Our Fantasy One Platoon Tide Team

Paul Bryant is the last Alabama football coach who would admit to reading the newspaper every day. He was also the last who would entertain a hypothetical question. Admittedly, a hypothetical question can be fanciful, not grounded in reality, possibly (or even certainly) irrelevant. That doesn't mean it's a waste. Examining a hypothetical is a technique of thinking, making logical determination.

For about 35 years I have hypothesized on the same subject just before the beginning of Alabama football seasons. It began when I was a young sports information director at Alabama and Sang Lyda was a young trainer. We would sometimes watch practice together and one day we decided to pick the 11 guys we would want for a football team to play both ways.

College football did away with one platoon football (players playing both offense and defense) almost 50 years ago. The rules-makers tinkered with a few things before finally settling on today's free substitution, which is absolutely the best way to play the game. But prior to the early 1960s, a tight end was also a defensive end, a wide receiver a defensive back, a center a middle linebacker, and so on.

One platoon football is gone forever, and not missed. Those men were very, very good (Lee Roy Jordan as center and middle linebacker, for instance), but specialization makes for the best possible players.

This annual exercise is to think about the men on Alabama's team that I would want if I could have only 11. Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban has made this task more difficult by recruiting so many excellent players, and particularly those long, fast men suited to so many positions. Without trying to sound whiney, it's also a little more difficult to make the choices when I don't have the opportunity to watch practice.

Be that as it may, here are my choices for 2009 Alabama One Platoon:

Call me old school. Eight of the 11 are defensive players. Last year this team had Earl Alexander at quarterback, and there was a temptation to make that same selection this year. But we'll spread the glory around.

Once upon a time, college coaches recruited a large number of high school quarterbacks, knowing some of them would not be quarterbacks in college. They were quarterbacks of their high school teams because they were the best athletes. Bama has a few of those (including Alexander). There was a thought of choosing someone like B.J. Scott, a former quarterback who is now a cornerback. We also thought about selecting Greg McElroy, Bama's best quarterback, and plugging him in at a defensive position, but we just couldn't see McElroy on defense.

As last year, we selected an offensive player who had been a high school quarterback. This year's One Platoon quarterback is tight end Brad Smelley. He will also be a safety on defense.

The first thing that must be done when selecting a One Platoon team is to decide what the basic offensive and defensive sets will be. We decided on an offense with one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers. Our defense is a 4-3.

Smelley is joined in the defensive backfield by the three men we chose for his wide receivers: Julio Jones, split end and safety; Javier Arenas, flanker and cornerback; and B.J. Scott, slot receiver and cornerback.

We went with defensive starters at running back and tight end. Mark Barron, a safety in real life, is the running back and outside linebacker on this fantasy team. You knew All-America linebacker Rolando McClain was going to be on the team. He's at his middle linebacker position and also plays tight end.

Alabama has a number of players who have been both offensive and defensive linemen, including a couple who have been both at Alabama. We selected one of those—Alfred McCullough--to be our left tackle and an outside linebacker. We also decided our third and final real offensive player to make the team would be offensive lineman Mike Johnson. We would play him at defensive tackle.

Johnson would have good help on the defensive front. Playing next to him would be All-America defensive tackle Terrence Cody, who would also play right tackle. (And, yes, we know that in the real world Cody hasn't been able to impress Saban that he can even play three downs on defense, much less going both ways.)

The final members of the team are real life defensive linemen, who are also defensive ends on our One Platoon team. Damion Square is the center by virtue of being one inch shorter than Marcell Dareus, who is our right guard.

Our team doesn't have kicking specialists, but we thought about choosing the current Tide kickers for the team. Bama doesn't have kickers who are Mexican weenies who have been kicking soccer balls all their lives. Bama has real Americans, and big men in those roles. Punter P.J. Fitzgerald and placekicker Leigh Tiffin are both over 200 pounds and Fitzgerald was a high school quarterback.

Arenas, McClain and McCullough were also selected to last year's One Platoon team.

As would be expected, there were many, many players we really wanted to include on the team. Among them were linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Cory Reamer, defensive end Lorenzo Washington, tight end Colin Peek, center William Vlachos, wide receiver Mike McCoy, and quarterback Greg McElroy.

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