29 December 2008
It was an eventful day for the Alabama football team - and that was before practice even began. First, there was the news about Andre Smith being sent home from New Orleans. Next came the story that Kevin Steele might be considering leaving for Clemson. The good news is that practice went well, and in a few days there will actually be a football game.
The big question from everyone today, after the Andre story broke, is - who will play left tackle? The first option worked on in practice today saw Mike Johnson move from left guard to left tackle, and David Ross at left guard. This was what we saw during the Tulane game. Option number two appears to be Drew Davis moving to left tackle and true freshman John Michael Boswell playing at right tackle.
This second option is what I imagine we'll end up seeing, as Coach Saban made comments after the Tulane game about not liking to change several spots on his offensive line in order to fix one spot. It was at this time that Boswell made the move forward, and was a frequent sub at right tackle when Bama went into substitution mode late in blow outs. Johnson was so good at guard this season that it would be a huge shame to have him play anywhere but there in the bowl game.
The good news is that there are options, and those options all have the possibility to be good. The depth on the line has been massively improved, and looks to be getting even better for 2009 and beyond. There is a strange sense of irony here, when you consider that the last time Alabama played in a BCS Bowl (Orange in 1999), starting left tackle and Outland Trophy winner Chris Samuels got involved in a very similar situation. To continue that, Chris was the second pick in the draft that year, and Andre is currently projected to go at number two this year.
The guys in black jerseys remained the same - Colin Peek, Will Oakley, Roy Upchurch, and Tyler Love. Peek is the only one out of this group that even remains a remote possibility of playing, but his chances are pretty slim.
Specific work on Utah continued today, and that meant more work for the nickel and dime packages. Ali Sharrief will be the primary guy for the dime package, though Mark Barron will get a look if the Utes show some success in the running game. The other person to watch out for is Tyrone King. Sharrief has been solid all year, but King is a favorite of the coaches, and he might get some time on the field in what could possibly be his final game - he graduated this month, and despite now being on scholarship, could opt to move on.
The offense is still preparing to go with a "business as usual" game plan, despite losing the nation's best offensive lineman. My guess is the combination of five guys that is the most successful in the rushing attack will be the group that gets the nod out of the options listed above. The passing attack won't be completely forgotten, but we will also likely see the tight ends (especially McCall) kept in to cover any loss in pass blocking.
We'll have more from tomorrow's practice.