Strongside linebacker DeMeco Ryans of Alabama and Florida’s Brandon Siler are both on the Butkus Award Watch List. Bama middle linebacker Freddie Roach and the Gators weakside linebacker Earl Everett are both among the best in the land as well.
Both schools have a fond history of stellar linebackers. A mere mention of the names Cornelius, E.J., or Derrick in The Heart of Dixie can turn into hours of recollection. A whisper of Wilbur, Scot, or Alonzo will get you the same in and around Hogtown.
There is no question that the names and profile of Everett, Roach, Ryans, and Siler are firmly in the notebooks of NFL scouts throughout the league. Saturday we’ll get a wonderful preview of these outstanding players.
Alabama offensive line vs Florida defensive front
Alabama offense: Multiple
Florida defense: Multiple, 4-3
*** Alabama ***
The biggest question mark in Tuscaloosa has been the status of the Alabama offensive line. This is a group with a lot of youth and inexperience at guard. None of the Crimson Tide starters had started a game prior to this season.
Mark Sanders played in five games last season for Alabama, and only two of those games were against SEC schools (Kentucky and Tennessee). Antoine Caldwell suffered a broken foot and redshirted last season. B.J. Stabler redshirted due to a finger injury, which required surgery.
Center Jon Bennett (JB) Closner is in his third year as a starter at Alabama. Closner is their most experienced lineman and is on the Remington Watch List.
Left tackle Chris Capps played in five games last season, but did not record a start playing behind starter Wesley Britt. Right tackle Kyle Tatum is the Crimson Tide’s only other returning starter on the offensive front. He played as a reserve defensive tackle in 2003, but sparingly.
Injuries…Offensive guard Mark Sanders is expected to return this week after a knee injury.
#74 JB Closner 6-4 288 Sr. 2L San Antonio, Tx.
#59 Antoine Caldwell 6-3 296 Fr. Sq. Montgomery, AL.
#63 Mark Sanders 6-7 315 Sr. Sq Ashville, AL.
#61 B.J. Stabler 6-4 292 Fr. Sq. Grove Hill, AL.
#72 Chris Capps 6-6 286 So. 1L Jonesboro, Ga.
#58 Kyle Tatum 6-8 290 Jr. 2L Prattville, AL.
By the way…Florida is one of two schools in the country that has not allowed a play (rushing or passing) to go for more than 32 yards.
*** Florida ***
The Florida defense leads the Southeastern Conference in total defense, pass defense, and pass defense efficiency despite a total breakdown by the reserves last weekend in Lexington. The Gators are also second in the conference in run defense.
Defensive end Jeremy Mincey and linebackers Brandon Siler and Earl Everett lead the Gators defensive front. Mincey has recorded 17 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Linebackers Siler and Everett have combined for 35 tackles, including three tackles for loss, and two sacks. Everett picked off the first two passes of his career last weekend against the ‘Cats.
#44 Marcus Thomas 6-3 285 Jr. 2L Jacksonville
#93 Steven Harris 6-4 281 Jr. 2L Miami
#98 Clint McMillan 6-1 282 So. 1L Oviedo
#99 Lutrell Alford 6-2 290 So. Sq. Gainesville
#57 Jeremy Mincey 6-4 265 Sr. 1L Statesboro, Ga
#20 Joe Cohen 6-2 275 Jr. 2L Melbourne
#91 Derrick Harvey 6-4 260 Fr. Sq Greenbelt, Md.
#94 Jarvis Moss 6-6 245 So. Sq. Denton, Tx.
#40 Brandon Siler 6-2 239 So. 1L Orlando
#30 Earl Everett 6-2 231 Jr. 2L Webster
#47 Todd McCullough 6-5 233 Sr. 3L Jacksonville
#13 Brian Crum 6-3 237 Jr. 1L Woodbine, Ga.
#55 Jon Demps 6-4 219 Fr. HS Pensacola
#42 Billy Latsko 5-10 230 Jr. 2L Gainesville
Analysis: Coaches Mattison and Strong will test the largely inexperienced Crimson Tide front often and early. The Gators can’t allow Alabama to establish a running game and they have to tackle well, as Darby is an excellent back.
Alabama skills positions vs Florida secondary
*** Alabama ***
The Crimson Tide spread the ball to the playmakers better than any team the Gators have faced thus far in the 2005 season. Five different Alabama receivers have caught five or more passes. Coach Mike Shula and Dave Rader have also thrown nine passes to their fullbacks and eight to the tailbacks.
