Koenning of course was with Dennis Franchione his last year at Texas Christian, where the two helped guide tailback LaDainian Tomlinson to his second consecutive national rushing title and eventually a multi-million dollar contract with the NFL. With Tomlinson in the backfield, Horned Frog opponents pretty much knew who was going to get the football, and it was up to them to find a way to slow him down.
This year's Alabama squad has no one approaching that "big gun" status. Instead the Tide team utilizes any of several players to move the football. "We're very fortunate to have several guys that have made plays," Koenning said.
In terms of total yardage, starting quarterback Tyler Watts--Bama's best running quarterback since the wishbone--leads the way. But in Ahmaad Galloway, Santonio Beard, Shaud Williams and Ray Hudson, any of four running backs are a threat to put up big numbers. And in the first three games three different athletes have led the Tide in receiving.
"We're starting to get into the nitty-gritty of the schedule," Koenning said. "We're going to see what we've got. It's important to see all our different weapons perform. We're going to put them in the position to have that opportunity."
The first week it was Triandos Luke, who led Bama in receiving with nine receptions for 85 yards. Versus the Sooners Sam Collins was the man (six catches for 82 yards). And last week the Tide unveiled an entirely new offensive weapon, as tight end Donald Clarke came up big with three receptions for 80 yards.
The obvious question for Koenning is "Whose turn will it be this week?"
"Whoever practices and plays the best is probably going to be that guy," he said chuckling. "The big thing we look for is accountability. Which one of those guys can we trust and put in the position to make the play? Different guys have stepped up to do that."
With an offense described simply as "multiple," it's all about taking what the defense will give. Koenning explained, "Donald (Clarke) had a good game last week, but this is another week. We'll work this week and make those evaluations toward the end of practice. What can we do to get those guys the ball?
"And what will the defense let us do?"
It's a friendly competition and certainly one that benefits the team, but there's no doubt the various Tide athletes are hoping that this week will be their turn in the spotlight. "The players earn the right to get that done, which is good about our offense," Torbush said. "You don't go into every week saying ‘This guy or that guy is going to do it.' We've got some different guns that can help us. Of course the defense will dictate a lot of times what you can and can't do."
In a convincing win over North Texas last Saturday, the Tide accumulated 534 yards in total offense. But three turnovers from Bama QBs kept the final score much closer than it should have been.
"Regarding turnovers, we don't want them," Koenning stated flatly. "We're going to eliminate them and go on."
Koenning stresses ball security every day in practice, but both Tyler Watts and Brodie Croyle threw interceptions that were mistakes. "As coaches we stand up and take responsibility for that," Koenning said. "Especially with Brodie's interception. It was a situation that occurred that was unfortunate, but we'll learn from it and go on."
With Bama ahead 3-0, Tyler Watts directed an impressive drive that seemed destined to score. But a forced pass into coverage was picked off at the four yard line, when a "possum playing" Mean Green safety broke perfectly on the pass. Later in the game Watts was stripped of the ball on a running play, giving North Texas possession only five yards from the endzone. Three plays later North Texas cashed in for their only score of the game.
"The decision that Tyler made on that one pass was not a good decision," Koenning said. "When he fumbled, the guy scraped him from behind. He had the ball put away. It was just a fortunate play for them."
Though the drive included nothing but runs, Brodie Croyle was at quarterback when Alabama went up 19-7. Later, on the last possession of the first half, Croyle got a chance to show off his arm, leading the Tide to a first-and-goal at the seven-yard line.
But on third down Croyle and his receiver got their wires crossed, resulting in an ugly-looking interception. "With Brodie's (turnover), it was a conversion route on the goal line," Koenning explained. "Sam (Collins, the intended receiver) converted the route correctly. He ran the right route. Brodie anticipated another coverage and threw the wrong ball."
The Tide was obviously within easy running distance on the play. But with only 17 seconds on the clock and no time outs left, Alabama's best bet was to try for a touchdown pass. "We were going to throw the ball into the endzone at that point," Koenning said. "We weren't going to throw a ball underneath and maybe not get any points out of it. Unfortunately, they played the coverage that was perfect for that call. They made a good play, and the ball was turned over."