Good Players Could Mean Good 2009 Tide

Following Alabama's spring football game Saturday, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban noted that some on defense hadn't done as well as he thinks they can. He said there would be a team meeting Monday and he'd pass that information on to the players. One can imagine that Saban and his staff will have spent some time looking at tapes of the game before that meeting and will also see good things.



Most observers of Alabama football are a good bit more casual than Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban. But even coaches like to look at the tapes before making final determinations on performance.

Greg McElroy didn't play a perfect game, but the obvious conclusion is that he is far and away the leader at the quarterback position. As Saban said from start to finish, that shouldn't be a surprise because McElroy has more knowledge and more experience (though little game experience) in the offensive system.

McElroy looked more than merely most familiar with the system. He looked like potentially a big-time quarterback.

As has often been pointed out, quarterback success depends in great part how those around him play. The converse of that is that effective quarterback play can make things easier on those around him. Complete a few passes to Julio Jones, and the defensive front is likely to loosen up for a tailback.

No matter how good the quarterback, wide receivers and running backs are, though, the offensive line must perform. It is difficult to watch offensive linemen in a scrimmage unless you are the offensive line coach or the parent or girlfriend of the lineman. The one offensive lineman who was notable to the casual observer was center William Vlachos. It was not so much what Vlachos did as what defensive linemen didn't do against him.

Alabama's tailback situation will be better in the fall than it was Saturday. Put Mark Ingram, Roy Upchurch and Trent Richardson in the mix and things should pick up. Terry Grant impressed coaches in the spring. Ivan Matchett showed some good stuff in limited play.

Tight end play was very good by several players--Colin Peek, Preston Dial, Brad Smelley and Michael Williams all having eye-catching plays.

It was no surprise that Julio was the wide receiver of note. Mike McCoy also impressed. It would have been nice to have seen Marquis Maze working with McElroy. Maze had a good game, and it could have been excellent if he had made catches on a couple of passes that were just enough off the mark to be tough catches.

Maze had a couple of running plays that caught Alabama's defense off guard. That will happen occasionally, but isn't something to be greatly concerned about. Years ago legendary USC Coach John McKay was guest speaker at Alabama's coaching clinic. Following his lecture on defense, he was asked if the plan wasn't susceptible to a counter option. "You can't run a counter option every play," McKay said.

The list of defensive players who were impressive is a long one, and if Saban saw deficiencies that bodes well for how good it may be.

With Rashad Johnson gone, we spent more time than usual watching safeties and thought that two men who haven't been seen much looked very good. Robby Green, as Saban pointed out, got beat by McCoy on a touchdown play, but had an overall strong day. Mark Barron had a little playing time at safety as a true freshman and may be in for much more as a sophomore.

Linebackers look like an all-star unit, which is no surprise. Rolando McClain brings All-America credentials. Dont'a Hightower looks like a McClain clone.

Our vote for the Dwight Stephenson Award winner went to Marcel Dareus, but we were surprised others saw the same performance. Dareus won the award, which was voted by the media. His teammates have talked about his potential and he gave evidence of being a major factor on what appears to be an excellent defensive front.

The bottom line is that Alabama has a lot of very good football players. They have an off-season, then a fall camp under Saban and his staff to become a team. All-in-all, there is reason for optimistic anticipation for Sept. 5 and the GeorgiaDome season-opener against Virginia Tech.

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