In thinking about which Alabama player from yesteryear I might select to help Coach Nick Saban's 2007 Crimson Tide team, I was reminded of another guessing game from the past. In the 1970s, when I was in Alabama's sports information office and one of my very best friends, Sang Lyda, was a trainer, we fell into a conversation about which players might make it in the days when players had both offensive and defensive positions. The rules changed from time-to-time before settling on today's free substitution rule.
Don't let any of the old-timers kid you. Today's game is much better than when everyone (or nearly everyone) was a 60-minute man. Now a player practices his specialty rather than splitting time between offensive and defensive assignments. And there is no question that players can be fresher and therefore less likely to make mistakes today.
When Sang and I first began our dream team of two-way players, most of those playing for Bama had been both offensive and defensive players in high school. That's still the case with a number of players. And some who are on defense at Bama were offensive players as prep stars, or vice versa. For instance, safety Rashad Johnson was a running back and quarterback in high school, and offensive guard Justin Britt was a defensive end and linebacker as a prepper.
But increasingly, those who play offense at Alabama have been on offense throughout their prep and college careers (or strictly on defense in both high school and college). That makes it a little tougher to put together the team of two-way players.
Our selections didn't worry about kickers or snappers or holders, or even special situations calling for the likes of a nickel back.
Just for fun, my team will have a quarterback, center, fullback, tailback, two wide receivers, a tight end, two guards and two tackles on offense. The ones I picked dictate a 4-3 defense.
My first choice is the quarterback. I don't know if John Parker Wilson has ever played a down on defense, but Joe Namath and Steve Sloan probably didn't expect to be defensive backs at Alabama, either. Namath and Sloan both had their turns in the secondary, and because we need the best possible quarterback we'd depend on Wilson to be the safety.
Everyone has been trying to put Jimmy Johns at linebacker. Well, not everyone. Not Nick Saban, for instance. But we're going to put Johns at linebacker on defense while he plays tailback on offense. The fullback will be Prince Hall, who was considered as good a prospect on offense as he was on defense when he signed to play linebacker for Bama. He also will be a linebacker on this team.
It should come as no surprise that the wide receivers will also be defensive backs. We picked the best cornerback and the best wide receiver, so Simeon Castille and D.J. Hall will be our wideouts and corners.
Although we haven't seen much of him yet, we keep hearing that Justin Woodall is an excellent all-around athlete who could play any of a number of positions. We'll try him at tight end and strong safety on our imaginary team.
Justin Britt's experience as both an offensive and defensive player makes him a natural for offensive guard and defensive end. Brian Motley has offensive line experience as a scout team player last year when being redshirted. In the spring he moved to defensive tackle and was a pleasant surprise. He'll be an offensive guard and defensive tackle.
Travis McCall has been an outstanding blocker, so he moves to tackle. And he can still tell everyone he's an end, because he'll be an end on defense.