07 October 2008
Right now Eryk is one of 5 Bama scholarship players at the SAM linebacker position. If things go as I expect, and Cory Reamer, is moved to the WILL, then Eryk will battle Sophomore Chavis Williams and incoming Freshman Jerrell Harris for playing time.Anders is simply plodding along, gaining weight and learning the system. When push comes to shove, though, he just doesn’t have the overall athletic gifts of Williams & Harris. He provides upperclassmen depth at a position where there is none, and that is a nice commodity to have. Regardless, he was a big contributor on special teams in 2007, being named Special Teams Co-Player of the week by the coaching staff for the Mississippi State games. He will continue to bring quality play to the kick and punt coverage teams, as well as the punt block team.Yep... I was wrong on this one. Not only is Eryk playing at the Jack instead of Sam, he has become a major contributor to the Alabama defense. He is easily Alabama's best pass rusher, and the Bama coaches are starting to use those skills. He's coming off of both ends, as well as up the middle, really using his speed to get into the backfield. He's got a half sack and four QB hurries so far, and his role is just now beginning to expand. Javier Arenas
Javier will likely shatter Bama’s record for career kick-off return attempts and yardage. How he fares on punt returns will depend on how many times teams choose to kick to him. Either way, a team kicking away from him requires shorter punts, and the mere threat of him gives Bama better field position. As a cornerback, he’ll face a tough battle from incoming freshman phenom Alonzo Lawrence and from 2007 returning contributor Marquis Johnson. Given his experience from last year, he has a serious leg up on both guys, and might relinquish the left CB position only in the nickel package where his skill-set is much better suited for the “Star” position.This one really seemed like a no-brainer after watching him play in the spring and hearing the way that Coach Saban talked about him. I wasn't totally right, though, as he was never pushed by anybody for his starting cornerback spot. He has also far exceeded my expectations, especially in run defense. He has 25 tackles, including a sack, an interception, and three PBUs. As a returner, the numbers have been about as expected, as teams have pretty much taken to avoiding him. He still needs 105 kick off return yards to break Arvin Richard's school career record. He's also closed to within 207 yards of Harry Gilmer's career punt return record. Sam Burnthall
Sam is one of several players currently on the team that do not appear to have SEC type talent. He can certainly still provide quality leadership, and can be a valuable part of helping his team prepare as a part of the scout team. Barring a massive improvement or a major injury, that is probably the most that can be hoped for.
Turns out that Sam came to the same conclusion, because he's no longer with the team.
During fall camp it looked like I was going to be horribly wrong on this one, as Evan wasn't even working with the second unit. Things have settled down a bit as the season has progressed, and he's firmly entrenched as the #2 guy at center. With the emergence of David Ross, it looks like center is his only avenue onto the filed. So unless Antoine Caldwell misses a game, I'll be flat out wrong on my guess of a start. Glen Coffee
This is a tough one to guess, because the offensive line is a very fluid thing for Bama at this point. With Antoine Caldwell capable of playing all 5 positions across the line, there is always the possibility of him starting the season somewhere other than center. While the coaches appear to be very high on William Vlachos, it is a strong possibility that Evan would be given the first opportunity to earn the starts at center if Caldwell is elsewhere on the line.Another reason for the move to guard is that Marlon Davis has struggled to remain healthy, and the coaches want to have a veteran presence available if those injury problems crop up for him again. Bama has virtually no experienced depth on the offensive line, and having a guy who can backup all 3 of the interior line spots makes him extremely valuable to Associate Head Coach for Offense and Offensive Line Coach Joe Pendry. It is almost certain that at some point during the 2008 season we will see Evan play, and likely start. Whether that comes at guard or center will be the question.
