'BAMA Newsletter 7

Inside this Newsletter: Number 7 October 12, 2006

- Editorial: Good Time To Show Improvement
- Tide Escapes With Win
- Depth Chart
- Scouting Report
- Coach Shula Says
- Season Statistics (PDF Verison)

Good Time To Show Improvement
By Kirk McNair

Over the years coaches have had a lot to say about playing poor teams. Coach Paul Bryant was among those who didn't worry about getting his team ready to play Tennessee or Auburn. The players would get themselves ready for those games, he said. He worried about getting the team ready to play the lesser lights. Of course, he didn't have to worry too much. Most of his Alabama teams made mincemeat out of the smallfry.

Coaches have also said that a good team can play poorly and still win. Alabama teams have done that many, many times in the past.

Alabama's win over Duke was an example of a team playing poorly and still managing to win. But that doesn't mean this is a good Alabama team.

Bama is a team with good players at many positions, which is not the same as a good team.

Crimson Tide Coach Mike Shula talked prior to the Duke game about Alabama needing first of all to win and second to show improvement. After back-to-back losses, getting the win was obviously paramount. But was there improvement? Not many would say the the Tide got better. Alabama went deep into the fourth quarter before putting that game away.

It would have been nice to have a convincing victory over a winless Duke team that had just one touchdown on the season.

There was bad news and good news earlier in the day. The bad news was that Arkansas' win over Auburn pretty much ended any outside hopes Bama might have had for winning the Southeastern Conference Western Division title and having an opportunity to win the SEC Championship. Now in addition to the long shot of Alabama going undefeated the rest of this season, Arkansas would have to lose three SEC games. What a difference it makes that Bama gave that game to the Hogs.

The good news is that Florida's win over LSU and Arkansas' victory over Auburn in early games Saturday make Bama's losses to the Gators and Razorbacks seem not quite so bad. And since LSU and Auburn loom as two of the more difficult games remaining on the Crimson Tide schedule, the comparisons of those games will provide confidence for Alabama later.

Alabama lost any chance for immediate gains in public perception vis a vis the SEC powers by its poor play against Duke.

A more tangible negative result of the nail-biter against the Blue Devils is that once again Alabama had no opportunity to give many back-up players meaningful game experience.

There may have been some areas where Alabama improved. Kenneth Darby seemed to take another step towards the level he played in 2004 and 2005.

Alabama's best play came in the final eight minutes of the game. If Bama had played that way from the beginning, driving down and scoring a touchdown then returning an interception for a score, getting a quick 14-0 lead, that game might have been the rout the Crimson Tide wanted and needed and expected.

But that didn't happen. On offense, Alabama's first drive stalled inside the 10 and Bama settled for a field goal. On defense, the Tide seemed to be on its heels most of the night.

It's never too late to get better. Perhaps Alabama can make a leap forward this week against an Ole Miss team that has had its problems. There are going to be big hurdles down the road, so Bama needs to get the wins it can. And if the Tide can also improve it can be a rewarding season.

Crimson Tide Escapes With Win Over Duke
By Kirk McNair

When you think rebounds, you may think basketball. But Alabama's football team got a rebound against Duke last Saturday. The Tide rebounded from a terrible first half to come from behind and take a misleading 30-14 win. Thus, Bama was able to avoid one of those disaster games that come along a little too often, the likes of losses to Northern Illinois, Louisiana Tech, and Central Florida.

If Alabama had played the first eight minutes of the game like the Crimson Tide played the final eight minutes then the rout everyone expected against the winless Blue Devils might have taken place. But Bama didn't play consistently well until the final offensive drive and final meaningful defensive stand, both possessions resulting in Crimson Tide touchdowns.

In an error-filled game, Alabama got a burst of fourth quarter running offense from Kenneth Darby and a interception for a touchdown from Lionel Mitchell to escape with victory.

Alabama got the football at its own 46 with 8:11 to play and leading by only 16-14. Darby, who had only 55 yards rushing through three quarters, went to work. He had a gut-it-out 10-yard run for a first down into Duke territory. Two more runs got nine yards before Tim Castille picked up the first down. After a penalty, Darby ran 18 yards to the Duke 25 and another 20 to the Duke two.

Jimmy Johns replaced Darby and ran it in for his first college touchdown. Jamie Christensen's important extra point kick gave the Tide a nine-point lead at 23-14 with 4:08 to play.

Mitchell iced the game with his second interception of the year. The pass was tipped by Simeon Castille and grabbed by Mitchell at midfield. He raced 50 yards to the end zone with 3:33 to play and the Tide had its 30-14 win. Jeremy Clark and Prince Hall provided crushing blocks that enabled Mitchell to go into the end zone untouched.

