Caldwell Previews Newcomers

Most media members and a lot of fans know everything there is to know about Alabama center Antoine Caldwell. He has been one of the primary faces of the Alabama football program for the last three years, and has probably conducted more and longer interviews than any other player on the team.

The senior is entering his fourth year as a starter on Bama's offensive line and is on the watch-list among the best centers in the nation.

Because Coach Nick Saban is prevented from talking about freshmen until practice starts, and considering that even if he were allowed to talk about them it might be difficult to get Saban to provide great commentary on them, many of the questions directed at Caldwell were about incoming freshman he has seen participating in seven-on-seven drills.

Caldwell gave a big thumbs-up to the new crop of Tide players, both in terms of talent and work ethic in their short time on campus in Tuscaloosa.

"This is the hardest-working, most talented group of freshmen I've seen," Caldwell said. "As a group they've done an excellent job. If I had to put my money on anyone I'd say Julio Jones is the one that stands out."

Caldwell said that Jones, an incoming receiver and one of the top recruits in America last years "has been everything I thought he was going to be. He's as fast as I thought he was going to be. He's stronger than I thought he would be."

While scant reports have been leaked on the private pass skel/7-on-7 drills, Caldwell's evaluation is consistent with rumors that 6-4, 212-pound Jones has been dominant in the no-pads workouts. Caldwell also said that Star Jackson (quarterback) has looked good and that BJ Scott (wide receiver/defensive back Burton Scott), Alonzo Laurence (cornerback) and Jarrell Harris (linebacker) might good bets to get a shot at significant playing time.

Caldwell faced a couple of misinformed reporters during the interview session, one who asked him about "going 6-6 last season" and another who prefaced his question with the statement that Alabama has had "like 10" players arrested in the past year (Auburn math).

Caldwell quickly and adamantly corrected the record that Alabama had actually gone 7-6 last year drawing laughs from those gathered. Responding to questions about the arrests and off field troubles, he gave the standard answers that the bad things that happen overshadow the good things. He talked about the programs that the University has in place to help them, but that "you can't lock guys up in the football complex 24 hours a day. At some point you have to go home."

Caldwell, rather optimistically, opined that the offensive line had no weaknesses, despite the fact that Alabama hasn't had a proven right tackle since Evan Mathis played the position in 2002. While Caldwell and left tackle Andre Smith are potential All-Americans, and the guards have some experience and more potential, most would say that there is a BIG question mark over the right tackle slot.

Caldwell said that Drew Davis is the leader for the position, but that there was a lot of competition for it. Caldwell said he hopes to stay at center and not have to move over to compensate for injuries and inexperience as he did last year.

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