'BAMA Newsletter 6

Inside this Newsletter - Number 6 - October 5, 2006

- Editorial: Tide Needs To Bounce Back
- Crimson Tide Own Worst Enemy In Loss To Gators
- Depth Chart
- Scouting Report
- Coach Shula Says
- Season Statistics (PDF Version only)
- (Printabe PDF)

Tide Needs To Bounce Back
By Kirk McNair

Regardless of what one might have expected Alabama's record to be after five games, almost everyone looking at this year's schedule would have expected the Crimson Tide to add to the victory total this week. Sometimes a Duke is just what the doctor ordered for a team needing to bounce back.

Probably some had a worse case scenario in mind that would have been less than the 3-2 record Bama brings into the midpoint of the season, but not much worse. It is still difficult to get over the loss at Arkansas in double overtime two Saturdays ago. And Florida's 15-point win over Bama in Gainesville was pretty much gift-wrapped.

But regardless of how those games might have gone, the fact is they are, well, gone. They are forever in the loss column, and this Bama team's hopes for a great season are greatly diminished before the halfway point of the season.

That doesn't mean there cannot be meaningful accomplishments. There is still the opportunity for important wins. Of course, those opportunities are also challenges. Huge challenges. It won't be easy for this Crimson Tide team that couldn't salvage a win in Fayetteville or hang on to victory at Florida to have successful invasions in Knoxville and Baton Rouge. And Auburn will have full confidence in continuing its winning streak against the Crimson Tide in the regular season finale.

For the optimists, the view even through crimson colored glasses is not a pretty sight. Pre-season expectations must be downgraded. Perhaps even for the realists.

There won't be any Southeastern Conference Championship Game for this Alabama team. But with wins over the likes of Duke (meaning also Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Florida International), Bama will become bowl eligible and get that extra game. It won't be the kind of bowl game Alabama has been anxious for since the very beginning of this millennium (the 2000 Orange Bowl), but it will be better than no bowl at all.

Thus far, this is a team that has achieved nothing but the minimum. Now Alabama can go one of two ways. It can step up and win some games that it would now be considered to be the underdog, or it can continue to beat the weak sisters and lose to the teams with equal or better personnel.

Actually, there is a third road that could be taken, one not at all pleasant to contemplate. Bama could also lose to one or more of the teams that are penciled in as Crimson Tide victories.

Alabama Coach Mike Shula has a thoughtful plan for his football team. He considers each game to be a one-week season. It is likely his players have the same philosophy. That means the chances of being upset are lessened. Alabama's players and coaches are not playing the game of counting winners and losers before the games are played. That might also mean that in one of those one-week seasons when the Tide is not the favorite it might be able to put together the stuff needed to get the unlikely victory.

In any event, Alabama needs to end the first half of the season with a win. Then it can look forward to the first game of the second half. And so on.

Alabama's D.J. Hall was Alabama's leading receiver in Gainesville with six catches for 117 yards. --Andrew Bone Photo

Crimson Tide Own Worst Enemy In Loss To Gators
By Kirk McNair

When Alabama was good, the Crimson Tide was all fifth-ranked Florida could handle in Gainesville Saturday. And when Bama was bad, the Gators efficiently turned those Alabama errors into points. On a day when the Tide had to play very well, Bama wasn't good enough and Florida took a 28-13 decision.

Alabama's offense struggled in the Red Zone and had very costly turnovers. Bama's defense gave up long drives and big plays. As a result, Alabama let a possible Southeastern Conference road game get away for the second consecutive week. The loss to Florida left the Tide at 3-2 overall and 1-2 in SEC play.

Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson had a rough outing in what was the biggest challenge of his young career. He took a sack that may have cost Alabama critical points at the end of the first half and he suffered three interceptions that were returned 100 yards, one for a touchdown and one setting up a touchdown. Otherwise, he had a decent day, completing 21 of 40 passes for 240 yards.

