Earl Alexander Is 2008 Tide Quarterback

Joe Namath at safety? Believe it or not, in the early 1960s quarterbacks like Joe Namath and Steve Sloan spent some time at safety. That's because the NCAA was tinkering with football rules. There were periods of one platoon football, meaning that the players on offense were also required to play defense.

At one point there was a "one player exception," and usually the quarterback would come off the field and another player would go in to play defense.

By the mid-1960s, the NCAA had settled on unlimited substitution rules and therefore players who were offensive or defensive specialists. One day during fall practice in the 1970s, I was standing with my good friend, Sang Lyda, who was a trainer (and one of the most astute observers of athletics I have ever known). He suggested we pick a team of 11 players who would have to go both ways. These were the days of the wishbone offense, which meant there was just one wide receiver, making it tough to come up with defensive backs using offensive players. But it also meant the Crimson Tide had a tough, athletic quarterback who could play on defense.

Ever since then, I have taken a look at Alabama's football roster (not including incoming freshmen) and tried to come up with a team of 11 who I'd want in one platoon football.

Every offensive and defensive style presents problems for picking a one-platoon team. In the days of true one platoon football, most teams had two wide receivers, a fullback and running back, quarterback, tight end and five offensive linemen on offense, a five-man line, two linebackers, and four defensive backs on defense. This year's Alabama team is likely to have five offensive linemen and a tight end, quarterback, halfback and three wide receivers. On defense, Bama has three or four linemen and three or four linebackers and four or five defensive backs. (Unlimited substitution makes combinations limitless.)

My team will have what I expect to be the Alabama offense of five linemen, a tight end, quarterback, halfback and three wide receivers. The defense will have four defensive linemen, three linebackers and four defensive backs.

This first installment looks for just one position.

There is no time since the advent of the T formation offense in the 1940s and 1950s that the quarterback has not been the most important player on a football team. Prior to the T formation, the single wing and Notre Dame box type offenses had a left halfback or tailback who took a direct snap from center and was the most important player. Those were the true triple-threat players—runners, passers and punters (particularly adept at the quick kick, a play usually coming on third and long and designed to change field position). Dixie Howell and Harry Gilmer were Alabama's most famed left halfbacks. And they were outstanding defensive backs.

I put quite a bit of thought into picking my quarterback.

Once upon a time a recruiting class would include several players who were high school quarterbacks, but who would play a different position in college. That's not so much the case today, although there are a few. I looked for a defensive player for my quarterback. If I took a true quarterback there is no doubt it would be John Parker Wilson. Wilson is a tough guy, but I don't think I could find a position on defense where he could play.

Jimmy Johns, this could have been your place to shine. Had it not been for Johns' summer action that resulted in his expulsion from the football team, he might well have been the choice. After all, he had been Mr. Football in Mississippi as he led his team to the state championship. And he had made the move to linebacker following the end of last regular season. He would have been a popular and easy selection.

I couldn't find a defensive player with suitable quarterback credentials, but I did find a player I thought could fill the bill as both a quarterback and a defensive player. The quarterback of my fantasy team is Earl Alexander, who is neither a defender nor a quarterback.

Alexander is a 6-5, 210-pound wide receiver. But he came to Alabama as a quarterback.

Alexander accounted for over 1,700 yards of offense and 17 touchdowns at Central High School in Phenix City as a senior in 2005. He passed for over 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for over 500 yards and seven TDs. He was honorable mention all-state as a quarterback.

Next we'll find a place for Alexander on defense and name his ten two-way teammates.

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