Six Keys For Tide In 2009 Season

The Tide's 2008 season could have been 14-0 had two events not taken place. First, the linebacker needed to have been able to make an easier stop with Florida in the fourth quarter. But with the speed often required of a defensive player in doing their best to keep their opponents from adding to their score, it can result in an unintentional facemask holding penalty.

Second, had Andre Smith first given appropriate thought to what could be the result of his having an inappropriate conversation with an NFL agent, and the above play had been free of a penalty, the Tide would have had a far better chance of playing for the National Championship.

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In Bama's only regular season games with Oklahoma, with both being season openers, the Sooners were pre-ranked No. 2 in 2002 and No. 1 in 2003. Bama stayed in both games and only lost these two by a total of 17 points. Had the two above mentioned events not taken place, all anyone can ever do is wonder if the 1-0-1 bowl record with Oklahoma would have been improved or made 1-1-1.

But the Tide has a great history of learning from its past, so what are the primary concerns that Alabama is facing? What issues are the most important to Alabama's success? What matters must the team address, and do their best in handling, if the Tide is going to remain a top SEC team?

1, 2) Few Tide fans would not be in agreement that finding the two men needed to fill the shoes of John Parker Wilson and Glen Coffee are of the top priority. For all who see these two positions as the most important, the only disagreement would be which of the two is the most important. As far as the new quarterback is concerned, no one, at least for now, has this spot in a lock box.

With junior quarterback Greg McElroy's completion of 8-of-11 passes last season, one being his 34-yard pass against Auburn, most think he will be picked for this spot. But redshirt freshman Star Jackson, with the heavy drive every man who ever plays for Bama most always has, is expected to challenge McElroy for the starting position.

Who will start as running back in 2009? Glen Coffee gave Bama 1,383 yards last year, compared to now sophomore Mark Ingram's record of 728 yards. While Ingram never demonstrated the same kind of open running ability as Coffee did, for a freshman, those 728 yards were still very impressive.

When any player has the opportunity of becoming and staying the first string running back for three years in a row, on a team as storied as Alabama, expect a leap forward from the previous year.

But don't forget about signee Trent Richardson. With his good-sized thick frame, low center of gravity, and great strength, he can charge between the tackles and turn corners while wearing down a defense before blasting off for the end zone. He knows all too well how playing with a great Bama team will enhance the abilities he wants NFL scouts to see.

The only certainty is that both first string positions mentioned above will be very competitive.

3) Who will replace Smith at left tackle? Smith's suspension before meeting Utah left the offensive line with only two men playing their normal positions. Guard Mike Johnson played Smith's spot. But without the time needed for the offensive line to adjust to playing all but two new positions, Utah scored 21 unanswered points.

4) Who can best rebuild the offensive line? With Antoine Caldwell gone and Marlon Davis having graduated, this could result in changing four offensive line positions. We have right tackle Drew Davis, junior college lineman transfer James Carpenter, and former five-star recruit Tyler Love. But Nick Saban said, "The coaches will probably do some experimenting and moving around." So it will take a while to see who best fits each position.

(5) Who will replace Rashad Johnson at safety? I doubt that anyone on the team is currently able to come up in calling plays as well as Johnson. The safety possibilities are senior Ali Sharrief, Robert Lester, and Mark Barron. But with the return of the storied Alabama tradition, you can count on all three giving it everything possible for this position. (

6) What about the defensive line? Don't know as much detail about the defense as I‘d like, but there is a good pool of current players and new recruits to pull from. The most positive thing that happened for our #3 nationally ranked defense is All-American and all-SEC Terrence Cody, at 6'5" and 385 pounds, easily the largest player in Tide history.

As far as wide receiver is concerned, this isn't even a concern. Julio Jones, who, among other honors, was selected as the SEC freshman of the year, will just keep on improving as a wide receiver every year he plays.

This coming season will definitely open with far greater anticipation than we had before 2008. Some games were closer than we would have liked. But after playing in Athens, and our later reaching and staying ranked No. 1, is something Bama hasn't experienced since 1980.

As much as we'd like it, even Alabama can't win ‘em all every year. So when a loss does come along, let's try to break the booing responses, against men who are playing their hearts out for the school and tradition they love, unless you know for sure that booing them will inspire them to play better in the next game.

The Tide has come up with another first: ESPN will be televising a packed house for the A-Day game on April 18th. If there is anyone who still doubts that Alabama has the most fanatical following of any college football team, this is your answer.

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