Another aspect of Alabama’s desire to get the ball to those playmakers is their use of wide receiver Tyrone Prothro. The Crimson Tide line Prothro up in the backfield at tailback and quarterback for the quick hit. Prothro has explosive quickness and speed to hit a gap in the middle of the line of scrimmage or dart outside. He has caught a pass in 22 consecutive games, which leads the SEC. Prothro has 12 receptions for 191 yards and a touchdown. He has rushed eight times for 86 yards, with a burst of 41 yards in one game.
Tailback Kenneth Darby leads the conference in rushing. He was the SEC Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 145 yards and a touchdown against South Carolina. Darby has 412 yards rushing on the year, and averages a very respectable 5.4 yards per carry behind a suspect offensive line.
Quarterback Brodie Croyle has returned from 2004 knee surgery. He came out strong in the season opener versus Middle Tennessee State and one week later against Southern Miss. Croyle wasn’t as sharp against South Carolina (12-21, 115 yards, 1TD) or last week Arkansas (13-27, 173 yards, 2TD).
Ft. Walton Beach’s D.J. Hall is the Tide’s leading receiver. The sophomore has hauled 12 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns. His 19.2 yards per catch ranks the highest among the top receivers in the conference. Hall is not a speed guy, but a very talented all around athlete.
By the way…Florida is 3-4 in their last seven trips to Tuscaloosa since upsetting the 3rd ranked Crimson Tide in 1963. The Gators have won the last two contests, in 1990 and 1998.
Injuries: None noted
#12 Brodie Croyle 6-3 205 Sr. 3L Rainbow City, AL.
#33 Le’Ron McClain 6-1 256 Jr. 2L Northport, AL.
#34 Kenneth Darby 5-11 205 Jr. 2L Huntsville, AL.
#88 Nick Walker 6-5 245 Fr. Sq. Brundidge, AL.
#81 Keith Brown 6-3 192 So. 1L Gulfport, MS.
#4 Tyrone Prothro 5-8 178 Jr. 2L Heflin, AL.
#22 DJ Hall 6-3 190 So. 1L Ft. Walton Beach, FL.
*** Florida ***
Florida has not allowed a passing play for more than 31 yards this season. There is only one other school in the nation who can boast of that accomplishment. The Florida secondary is one of only four schools to have not allowed a pass play for more than 32 yards.
Furthermore, last weekend the Wildcats made their first pass completion with 4:47 left in the second quarter.
Vernell Brown was outstanding last weekend. He made timely hits on receivers and locked down the Kentucky receivers. The same can pretty much be said for Dee Webb, playing opposite. The pair have combined for 10 pass breakups thus far. Add Reggie Nelson and Avery Atkins, who have gotten more comfortable since the beginning of the season.
Safeties Kyle Jackson and Jarvis Herring have also been stellar. Herring has been on many pre-season lists. I don’t feel that Jackson has received the praise that his play has warranted lately.
#15 Dee Webb 5-11 190 Jr. 3L Jacksonville
#16 Vernell Brown 5-8 165 Sr. 2L Gainesville
#22 Reggie Lewis 5-10 195 Jr. 2L Jacksonville
#32 Reggie Nelson 6-1 175 So. TR Melbourne
#4 Avery Atkins 5-11 189 Fr. HS Daytona Beach
#46 Jarvis Herring 5-11 205 Sr. 3L Live Oak
#3 Kyle Jackson 6-1 200 So. 1L Jacksonville
#19 Tony Joiner 5-11 200 So. 1L Haines City
#49 Terrance Holmes 5-11 202 Jr. 2L Glassboro, NJ
Analysis: Alabama has talented skills position players. This is probably the best overall group the Gators have faced thus far. The Tennessee receivers have hands of brick. I placed Darby on my All-SEC ballot, despite playing behind an inexperienced line because of his talent. Besides, Darby, the player Florida must contain is Prothro, who has the quickness and speed that can get you beat.
Florida’s secondary play has been awesome to say the least. The Gators have talent, speed, and experience throughout the starting unit. The have speed and talent among the reserves.
Florida offensive line vs Alabama defensive front
Florida Offense: Spread
Alabama Defense: 4-3 Press
*** Florida ***
The first team offensive front had their best performance of the season last weekend. It was against the hapless Kentucky Mildcats, who make of that what you will. Center Mike Degory received the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week award after grading out at 84% for his play.
I saw several key blocks by Big Jim Tartt, who got his first start of his career. Tartt brings a much needed attitude to the Big Nasties. Tartt even got downfield pretty well for a big man and I saw him hit one guy who really had no chance of making the play. You can bet that guys head was on a swivel the next time he came across in pursuit of the tackle. Watching the replay, I notice that Tartt seemed to work well with left tackle Randy Hand.