Bama’s new offensive coordinator Jim McElwain shares Nick Saban’s philosophy of spreading the ball around to numerous guys, so it is unlikely that Bama will have a “featured back” this season. Glen’s experience combined with his ability to run both between and outside the tackles should make him one of the primary guys in what will likely be a 3 or 4 back rotation. He is also Bama’s #4 returning receiver, with 18 catches in 2007. He doesn’t pose the big play threat at the backfield that Grant does (Terry is Bama’s #2 returning receiver), but Glen has been reliable in this role during his career. With the way that McElwain likes to use his backs as receivers, this should help Glen be a part of the offense. My guess is that barring injury he’ll top 100 carries again, and should probably catch 15-25 passes. How much he is used in the red zone will likely depend on the emergence of redshirt freshman Jeramie Griffin and the “ready to play” status of Bama’s 4 incoming freshmen at the running back position.Yeah, he'll probably top 100 attempts... he's at 95 already. I'm not going to give myself a passing grade on this one because I didn't see the massive improvement coming. Wanna hear something that will knock you on your butt? If Glen can run for the same 708 yards in Bama's last six games that he did in the Tide's first six, then he'll need to run for just 55 yards in the Tide's bowl game to break Shaun Alexander's school record for rushing yards in a season. And that's not even taking into account a potential SEC Championship game. Drew Davis
Despite being a Junior, he is one of the Tide’s oldest players. Having now spent 4 spring practices and off seasons in collegiate conditioning programs, he should be primed to be in physical condition to contribute. He has made tremendous strides in his overall ability over the last 12 months, and at this point will be a contributing lineman. Regardless of whether he earns the starting job at right tackle he has improved to the point where he can serve as a backup for either tackle position.I won't give myself a pass here, either. I didn't come out and say it, but I fully expected Taylor Pharr or Tyler Love to pass Drew, and that just hasn't happened. He has been more than serviceable. In fact, he's been very solid. He will face his biggest test in Bama's next game, but I have far more confidence in his ability to handle the task than I did in the summer. Brandon Deaderick
In Nick Saban’s defense the end position that Brandon plays isn’t likely to put up huge numbers. In the rushing defense schemes his job is to try to occupy multiple blockers, freeing up the linebackers to make plays. He excelled at that during the 2nd half of the 2007 season, and will hopefully continue that in 2008. If Bama can get consistent play out of its nose guard, that will also free Brandon and the other ends to make more plays. There are a lot of “ifs” for Bama’s defense this season, but Brandon has made his DE position one that, as long as he is on the field, a solid position.The numbers might not put a stamp on things, but I've been on record all season that he has been shorted on QB hurries in every game. He has been mostly quiet, but that's not much of a shock given the position. I did expect a little more in the production department, but he's doing what he's supposed to do in the scheme. Brandon Fanney
The scary part about the JACK position for Bama is that if Brandon has not made a significant leap forward, there are not many options behind him, and we could be in for another year of little playmaking out of a position that feeds playmakers. As I said before, the fact that Brandon was unable to push Keith Saunders off the field last year does not inspire me with great confidence in his ability to suddenly be a star at the position in 2008. With Bama’s frighteningly thin depth across the board at linebacker, there is not an option at another position that can move in to take over this role. It is essential that Brandon, especially early in the season, be able to make plays.I am thrilled beyond belief to have been wrong on this one. I guess technically I wasn't wrong, because I said "if Brandon has not made significant improvement." But I'll be honest again and say that I was being nice when I said that. What I said in the second paragraph is more accurate, that I just didn't think we'd see much out of Brandon. Fortunately he has made a huge leap forward, and the fact that Bama has played so much nickel has allowed him to spend most of his time with his hand on the ground, playing more as a DE than as a LB. He is currently Bama's third leading tackler, and actually leads the team in tackles for a loss with 4.5. Prince Hall
The absolute lack of depth at the linebacker position across the board tells me that he and McClain will not play the same position again. My guess is that Hall stays at the Mike and McClain moves to the Will, which allows Bama to use guys like Jimmy Johns, Cory Reamer & freshman Don’ta Hightower in completely different roles. All of this could be a moot point, however, as it is likely that if Prince is back on the team, he will have an incredibly short leash. He has not, to this point, demonstrated an ability to remain out of the doghouse, and he won’t be given another chance.Wrong again here. Hall is the one that moved to the Will, and he really hasn't played much. Hightower, unexpected by me, took over the Will position and has yet to relinquish it. I'll stand by my "short leash" statement, but so far he's stayed out of trouble. As Hightower continues to improve it is going to be harder and harder for Prince to see the field. He did have a nice game against Kentucky in his new role on special teams. Baron Huber
