Bama moves to shore up fullback position

The Alabama offense continues to evolve, adapting and conforming to the strengths of the athletes involved. In the last several games the role of a traditional blocking fullback has expanded. <br><br>Responding to that change, the Tide staff has moved Juke King from defense to offense to shore up the fullback position.

Mark Tommerdahl is in charge of the ‘W' position, involving both tight ends and fullbacks. "Juke has been moved to offense to give us improved depth at the fullback position," Tommerdahl said. "Greg McLain has shown improvement, and we think he can be a fine player for us. But then you look at the (depth chart) and you're only one injury away from problems. Right now at this point in the season Juke will work just as a fullback."

Juke King prepares to squat at the Night of Champions. Since arriving on campus, King has bulked up to a solid 230+ pounds.

King was signed as a strong safety out of Theodore, but he spent all of his redshirt year and the first two months of 2002 working at strongside linebacker. He was listed third string at that position behind Cornelius Wortham and true freshman DeMeco Ryans.

He played linebacker in the recent junior varsity game, but King was receptive to the idea when his coaches suggested he move to fullback. "They just asked me if I'd like to try fullback and I agreed with them," King recalled. "I came over last week, working at the position. The coaches probably do think I'm suited to the position, because I can catch passes. I've got to keep working on it, but when I get it down I'll be okay."

King practiced all of last week with the offense, showing an excellent burst through the line and a talent for catching passes out of the backfield. "I think my speed and my pass-catching ability will help," he said. "It's up to me to learn the plays as quickly as I can. Learn the plays and execute and I'll probably get a chance to play."

The Tide coaches developed the ‘W' position specifically with Theo Sanders I mind. An excellent all-around athlete, Sanders was to be used as a blocking tight end, receiving tight end, a blocking fullback and a receiver out of the backfield. However Sanders has struggled as a receiver this year, and at the same time true freshman Greg McLain has shown promise at fullback.

Now working at fullback, King has shown very good speed for the position.

Even with David Cavan's injury, the Tide still has three serviceable tight ends. But depth at fullback is a problem. "At the ‘W' our "hand in the dirt" guys are Donald Clarke, Theo Sanders and Clint Johnston," Tommerdahl said. "Frankly, if you're looking for a guy to come in and fill in for Greg (at fullback), Theo has been there. Clint can do some things on some plays--but you get to the point where you wonder if it's going to be too much for some of them.

"When we're in a two tight ends set---two hand in the dirt guys---then Clarke, Sanders and Johnston have all been trained at that. But when you take that ‘W' and he's now a fullback---that's where it starts to get a little bit much for some of the guys. That's why we've moved Juke. Juke is being trained specifically right now as a fullback.

A hard worker in the weight room, King has bulked up to 230 pounds or so since arriving on campus without losing his speed. But he wasn't likely to get much playing time on defense, so using him to shore up the fullback position made sense.

"Juke is a good athlete, and he's a quick learner," Tommerdahl said. "He's got good speed and good hands, so he'll be fine. Of course he's got an awful lot to learn. Recognizing defenses will be tough. When things start happening fast, he'll have to learn quickly. But his defensive background helps us in that regard."

Both King and the Tide coaches hope the position move will translate into more playing time for the redshirt freshman athlete.

At Alabama the athletes are generally interested in two things: playing time, and finding a way to help the team.

So for King, the move is a good one. "I never played fullback before, but I played tailback in high school. I'm happy with the move. As far as offense or defense, I've got mixed feelings about that.

"But I'll do anything to help the team."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to several factors the Tide offense appears to be evolving back toward a more traditional use of tight ends and fullbacks. Expect Donald Clarke to continue to be Bama's top tight end---both as a blocker and receiver. Sanders and Johnston will be the swing players, working at both strongside and weakside tight end with Johnston especially being utilized as a receiver. And Greg McLain will be the No. 1 fullback, with King being trained as a backup.


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