'BAMA Newsletter 5

The 'BAMA: Inside the Crimson Tide weekly newsletter for Alabama vs. Florida.

- Editorial: Tide Players Have To Get Past Loss
- Tide Suffers Loss
- Depth Chart
- Scouting Report
- Coach Shula Says
- Season Statistics
- (PDF Version)
Newsletter Number 5 - September 28, 2006

Tide Players Have To Get Past Loss
By Kirk McNair

Don't look back, baseball pitcher/philosopher Satchel Paige warned. Something might be following you. What's in the immediate past for Alabama football is a painful memory, the memory of losing to–as opposed to being beaten by–Arkansas. And now the Crimson Tide has to look ahead to a formidible task, the extremely talented Florida Gators.

The most difficult aspect of that preparation for the Bama coaches may be in getting players to forget the performance in Fayetteville. It seems far worse to lose a game that should be won than it does to be beaten by a superior opponent. Most will remember Alabama's botched field goal attempts, but as wide receiver D.J. Hall pointed out forecfully following the game there are all sorts of plays in a game decided in overtime when the outcome could have been changed.

If the players are able to put that behind them, the next task will be in convincing Tiders that the Florida team Alabama will meet in Gainesville will have nothing in common with the Gators who were rolled over in Tuscaloosa last fall. Indeed, that 31-3 pasting at the hands of Bama will likely serve as motivation for Florida Saturday.

Fortunately, players have demonstrated over the years that they are more resilient than fans following disappointment. Coaches and players don't have time to dwell on the bad–or the good, for that matter. There is another game to prepare for, and not very much time for a lot of work to be done.

One of the variables in football success is schedule luck. In a season of 12 games in 12 weeks, playing in the Southeastern Conference, there are going to be difficult times. This is one of those times. Having consecutive road games at Arkansas and Florida is a potential pitfall. That's particularly true when the team considered most vulnerable (Arkansas) has defeated Bama. There will be another of those tough back-to-backs later this year when the Crimson Tide closes regular season play against LSU on the road and Auburn at home.

Another of those variables is injury luck. Alabama has lost some players this year, but thus far not critical losses. Running backs and defensive backs are in good supply, and that has been the area hit hardest. One place where it is obvious that injuries can be a problem is at linebacker, where there is not much proven depth. Terrence Jones missing the Arkansas game may not have cost Bama the win, but there were times when Jones was missed on defense.

In a season still young, there have been some surprising things about Coach Mike Shula's fourth Crimson Tide squad. There had been worries at quarterback, but John Parker Wilson has played very well in his first season as a starter. There were great hopes for the super-hyped Andre Smith, but who could have expected the freshman left tackle to be among the league's best in his first year. Running was expected to be better than it has been. Placekicking looked good until last week, and now becomes the question of the week with Jamie Christensen perhaps ready to return as the kicker after Leigh Tiffin's unfortunate outing at Arkansas. The secondary was being rebuilt, and it has been outstanding.

Hopefully, things will get better. For one thing, it was nice to play a game with no players suspended.

Nothing can get the Arkansas game back. It is lost. And now the pressure is greater to pick up a win in an unexpected place. Many of those who had penciled in the Arkansas game as an Alabama win likely had Florida the probable winner this week. To get back on track for a possible post-season reward, the Crimson Tide needs to find a way to pull out a victory in Gainesville.

Crimson Tide Has Disappointing Loss At Arkansas
By Kirk McNair

Over the years, Alabama probably has had more disappointing losses against Arkansas than any other Southeastern Conference team. That's because almost every loss to the Razorbacks has been when Bama appeared to have superior personnel. Such was the case again Saturday as the Crimson Tide lost a game it had every opportunity to win and only the slimmest of chances to lose.

Football is a team game and all coaches know that players win and lose as a team. When Leigh Tiffin kicked a field goal to beat Vanderbilt a few weeks ago, he got extra hero credit. Following a trio of muffed kicks in Fayetteville, Tiffin showed he was quite the mature freshman by accepting his share of the blame.

Alabama lost in double overtime to Arkansas in Fayetteville Saturday when the Razorbacks scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass, then kicked an extra point. That was the margin of victory as the Razorbacks took a 24-23 win. And the reason it was the margin of victory was because Tiffin missed an extra point.

The reason the game was in overtime at all was because Tiffin missed a 30-yard field goal with 3:11 to play. And the reason the game was in the second overtime was because Tiffin missed a 37-yard field goal at the end of the first overtime. Tiffin also missed a 33-yard try in the second quarter, but was good on a 46-yard field goal at the end of the first half that gave Bama a 10-3 lead at intermission.

