Caldwell Discusses Loss Of Smith

What a difference a few hours makes. Monday morning Alabama senior captain Antoine Caldwell was one of the offensive players designated to meet with the media, and among many things he extolled the virtues of teammate Andre Smith. Following Bama's practice at the Louisiana Superdome, Caldwell was describing the mood of the team after learning that Smith was no longer a teammate.

Earlier in the day Andre Smith had been suspended from the team for the Sugar Bowl by Alabama Coach Nick Saban. The reason for the dismissal was not given, but there was speculation (and it is speculation with no identified sources saying otherwise) that Smith had dealings with an agent.

When that suggestion was made to Antoine Caldwell, the All-America senior center gave all appearances of being dumbstruck by the possibility. If he knows different, he may have as great an opportunity as an actor as he does in pro football.

Caldwell, who said he had spoken briefly to Smith, said he did not know what transgression had caused the suspension. "You're telling me something I don't know," he said to a reporter who took the agent inquiry path.

Caldwell, who was suspended for four games as a junior, could empathize with his fellow All-America offensive lineman. In his conversation, Caldwell said Smith "showed remorse. He apologized. I was in his situation last year and I know how I felt. I had let the team down."

Caldwell said he did not know the suspension was coming when he met with reporters earlier and said Smith is a player "who most leads by example," and has "character" and is "truly an exceptional human being and that's what makes him a team leader."

Smith, a junior, had not made any announcement regarding his football future, but it was generally assumed that the winner of the Outland Award as the nation's best lineman would make himself available for the NFL draft and forego his final season of eligibility.

Now Smith will miss the Sugar Bowl game against Utah in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans Friday night. Alabama is 12-1 and ranked fourth in the nation, Utah 12-0 and ranked sixth in the nation. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. CST with television coverage by Fox.

Caldwell said, "We found out at a team meeting. Coach (Saban) addressed the team and brought the news to us." That meeting was shortly after Caldwell and other players had met with reporters. He said Saban "didn't go into any detail, so no one (on the team) knows what it was about."

Caldwell said the team had to focus on the game and that Monday afternoon's practice in the Superdome was "pretty good. We have to put it behind us. We still have a game to play." He said he didn't expect the team to have any letdown.

He said, "You can't replace Andre. It sets us back. But everyone takes pride in his job. It opens the window for someone else to step up."

Caldwell said he wasn't sure how Alabama would line up without Smith. "We have several options," he said. "People were goin all over the place. We do have depth, people like Brian Motley and David Ross."

Motley and Ross are listed as left guards. In the brief period of work open to media Monday, it appeared that starting left guard Mike Johnson was working at left tackle. Earlier this year when Smith missed a game against Tulane, Johnson moved to left tackle with Ross starting at left guard.

Alabama did not have a good offensive game against Tulane, winning by 20-6 and amassing only 11 first downs, 99 yards rushing and John Parker Wilson, under heavy pressure, completed only 11 of 23 passes for 73 yards.

Caldwell said, "We relate back to Tulane. More guys became aware they are one play from playing."

Or even no plays.

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