'BAMA Newsletter

Inside the 'BAMA weekly newsletter, Number 13, for November 22, 2006:

- Editorial: What's In Tide's Football Future?
- Tide Again Falls Short
- Depth Chart
- Basketball Update
- Coach Shula Says
- Season Statistics (PDF version)

What's In Tide's Football Future?
By Kirk McNair

Heard any rumors lately? University officials have been tight-lipped about what, if any, changes will be made in Alabama's football program following a disappointing 6-6 season. But that doesn't stop the rumors of talk radio and the internet, nor the speculation of legitimate journalists.

The general concern among administrators and followers of the Crimson Tide is that the best possible coaching staff be employed. To that end speculation ranges from a change in one or more assistant coaches to a complete sweep, including Head Coach Mike Shula.

As Alabama has learned (and Bama hasn't been alone in receiving this lesson), making a change in coaches does not guarantee improvement. Still, it must be the commitment of Athletics Director Mal Moore to make the best judgement regarding personnel.

The big question is whether Mike Shula will continue to be Alabama's head football coach. A strong case can be made on both sides. Certainly Shula is an Alabama hero, a former quarterback star. He has an exceptional football pedigree, the son of Don Shula, and himself a coach in the NFL. Also to his credit is him being a person absolutely above reproach, the natural choice of role model to student-athletes.

Not to be overlooked is the extraordinary performance of the 2005 Alabama football team that went 10-2, including winning the Cotton Bowl.

Finally, Shula was there for his alma mater at a bleak time in the aftermath of the Mike Price firing. He took over as head coach when the Tide was at low ebb, down in scholarships, still under NCAA sanctions and probation, the program reeling from the turbulent coaching changes. Alabama was looking for stability and Shula offered that.

Meanwhile, Athletics Director Mal Moore has steered the athletics department to the end of probation, solicited millions of dollars to upgrade facilities to among the nation's best, and vastly raised salaries of football coaches. And the football team that was decimated by scholarship reductions is now approaching equality as two-thirds of this year's team is made up of freshmen and sophomores.

All of that means that the job of Alabama head football coach is a very attractive one, far more so than it was when Moore tapped Shula for the position in May, 2003. Additionally, the bulk of difficult games in 2007 will be home games. Whoever is head coach next season can be expected to have great success.

One thing that will not factor in to the decision is the high price of change. If Moore determines that the Alabama football program needs to be in new hands, he will pay Shula something in the neighborhood of $4 million. That is the cost of being competitive in college football today with virtually every high profile coach having a high buyout.

Perhaps Shula, not noted for flexibility, can convince Moore that he's willing to change the way things are being done, which is to say meaning changes in coaches and/or philosophy.

The best thing that could happen is that Shula is given more time and proves to be a huge success. Unfortunately, if he cannot be successful, delaying inevitable change does not make it easier later. Procrastination could worsen the situation.

Caution says one should not read too much into no one stepping forward to give Shula a post-season vote of confidence. But logic wonders why.

Tide Falls Short In Fifth Straight Loss To Auburn
By Kirk McNair

Alabama receiver Nikita Stover races for a touchdown in a career day against Auburn. --AP Photo

Alabama never gave up Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium, except that the Crimson Tide gave away too many points. The result was Auburn taking a 22-15 win, the fifth straight victory for the Tigers in the series.

The errors were partly those of the players, partly those of the coaching staff. Alabama certainly and curiously left five points on the field in its decision-making process. That wouldn't be enough to make the difference in the final score, but it might have changed the outcome with later decisions.

Alabama's last chance was ended when David Irons intercepted a John Parker Wilson pass with just over a minute to go.

Alabama, once again, will be able to play the "what if" game for a painful year. Alabama basically gave Auburn two touchdowns by allowing Wilson to be sacked. Resulting fumbles gave the Tigers short yardage to touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Alabama–the poster child for red zone ineffectiveness–decided it could make two-point conversions after a couple of touchdowns. This is the same team that can't make two yards when the payoff is six points rather than two.

Finally, Alabama eschewed valuable field goal points in the final minutes in a desperation try for a touchdown.

Alabama finished the season with three consecutive losses. Although technically the Tide is bowl eligible at 6-6, outside influences must work for Bama to be selected for post-season play. Under rules, Alabama could practice for the next couple of weeks until bowl announcements are made following games of December 2.

Alabama finished 2-6 in Southeastern Conference games.

Alabama did strike first, although the process was all-too-familiar. With first and goal at the Auburn three, Bama tried three runs in the middle of the line and faced fourth and goal at the one. After a delay of game penalty, Jamie Christensen kicked the Tide to a 3-0 lead.

