "They created competition and it made us better," Shula said.
Justin Britt moved from defensive line to left guard. "We had a good feeling about him," Shula said. "I'm sorry he missed spring practice. He still has a ways to go, but he's one of our top 11."
B.J. Stabler, who started at right guard last year, and Marlon Davis, the back-up this year and last year, have both had some injury time this year. Both were expected back mid-week. Shula said in their absence that Michael Johnson had gotten a lot of reps and done well.
One question that won't be answered until Saturday evening is whether weakside linebacker Juwan Simpson is suspended for his off-the-field problems this summer. Shula does not announce punishments. Simpson is backed by Demarcus Waldrop and Marcel Stamps. Shula noted that Stamps has been a good special teams player in the past and would also play in the kicking game this year, but said he also could expect to play on defense.
Quarterback Brennan the Focal Point
By 'BAMA Staff
2005 was Hawaii Head Coach June Jones' worst year at Hawaii since 2000. The Warrior were 5-7, marking the second losing season in Jones' seven-year tenure.
There was one thing that didn't change, however. The 2005 season marked the fifth straight season Hawaii was ranked number two in the nation in passing offense.
Colt Brennan took over for Timmy Chang in 2005, and Hawaii's passing averages went up. Under Brennan, Hawaii threw for 384.3 yards per game, again coming in second in the country. But where it mattered ˆ the scoreboard ˆ Hawaii was bad. The Warriors, who had to replace 12 starters in 2005, finished 5-7 and missed post-season play.
Brennan is back for his senior year, and Hawaii is hoping its rebuilding efforts are finished, at least offensively. The Warriors return seven starters on the offensive side of the ball.
Up front, Hawaii is strong. Samson Satele will begin his fourth year as a starter, moving from left guard to center. The tackles, Tala Esera (left) and Dane Uperesa (right), are also fourth-year starters. The starting guards, however, will be new, although Hawaii coaches have been impressed with the spring competition. Hercules Satele, a 6-2, 288 pound junior and freshman John Estes (6-2, 290) will start at left and right guard, respectively. Depth is not a problem, either. The Warriors have some experience back-ups at guard.
Brennan put up phenomenal numbers in 2005 and is being counted on for similar success in 2006. Brennan was 350-of-515 (68 per cent) for 4,301 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions in 2005. He's hoping to take advantage of Alabama starting three new defensive backs in the game.
Two returning receivers caught more than 1,000 yards of passes in 2005. Ryan Grice-Mullen and Davone Bess, both freshman 2005, combined for 174 receptions for nearly 2,400 yards and 26 TDs. Tbey're back, along with senior Ross Dickerson (52 receptions, 725 yards, 4 TDs) and Chad Mock (42 receptions, 502 yards, 1 TD). The tallest of these leading returning receivers is 6-0, but the Warrior depth chart is littered with all types. Junior Jason Rivers is listed at 6-2, 192 pounds is the tallest. Ian Sample, a senior, is 5-10, 196 pounds.
The Warriors just don't use the run as a first option, but when they do there is size coming toward the line. Last year's top back, Nate Ilaoa, got eligible for a sixth year for 2006. He's a dangerous runner, and productive (85 carries, 643 yards, 7.6 average, 6 TDs in 2005). Brennan is not known as a runner, but has some scramble ability. He rushed for 143 yards on 99 carries last year.
Defensively, Hawaii is in its second year running a 3-4 defense under Jerry Glanville. The Warriors were consistently bad last year, so it's not certain whether losing seven starters will be a positive or a negative thing.
Hawaii ranked 102nd in total defense, 98th in rush defense, 110th in scoring defense, 91st in pass defense and 108th in pass efficiency defense. There were 119 Division IA teams.
Up front, Michael Lafaele starts in the middle at nose tackle. He's six feet tall and 302 pounds. Seniors Melila Purcell and Ikaika Alama-Francis will line up at end. Both are tall, which could impact John Parker Wilson's passing lanes. Purcell is 6-5, 276 pounds and Alama-Francis is 6-6, 285 pounds. Hawaii uses mostly control techniques up front, meaning statistics for thos plaers are minimal. Their experience is also minimal, thanks to the graduation of three prime contributors.
Tyson Kafentzis, Adam Leonard, Solomon Elimimian and C.J. Allen-Jones are the linebackers. The group is light on experience, and averages six and a half feet and 227 pounds.
The secondary is light on experience and apparently talent. The top four players from last year must all be replaced. Junior A.J. Martinez, a 5-10 179 pound junior, will start at one corner, and opposite him will be 5-11, 161-pound C.J. Hawthorne. Ryan Keomaka is back on the team after off-field trouble, but he's a back-up at corner. Senior Leonard Peters (6-1, 211) and junior Jacob Patek (6-0, 202) are the top safeties. Kenny Patton, a senior, has experience at corner but is listed second team.
Senior Kurt Milne returns at punter, but his leg is just average. Kicker Dan Kelly made 10-of-14 field goals but missed three extra points in 2005.
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