Darby broke the 100-yard barrier for the first time this year. He had 18 carries for 115 yards. Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson continued his streak of passing for at least 200 yards in every game. He completed 18 of 30 passes for 220 yards. He had one pass intercepted and threw for two touchdowns, one each to ace receivers D.J. Hall and Keith Brown. Hall had seven catches for 124 yards, Brown six receptions for 57 yards.

Alabama's Kenneth Darby had 115 rushing yards last Saturday against Duke, with 92 rushing yards coming in the second half. -- Getty Images

Alabama had a 3-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, but it wasn't because the Crimson Tide had dominated. Duke's maligned offense had controlled the ball for most of the first quarter, Bama likely dodging a bullet when Duke fumbled into the end zone with Simeon Castille recovering for Alabama.

Castille didn't play the ball well. He could have covered the fumble and given Alabama the ball at the 20. Instead he tried to run it out and Bama started near its goalline. And as would be symptomatic, the Tide was its own worst enemy in digging the hole deeper with penalties.

Alabama's season-long ineptness in the Red Zone continued on Bama's first possession, although the Crimson Tide did manage to score. While the Tide drove smartly into First and Goal territory at the eight-yard line, by the time Bama's Jamie Christensen lined up to kick a field goal, Alabama had lost back to the 20 and Christensen had to make from 37 yards for a 3-0 lead.

The big play in the opening drive was Wilson's 33-yard pass to Hall down to the eight. Also, Darby had a 13-yard run.

Duke took the lead early in the second quarter. The Blue Devils didn't waste their second opportunity inside the Alabama 10. Duke overcame a penalty and completed a 9-yard pass from Thadddeus Lewis to an unguarded Eron Riley. Joe Surgan's extra point made it Duke 7, Alabama 3.

Just over five minutes before intermission, Alabama reclaimed the lead with an unusual drive of fits and starts. It was officially 11 plays for 90 yards and took 6:46. Alabama had to overcome a handful of penalties and Duke also had a costly one. (Based on penalties against both teams, it was a poorly played game.)

After the kickoff Rashad Johnson had a big return to midfield, but Bama was guilty of holding and had to start at its own 10. But that wasn't the worst of it. The Tide got an offensive pass interference call that made it first and 20 at the 11. Then after what appeared to be about a 65-yard gain on a pass from Wilson to Brown, the ball was brought back because Brown had stepped out of bounds. The only thing that saved the drive was poetic justice, a late hit personnel foul on Duke.

Bama got rolling from there on a 26-yard pass from Wilson to Le'Ron McClain. Wilson then got a 41-yard gain on an excellent catch by Hall at the Duke five-yard line. Darby gained three, but that was more than offset by a false start penalty. From the eight, Darby got four to the four. On a broken third down play, Wilson threw across the field to a wide open Hall for the touchdown. Christensen gave Bama a 10-7 lead.

Duke took almost no time to retake the lead. Lewis ran it over right end from five yards out for a 14-10 lead. The Blue Devils got a 33-yard run from third team tailback Re'quan Boyette and a 35-yard pass from Lewis to Riley to the two in the 6-play, 74-yard drive.

Alabama had one more chance at points on a fine two-minute drive, but from the dreaded Red Zone Christensen missed on a 31-yard field goal try as the first half ended.

Other than failing to get points, Alabama handled those final moments of the second quarter well. Bama did nothing after the Duke touchdown and punted. The Tide expended three timeouts in forcing the Blue Devils to punt back and took over at the Alabama 30 with 37 seconds remaining. Wilson completed a pair of 21-yard passes, one to Brown and one to Hall. But after getting into the Red Zone, Bama came up empty.

Alabama got off to a good start in the second half when Ramzee Robinson got his first interception of the year, setting theTide up at the Duke 40. A couple of passes got Bama a first down at Duke's 26, Wilson scrambled to the Duke 18 and then got a first down inside the 15 on a fourth down quarterback sneak. Three plays later Wilson connected with Brown on a nine-yard touchdown pass. Christensen's waist-high extra point kick was blocked by Duke's Casey Camero, leaving the Tide with only a two-point lead at 16-14.

Alabama and Duke exchanged gifts. Bama had the first giveaway. Wilson threw high to Brown, who tipped the ball to Duke safety John Talley, who returned it 27 yards to the Alabama 15.

The Blue Devils managed only a yard on three runs, and then Surgan missed a 31-yard go-ahead field goal. It was Duke's last serious offensive threat

TIDE NOTES: The win broke a 1-1 series tie between Alabama and Duke. The Blue Devils had defeated Bama, 29-26, in the January 1, 1945, Sugar Bowl, while the Crimson Tide was a 35-12 winner over Duke in 1972.