It appeared that fellow guard Drew Miller had his best game of the year. Miller was out in front of several plays.
Injuries: Tavares Washington is expected to return after missing time with a hyperextended elbow.
#68 Mike Degory 6-6 304 Sr. 3L Melbourne
#79 Steve Rissler 6-3 310 Jr. 2L Sarasota
#63 Jim Tartt 6-3 315 Fr. Sq. Sopchoppy
#67 Drew Miller 6-5 310 So. 1L Sarasota
#76 Tavares Washington 6-4 320 Sr. Sq Greenville, MS
#79 Steve Rissler 6-3 310 Jr. 2L Sarasota
#74 Randy Hand 6-6 310 Sr. 3L Ft. Myers
#72 Lance Butler 6-7 315 Sr. 2L Lexington, NC
#77 Jason Watkins 6-6 300 Fr. Sq. Lake Gibson
#75 Phil Trautwein 6-6 310 So. 1L Voorhees, NJ
*** Alabama ***
Alabama linebackers Demeco Ryans, Freddie Roach, and Juwan Simpson are among the best group of linebackers in a conference that is chock full of Butkus Award candidates. Ryans had 15 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, a quarterback pressure, and a fumble recovery against Arkansas last weekend earning him SEC Defensive Player of the Week.
Ryans and Roach are the heart of the Crimson Tide defense. Ryans has very good speed and is the big playmaker. Roach is the big run stopper in the middle.
Weakside backer Juwan Simpson has outstanding speed and quickness to the ball. Simpson has 20 tackles, including a tackle for loss, and interception, and a quarterback hurry.
Defensive end Mark Anderson leads the line in stops with 14 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and three quarterback hurries. He is in his second year as a starter and has seen extensive action throughout his Crimson Tide career.
Gilberry has four quarterback hurries and 1.5 tackles for loss. Tackles Adams and Griffin combine for four tackles, a tackle for loss, and a quarterback hurry.
Injuries: Bama might get a boost this weekend with the return of WILL linebacker Terrance Jones, who has been out with an ankle injury.
#90 Rudy Griffin 6-0 286 Sr. 1L Hepzibah, AL.
#67 J.P. Adams 6-3 288 Jr. Sq. Northport, AL.
#92 Wallace Gilberry 6-3 254 So. 1L Bay Minette, AL.
#47 Mark Anderson 6-5 253 Sr. 3L Tulsa, OK.
#8 Freddie Roach 6-2 248 Sr. 3L Killen, AL.
#35 DeMeco Ryans
6-2 232 Sr. 3L Bessemer, AL.
#42 Juwan Simpson 6-3 222 Jr. 2L Decatur, AL.
Analysis: Randy Hand and Mark Anderson should present an interesting battle along the front. This will be the second game the Gators have played against a solid group of linebackers. Florida’s offensive line played its’ best game against Kentucky after facing an outstanding Tennessee defensive front. But, is that enough of an edge when going up against a pretty good D-Line and an outstanding group of Alabama linebackers on the road…not yet.
SLIGHT EDGE: Bama
Florida skills positions vs Alabama secondary
*** Florida ***
The first unit definitely improved last weekend, with much credit due to the continued development of quarterback Chris Leak. His numbers are Heisman-like. This weekend, Leak will face the second best secondary in the conference.
Last week it was a homecoming of sorts for DeShawn Wynn, who invited a few of his friends from Reading to the game. This weekend a pair of former All-Americans’ in Hoover’s Chad Jackson and Tuscaloosa Hillcrest’s Markus Manson will go back to make a splash.
Florida receiver Jemalle Cornelius had a tremendous day in Lexington replacing Andre Caldwell. The blocking of the receivers will be big in this one, as the Alabama secondary does a good job of coming up.
#12 Chris Leak 6-0 210 Jr. 2L Charlotte, NC
#4 Josh Portis 6-4 210 Fr. HS Woodland Hills, Ca.
#21 DeShawn Wynn 5-11 230 Jr. 2L Cincinnati, Oh.
#25 Skyler Thornton 5-11 209 Jr. 2L LaGrange, Ga.
#33 Kestahn Moore 5-10 205 Fr. HS Arlington, Tx.
#2 Markus Manson 6-0 210 Fr. Sq Tuscaloosa, Ala.
#84 Tate Casey 6-6 242 So. 1L Longview, Tx.
