Alabama Crimson Tide
2008 record: 12-2 (8-0 SEC, 1st West)
Head coach: Nick Saban (19-8, 2 years; 110-50-1 overall, 13 years)
Returning Starters: 15: 4 offense, 9 defense, kicker, punter
Leaders on Each Side: Offense: WR, Julio Jones Defense: NT, Terrence Cody
After a perfect run through the Southeastern Conference last fall, the Tide fell apart in the postseason – dropping the SEC title game to Florida before losing the Sugar Bowl to Utah.
Head coach Nick Saban will be thirsty to avenge the missteps, and back-to-back top ranked recruiting classes should help with the efforts.
John Parker Wilson is gone at quarterback, but the Tide are happy about what they saw from Greg McElroy in the spring. The junior does not have Wilson’s size or arm, but he should be able to get the job done.
The schedule is favorable, so Alabama should pile up on the wins once more. If Saban can get the ball rolling early, the Tide could very well be back in Atlanta come December.
Greg McElroy – 6’2”, 220, Jr.
Thomas Darrah – 6’6”, 212, So.
After three years of waiting, Greg McElroy is the starting quarterback at Alabama. John Parker Wilson had his time, but the offseason marked the beginning of the McElroy era.
The junior impressed in front of a capacity crowd at the spring game, and offensive coordinator Jim McElwain seems to think the Tide passing game won’t miss a beat from years past.
Inexperience, however, remains the elephant in the room – as McElroy has attempted just 18 passes in two seasons of action.
Mark Ingram – 5’10”, 215, So.
Trent Richardson – 5’11”, 220, Fr.
In 2008, the Tide beat opponents to death on the ground, mixing the production of Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch to tire down defenses.
This fall, Ingram, who set a freshman record with 12 rushing touchdowns, will carry the weight. Help should come by way of a true freshman, five-star prospect Trent Richardson.
With added production from Upchurch and Terry Grant, Alabama should be able to pick up where they left off last fall.
Wide Receivers and Tight End
Julio Jones – 6’4”, 210, So.
Marquis Maze – 5’9”, 171, So.
Mike McCoy – 6’2”, 205, Sr.
Darius Hanks – 6’0”, 172, Jr.
Colin Peek – 6’6”, 247, Sr.
All eyes in the SEC will be on Julio Jones. The sophomore, who pulled in a team-high 58 passes for 924 yards and four touchdowns last fall, is one of the nation’s most dominant possession receivers – and McElroy will certainly take advantage.
Marquis Maze, Mike McCoy, and Darius Hanks also all return to the lineup. Maze should draw plenty of attention from opposing defenses, as the Birmingham-native is the fastest Tide wide out.
When it comes to fresh faces, watch out for four-star wide receivers Kendall Kelly, Kenny Bell and Michael Bowman. All three were among the nation’s top ranked receiver prospects in 2009.
D.J. Fluker – 6’5”, 340, Fr.
Mike Johnson – 6’6”, 305, Sr.
William Vlachos – 6’0”, 305, Jr.
John Michael Boswell – 6’5”, 300, So.
Drew Davis – 6’7”, 305, Sr.
The offensive line has holes to fill, beginning with the empty spot left by Andre Smith. Smith, who headed to the NFL, was the Tide’s prized left tackle – shoes that junior college transfer James Carpenter or freshman DJ Fluker will need to fill in a hurry.
Mike Johnson returns as the starting left guard, while fellow senior Drew Davis is back at right tackle. Junior William Vlachos will get his first start at center, with sophomore John Michael Boswell slated to get the go at right guard.
Brandon Deaderick – 6’4”, 287, Sr.
Terrence Cody – 6’5”, 365, Sr.
Lorenzo Washington – 6’5”, 275, Sr.
Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is certainly happy about one thing: having a 365-pounder in the middle of his line. Terrence Cody, a future NFL first-rounder, made a giant splash during his junior run last fall, and offensive coordinators will be pulling their hair on Saturdays again in 2009.
Brandon Deaderick and Lorenzo Washington will get the start at defensive end, with Kerry Murphy and Marcell Dareus looking to see time off the bench.
While Deaderick and Cody are the lone returning starters, the unit should be solid – especially given the linebackers they have behind working behind them.
Cory Reamer – 6’4”, 218, Sr.
Rolando McClain – 6’4”, 249, Jr.
Dont’a Hightower – 6’4”, 250, So.
Brandon Fanney – 6’4”, 257, Sr.
In a base 3-4 scheme, Saban can do wonders with a linebacker corps – and the 2009 crew in Tuscaloosa is a good one.
All four starters are back from 2008, led by Rolando McClain. The junior recorded a team-high 95 tackles and three sacks last fall.
Don’t’a Hightower will get the start on the inside, though the sophomore will drop to defensive end in passing situations.
Cory Reamer and Brandon Fanney get the nods once more on the outside, where the two combined for 101 tackles last fall.
Javier Arenas – 5’9”, 198, Sr.
Kareem Jackson – 5’11”, 192, Jr.
Justin Woodall – 6’2”, 220, Sr.
Robby Green – 6’0”, 180, So.
Kareem Jackson, Javier Arenas and Justin Woodall are all back from the 2008 starting squad.
Woodall, who was in on 48 stops last fall, recorded four interceptions for 99 return yards from his strong safety spot. Jackson and Arenas, the Tide’s two cornerbacks, combined for 17 pass break ups.
Sophomore Robby Green rounds out the secondary at free safety, while Dre’ Kirkpatrick, one of the nation’s top cornerback prospects, hopes that a big summer can translate into quality game day experience.
Leigh Tiffin – 6’1”, 199, Sr.
P.J. Fitzgerald – 5’11”, 198, Sr.
Leigh Tiffin hit on 20-of-29 field goal attempts last fall, a mark that the senior hopes to improve upon after ranking sixth in the SEC in scoring.
P.J. Fitzgerald, who averaged 41.1 yards per kick in 2008, has started at punter for the Tide in every game for the past three seasons.