Tiffin has been kicking extra points and field goals because last year's kicker, Jamie Christensen, suffered a groin injury in pre-season. Christensen, who had three game-winning field goals in Bama's 10-2 season last year, has returned to action as kickoff man.

Not that there weren't others with poor plays. Bama quarterback John Parker Wilson had an excellent overall game, but he fumbled on a sack that gave Arkansas a touchdown.

For the most part, Alabama's defense played well against the Razorbacks, but on the first series of the second half the Hogs were able to go 93 yards in 13 plays to a touchdown.

Regulation play ended at 17-17. In overtime, each team gets the football at the 25-yard line going in. Arkansas was first on offense and on a third down play Bama cornerback Lionel Mitchell picked off heralded Arkansas quarterback Mitch Mustain, the third interception of the day against the talented freshman. That meant that any score by Alabama would win the game.

Alabama went conservative, three runs at the middle that gained five yards and put the ball in the middle of the field for a 37-yard field goal try. Like all the misses on the day, it was wide right.

Alabama had the ball first on the second overtime situation. Bama was more aggressive, Wilson completing passes of nine yards to D.J. Hall and five yards to Keith Brown around a Kenneth Darby run. Darby didn't have a giant day, but he had a big seven-yard run for first and goal at the Arkansas one. After the Tide's jumbo package with Tim Castille at tailback failed to gain, Wilson went to the air again, hitting back-up tight end Nick Walker, who came out of a slot position and was alone in the end zone.

Darren McFadden, who had a good game against Alabama's defense, ran it to the 11. After an incompletion the Hogs faced third down and Mustain connected with high former high school teammate, Ben Cleveland. Arkansas has had its problems with placekicking this year, including missing an extra point in the second quarter, but with the game at stake, Jeremy Davis kicked it good.

Arkansas has a very good 6-1 record in overtime games, while Alabama dropped to 2-5 in such contests.

This was the second week in a row Arkansas needed the opponent to miss a placekick to win. The Razorbacks had edged Vanderbilt a week earlier when the Commodores came up short on a last-second field goal effort.

Wilson was making his first start on the road and did well except for fumbling when trying to pass in the third quarter. Arkansas' defense did not have a takeaway this eason until Randy Kelly picked up the fumble and went 39 yards for a touchdown to put the Razorbacks on top, 17-10, in the third quarter.

Wilson completed 16 opf 20 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns.

The Razorbacks took a 3-0 first quarter lead on Davis' 24-yard field goal. Bama botched a Red Zone opportunity, then finally got the ball back at its own one-yard line after a punt by the Hogs. While Bama had several grind-it-out drives in holding the ball for over 39 minutes in regulation, the Tide took just barely over two minutes to go 99 yards in four plays, not including having to overcome a motion penalty. On a first down play from the Alabama 22, Wilson found Hall behind the secondary and hit him for a 78-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead.

Tiffin's field goal on the final play of the first half gave Alabama a 10-3 lead.

Arkansas drove 93 yards with Darren McFadden taking it in from two yards out. The Razorbacks missed the extra point and trailed 10-9. After Kelly's fumble return, the Razorbacks went for two and Mustain hit McFadden to give the Hogs a seven-point lead at 17-10.

Bama drove 76 yards in 10 plays to tie the game at 17-17. Wilson hit Keith Brown on an 14-yard touchdown pass.

Although Mustain had a sub-par performance hitting just seven of 22 passes for 97 yards and interceptions by Jeffrey Dukes, Simeon Castille, and Lionel Mitchell, he had the one he had to have, the game-winner in the second overtime.

TIDE NOTES: The Alabama coaching staff selected quarterback John Parker Wilson as the Crimson Tide's offensive player of the week for his performance in his first road start. Lionel Mitchell, who started at cornerback in Alabama's nickel package, was the defensive player of the week. Center Antoine Caldwell was the offensive lineman of the week.

The staff did not select a special teams player of the week.

For the second consecutive week, Alabama had a player seriously injured in the Sunday practice following a game. After the Louisiana Monroe game, linebacker Terrence Jones suffered a shoulder injury and subsequently missed the Arkansas game. Last Sunday wide receiver Aaron McDaniel suffered a serious knee injury and had surgery. He will miss the remainder of the season.

Earlier it had been announced that halfback Terry Grant would miss the rest of the season after shoulder surgery and safety Cory Reamer would be out a few weeks with knee surgery. Halfback Glen Coffee continues to sit out with a knee injury.