Bama has been waiting for the Kenneth Darby of 2004 and 2005 to show up this year, and there was a positive sign that Darby is close to being back. Even though Alabama had to pass most of the fourth quarter, Darby was the game's leading rusher with 14 rushes for 76 yards, a smidgen under 5.5 yards per carry. He also had four receptions for 29 yards.

But Alabama's offense couldn't get a touchdown. Wilson had a few passes that might have been completed, but weren't–one to Matt Caddell and one to tight end Nick Walker, both in the end zone, and one to Keith Brown at the one-yard line. Twice the Tide got inside the Gators' 10-yard line and both times Bama had to settle for field goals.

Jamie Christensen returned as Alabama's placekicker on field goals and extra points. He made the two short ones, 21 and 26 yards, and the lone extra point try. At the end of the first half Bama was in position for another field goal, about a 40-yard try. But on the next-to-last play of the half Wilson took one of his three sacks, a 12-yard loss that turned that opportunity into a 52-yard try. Christensen missed it badly.

Alabama's lone touchdown came in the first quarter. Florida quarterback Chris Leak was trying to get his offense set when the shotgun snap hit him in the chest. Bama middle liinebacker Prince Hall picked the ball up at midfield and ran it to the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

Late in the first quarter the Tide started a drive in Florida territory. Bama had good field position because the kickoff coverage team, led by Jimmy Johns and Bryan Kilpatrick, pinned the Gators at the 10-yard line. On a third down play, Bobby Greenwood sacked Leak at the Florida 8. After a punt to Javier Arenas, who returned it six yards, the Tide started at Florida's 44.

Wilson had a 14-yard scramble and Florida had a holding penalty to set the Tide up with a first down at the seven. But three plays later, Bama had picked up only four yards and Christensen kicked it to 10-0.

The Florida quarterback tandem of Leak and Tim Tebow got the Gators a touchdown in the second quarter. In hindsight, it would be a pivotal possession. Bama punter P.J. Fitzgerald had punted Florida to its own five-yard line. On first down, Leak through a poor pass, right into the hands of Alabama cornerback Ramzee Robinson. But Robinson couldn't hold it. Given new life, the Gators went 95 yards in 12 plays for the score. Leak had a 45-yard run in the drive and Tebow took it in from two yards out to cut the Tide lead to 10-7.

It looked like Bama might tack on three more points when Darby had a 21-yard run and Wilson connected with D.J. Hall on a 31-yard gain to the Florida 22 with time running out. But the sack of Wilson put the field goal try at seven-yards longer than Christensen has ever made, and–predictably–he missed.

Hall was something of a marked man by the Gators after his inappropriate behavior (imitating the Gator chomp and giving the illegal throat slash move) at the end of last year's 31-3 Crimson Tide win over Florida. Marked or not, Hall had a good day, six catches for 117 yards.

Florida took the lead midway through the third quarter with a seven-play, 80-yard drive, mostly through the air. The touchdown came on a 16-yard Leak to Andre Caldwell pass in which Alabama defensive backs had a couple of missed tackles.

Early in the third quarter, Bama pulled to within a point, but it would be the final Crimson Tide points. Alabama drove inside the Florida 10-yard line, but a third down pass to Walker was incomplete and the Tide settled for another field goal.

Wilson was intercepted at the Alabama 34 midway through the fourth quarter. The Gators took quick advantage of the opportunity, Leak hit Dallas Baker on a 21-yard pass to cap the four-play drive and make it 21-13.

It was still a one-possession situation for Alabama. The Tide needed a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the game. It wasn't to be. Wilson had a couple of 14-yard pass completions to move Bama into Florida territory, but then Wilson had a pass picked off by Reggie Nelson at the Florida 30. Nelson returned it 70 yards for a touchdown and the nail in the coffin with 4:19 to play.

