Offensive Possibilities After First Scrimmage
Although Coach Nick Saban's comment came in regards to determining the number two and number three quarterbacks, there are other spots in the Alabama football lineup where determinations are to be made. In some cases it may involve the starter, but determining back-up performers at various positions is also a priority. Part of the mix will be based on kicking teams, since some offensive and defensive players are used on various special kicking teams.
It may be overstating the situation to say that one segment of Alabama fall camp has now ended, but there is little doubt that the first scrimmage of August is a benchmark of sorts as the Crimson Tide draws nearer to the season-opening game against Clemson on August 30.
Here's a look at how the offense may be shaping up as Alabama continues work this week. There will be a couple of two-a-day practices (Monday and Wednesday)and a return to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the second scrimmage of the fall on Saturday.
Saban has revealed a few things about this year's team. To the surprise of no one, senior quarterback John Parker Wilson is a clear number one. By all accounts--meaning Saban and players--Wilson is performing well in the offense being directed by new Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain. Greg McElroy, the little-used back-up from last year, is at least in the mix to be in that role again.
There is more interest in the back-up this year because Wilson won't be back in 2009. There's no guarantee that the back-up will get a lot of experience this season, but it would be helpful if circumstances--ideally, the circumstance of Bama getting games in good shape early--allowed that. If not McElroy, it could be returning squad man Nick Fanuzzi or true freshman Star Jackson.
Quarterback is different thn most positions, but Saban said Saturday he expects 8-12 freshmen to contribute. That doesn't mean any will start, but it doesn't rule it out.
Saban also said he thought the offensive line was set with All-America candidate Andre Smith at left tackle, former starting right tackle Mike Johnson at left guard, all-star candidate Antoine Caldwell at center, returning starter Marlon Davis at right guard, and Drew Davis at right tackle.
Center Evan Cardwell is the only Tider who has meaningful playing time in the offensive line for Bama. Brian Motley is back from a series of injuries that have hampered him and David Ross and William Vlachos have been in the program for awhile. There is interest in whether any of three highly-regarded freshmen -- Tyler Love, Barrett Jones and John Michael Boswell -- will play.
Alabama, Saban pointed out, frequently uses two tight ends and the Tide has two proven men in Nick Walker and Travis McCall. There has been no indication that Saban believes any other is working into the playing picture.
It was mildly surprising that Baron Huber returned to fullback from his spring experiment at linebacker. Although Huber was the starting fullback last season, that position is rarely utilized in Bama's offense. A tight end (McCall) as H-back was prevalent.
On paper, there is a wealth of talent at tailback, but no indication that one is clearly number one. Terry Grant was the main man last year until injured and he and other running backs who nursed injuries in 2007 seem to be healthy. Looking at statistics from the scrimmage (and there are pitfalls to relying on statistics without having seen the circumstances), Glen Coffee and freshman Mark Ingram could be in the mix. But so could Roy Upchurch.
One spot where everyone expects freshmen (and one freshman in particular) to make an impact is at wide receiver. Julio Jones gets very good reviews from Saban and from his teammates, and his credentials coming in indicated he could be a force at a place where Alabama had lost three main players from last year. All signs point to Alabama using three wide receivers as a base offense, and B.J. Scott is another true freshman who could fit into the mix.
No matter the starters, look for a number of men to man these positions. Mike McCoy, who started a number of games in a three-wide set last year, has gotten good marks from Saban. Nikita Stover is reported to be playing better after getting over an injury. Two young players who haven't been seen much, Darius Hanks (who has returned from injured status) and Marquis Maze, and Earl Alexander get frequent mention.
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