It had been a nice drive with John Parker Wilson passing to Le'Ron McClain for a 12-yard gain, Kenneth Darby ripping off a 14-yard run, Wilson scrambling for 27, and D.J. Hall going 21 yards on an end-around to the three.

Alabama's defense was doing the job against Auburn, but couldn't keep the Tigers out of the end zone on short drives courtesy of the Alabama offense. On consecutive series in the second quarter, Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves went over Bama's right tackle and sacked Wilson, causing fumbles.

The first fumble gave Auburn the ball at Alabama's 27. Back-up halfback Brad Lester ran it four times, the last 12 yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead.

Barely a minute later, Wilson again was blindsided and fumbled at the eight. Auburn star Kenny Irons ran it in on first down. John Vaughn had to kick a long extra point after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but it ws 14-3.

It looked as if Auburn might end the half with a 99-yard drive after Bama punter D.J. Fitzgerald had a 53-yard punt to the Auburn one. But Bama's defense finally got the Tigers stopped at the Alabama 36, where Vaughn's 53 yard field goal try was short and wide.

Then Alabama was able to take advantage of curious Auburn coaching. Alabama had the ball back with 1:55 to play in the first half at the Crimson Tide 37 and no one would have given odds in favor of the Tide being able to score against normal defense. Wilson was trying, though, hitting Nikita Stover on an 11-yard gain to near midfield. For some reason, the Tigers called a safety blitz. Wilson got the ball to Stover where the safety should have been, and Stover showed great concentration in making the grab when the cornerback just missed it. Stover had no trouble on the 52-yard jaunt for a touchdown.

One notable change in Bama's lineup on that touchdown drive was moving Antoine Caldwell from center to right tackle with Evan Cardwell taking over at center. Later in the game Caldwell would also play left guard.

The touchdown pass to Stover pulled Bama to within 14-9 and the score would stay there as Alabama elected to go for a two-point conversion. It was not close to successful, in fact intercepted.

Alabama got the ball to start the second half because Auburn had won the opening toss and, somewhat surprisingly, decided to receive rather than defer. Wilson directed an excellent drive.

Wilson hit Stover on a third down play for 10 yards and a first down, then connected with Will Oakley for 35 yards on a third down play. Three runs got a first down at the Auburn 14. On second and nine Wilson passed to tight end Travis McCall for the touchdown.

Once again, Alabama failed to get an extra point. Again trying to a get a two-point conversion, the pass was incomplete leaving the Tide with a 15-14 lead.

Auburn would take the lead going to the fourth quarter as Tigers quarterback Brandon Cox hit two big pass plays. The first was to fullback Carl Stewart for 37 yards to the Bama 17. On third-and-15 from the 22, Cox got the ball to Rodgeriquez Smith in the end zone.

Auburn had a two-point play and made it with ease, fullback Carl Stewart passing to an unguarded wide receiver, Lee Guess.

It was Auburn 22, Alabama 15 going to the fourth quarter.

Alabama had a nice opportunity when Chris Harris forced a fumble and Jeremy Clark recovered for Bama at the Auburn 40. But one play later Wilson passed to Keith Brown (who has missed a lot of work this year with injury) and Brown fumbled it back to the Tigers at the Auburn 30 with 11 minutes to play.

Alabama had to start from its own 11-yard line after forcing Auburn to punt. It would be the Tide's last decent chance, and Bama gave great effort.

D.J. Hall started the drive with a seven-yard end-around. Jimmy Johns from halfback gained seven more and a first down. Wilson went back to Brown, who hauled in a 21-yard gain to the Tide 46. Johns ran for another six into Auburn territory at the 48. Wilson completed a pass to Tim Castille for 10 and a first down at the Auburn 38.

Wilson passed complete to Stover at the 13, a play close enough to have to withstand review.

In the Red Zone, Bama first lost five yards, Johns caught on a toss sweep. Wilson then misfired on a pass to Brown. On third-and-15 from the 18 with 5:24 to play a scrambling Wilson just overthrew Matt Caddell, who had gotten open in the end zone. With 5:17 to play, Alabama, needing two scores to win, seemed to be ready to attempt a 36-yard field goal. But with the play clock running out, Alabama had to use a time out. The Tide then replaced the kicking team with the offense. Bama threw incomplete in the end zone and Auburn took over with a seven-point lead.