Alabama's October 7 home football game against Duke University will be produced by the Crimson Tide Sports Network for pay-per-view distribution with the contest slated to begin at 6:07 p.m. central time.

John Parker Wilson's 78-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Hall was a career long for both players. It was the longest play of the year and 10th longest touchdown pass in school history.

Alabama is playing back-to-back SEC road games for the 22nd time in school history and the first time since 2000.

The Crimson Tide offense leads the nation in time of possession (35:41). Other statistical notes:

The Alabama defense ranks second nationally with eight interceptions this year. Junior defensive back Simeon Castille leads the SEC and ranks eighth nationally with 0.75 interceptions per game. Alabama is third nationally with a +12 turnover margin this season. Junior wide receiver Keith Brown leads the SEC with 6.5 receptions per game and ranks second in yards per game (102.5) and sixth in all-purpose yards (110.6) this year. Junior wide receiver D.J. Hall has caught one touchdown pass in all three games in which he has played this season and those receptions have averaged 50.7 yards. Sophomore quarterback John Parker Wilson is fourth in the SEC and 14th nationally in passing efficiency (162.42). Wilson has thrown seven TD passes in four games.

Alabama Depth Chart Vs. Arkansas
By Kirk McNair

As will be the case this week, Alabama was allowed only 70 players for the Southeastern Conference road game at Arkansas. (The home team in SEC games gets to dress 95 with 80 designated as eligible to participate in the game.) Demarcus Waldrop got his second consecutive start. After starting at weakside linebacker in place of a suspended Juwan Simpson for the Louisiana Monroe game, Waldrop started at strongside linebacker in place of Terrence Jones, who was held out of the Arkansas game with a shoulder injury. Simpson returned to the starting lineup. Lionel Mitchell, also suspended for the Louisiana Monroe game, was back for Arkansas and made his second start as Bama's nickel back. As has been the case in three of four games this year, Alabama opened the game with just three defensive linemen, along with three linebackers and five defensive backs. Dominic Lee was the defensive line first teamer left out of the starting lineup. Prior to the game it was announced that three players were having surgery and at least two of them are lost for the season. It was no surprise that senior wide receiver Tyrone Prothro, who has not played since breaking his leg in the Florida game last October 1, would have more surgery and would not play this year. He is expected back in 2006. Freshman halfback Terry Grant, who was injured early in the season but came back to play against Louisiana Monroe, has had shoulder surgery and will be out the rest of the year. Soph safety Cory Reamer, who missed the last half of last season with a knee injury, reinjurd the knee and had arthroscopic surgery. He may be able to return this season. Soph running back Glen Coffee, who also had redshirt eligibility, has not played this year as he recuperates from knee surgery, but he has not been ruled out from playing. All can be redshirted. Against Arkansas Alabama played 56 men–19 on offense, 19 on defense, and 18 just on special teams. Here are those who played against Arkansas with first team players listed first and the number of plays in parenthesis. If there are two numbers, the second is the number of plays on special teams.

Split End—D. J. Hall (60), Matt Caddell (19)
Left Tackle—Andre Smith (74-7)
Left Guard—Justin Britt (74)
Center—Antoine Caldwell (74)
Right Guard—B.J. Stabler (64), Marlon Davis (10)
Right Tackle—Chris Capps (63-7), Kyle Tatum (11)
Tight End—Travis McCall (62-10), Nick Walker (19-7), Charles Hoke (2-7)
Quarterback—John Parker Wilson (74)
Halfback—Kenneth Darby (45), Jimmy Johns (16-10)
Fullback—LéRon McClain (54-8), Tim Castille (18)
Flanker—Keith Brown (60), Will Oakley (19)

Left End—Wallace Gilberry (51), Chris Harris (8)
Left Tackle—Jeremy Clark (42)
Right Tackle—Dominic Lee (21), J.P. Adams (10)
Right End—Keith Saunders (44), Bobby Greenwood (12), Zeke Knight (3-7)
Strongside Linebacker—Demarcus Waldrop (54-3), Zach Schreiber (3-7)
Middle Linebacker— Matt Collins (15-3), Prince Hall (46)
Weakside Linebacker—Juwan Simpson (59-3)
Left Cornerback—Ramzee Robinson (57)
Right Cornerback—Simeon Castille (59-3), Lionel Mitchell (47)
Strong Safety—Jeffrey Dukes (57-3)
Safety—Marcus Carter (37-4), Rashad Johnson (24-10)