Alabama leads the all-time series with Ole Miss by a 43-8-2 margin since the fist meeting in 1994. Alabama has a 21-1 record against the Rebels in Tuscaloosa. Bama's first ever game in what was then known as Denny Stadium came on October 5, 1929, a 22-7 win over the Rebels.

The Crimson Tide will be playing its 1,125th all-time football game Saturday. Bama is 778-303-43 (71.2 per cent) in 111 years of football competition. The Mississippi game will be Alabama's 250th in Bryant-Denny Stadium, where the Tide has a 205-41-3 (82.9 per cent) record.

Bama is 10-1 in its last 11 games at Bryant-Denny. In its last 18 games (all of last season and halfway through this year) the Tide is 14-4.

Alabama Depth Chart Vs. Duke
By Kirk McNair

Alabama opened the Duke game with the same offensive lineup it has had for the past four games, but on defense the Crimson Tide started the game with two defensive tackles and four defensive linemen for only the second time this season. Dominic Lee got the starting nod instead of a fifth defensive back, as has been the case in four Bama games this year. Alabama will be back under Southeastern Conference roster restrictions this week. As the home team in an SEC game, Bama will be allowed to dress 95 players, of which 80 will be designated as eligible to participate in the game. The visiting team, Ole Miss, will be limited to 70 players dressed.Alabama hosts Ole Miss at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. CBS will televise the game.Defensive tackle Dominic Lee was the starter for the second time this year, as was middle linebacker Prince Hall. Strongside linebacker Terrence Jones returned to the starting lineup as Demarcus Waldrop went to back-up status after two consecutive starts. At right guard, B.J. Stabler was in his usual starting role, but played only 29 snaps. Back-up Marlon Davis was in for 34 offensive plays. In last week's game against Duke, Alabama coaches selected fullback LéRon McClain as the offensive player of the week, end Wallace Gilberry as the defensive player of the week, and Eric Gray (who participates on punt return, kickoff coverage and kickoff return teams) as special teams player of the week. There was no limit on the number of players Alabama could dress or play in the non-conference game against Duke and 108 were in uniform. But it didn't really matter. Against Duke, Alabama played only 60 men–26 on offense, 27 on defense, and seven just on special teams. Several got only token playing time. Seven of the 26 men who saw offensive action got only two snaps. Here are those who played against Duke with starters 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 (45-1), Nikita Stover (11), Matt Caddell (6)
Left Tackle—Andre Smith (62-6), Cody Davis (2)
Left Guard—Justin Britt (58), Mike Johnson (2-6)
Center—Antoine Caldwell (62), Evan Cardwell (7-6)
Right Guard—B.J. Stabler (29), Marlon Davis (34)
Right Tackle—Chris Capps (62-6), Kyle Tatum (2)
Tight End—Travis McCall (50-11), Nick Walker (14-6), Charles Hoke (2-9)
Quarterback—John Parker Wilson (62), Marc Guillon (2)
Halfback—Kenneth Darby (36), Jimmy Johns (13-14), Ali Sharrief (2-8)
Fullback—LéRon McClain (44-14), Tim Castille (20), Baron Huber (2-3)
Flanker—Keith Brown (47), Will Oakley (28)

Left End—Wallace Gilberry (51), Chris Harris (11)
Left Tackle—Jeremy Clark (39), Brandon Deaderick (4)
Right Tackle—Dominic Lee (31), J.P. Adams (11)
Right End—Keith Saunders (33), Bobby Greenwood (28-5)
Strongside Linebacker—Terrence Jones (34), Demarcus Waldrop (11-5), Eryk Anders (2)
Middle Linebacker— Prince Hall (37), Matt Collins (14-5), Darren Mustin (11-6)
Weakside Linebacker—Juwan Simpson (51-5), Zach Schreiber (26-5)
Left Cornerback—Ramzee Robinson (54-5), Marquis Johnson (8-9), Chris Rogers (7-11)
Right Cornerback—Simeon Castille (51-7), Lionel Mitchell (23), Eric Gray (19-14)
Strong Safety—Jeffrey Dukes (56-6), Justin Woodall (6-11)
Safety—Marcus Carter (32-3), Rashad Johnson (26-17), Sam Burnthall (6-14)
Punter and Holder—P.J. Fitzgerald (5 punts, 2 field goals, 3 extra points) Snapper—Luke Spaulding (5 punts, 2 field goals, 3 extra points)
Placekicker—Jamie Christensen (6 kickoffs, 2 field goals, 3 extra points)
Coverage and Returns—Marcel Stamps (5), Javier Arenas (8), Bryan Kilpatrick (14), Forress Rayford (1)