Alabama did get the ball back with 1:50 to play and 59 yards to go for a tying touchdown and extra point kick (thanks to a nice 22-yard punt return by Javier Arenas). But on second down Wilson's pass was intercepted and the Tigers had only to run out the clock and start an Auburn celebration in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

TIDE NOTES: For the first time since a gruesome broken leg suffered in Alabama's game against Florida on October 1, 2006, Alabama receiver Tyrone Prothro returned to the football field in uniform on Saturday. Prothro's participation was not as a player, however. He participated in the pre-game rituals, carrying out the game ball to a standing ovation. Prothro dressed in full gear for the game, but was not on the active roster of 80 men made eligible to play in the game.

D.J. Hall caught only one pass, but it was for 15 yards and gave him 1,014 receiving yards this season, an Alabama record. The previous record was 1,000 receiving yards by David Palmer in 1993. Hall has a school record seven 100-yard receiving games this year.

First-year quarterback John Parker Wilson set three Alabama records. His 2,539 yards broke the previous record of Brodie Croyle (2,499, set last year). Wilson's 346 pass attempts broke the record of 341 set by Croyle in 2003. Wilson had two touchdown passes, giving him 16 on the season, which ties the record held by Croyle (2005) and Mike Shula (1985).

Alabama Depth Chart Vs. Auburn
By Kirk McNair

Antoine Caldwell was a man of many hats against Auburn. The Crimson Tide center also played nine snaps at right tackle and three at left guard. Additionally, he is listed having played two snaps on special teams because twice Alabama elected to try for two-point conversions after touchdowns. Alabama played 54 men against Auburn. The Tide used 20 on offense, 20 on defense, and 14 just on special teams. The Southeastern Conference limits were in effect for last week's game. Alabama was allowed to dress 95 of which 80 were eligible for competition, and Auburn was limited to 70 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. On defense, Alabama continued in its nickel package with five backs and only three linemen (along with three linebackers) against Auburn Saturday. As had been the case the previous week against LSU, Eric Gray was the starter at right cornerback (and Simeon Castille the nickel back) and Bobby Greenwood started at right end. There was a change at tackle where Jeremy Clark started and Dominic Lee came in when the Tide shifted to a four-man front. Also on defense, safety Rashad Johnson missed his second consecutive game with a knee injury and Marcus Carter was in the starting lineup. On offense, wide receiver Keith Brown was able to play despite knee and ankle injuries, but Will Oakley got the start. Marlon Davis started at right guard and B.J. Stabler, who has been the starter at right guard most of the past two seasons, did not play for the second consecutive game. Stabler has been nursing a knee injury. Chris Capps started at right tackle, but played only 22 snaps. Caldwell, halfback Kenneth Darby, and defensive end Wallace Gilberry extended their starting streaks to 23 games, longest of any current Tide players. Defensive end Chris Harris played in his 41st game, the most by any current Alabama player without a career start. Here are those who played against Auburn 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. The "special teams" included Bama's regular offense with the Tide twice attempting two-point after touchdown conversions.

Split End—D. J. Hall (56-2), Nikita Stover (20-1)
Left Tackle—Andre Smith (63-3)
Left Guard—Justin Britt (60-2)
Center—Antoine Caldwell (63-2), Evan Cardwell (12-2)
Right Guard—Marlon Davis (63-2)
Right Tackle—Chris Capps (22-1), Kyle Tatum (32-1)
Tight End—Travis McCall (32-10), Nick Walker (14-1), Charles Hoke (1-5)
Quarterback—John Parker Wilson (63-2)
Halfback—Kenneth Darby (35-1), Jimmy Johns (10-17)
Fullback—LéRon McClain (36-10), Tim Castille (27-9)
Flanker—Will Oakley (22-1), Keith Brown (54-2), Matt Caddell (8)

Left End—Wallace Gilberry (42), Chris Harris (17)
Left Tackle—Jeremy Clark (30), J.P. Adams (18), Lorenzo Washington (2)
Right Tackle—Dominic Lee (38), Brandon Deaderick (7)
Right End—Bobby Greenwood (40), Keith Saunders (19)
Strongside Linebacker—Terrence Jones (40-2), Zach Schreiber (20-6)
Middle Linebacker— Prince Hall (47), Matt Collins (11)
Weakside Linebacker—Juwan Simpson (59-4)
Left Cornerback—Ramzee Robinson (58)
Right Cornerback—Simeon Castille (59-6), Eric Gray (13-17), Lionel Mitchell (10-1)
Strong Safety—Jeffrey Dukes (59-7)
Safety—Marcus Carter (59-4)