Punter and Holder—P.J. Fitzgerald (3 punts, 4 field goals, 3 extra points) Snapper—Luke Spaulding (3 punts, 4 field goals, 3 extra points)
Placekicker—Leigh Tiffin (4 field goals, 3 extra points), Jamie Christensen (3 kickoffs)
Coverage and Returns—Roy Upchurch (8), Marcel Stamps (4), Chris Rogers (7), Marquis Johnson (10), Ali Sharrief (8), Justin Woodall (3), Javier Arenas (5), Bryan Kilpatrick (6), Forress Rayford (4), Eric Gray (11), Baron Huber (4), Sam Burnthall (11), Evan Cardwell (7), Michael Johnson (7)

Scouting Report: Gators Seem To Have Just About Everything
By Mitch Dobbs

Rarely in a college football game of any magnitude does one team so clearly knock the other out in the early seconds and so convincingly dominate the entire 60 minutes. That's exactly what happened to Florida last year. The Gators offense went three plays and out, not once but twice, thanks to a muffed Alabama punt return that gave Florida a second chance to start the game off right. Then Florida gave up a touchdown on Alabama's first offensive play en route to 21 point halftime lead that left Florida Coach Urban Meyer babbling incoherently, speechless in front of a television camera for perhaps the first time in his life.

One year later Florida is a much different team. Overall, the Gators returned 25 players who made at least one start during the 2005 regular season. They also lost 11 players who started at least one game after losing only six going into the 2005 season.

Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula and many Florida experts agree that Florida is faster, their quarterback more decisive, their running game stronger their offensive line more persistent and their defensive line better than a year ago. And that game weighs on their mind. Alabama center Antoine Caldwell put it best when he said "they probably feel the same we feel about Auburn right now."

Florida's offense and defense rank among the best in the nation in several statistical categories: fourth in rushing defense, eighth in scoring and total defense, third in converting third downs, sixth in passing efficiency, ninth in passing offense and total offense.

Quarterback Chris Leak is fourth in passing efficiency, receiver Dallas Baker is seventh in receiving average and the Gators are fourth in the nation punting.

Florida has opened the 2006 season with 30 plays of 20-plus yards during the first four games (nine runs and 21 passes), eight of which have gone for touchdowns. Leak has thrown 12 touchdown passes this season, tied for the highest total nationally. The Gators were in their ninth game in 2005 when Leak reached 12 passing touchdowns. With Florida's win at Tennessee, Leak became the only starting quarterback in school history to win in Knoxville, against Georgia twice, in Tallahassee, in Baton Rouge and win a bowl game.

Leak has been complemented this year by true freshman Tim Tebow, who enters the game to give the Gators a rushing attack from quarterback. Tebow has throw the ball 11 times and completed seven passes, but his rushing success (23 attempts for 164 yards) is the thing that makes him so dangerous. No quarterback in the country has a higher rushing average than the 6-3, 229 pound freshman.

While Florida's primary method of attack is through the air (1159 passing yards and 703 rushing yards), the ground game is a legitimate threat. Starting running back DeShawn Wynn and reserve Kestahn Moore have averaged 5.7 combined yards per carry this season and have lost only one fumble. UF running backs averaged 3.9 yards per carry on 279 runs and lost only one fumble in 2005.

Wynn, 5-11, 238 pounds, has 304 yards on 52 carries. He ran the ball 22 times for 104 yards at Tennessee and 14 times for 104 against Kentucky. It is the first time since 2002 the Gators returned their leading rusher from the previous season. Wynn ran for 621 yards on 130 attempts in 2005. The Gators started four different running backs last year (Markus Manson, Kestahn Moore, Sklyer Thornton, DeShawn Wynn), but Wynn got the majority of the starts with six, while Moore started three and Manson started two.

Manson, the Tuscaloosa native, has had just two carries for three yards. Tebow is the second-leading rusher on the team, but Moore is second among running backs with 140 yards on 25 rush attempts.

Five pass receivers factor heavily into the Gators attack. Senior Dallas Baker, the leading receiver with 24 receptions for 406 yards, is one of three upperclassmen who start. Against Kentucky he had seven catches for a career-high 148 yards. It was the fifth 100-yard receiving effort of his career. Baker, 6-3, 207 pounds, caught a pair of touchdown passes, half of his season total. He has caught a touchdown in five of the last six games.

Junior Andre Caldwell (6-1, 203), senior Jermalle Cornelius (5-11, 185), freshman Percy Harvin (5-11, 180) and sophomore tight end Cornelius Ingram (6-4, 225) are closely bunched in the 2-5 slots in pass receiving and all must be respected.

