Observations On First Game

Anyone who watched Alabama dismantle Western Carolina in the season-opening game at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night would come to many of the same obvious conclusions. Some of the observations were not unexpected. One observation is that much tougher opponents wait ahead.



Alabama has the ingredients to be good on offense, and the Crimson Tide was very good with the football against the Catamounts. Still, there were some offensive surprises. Perhaps most notable was Bama's use of the tight end. Every time Alabama went to the pass to the tight end it seemed to be open. Bama even got a one-yard touchdown pass from Greg McElroy to Nick Walker.

No one was surprised that quarterback John Parker Wilson was able to complete passes to the likes of D.J. Hall. But who would have expected some of the nice grabs by redshirt freshman Earl Alexander?

Similarly, everyone who has been listening to Coach Nick Saban knew to expect Terry Grant to run well. Still, it was hard to be prepared for Grant's quickness. More of a surprise was the smooth and effective running of Glen Coffee.

Wilson had a couple of scrambles which probably brought a tinge of worry to some. It was against Western Carolina in the only previous meeting of the Crimson Tide and Catamounts that Brodie Croyle suffered a season-ending knee injury while scrambling in the second half of a runaway victory.

Alabama kept its offensive starters in for most of the first three quarters. With about five minutes to play Wilson was replaced by McElroy and Grant by Coffee and wide receiver D.J. Hall went to the sidelines. In the fourth quarter the second offensive line took the field.

Alabama played a lot of men in the game. It was surprising, though, that one of them was true freshman and third team quarterback Nick Fanuzzi, who was in late in the game.

It was comforting to see an offense that was run effectively without any danger of the play clock ever expiring.

Alabama's defense is advertised as a 3-4, meaning three defensive linemen, four linebackers and four defensive backs. But against Western Carolina's no-huddle spread offense, and perhaps owing to Bama's lack of depth at certain positions, the defense much of the night was a 4-2-5 (albeit with one of the four "derfensive linemen" often being one of the outside linebackers, Ezekial Knight or Keith Saunders.

Brandon Deaderick also saw action on the defensive line as a tackle.

Play on defense was not always solid. Western Carolina had some good runs and nice pass completions. But all-in-all Tide players were in the right position and running to the football. And, to be sure, Bama did not show much. There was virtually no use of the blitz.

Even though word came late in the week that freshman defensive tackle Josh Chapman had been academically cleared to play, it was freshman Alfred McCullough making an apperance at the nose tackle position for Bama. Lorenzo Washington started at the position because Brian Motley has been lost for at least six weeks with an ankle fracture.

It is no surprise that after one game a conclusion might be drawn that Alabama will live by offense in 2007. And a team can be good enough on offense to win a lot of games, though it would be helpful if the defense shows improvement through the season.

There are no complete returns on the kicking game, in part because it was not fully utilized. Punter P.J. Fitzgerald had only one punt. But there were some very good things revealed. Not unexpectedly, the return game was excellent with Javier Arenas and later Jonathan Lowe doing a good job. Leigh Tiffin missed one field goal, but was all-in-all very solid on kickoffs and field goals and extra points.

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