Who's Calling Plays?

Up until a couple of years ago, a number of Alabama fans were ready to send Crimson Tide Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines packing. Even in the 1992 national championship season there were those who thought the offense of Coach Gene Stallings and the play-calling of Mal Moore were too conservative...complaints Moore had heard when directing national championship offenses for Coach Paul Bryant, too.

There is never a shortage of football critics. And when a team has lost two games in a row with offensive ineptness, the questions and recommendations fly.

Alabama has lost back-to-back Southeastern Conference road games. A trait of both those games has been an inability to score touchdowns when the Tide has moved into the Red Zone, the final 20 yards to the goalline.

Following the loss to Arkansas, the complaint was that Alabama was too conservative on offense. Against Florida, another loss, Bama called pass plays at about a two-to-one ratio to running plays.

A number of Bama faithful would be happy if Coach Mike Shula would fire the guy who calls the offensive plays. Most of those fans, however, don't realize that it is Shula who makes those calls.

Shula said that he talks to Offensive Coordinator Dave Rader, and also gets input from Offensive Line Coach Bob Connelly and Running Backs Coach Sparky Woods.

Rader said, "We take about 100 plays into a game. Some are called more than once, and some are called not at all. There's not an absolute plan. We don't go in and say we're going to throw 40 per cent. We adjust as the game proceeds."

Shula said that he and Rader "talk a lot. He was probably surprised how much I'd lean on him."

Rader said, "We spend a lot of time together. I think when he asks me a question, he already knows what I'm going to say. And when I make a suggestion, he already has it down."

Rader said, "Coach Shula is one of the best play-callers I've been around, including guys like Rockey Felker and George Henshaw."

The Tide assistant coach joked, "When we want to go forward, Coach Shula calls the play. If we want to go backwards, I call the play."

Is there any chance Shula might turn over the play-calling to someone else? "Anything's possible," he said. Translation: "Inconceivable."

Rader said that quarterback John Parker Wilson doesn't have input into play selection. And, Rader said, it would be unusual for a college quarterback to have that responsibility. What Rader likes about Wilson is that he has a grasp of what is selected and the confidence to do it.

Rader said, "I'll tell John Parker, ‘This is what they are doing,' and he'll say, ‘Yes, I see that.' And then I tell him how we plan to attack and he is enthusiastic. He's a gamer. He wants the ball in his hands. He's shown he can do it, which gives us confidence."

As for defense, it appears Shula doesn't do much collaboration. When Joe Kines' troops are on the field, Shula, Wilson and Rader are talking. "I tell him (Rader) to start getting a play ready when [the opponent] has a third down," Shula said.

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