#8 Chad Jackson 6-1 205 Jr. 2L Hoover, AL
#81 Dallas Baker 6-3 204 Jr. 2L New Smyrna Beach
#6 Jemalle Cornelius 5-11 190 Jr. 2L Fort Meade
#17 Gavin Dickey 5-11 205 Jr. 1L Tallahassee
#3 Kenneth Tookes 6-2 209 Jr. 1L Jacksonville
*** Alabama ***
Alabama has three starters with a ton of experience. Roman Harper was named to several pre-season All-American teams. He is a tremendous athlete who also is the Tide’s second leading tackler with 23. Harper intercepted four passes last year.
Fellow safety Charlie Peprah also received a lot of pre-season mention for the All-SEC Team. Peprah is in his fourth year as a starter at Alabama. The Tide will blitz him at times too.
Cornerback Anthony Madison had four interceptions a year ago. He too is a returning starter, now in his third season. Madison has eleven tackles and one pass broken up.
Sophomore cornerback Simeon Castille played in every game last season, but did not start. He is an outstanding player with very good speed. Castille has broken up three passes. Watch for him on the blitz.
#2 Simeon Castille 6-1 188 So. 1L Birmingham, AL.
#9 Anthony Madison 5-9 180 Sr. 3L Thomasville, AL.
#41 Roman Harper 6-1 200 Sr. 3L Prattville, AL.
#26 Charlie Peprah 5-11 200 Sr. 3L Plano, Tx.
Analysis: Coach Spurrier came out with an outstanding game plan against Alabama. SC quarterback Blake Mitchell lit the Tide up hitting seven of eight for 69 yards on the Gamecocks opening possession. The Alabama defensive backs were much more aggressive on the following series. You can bet the Florida coaches have picked up a few things that worked for Coach Spurrier.
This will be Chris Leak’s toughest challenge of the season. Avoiding turnovers and costly mistakes on the road are essential for the Gators. The Tide secondary is outstanding. But, this is one group of Gators that is up to the challenge. Do you think that Chad Jackson would have it any other way?
SLIGHT EDGE: Florida
Alabama punter Jeremy Schatz was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week for his play against Arkansas. Schatz averaged 45.8 yards per kick. He nailed a 71 yard punt and pinned two inside the Razorbacks twenty yard line. Schatz is the fourth rated punter in the conference with a 42 yard average. This is his first year as Bama’s punter.
Sophomore Jamie Chistensen is also in first year as the Crimson Tide kicker. He was the Tide’s regular kickoff man last season. Christensen has hit five of seven field goals, and is perfect within forty yards. However, he has only hit one of three from outside forty yards. Of his 18 kickoffs, six have been for touchbacks.
Tyrone Prothro doubles as the Crimson Tide kickoff and punt return specialist. Prothro averages 29.5 yards on kickoff returns with a long of 66 yards. He is averaging 9.2 yards per punt return on nine attempts, with a long of 21 yards. He was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week after the Southern Miss game. Prothro returned a pair of kickoff returns for 97 total yards and brought back four punts for 34 yards.
D.J. Hall has only one kickoff return for 29 yards.
Florida’s special teams kickoff coverage and punt block units have been horrible. Prothro might be the most dangerous return man the Gators have faced thus far. Having a punt blocked against you by the Wildcats didn’t sit too well with the Gators faithful either.
*** Alabama ***
#15 Jeremy Schatz (P) 5-7 148 Sr. Sq Homewood, AL.
#86 Jamie Christensen (PK) 6-0 178 So. 1L Norcross, Ga.
#95 Drew Lane (DS) 6-1 230 Sr. 1L Braxton, Ms.
#4 Tyrone Prothro (PR) 5-8 178 Jr. 2L Heflin, AL.
#4 Tyrone Prothro (KR) 5-8 178 Jr. 2L Heflin, AL.
#22 DJ Hall (KR) 6-3 190 So. 1L Ft. Walton Beach
*** Florida ***
#10 Eric Wilber (P) 6-1 195 Jr. 2L Winter Park
#39 Chris Hetland (PK) 6-0 185 Jr. Sq Leesburg
#43 James Smith (LS) 6-1 225 Fr. Sq Gainesville
#16 Vernell Brown (PR) 5-8 165 Sr. 2L Gainesville
#6 Jemalle Cornelius (KR) 5-11 190 Jr. 2L Fort Meade
#18 Tre McCollum (KR) 5-8 178 Jr. 1L Miami
Analysis: Florida had better get it together or Prothro will make them pay and could electrify an Alabama crowd keen on an upset.
Pick: Great play among the linebackers, secondaries, and receivers. This should be a good one. The Gators go to 5-0.