TIDE NOTES: Much of the attention this week is nostalgic, a look at Duke coaches past and present. In the past, one of the statues on Alabama's Walk of Champions is of Hall of Fame Coach Wallace Wade, who won three national championships at Bama before moving on to Duke in 1930. Saturday will be the 20th anniversary of Wade's death. The home field at Duke is named for Wade and Wallace Wade Boulevard runs behind the West side of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Duke's current head coach, Ted Roof, was a graduate assistant coach at Alabama for two years under Bill Curry in the late 1980s. As a player at Georgia Tech, Roof was a defensive end who had nine tackles and a fumble recovery in the Yellow Jackets' 1984 win over Bama. The fumble was by then-Tide quarterback Mike Shula, now head coach at Alabama.

This is only the third meeting of the two schools. Armed forces-heavy Duke took a dramatic 29-26 win over Alabama's war babies (mostly teenagers) in the 1945 Sugar Bowl. Alabama rolled to a 35-12 win over the Blue Devils in 1972. A Bama wide receiver in 1972 was Dexter Wood, who went on to be a legendary high school coach in Georgia. His son, Ryan, is a wide receiver on this year's Duke team.

Alabama had gone into Gainesville with a 7-1 record at Florida's home field.

Alabama's game next week against Ole Miss in Bryant-Denny Stadium will be at either 11:30 a.m. CDT as the weekly SEC Lincoln Financial game or at 2:30 p.m. CDT on CBS. The announcement will come early next week.

Alabama Depth Chart Vs. Florida
By Kirk McNair

The man who starts a football game is usually considered the first team player at that position. And the first teamer usually gets most of the playing time in a tight game. But against Florida Saturday, a handful of back-up players got more snaps than the starters. Against Florida, Rashad Johnson played 37 plays at safety and starter Marcus Carter played only 21. Matt Collins started at middle linebacker, but as has been the case most of the year Prince Hall got more defensive snaps, 47-13. It was also a game in which Tim Castille (41) got more snaps than starter LéRon McClain (30) at fullback (although a couple of Castille's snaps were as the tailback in the Jumbo Package). For the second consecutive week, Alabama was allowed only 70 players for the Southeastern Conference road game at Florida. (The home team in SEC games gets to dress 95 with 80 designated as eligible to participate in the game.) With a non-conference game this week against Duke there will be no limit on the number Bama can dress or play. Although Jamie Christensen has been kicking off for a few weeks, he got his first work as extra point-field goal kicker. He was good on two short field goals, missed a long one, and made the one extra point try. Late in the game, Antoine Caldwell returned to his 2005 position of left guard replacing Justin Britt, with Evan Cardwell taking over center duties for five plays. Demarcus Waldrop got his third 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. Jones, who was held out of the Arkansas game with a shoulder injury, played against Florida. Lionel Mitchell made his second consecutive and third overall start as the nickel back as Bama had its fourth game of the year opening with three down linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs. Bama is opening with only one defensive tackle, Jeremy Clark, with Dominic Lee the defensive line first teamer left out of the starting lineup. Wide receiver D.J. Hall was back with Javier Arenas on kickoff returns and Arenas was the punt return man. Against Florida, Alabama played 55 men–19 on offense, 21 on defense, and 15 just on special teams. Here are those who played against Florida 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 (65-2), Matt Caddell (24)
Left Tackle—Andre Smith (72-4)
Left Guard—Justin Britt (62)
Center—Antoine Caldwell (72), Evan Cardwell (5-4)
Right Guard—B.J. Stabler (66), Marlon Davis (11)
Right Tackle—Chris Capps (38-3), Kyle Tatum (34-1)
Tight End—ravis McCall (33-7), Nick Walker (29-4)
Quarterback—John Parker Wilson (72)
Halfback—Kenneth Darby (40), Jimmy Johns (14-12)
Fullback—LéRon McClain (30-12), Tim Castille (41)
Flanker—Keith Brown (68), Will Oakley (16)

