After being forced to miss all serious football work the last several months as he recovered from off-season surgery, senior receiver Antonio Carter was back at practice Tuesday.
Carter had surgery last summer to repair a stress fracture in his leg, which involved the insertion of a steel rod into the bone. For months he could not run and cut normally, due to the pain. But yesterday he was running freely, juking defenders and generally looking like the AC of old.
Continuing severe pain from that procedure prevented his playing last September and early October, and the decision was made to redshirt him in 2002. Plans are for Carter to play next season as a fifth-year senior, providing the Tide with three proven veteran starters (Carter, Triandos Luke and Dre Fulgham).
Carter was elected by his teammates to the Leadership Council and despite his injury has continued to be a positive influence among the Bama wideouts. After true freshman Marcus McKnight (wearing the jersey number of LSU's Michael Clayton) caught a long pass in front of the Tide starters, Carter was McKnight's personal cheerleader, clapping and praising the youngster's effort.
"Quietly Disruptive" Defensive End
With all the deserved publicity surrounding Bama's triplet senior starters on the defensive line, Antwan Odom's production has gone largely unnoticed--which is criminal.
Sharing snaps with Nautyn McKay-Loescher at one defensive end spot, Odom's numbers are impressive. 33 tackles (four for a loss), 11 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick. And that doesn't even mention his seven quarterback sacks (for –43 yards), second in the SEC behind only Georgia's David Pollack.
No one should minimize the efforts of Jarret Johnson, Kenny King and Kindal Moorehead. Bama's three veteran starters have contributed 35, 47 and 38 tackles respectively and a total of 13 sacks, helping their team to the SEC lead in that category. But the Big 3 typically receive upwards of 70 percent of the snaps at their position each game, while Odom and McKay-Loescher divide theirs equally. If you adjust the numbers based on that fact, Odom would be virtually tied for the Bama D-Line lead in tackles with King and also tied for the SEC lead in sacks with Pollard.
Of course there is no guarantee that if Odom had to shoulder the same load as the older players that his production would remain the same. But at the least Alabama fans should be confident about the defensive end position in 2003.
Put me in, Coach!
With the team struggling for most of 2001, there was much talk about the talented true freshmen signees that were being held out as redshirts. Charlie Peprah and Freddie Roach were the names mentioned most often as players the coaches had to "grit their teeth" over to hold them out of action.
Ranked 10th in the nation, this year's squad is obviously enjoying a much better season. So relatively speaking the current true freshmen haven't received as much attention, but the talent is there.
When tailback Ahmaad Galloway went down for the season with a torn ACL, Coach Franchione announced that Kenneth Darby was being prepared as the emergency tailback behind Santonio Beard, Shaud Williams and Ray Hudson. But the selection came as no surprise to practice observers. Slightly smaller in height and frame than Galloway or Beard, Darby combines the quickness and cutting ability of a scatback with good strength and excellent vision.
When discussing speed, coaches will explain that it's not how fast an athlete is in the 40-yard dash, but rather how well he runs in pads. In that 20-yard range at and just beyond the line of scrimmage where most of football is played, no one on the team outruns Darby. And he can block and catch the ball well, too. "He's just a football player," was how one coach described him.
Currently working at outside linebacker (Rover), Juwan Garth has the athletic ability to play several positions, including receiver and safety. A center on his basketball team in high school, Garth has an impressive vertical jump.
During one recent sequence in practice, he was working at outside linebacker against the first-team offense. The play was a simple swing pass to the tailback, with Garth applying pressure off the end. Four times in a row the true freshman used his speed to get there quicker than expected and blow up the play. Twice the quarterback couldn't even get the ball off, and the other two times Garth lept high to swat the pass to the ground.
Coach Franchione was in the background, shaking his head over his offense's inability to execute the play. But he couldn't fail to appreciate Garth's athleticism. "He could help us at several positions," Franchione noted. "But since we don't expect him to get any smaller, right now he's at linebacker."