Carpenter Fills Massive Gap

Greg McElroy has a new best friend. Any quarterback can tell you that his best friend is the offensive left tackle. McElroy is Alabama's quarterback this year, and James Carpenter has joined the team as the starting left tackle.



Alabama left some big shoes to fill. Greg McElroy has taken over at quarterback for John Parker Wilson, the all-time Crimson Tide leader in virtually every passing statistic. James Carpenter has moved into the left tackle spot that was manned last year by Andre Smith, winner of the Outland Trophy as the nation's top interior lineman.

For the second consecutive week, the Alabama coaching staff has selected Carpenter as one of the Crimson Tide offensive players of the week. Bama has defeated Virginia Tech and Florida International and Bama is averaging over 500 yards of offense and 7.0 yards per play. Bama has suffered three sacks, two in the opener and one last week.

"James is a great athlete," said McElroy. "You can see that watching him run. He came in and picked up the system. I'd say he was one of the most important signees. It is very good to have him around."

Carpenter, 6-5, 300, came to Alabama from Coffeyville Junior College in Kansas. He is a native of Augusta, Ga., and played for Hephzibah High school.

Carpenter said that he wanted to play in the Southeastern Conference, but coming out of high school no SEC schools were recruiting him. His only scholarship offer was from Iowa State, then coached by Gene Chizik, now coach at Auburn. Instead, Carpenter went to junior college and was an all-conference performer.

He was a Scout four-star prospect in junior college and had scholarship offers from the likes of Oklahoma, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. A Georgia fan growing up, he selected Alabama and entered The University last December in order to go through the off-season program and spring practice.

In the spring he was inserted at left tackle and won the job.

"That's what I came here for," Carpenter explained Monday. "I knew they had other good players like Tyler Love, but I came to play left tackle."

Alabama Coach Nick Saban pointed out that a junior college transfer only has two years to play under ordinary circumstances (sometimes three and sometimes three years in which to play two) "and so they don't have time to develop."

Saban said, "It's best for them if you have a role they can fit into. Now, of course, it's their responsibility to be able to execute a the level you need them too to take advantage of the opportunity they have."

Saban said, "In James Carpenter's case, we anticipated that Smitty (Andre Smith) would go out for the draft and we felt it would help us (to sign Carpenter). "Even though we had some good young players who were developing, it would help us if we had a little older, mature guy playing left tackle for us.

"James has worked really hard and (Offensive Line Coach) Joe Pendry has done a very good job of helping him develop, and he has played well for us in the first two games."

Saban called it a win-win, that Carpenter had helped Alabama and that Carpenter has been able to take advantage of his opportunity and developed.

Carpenter said an adjustment has been the speed of the game. "It's way faster than it was in junior college," he said. "The second game was easier than the first. I'm getting a feel for the game."

He said, "Coach Pendry, (left guard) Mike Johnson, and (right tackle) Drew Davis have helped me a lot," citing blocking techniques, how to finish plays, and conditioning. "Everything, really," he said.

He also said he had picked up some hints from Andre Smith, both last December when Alabama was in bowl preparation and in the summer, and said he still talks to Smith occasionally.

Carpenter said that it was a help for him to go through spring practice. "I've changed a lot," he said.

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