While at the moment there are only 2 returning scholarship players at the WILL, that likely won’t be the case once fall camp opens. it really is difficult to judge exactly how he’ll play at the position. He did make the move during the spring, but a couple of weeks of spring practice isn’t really enough time to completely learn the position, so his performance on A-Day might not be indicative of how he could develop over the summer. Baron has contributed in other ways, though. He has been tremendous as an “up man” on Bama’s kickoff return team, serving as a lead blocker for Javier Arenas. He will almost certainly continue in that role in 2008.This one is probably the "most wrong"... Baron moved back to fullback, so any analysis of him at the Will would be wrong. The problem for me is that Baron actually struggled on special teams. Those struggles haven't come on kick return, but rather on the punt team, where he was replaced by Cory Reamer as the personal protector after back to back poor games. Marquis Johnson
The key for an good DB is to have a short memory. Hopefully Bama fans will also have one with Marquis. Unless one of the incoming freshman DBs can take over the left cornerback spot, the Star position in Bama’s nickel package will be open, and Marquis will battle Chris Rogers, Ali Sharrief, the above mentioned freshman, and freshman Mark Barron for time there. His experience will either work as a great positive or a great negative for him. If it works for him as a positive, then it allows the coaches the opportunity to look at a redshirt for guys like Green and Lester. So if Marquis continues to struggle to tackle, then he’ll be on the sidelines a lot. If he can step up and use his hopefully gained physicality, then he’ll continue to get time in the nickel and dime packages. Nick Saban’s patience with DB is probably the shortest of any position, so Marquis will not be allowed to make the same mistakes as last season.I won't grade myself great here because I used a lot of "ifs" in there. Thankfully those "ifs" have all gone positive, and Marquis has been very solid at the star in the nickel defense. His two interceptions are second only to Justin Woodall's three, and he has been great in run support. His development has been the result of a lot of hard work and great coaching at his position. Mike Johnson
At left guard Mike will get a lot more chances to be a lead blocker on rushing plays. With Andre Smith at left tackle, the Tide is almost certain to send the majority of its rushing plays to that side. With only David Ross currently behind him on the depth chart, massive changes would have to be made if Mike can not handle the job. Regardless of how it all shakes out, I think that barring injury we’ll see a lot of Mike in 2008. He started all 13 games in 2007, and I think we’ll probably see a repeat of that.I got this one right. He has had a lot of opportunity to be a lead blocker from left guard, and he has not disappointed. In fact, I would say that he's gone from being a mediocre right tackle to being an NFL prospect at guard. He still has some improvements to make, but so far I've been very, very impressed. Mike McCoy
Considering the fact that despite the rough end to his season Mike ended the 2007 season as Bama’s #3 receiver, he has to be the favorite to start at Split End. Part of the reason that he disappeared over the 2nd half of the season was his inability to carry out the aspects of the receiver position not related to catching the ball. Those aspects of his game improved considerably in the spring. Unlike last season where one guy had to be the “go-to” receiver, Alabama will likely spread the ball around considerably more this season. Instead of having one guy with 67 catches, another with 40, and no one else above 30, you can expect Jim McElwain to ensure that the ball is distributed throughout the receiving corps. Even if no one player is going to have considerably more catches than any other, it is crucial that someone step up and be a consistent threat when a reception is an absolute necessity.There has been a "go-to" guy so far (Julio Jones), but I was correct in my allusion to Mike's improved blocking being crucial to his play on the field. He has been spectacular in downfield blocking, joining Nikita Stover as the team's best at this role. With just seven catches he hasn't stepped up in the "receiver" part of his game as much as I expected. Having said that, his abscence was noticeable and obvious against Kentucky. He's been his best on third down, so he's been pretty good in being at his best when it was needed the most. Colin Peek
Until I hear otherwise, I am going to assume that Colin will sit out the 2008 season. Being ineligible to play under transfer rules has no bearing on his ability to practice, however. Having someone this versatile and talented on the scout team should do wonders as the Bama defense prepares for teams with a big threat at TE.This one was really easy. He's not eligible, though I still think he's got a shot at winning his appeal and getting this year back. Bama has also been very solid in defending the tight end on defense, and I have to figure that Colin and Brad Smelley have had a lot to do with that by providing quality simulation on the scout team. Cory Reamer
He’ll likely start out as Chavis Williams’ backup at the Sam, assuming that Zeke Knight is not cleared to return to action. With talented newcomer Jerrell Harris expected to push for immediate playing time, I would not be surprised to see him back at the Will position that he began the spring at. If Prince Hall returns in the fall from his suspension, then there may be simply nowhere for Cory to play. He’s well liked by the coaches, and I expect that he’ll have a role, even if it is a situational one, where he is used primarily as a pass-defender, in an attempt to capitalize on his DB experience. He may out-grow his previous role on special teams with the additional weight that he puts on for linebackerWell, he ended up the starter at Sam, even though he hasn't played much recently because of how often Bama has been in the nickel. He has far exceeded being a situational "cover" guy, instead being much more physical in run defense than I anticipated. We haven't seen much of his cover skills because he's left the field on most third downs for an extra defensive back. Even with limited playing time he's managed three tackles for a loss, including a sack. Chris Rogers