Scouting Report: Ole Miss Has The Parts, But So Far Not The Sum
By Mitch Dobbs

Ole Miss has the biggest offensive line and the quickest defensive line that Alabama has seen to date, Alabama coaches have said in their assessment of the upcoming opponent. On offense, the numbers definitely back up the Rebels' claim on size up front: sophomore right tackle Maurice Miller is 345 pounds, freshman right guard John Jerry is 350, sophomore left tackle Michael Oher is 322, senior left guard Andrew Wicker 295 and junior center Corey Actis is a relatively petite 290.

Wicker played his first three seasons on the Rebels defensive line, but was moved to the offensive side of the ball with the hiring of Ed Orgeron. In his time on the offensive line, Wicker since picked up starts at two different positions in right tackle and his natural position of left guard. In all, Wicker has started at four different spots during his Rebels career.

The Rebels offense has still been nothing to write home about. Among Southeastern Conference teams, they are 12th in passing offense and 11th in scoring offense and total offense. Only the running game is above average in the SEC, at 141.2 rushing yards per game, Ole Miss is fifth in rushing.

The beef up front has led the way for a solid first half of the season for junior running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (5-11, 215), who is third in the Southeastern Conference in rushing (95.2 yards per game) behind Arkansas' Darren McFadden and Auburn's Kenny Irons. Green-Ellis has posted back-to-back 100-yard rushing games versus Georgia and Vanderbilt and had a career-high 135 in the Rebels' loss to Georgia. Sophomore Mico McSwain is a 6-1, 203-pound speedster, and the backup to Green-Ellis. He has rushed for 60 yards on 15 attempts this year.

Junior quarterback Brent Schaeffer, a 6-2, 205 pounder who started his career at Tennessee, has rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 60 attempts. Schaeffer the passer has put up meager numbers in the first half of the season, throwing for 622 yards on 55 of 128 (45.1 per cent). He has thrown four touchdowns and eight interceptions. His efficiency rating is a paltry 85.61.

At wide receiver, the Rebels talent is young. Of the 63 receptions on the season, 53 are to first time pass-catchers. True freshmen Dexter McCluster (5-9, 170) and Marshay Green (5-10, 170) are leading receivers. McCluster has 15 catches for 232 yards and a touchdown and Green has 10 receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns.

Ole Miss' defense centers around returning All-SEC linebacker Patrick Willis, who has recorded double-digit tackles in 12 of his last 14 games, and one of the most complete linebacking corps in the conference. Willis, the Rebels' 6-2, 240-pound senior middle linebacker, leads the league in tackles (62) and has eight tackles for loss.

Overall, however, the Rebels have been poor on defense. In the SEC, they are 9th in passing defense (200 yards per game), 10th in scoring defense (23.5 per game) and 11th in rushing defense (159.3).

Willis and junior strongside linebacker Garry Pack (6-1, 220, Jr.) combined for 26 solo tackles with Pack picking up 14 and Willis 12, both career-highs. Junior weakside linebacker Rory Johnson was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week on this week for his play in the Vanderbilt game, finishing with a career-best 16 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and a pass broken up.

Rebels freshman defensive end Greg Hardy (6-5, 240) picked up his fourth straight start versus Vanderbilt making a career high 10 tackles. Hardy also turned in his team-leading third forced fumble of the season and one pass batted down. The 10 tackles mark his first double-digit tackling performance of his career.

In the game versus Georgia, Ole Miss blocked two punts, although the first was called back for a holding penalty. Rebels defensive backs Dustin Mouzon and Cassius Vaughn each picked up a block on Georgia's Gordon Ely-Kelso in the first half of action. In addition, Ole Miss senior Trumaine McBride blocked a Kentucky field goal attempt earlier in the season.

The Rebels nearly recorded another block on a punt versus Vanderbilt, as the Commodore punter was tackled for a loss. Vaughn nearly blocked a kick against Vanderbilt, and instead wound up tackling the Commodore punter for a loss of 13 yards. Vaughn's play versus Vanderbilt led to an Ole Miss touchdown.

Placekicker Joshua Shene is new, but is 3 of 5 on field goals and 9 of 9 on point after touchdown kicks this year. His long made attempt is a 32 yarder, but he has attempted one kick of over 50 yards this year.

Punter Rob Park is averaging 39.6 yards per kick on the season, with a 57-yard long and six of his 33 punts have been fair caught.

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