Punter and Holder—P.J. Fitzgerald (4 punts, 1 field goal) Snapper—Luke Spaulding (4 punts, 1 field goal)
Placekicker—Jamie Christensen (4 kickoffs, 1 field goal)
Coverage and Returns—Chris Rogers (10), Marquis Johnson (12), Ali Sharrief (10), Justin Woodall (10), Javier Arenas (10), Bryan Kilpatrick (10), Forress Rayford (1), Sam Burnthall (14), Demarcus Waldrop (13), Darren Mustin (4), Michael Johnson (1)

Looking At Tide's Bowl Situation
By Kirk McNair

Alabama's football team didn't do itself any favors with its three-game losing streak to end the season.

After getting bowl eligible with six victories, the Tide proceeded to drop to a 6-6 final record, and put its bowl opportunity in jeopardy. Here is the situation:

The Southeastern Conference has agreements to place eight teams in bowl games (including a minimum of one team in a BCS Bowl). Nine SEC teams are eligible for bowl games. Bowl rules stipulate that a six-win team cannot be chosen over teams with more than six wins. Currently South Carolina is the only other bowl eligible SEC team with only six wins. South Carolina plays Clemson Saturday and will be 6-6 with a loss, 7-5 with a win.

If South Carolina loses, most expect the Independence Bowl in Shreveport to take Bama for its December 28 game. If South Carolina wins the Tide might still make Shreveport if both Florida and Arkansas win out to the SEC Championship Game and both are selected for BCS games (not likely). Otherwise, the Crimson Tide could still get a bowl bid in a game not affiliated with the SEC, but affiliated with a confereence that fails to have enough bowl eligible teams to fill all its slots.

Bowl announcements will be made following games of December 2.

Alabama has national records for playing in the most bowl games (53) and winning the most bowl games (30), including last year's victory over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl.

Basketball Update: Alabama wins Paradise Jam And Moves Up In Polls
By Mitch Dobbs

The Alabama basketball team overcame nagging injury and a personal tragedy that hit close to home in the first week of its season, winning three games and the tournament title at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

Alabama defeated Middle Tennessee 71-62 in the opener on Friday, Iowa 72-60 in the semifinal on Sunday, and Xavier 53-56 in the final to win the shootout Monday night.

Brandy "Nikki" Murphy, an athletics student trainer and girlfriend of Alabama center Jermareo Davidson, died on November 13 from injuries sustained in an automobile accident just after midnight Sunday. Davidson was a passenger in the vehicle Murphy was driving.

"I want people to know that I loved Nikki," Davidson said in the statement issued through The University. "She was my girlfriend. We talked about having a future together, but she wanted me to graduate first. I appreciate all the prayers and support from my family and friends, and I am thankful for her family and how they accepted me."

The squad traveled to St. Thomas and played in the opening game of the tournament against Middle Tennessee without Davidson, who remained behind in order to attend Murphy's memorial service. Davidson joined the Tide for the Sunday's semifinal game and Monday's tournament championship game, posting double doubles in each contest, making for his third double double in the three games he has played.

In the final game, junior college transfer Mykal Riley led Alabama with 13 points and 10 rebounds, coming off the bench to play 33 minutes in the game. Riley scored on 6 of 11 shooting from the field, including 1 of 6 from 3-point range.

Sophomore Alonzo Gee was voted the tournament's MVP after scoring 13 points against Xavier, 21 against Iowa and 12 against Middle Tennessee for an average of 15.3 points per game. His teammate, Ronald Steele, joined him on the all-tournament team. Steele's Paradise Jam numbers included six assists, five points and four rebounds against Xavier, 18 points and six assists against Iowa, and 20 points and four assists against Middle Tennessee. According to Crimson Tide Head Coach Mark Gottfried, the tournament title did not come without pain.

"Richard (Hendrix) got hit and cut," Gottfried said. "He's got stitches. Jermareo's back is hurting. Ronald's knee is hurting, and they just sucked it up and found a way. For November, I'm telling you now, that's pretty good. And I think we beat a very good team." Alabama returns home to host Texas Southern on Saturday at 6 p.m. CT.

The Crimson Tide has been ranked among the nation's top teams all year. In this week's polls Bama has moved up to number eight by the Associated Press and ninth in the Coaches Poll. Frank Burlison of Scout.com has Alabama up to number five in the nation.

Although Bama's non-conference home schedule is not as attractive as some might wish, Bama will have a few games that help in its RPI when NCAA bids are handed out next March. All of the games from the Paradise Jam could help Bama's ranking.

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