Caldwell Ready For Clemson

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Lucky is the college football team that doesn't have an irreplaceable player. More typical is a team with several, usually including the quarterback.

Could Alabama do without middle linebacker Rolando McClain?

What about left tackle Andre Smith?

An Alabama fan thinking of the direst consequences insofar as lost players almost certainly would include Antoine Caldwell in the "We Just Can't" category. Caldwell, a 6-3, 292-pound senior, has started 34 Crimson Tide games, 32 of them at center. He's the captain, already a graduate, unsurpassed as a team leader.

And he's "ready to go."

Caldwell and his Alabama teammates will go Saturday against Clemson in the GeorgiaDome in Atlanta. Kickoff for the ABC telecast will be at 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. central). The Tigers are ranked ninth in the nation in pre-season, Bama 24th.

Caldwell said, "Everyone around here feels good. It's refreshing to be working on Clemson things after working against our team. We've turned the page and begun working on Clemson stuff.

"Everyone's up, and not just the players. We hope to go out and put on a great show."

Caldwell said he has watched Clemson tapes "and they have a lot of great players on offense and defense. Their noseguard (Dorrell) Scott can disrupt an offense. He's comparable to guys in the SEC. We'll have to get after him and play physical. The offensive line knows it has to dominate the line of scrimmage."

The Tide center said practice has given him an opportunity to prepare for Clemson. Working against two of the biggest and strongest players on the team, Josh Chapman (6-1, 300) and Terrence Cody (6-5, 375 or so) has given Caldwell all he can handle.

"They are heavy and they are in shape," he said. "They are playing hard and doing what they need to do. On defense, you want one of your strongest guys in that spot."

Caldwell calls the season opening match-up a good one for Alabama.

"It will be a measure of where we are as a football team," he said.

One player Caldwell is counting on is quarterback John Parker Wilson.

"I think he's going to have a big season," Caldwell said. "He's had a great off-season. And he's done a great job with the receivers. We have a lot of young receivers and they have been able to go to John Parker and he has been excellent at communicating with them and helping them."

One thing that has to happen for Wilson to have a good year, Caldwell said, is "The offensive line has to protect him."

It's one of the jobs of the Alabama coaching staff to be prepared for any contingency. There have been several players rumored to have worked as a back-up to Caldwell at center. Last season when Caldwell missed four games to suspension in the costly "book affair," Evan Cardwell (6-2, 278, junior) got the starting call.

Bama has also worked Brian Motley (6-2, 280, soph) at center, and perhaps some others. Joe Pendry, who coaches Alabama's offensive linemen, works them at various positions so a man can play more than one spot. Caldwell, for instance, has had one start at a guard position, one start at tackle.

It's also possible one of the young players could be help at center. Caldwell didn't speak specifically about any of the freshmen, but said, "They are all doing great. It's a tribute to them that they've worked hard since they have been here. They have great focus. We're counting on a lot of those guys."

Caldwell said he likes the chemistry of the team.

"It's the closest team I've been around," he said. "The guys hang around together off the field. It wasn't like that last year. There were cliques. We have the best chemistry I've been around, and that's something Coach [Jim] McElwain stresses. Top Stories