Healthy Croyle Means Business This Season

FAYETTEVILLE -- A busted limb kept Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle off the family tree most of last year.

Croyle was sidelined with a torn ACL in his right knee late in the third quarter of the third game of the 2004 season -- it was a 52-0 win against Western Carolina -- and he never played again.

Ouch!

"I guess I'm genetically blessed with bad knees," Croyle said, "because it has happened to me two years in a row."

After three games this season, this new-and-improved "Brodie Bunch," once a family tree of fragmented failure, has returned to its roots and branched out with a lot of success.

Alabama is ranked No. 20 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll, is 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the Southeastern Conference.

A healthy Croyle, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior, is a major reason for this extreme makeover.

With a little cosmetic surgery --and surgeries to his right knee and left shoulder since December of 2003 as well -- Croyle is more determined than ever to make this a memorable season.

It started with a 26-7 win against Middle Tennessee on Sept. 3, then a 30-21 win against Southern Miss the followed week and continued with a 37-14 win against South Carolina on the road last weekend.

Up next is Arkansas, which invades Bryant-Denny Stadium at 11:30 a.m. Saturday for a regionally televised game (Cox cable channel 7).

"You know, I'm looking forward to that game," Croyle said. "They've got the best of us the last two years (Arkansas won 34-31 in double overtime in Tuscaloosa in 2003 and Alabama lost 27-10 in Fayetteville last year).

" It's time to get back out there and swing it back into our favor."

A healthy Brodie Croyle has made life easier.

That's a far cry from last year when he looked more comfortable on crutches than he did in a pair of cleats.

"You know, I didn't have any doubts about anything," Croyle said. "I've always been able to come back from surgeries real well. Luckily, it's always worked for me. Being able to run, a couple of times probably worked out.

"I guess it proved to myself and other people I still can run."

"I'm fine, I haven't had any problems. I'm just looking forward to the rest of the season and staying healthy.

"I'm the best I've ever been. My shoulder is a little tight, but other than that I'm ready to go. I can't let that stuff get into my head."

Alabama truly has benefited by having a healthy Brodie Croyle as the starting quarterback.

"Brodie Croyle is a big entry for our team," said Tide running back Kenneth Darby. "Being able to throw, that opens up our running game and that's a big help he's brought back.

"Leadership wise and the whole nine, he's got it."

Would he have made a difference against Arkansas last year?

"It's hard to say," said Alabama coach Mike Shula. "We ... uh ... it was a good ballgame until the fourth quarter when we had the ball and thought we could take the lead but couldn't get it done.

"Anytime ... you'd like to think your team is better when your starting quarterback is in the game."

Croyle is completing 59.8 percent of his passes (49 of 82 with 2 interceptions) for 655 yards and 4 touchdowns this season. He is seventh in the SEC in passing, averaging 218.3 yards per game.

Arkansas coaches and players are fully aware of what Croyle means to the Crimson Tide.

"Alabama, their quarterback, who they didn't have last year brings them an ability to throw the ball as well as run," said Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring. "(Croyle) is a very heady, tough competitor."

Said Razorbacks linebacker Sam Olajubutu: "I think they feed off of Brodie Croyle. He is a good athlete. He can scramble. He's got a nice arm.

"He's got a lot of heart."

Last year, in three games, Croyle was 44 of 66 for a 66.7 completion rate. He threw for 6 TDs and 534 yards in limited playing time.

"He's very good," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "A highly intelligent guy that doesn't get you beat. He throws the deep ball extremely well. Of course, we remember him from his freshman year coming in here. We've got a lot of respect for him. He's an excellent quarterback.

"You can see how much they missed him last year."

Arkansas linebacker Pierre Brown, an Alabama native, knows more about Croyle than most.

"I remember watching them when we were in high school," Brown said. "He's a great player. He seems to be the guy that makes everything go for Alabama.

"He's the main focus of their offense.

"I just look forward to playing them. I have to study him this week and be prepared. He's a great leader and he's very talented. He has a great arm. He throws a good ball. He makes good decisions.

"He doesn't get you beat."


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