Tide faithful will be getting used to seeing empty-backfield and one-back sets. Tailback returnee Shaud Williams rushed for 921 yards at over seven yards a carry last fall. The offensive line is short of bodies, but tackle Justin Smiley are battle-hardened and accomplished.
Ahmad Childress will step into the defensive tackle vacancies without missing a beat, and the top three tacklers from last year all return in the back seven.
Home cooking: Alabama starts the 2003 season with five home games.
Typical Tide: Alabama finished 2002 ranked fourth nationally in rushing defense and third in total defense.
The family way: Mike Price's sons, Eric and Aaron, will serve as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach respectively.
2002 results: 10–3 (6–2 SEC)
Bowl Game: None (probation)
Returning starters: 6 offense, 6 defense, placekicker
A. 30 #South Florida
S. 6 Oklahoma
S. 13 Kentucky
S. 20 Northern Illinois
S. 27 Arkansas
O. 4 at Georgia
O. 11 Southern Miss
O. 18 at Ole Miss
O. 25 Tennessee
N. 8 at Mississippi State
N. 15 LSU
N. 22 at Auburn
N. 29 at Hawaii
Schedule analysis: Alabama gets another shot at knocking off Oklahoma early in the season, something it almost pulled off in Norman last year. Southern Miss is another non-conference challenge on the home slate. The SEC season will come down to road games against Georgia and Auburn and home dates with LSU and Tennessee. A 2-2 split in those four games, and the Tide will likely carry nine wins out to their unofficial bowl game in Hawaii.
Final Word: It will be another year of adjustment for the Crimson Tide faithful, who are welcoming a first-year coach for the third time in seven years. (In fact, Mike Price will be the sixth coach in the last 20 years after Bear Bryant's 25-year run.) Defensively, Alabama will have to replace some talent along the defensive front, and the usual depth on the roster is thinning a bit due to probation. Croyle has some veteran receivers, but everyone on the team is a first-year player when it comes to the new coaching staff. How well Price fits in Tuscaloosa will ultimately be determined on Nov. 22 when the Tide visits Auburn.