Impossible To List Strengths Of Tide

There aren't many things with which I would expect to agree with Studs Terkel, the liberal voice of Chicago radio for many, many years. But last week while chatting with a fellow sportswriter, I thought about one of Terkel's philosophies: Damn management.

Actually, I generally have a high opinion of management, certainly the management at Scout, which checks on my stories. Maybe is checking this one. Good management.

But what brought Terkel to mind was this fellow writer's assignment to report about a facet of Alabama football without having been able to see practice. Others joined in the conversation with similar tales of impossible orders. Damn management.

Much of what we think about the 2008 Alabama football team is based on what we saw in 2007 from players who return this year. Any veteran reporter of, oh, say a year would know that Alabama is in pretty good shape at left tackle with Andre Smith and at middle linebacker with Rolando McClain and at some other positions.

Another key is listening carefully to Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban. He is generally positive in all discourses about players – "We're not disappointed in anyone." – but he is more positive about some than others. I pay close attention to him, particularly on those days when I'm trying to update my depth chart.

I also consider recruiting and put a lot of stock in players who pick Alabama over a list of top college football teams.

Management isn't making me do it, but I thought I'd tackle one of those impossible tasks. I thought I'd make a list of the ten greatest strengths of the 2008 Alabama football team. That's without ever having seen any new player in full gear in team work. Since the Independence Bowl victory over Colorado, I have seen the A-Day Game, one practice when the team was in helmets and shoulder pads, and a handful of days of individual work.

I realized this assignment would be like one of those puzzles where the first answer is given to you:

1. Nick Saban

To continue:

2. Senior, three-year starting quarterback John Parker Wilson (I know some would put this under's sort of like those days when Mississippi State would return 18 starters from a team that won three games and they thought that previous experience was valuable.)

3. Javier Arenas as kick return man and as cornerback who Coach Saban and players talk about with high regard

4. Offensive line with four returning starters and two outstanding players at the two most important positions, center and left tackle

5. Rashad Johnson at safety to call secondary coverages, which is even more important than the big plays he makes

6. Leigh Tiffin, although the hope has to be that he is kicking more extra points than field goals when Alabama gets into the red zone

7. Tight end experience and skill with two returning seniors under an offensive coordinator who thinks tight end is a weapon

8. Rolando McClain, and the fact he would be this far down the list says something about what might be ahead

9. Terrence Cody, about whom there has been more buzz than...

10. Julio Jones, and is there anyone yet who hasn't seen the video from Saturday's scrimmage with Julio catching a pass and then stiff-arming Rashad Johnson

Than is not to say there are not other strengths. I certainly hope that the freshmen linebackers are as good as McClain was in his freshman season. I hope we have an answer to "Who's your running back?"

But for now, this will have to please management.

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