I believe that he will be taught enough technique that he’ll be able to use his athleticism and size to be successful at the nickel position. He will still need to be kept on insider receivers, to allow him to keep plays in front of him. He’s not fast enough to play outside, and that limitation could hurt him if the freshmen report ready to play. Regardless of his play on defense, Chris will continue to be a standout on both kick and punt coverage teams.He hasn't played much on defense, though he did use that athleticism to make a spectacular interception against Arkansas in garbage time. Special teams has been his forte again, though. He picked up Roy Upchurch's blocked punt and took it in for a score against Tulane. Ali Sharrief
As things stand right now, Ali is the only real option as a back up to Rashad Johnson at the Free Safety position. Because of everything that Johnson is capable of, that position will have a tremendous amount of responsibility, and Ali must be prepared to take over that responsibility if Johnson were to get injured. He’ll battle for time as the “Star” back in Bama’s nickel package, and stands to be one of the top candidates to be on the field in the Tide’s dime package as well. As was the case in 2007, his largest contribution will likely come on special teams, where he became a head-hunter on both kick-off and punt coverage teams.I'll claim a passing grade here. He won the starting "money" spot as Bama's extra-extra defensive back in the dime package. He's also continued to be a head hunter on special teams. I'm not going to call it a slam dunk because I didn't predict how well he would play. He's got two tackles for a loss, both on screen plays. He's also been credited with three passes broken up, showing that he could be primed to take over for Rashad Johnson next season. Andre Smith
Andre is still the best offensive lineman at Alabama, likely in the SEC, and possibly in the entire country. It is not a stretch to say that beyond John Parker Wilson he is the most important player on the Bama offense, and for the same reason – there is no one on the depth chart behind him.Yawn... this was the easiest prediction to make. He has been great, and when he was out of the Tulane game Bama looked like crap. Roy Upchurch
He will have either demonstrated an improved work ethic over the spring and summer or he won’t be here in the fall. With Bama still 5 players over the scholarship limit, career underachievers are the likeliest candidates for attrition, and Roy falls into that category. It is just that simple. If he is still here, expect to see him get carries. With Terry Grant and Glen Coffee also being injury prone, I expect we’ll see at least 3 backs rotate the carries in the fall. Roy is also a good receiver, and did a great job of picking up blitzes in the A-Day game – two things that are essential in Jim McElwain’s offense.
If he is still here, expect to see him blow by his career rushing total of 274 yards by the 8th or 9th game of the season.Thankfully the "if" above turned out positive again. He's been a part of a solid three back rotation, though Mark Ingram has taken Terry Grant's spot. He has become Bama's best blocking running back and has done a solid job, leading all Bama backs with seven receptions. As for the statistical guess... he's at 218 yards through six games. So that looks to have been a good pick. Lorenzo Washington
If Chapman or Cody can take over the starting position, it is possible that McCullough would move back to the nose guard spot to add depth, and Lorenzo could move out to the DE position. But until someone else on the team demonstrates the ability to be better at nose guard than Lorenzo, despite the fact that he is not ideal for the position, he will have to stay there. Whether at nose guard or defensive end, I expect Lorenzo to have a big season. If he is at DE the numbers will be more eye-popping, mainly because true success at the nose guard position does not necessarily show up on the stat sheet.I certainly wasn't alone in my guess that Lorenzo would end up at defensive end, but I was pretty adamant about it. The big numbers haven't come yet, with just one sack, but he appears to be easing into the role well. I expect that he'll have a bigger second half of the season than first half, especially as he gets more snaps. On third down and long Bama has gone with an unconventional lineup that sometimes sees three ends lining up on the line without a nose guard. Justin Woodall
Some players take a little longer to have things click, and Justin appears to be one of those guys. When he was sitting behind Tyrone King, I had all but written him off to the baseball team, figuring he would take his left-handed mid-90s fastball to the diamond for a year, and then off to MLB. Thankfully that changed, and Justin should be the starting Strong Safety when the season begins. That’s a lot to put on a guy who has played very little in his career, but Woodall appears to be primed for that responsibility. I expect that he’ll come out strong and rely heavily on Rashad Johnson until he finds his game-day footing.This was another one that a lot of people talked about, and it really could have gone either way. The only real shock is how quickly he has become an absolute playmaker. He leads the team with three interceptions, has a touchdown, and has become a threat to kill someone over the middle. Really there haven't been many (if any) of the blown assignments that I expected we'd see. He has been beyond solid, adding five PBUs just for good measure. It's taken a while, but things have clicked. Look for him to only get better. As I guessed in yesterday's look at the Seniors, things would be a little tougher as the players got younger. I haven't looked ahead to see how things will be with the Sophomores and Freshman, though I'm guessing it will prove to be more of the same. Feel free to grade my picks, as well as add your take on any of these guys.
|< Prev||Next >|