Caldwell, more the possession receiver, has 11 receptions for 117 yards while Cornelius, a big-play threat, has 10 for 206 yards. Harvin, a true freshman who started the season opener, (145 yards) and Ingram (100 yards) have eight catches and one touchdown apiece. Caldwell returned to the unit this season after he fractured the femur bone in his right leg while returning the second-half kickoff against Tennessee in 2005 causing him to miss the remainder of the season. At the time of his injury, he was second among Gator receivers averaging 14.8 yards per game.

Cornelius' 33-yard reception from Chris Leak during the first quarter of the Kentucky game was his third TD of the season. Cornelius is one of 18 players nationally to average over 20-yards a catch and one of two in the SEC (Bama's D.J. Hall is the other).

Florida has started every game with the same offensive line: left tackle Phil Trautwein (6-6, 308), left guard Jim Tartt (6-3, 315), center Steve Rissler 6-3, 306), right guard Drew Miller (6-5, 305) and right tackle Carlton Medder (6-5, 315). They have allowed eight sacks through the first four games. That's an improvement from last season whe Florida had allowed 16 sacks after four games.

Only Tartt entered the 2006 season with a start at his current position. Tartt started the Kentucky game at left guard last season. In Florida records dating back to 1980, Florida's 17 combined starts on the offensive line entering the 2006 season are the lowest. Florida has no fifth-year seniors up front and only two fourth-year players ( Rissler and Medder).

Perhaps the Gators' top defensive lineman, senior Marcus Thomas, did not play in the season opener and was suspended indefinitely prior to the Kentucky game for what Florida media reported to be a second violation of the school's substance-abuse policy, leaving the fifth-ranked Gators without their top pass rusher. Thomas was an Outland Watch List member with 138 career tackles and 13 sacks. But the loss was on a defensive line that is probably the deepest part of Florida's squad. Ray McDonald (6-3, 280) moved to tackle and started against Kentucky and sophomore Derrick Harvey (6-5, 262) started at end. Joe Cohen (6-2, 296) is the returning starter at the other tackle position. Senior defensive tackle Steven Harris (6-5, 285) starter last year and is a backup on the line now.

Linebackers Brandon Siler (6-2, 235, junior) and Earl Everett (6-3, 234, senior) are also returning starters to the 2006 squad. Everett, the weakside backer and Siler, middle backer, lead the team with 24 and 23 tackles respectively. The two have also combined for six tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries, one sack and a forced fumble. Senior Brian Crum (6-3, 235) starts at strongside linebacker, but only has seven tackles on the year.

Freshman A.J. Jones and sophomore Jon Demps have suffered injuries that will affect the depth at the position. Demps suffered an ACL tear in his left knee, while Jones suffered a fracture in his right foot. Both injuries occurred during pre-season non-contact drills.

Juniors Reggie Nelson (6-1, 193) and Kyle Jackson (6-1, 200) split time at free safety, but Nelson has started all four games. Nelson recorded two interceptions at Tennessee (Erik Ainge's first and last passes of the game) and leads the Gators with three this season after having only one in 2005.

Against UCF, starting strong safety Tony Joiner (6-0, 208) caused a safety in the third quarter. Joiner is the third leading tackler with 22 stops, including two for loss, and one interception. Senior Reggie Lewis (5-10, 196) junior Ryan Smith (5-10, 165) start at the corners. Lewis has three passes broken up this year.

The Florida punt return defense ranks in a tie for 25th nationally. In 2005, Florida's special teams ranked ninth nationally in net punting (38.1 per punt), while the Gators' punt return defense was the second-best nationally allowing 3.3 per return.

Chris Hetland, the Lou Groza candidate, is 0 for 2 on field goals this year, but both have been from long range (47 and 52). He's 13 of 15 on extra points, but two were blocked by Kentucky.

Ryan Smith recorded the first blocked punt of the year for the Gators and the first of his UF career when he deflected a Tim Masthay punt in the first quarter of the Kentucky game.

Eric Wilbur averaged 52.0 yards per punt against Kentucky in his last outing, and is averaging an impressive 43.0 yards per punt on the season. Wilbur's 58-yard punt in the second quarter was his longest of the season.

Freshman Brandon James' 35-yard punt return in the first quarter at Tennessee was the longest by a Gator since Keiwan Ratliff's 38-yard return against Ohio in 2002. James also had a 30-yard kickoff return against UCF.

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