Alabama offense

One of the gridiron's oldest axioms is that you win by running the football and stopping the opponent from running the football.

That simple formula carried Alabama through a 12-0 regular season last fall. The Tide scored 32 rushing touchdowns in 2008 while allowing just 5.

There's no reason to believe head coach Nick Saban will alter that script in 2009, especially since two key elements of his 2008 passing game - quarterback John Parker Wilson and tight end Nick Walker - are out of eligibility.

Parker Wilson threw sparingly as a senior last fall but completed 57.9 percent for 2,273 yards and 10 touchdowns with 8 interceptions. Walker was the second-leading receiver last season, catching 32 balls for 324 yards.

Bama averaged more rushing yards per game (184.6) than passing yards (171.1) last fall. Despite the departure of tailback Glen Coffee, who rushed for 1,383 yards last season, the Crimson Tide projects to be a ground-hugging attack again this season. That's primarily due to the availability of 5-10, 215-pound Mark Ingram (728 rushing yards in 2008) and 5-9, 190-pound Terry Grant (891 rushing yards in 2007).

Opponents knew Bama was going to run last season but still couldn't stop the Tide. Alabama averaged 30.1 points per game, largely because Parker Wilson threw effectively enough to keep defenses honest. Tide faithful are hoping for the same results from Greg McElroy, who steps into the No. 1 QB job this fall after completing 8 of 11 passes for 123 yards in mop-up duty last fall.

McElroy's task is made considerably easier by the presence of sophomore superstar Julio Jones. The 6-4, 210-pounder caught 58 balls for 924 yards as a true freshman last season, averaging a healthy 15.9 yards per catch. Jones, who caught 6 balls for 103 yards last year vs. Tennessee, is sure to see a lot of double-team coverage this fall.

Walker will be missed at tight end but Bama thinks it has a capable replacement in senior Colin Peek, a 6-6, 250-pound transfer from Georgia Tech.

If the Tide can find a complementary wideout to take some heat off of Jones, the passing attack should be at least competent.

The big concern for Bama's attack is replacing two outstanding blockers from last season's line - tackle Andre Smith and center Antoine Caldwell. Those two losses will be felt.

Bottom line: Bama went 12-2 in 2008 with merely solid play from Parker Wilson. The Tide may need exceptional play from McElroy to enjoy that kind of success in 2009.

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