Left End—Wallace Gilberry (43), Chris Harris (16)
Left Tackle—Jeremy Clark (36)
Right Tackle—Dominic Lee (25), J.P. Adams (17)
Right End—Keith Saunders (43), Bobby Greenwood (16)
Strongside Linebacker—Demarcus Waldrop (26-4), Terrence Jones (32)
Middle Linebacker— Matt Collins (13-3), Prince Hall (47)
Weakside Linebacker—Juwan Simpson (56-3), Zach Schreiber (1-4)
Left Cornerback—Ramzee Robinson (57), Marquis Johnson (2-11)
Right Cornerback—imeon Castille (59), Lionel Mitchell (42), Eric Gray (2)
Strong Safety—Jeffrey Dukes (58-3)
Safety—Marcus Carter (21-5), Rashad Johnson (37-14)

Punter and Holder—P.J. Fitzgerald (3 punts, 3 field goals, 1 extra point) Snapper—Luke Spaulding (3 punts, 3 field goals, 1 extra point)
Placekicker—Jamie Christensen (4 kickoffs, 3 field goals, 1 extra point)
Coverage and Returns—Marcel Stamps (4), Chris Rogers (8), Ali Sharrief (9), Justin Woodall (8), Javier Arenas (9), Bryan Kilpatrick (12), Baron Huber (5), Sam Burnthall (9), Darren Mustin (8), Michael Johnson (4), Charles Hoke (9), Lorenzo Washington (4)

Scouting Report: Duke's Defense Can't Overcome Its Poor Offense
By Mitch Dobbs

Style points are important Saturday when Alabama hosts winless Duke. The Blue Devils have scored one touchdown this year and two field goals–all in the same game–against currently unbeaten Wake Forest in a 14-13 loss. Other than that, nothing for the Duke offense: nada, zero, zilch.
The offense has been the downfall of a not incapable defense. The Duke depth chart lists four down linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs, but in reality the Blue Devils defense is best described as unorthodox and unpredictable. Much like when Alabama opened the season against Hawaii, a blitz from any position on the field at any time should not be a surprise. Often, such a defense does not win out in the long run because with the rewards gained by blitzing from anywhere and everywhere come the risks of being gashed by a big play when the defense didn't guess right.

The Duke defense has shown steady improvement in 2006, allowing 297.0 yards per game as compared to a 411.3 total a season ago. Duke currently ranks 40th in total defense and 26th against the rush nationally. Duke is surrendering an average of 92.5 yards per game contrasted with 207.3 rushing yards per game a year ago. The Blue Devils are allowing only 2.7 yards per rushing attempt. Duke has not allowed more than 106 yards on the ground through the first four games.

The biggest of the Duke run-stopping big men is freshman tackle Vince Oghobaase, at 6-6, 310 pounds. The other three starters on the line, seniors Casey Camero and Eli Nichols along with junior end Patrick Bailey, average less that 260 pounds.

Oghobaas was forced to put his Duke debut on hold for a year while recovering from a knee injury, and after missing all of the 2005 campaign, the Houston, Texas, product has started all four contests this year and contributed 14 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and one quarterback sack.

Bailey missed the final three games of the 2005 season due to injury, but through four games this year leads Duke with 2.0 quarterback sacks while ranking second in tackles for loss (4.5) and third in total hits (23). Last week versus Virginia, the Elmendorf, Texas, native produced a team-best eight tackles including a sack.

Sophomore linebacker Michael Tauiliili anchors the linebackers in the middle. He is 5-11, 235 pounds and the team's leading tackler. Tauiliili's 8.0 tackles per game rank fourth in the ACC, and with 11-stop performances against Richmond and Virginia Tech, the Houston, Texas, native now has six double figure tackle games in his last nine outings dating back to last year. He was called "Michael Brown" last year when the rookie linebacker led the Blue Devils in tackles with 92, but during the off-season, he changed his last name to the harder-to-pronounce Tauiliili (tau-EE-lee-EE-lee) to pay respect to his Samoan heritage. In 15 career games, Tauiliili has 124 stops — good for a per game average of 8.3 tackles ... Tauiliili's 6.0 tackles for loss this season rank tied for fifth in the conference, and he has 9.0 tackles for loss in his last five games dating back to last season.

