Examination Of The Tide Depth Chart

Alabama Coach Nick Saban takes a lot of pleasure in deriding the media about the interest reporters have in a depth chart. But he can't embarrass journalists or fans into not being interested in the depth chart.

Last spring Alabama Coach Nick Saban said there was no depth chart. He amended that to say there was a depth chart "for organizational purposes." Then when fall camp got started, he said the depth chart meant nothing, that there would be a depth chart on September 1 when Alabama opened the season, then another one on September 8 when the Crimson Tide played Vanderbilt, and so on each week.

A few days before Bama's season-opening game against Western Carolina a depth chart was issued. There were no huge surprises on it. There were a few alterations when the Tide played its first game, but nothing of major importance.

As Alabama prepares for its Saturday game at Vanderbilt, another depth chart is available, but it is pretty much the same as the original. It is interesting to compare what was offered prior to Western Carolina, what the depth chart was in that game, and how it's projected for Vandy. One issue to be determined is where (or if) two players who were suspended for the opener will fit into the depth chart in the future.

Alabana and Vanderbilt will kick off from Vanderbilt Stadium/Dudley Field at 11:37 a.m. CDT Saturday. The 39,773 seats are all sold.

One immediate change in the first depth chart issue to the media on August 27 was the regrettable injury that day to Brian Motley, who had been listed as the number one noseguard. His place was taken by Lorenzo Washington. Then there were other issues at the position, notably the academic question regarding true freshman Josh Chapman. Chapman was given NCAA clearance of eligibility the day before the opener, but by then another true freshman – Alfred McCullough – had been moved to number two. Both saw playing time against WCU.

This week Saban mentioned the possibility of Luther Davis seeing duty at noseguard. Davis had been listed as the number three defensive right end, behind Bobby Greenwood and Brandon Deaderick. When Alabama shifts the jack linebacker to the line of scrimmage, turning the 3-4 to a 4-3, that end spot becomes a tackle. Deaderick was in that spot on several occasions in the opener.

It was no surprise that the depth chart at left defensive end was Wallace Gilberry, backed by Milton Talbert.

Linebacker had only a minor adjustment. The outside linebackers were exactly as expected, Keith Saunders and Brandon Fanney at jack and Ezekial Knight and Zach Schreiber at strongside. The starters inside were no surprise, Rolando McClain at middle and Darren Mustin at weakside. DeMarcus Waldrop backed up Mustin and Cory Reamer was number two at middle.

The depth chart listed Kareem Jackson as a back-up right cornerback, but he was the starter at left cornerback as Simeon Castille opened the game as a nickel back. As expected Lionel Mitchell was the right cornerback with Marquis Johnson behind him.

That Justin Woodall saw playing time as the third team strong safety wasn't as surprising as the fact that he was not listed on the August 27 depth chart. He played behind starter Marcus Carter and back-up Ali Sharrief. Rashad Johnson, as expected, was the starting safety, backed by Javier Arenas and Chris Rogers.

It was probably a surprise to most that one man listed on the depth chart played at exactly the point the depth chart said he would. That's because most probably did not expect to see third team quarterback Nick Fanuzzi in the game. But true freshman Fanuzzi did see late game action behind starter John Parker Wilson and back-up Greg McElroy.

On the other hand, freshman offensive right guard Patrick Crump had been expected to play, but he did not see action. Instead, redshirt freshmen David Ross and Taylor Pharr were the back-ups to Marlon Davis.

As expected, two-year starter Chris Capps was a back-up to Andre Smith at left tackle. Mike Johnson had Capps' old position as number one right tackle, backed by B.J. Stabler. Drew Davis also played at left tackle.

The announced depth chart had William Vlachos as the back-up to center Antoine Caldwell and Evan Cardwell as the back-up to left tackle Justin Britt, but Cardwell was the number two center and Vlachos subbed for Britt at guard. Morgan Garner was the third center.

Tight end was a position that Saban promised to emphasize, and he did with several players seeing action. Nick Walker and Travis McCall, appear to be co-first team, but Preston Dial also saw extensive playing time and Charles Hoke was in for clean-up duty.

Saban dropped an intriguing nugget during Monday's press briefing, saying that a place had to be found for Jimmy Johns to play. Johns was the back-up to starting tailback Terry Grant Saturday, but also played one snap as a wide receiver. Third tailback Glen Coffee and fourth tailback Roy Upchurch also did well.

Alabama sometimes used a tight end in the backfield, but only one true fullback was used. Baron Huber was the fullback with true freshman Jeramie Griffin, who was listed second on the depth chart, held out.

As promised, Alabama used a number of wide receivers. D.J. Hall and Mike McCoy were the starters, but Matt Caddell, Nikita Stover and Earl Alexander saw plenty of playing time. Will Oakley also played, as did true freshman Darius Hanks and walk-on Darwin Salaam.

Specialists were as expected. Leigh Tiffin did the place-kicking. P.J. Fitzgerald was the punter, but got far more playing opportunities as holder for Tiffin's extra point and field goal tries than he did as a punter. Bama punted only once against Western Carolina. Arenas was the featured return man on kickoffs and punts. D.J. Hall was back with him on the first kickoff return, but that job was later taken by Jonathan Lowe, who also returned a punt. Brian Selman was the snapper.

Others who played on special teams in coverage and on returns were Eryk Anders, Marcel Stamps, Tyrone King, Charlie Higgenbotham and Foress Rayford.

Alabama played 69 men against Western Carolina. That included 33 on offense, 27 on defense and nine just on special teams. Eight true freshmen played.

This week Alabama will go to Vanderbilt. SEC rules stipulate only 65 men on the visiting team may be dressed out, so that guarantees some changes in the depth chart from last Saturday.

There is some interest in where two players suspended for the opener might fit in the depth chart. Keith Brown at wide receiver and Prince Hall at middle linebacker are both former first team players who, Saban said, will be given an opportunity to climb back up the depth chart.

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