Two seniors flank Tauiliili, strongside linebacker Codey Lowe (6-2, 235) and weakside Jeramy Edwards (6-0, 220).

Senior cornerback John Talley (5-11, 180) is tied for fourth among all active Division I players with 12 career interceptions and third in interception return yardage. Talley is fourth on the ACC's all-time interception return yardage list with 245 yards. In each of Duke's first two games, Talley and Lowe teamed together for a turnover. Talley ranks first in the ACC with his two caused fumbles while Lowe is tied for third with his pair of recoveries.

Deonto McCormick (5010, 185) starts opposite of Talley at the other cornerback position.

McCormick is one of just seven recruited scholarship seniors on the Duke squad. The starting safeties for Duke are Chirs Davis (6-0, 205, junior) and Adrian Aye-Darko (6-2, 205, sophomore).
The good news for Alabama–Duke has allowed 9 touchdowns in its opponents' 12 trips into the red zone.

Duke's offense is horrendous. The stats tell the story: 3.2 points per game, 37.5 rushing yards (1.0 per carry) and 166.5 passing yards per game, a 3.3 yards per play average, three interceptions, 15 fumbles (seven of which were lost), 1 field goal and no touchdowns in 9 tries in the red zone, 22 sacks against and the list goes on.

The starting offensive line entered the season with a combined 12 starting assignments — the lowest total in the nation entering 2006. Junior center Matt Rumsey is the most experienced member of the unit, now with 15 starts and 1,109 snaps to his credit.

Sophomore Zack Asack was supposed to start the season at quarterback, but got kicked out of school for plagiarism in the summer–it might have been a blessing in disguise rather than a punishment. Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis has taken over, and ranks second among true freshmen nationally in both passing yards per game (146.0) and total passing yards (584). In the ACC, Lewis, who threw for 1,237 yards and 12 touchdowns at Hialeah Miami Lakes (Fla.) High School last fall, stands ninth in passing efficiency, ninth in passing yards per game and ninth in total offense.

In week two at Wake Forest, rookie quarterback Thaddeus Lewis started for the Blue Devils, becoming just the second true freshman to start under center for Duke in the past 22 seasons. Prior to Zack Asack's start against Navy last season (Oct. 1), the last Duke true freshman to start at quarterback was Steve Slayden against Army on Sept. 29, 1984.

Sophomore Marcus Jones was Duke's starting quarterback in the season-opener against Richmond, but approached head coach Ted Roof about going back to wide receiver last week against Virginia and finished with four receptions for 42 yards. A year ago, Jones was Duke's third string quarterback while starting four games at wide receiver and catching 11 passes for 90 yards and one touchdown.

Lewis played very well against Wake, completing 21-of-32 passes for 305 yards and one touchdown. The 305 passing yards marked the most by a Duke quarterback in his starting debut since Dave Brown threw for 444 yards versus Wake Forest in 1989. Lewis against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, but departed the contest prematurely following an illegal hit from Hokie defensive back Aaron Rouse in the second quarter. Last week against Virginia, Lewis completed 11-of-25 passes for 121 yards.

Junior wide receiver Jomar Wright (6-1, 200) returned to the Blue Devils lineup this year after missing the final six games of the 2005 campaign due to injury. He is Duke's active leader with 39 career receptions for 639 yards and three touchdowns.

Duke lists what it calls a "Devil" position, which appears to by a hybrid receiver-slotback position. Ronnie Drummer, a 5-9, 185 pound junior, is listed at the spot, and is known as a big play threat. Drummer and Felix Jones of Arkansas as the only two active players in the nation with both a run from scrimmage of 80 or more yards and a 100-yard kickoff return. Drummer hasn't done a thing this year, though, with 5 rushes for 11 yards and one catch for 12.

Wide receiver Enron Riley is averaging 18.5 yards per catch in his career (22-for-408), this year catching 11 passes for 161 yards. Raphael Chesnut is the leading receiver with 16 receptions for 162 yards.

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