2012 Alabama Preview – Offense
Alabama WR Kenny Bell
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Alabama Crimson Tide Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has some work to do. Last year the defense didn’t allow more than 14 points against anyone but Georgia Southern, and this season it’s not like the Tide offense has to do anything more than be ultra-conservative, score a few times and go home with a win, but QB AJ McCarron will be allowed to open it up a little bit more. He’s not going to start chucking it all over the field, but he’ll be allowed to take a few more shots down the field to a green but fast receiving corps. However, his main job will be to keep the chains moving and to make sure the running game is working. The Tide has five excellent backs to work in a rotation behind the most talented line in college football. The O line depth might be lacking and there will be problems if injuries strike, but there are four sure-thing NFL starters up front to pave the way for a ground game that should once again be among the best in the SEC.
Star of the offense: Senior C Barrett Jones
Passing: AJ McCarron
291-328, 2,634 yds, 16 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Eddie Lacy
95 carries, 674 yds, 7 TD
Receiving: Kenny Bell
17 catches, 255 yds, 2 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior RB Eddie Lacy
Unsung star on the rise: Senior TE Michael Williams
Best pro prospect: Sophomore OT Cyrus Kouandijo
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jones, 2) OG Chance Warmack, 3) OT D.J. Fluker
Strength of the offense: Line, McCarron
Weakness of the offense: Wide Receiver, Backup Quarterback
Raise your hand if you thought AJ McCarron was going to be the bright shining star in the BCS championship? Okay, so the defense was the reason the Tide beat LSU, but McCarron badly outplayed Tiger QB Jordan Jefferson completing 23-of-34 passes for 234 yards and, most importantly, no interceptions to finish the season completing 67% of his throws for 2,634 yard and 16 touchdowns with five picks. Best of all, he got better and better as the year went on with a far better feel for the offense and with few mistakes with no picks in the final three games. With 6-4, 205-pound size the junior looks the part, and while he doesn’t have a monster arm, it’s more than good enough and accurate enough to give the Tide a steady passing game. The Elite 11 Quarterback camper has a great release, a little bit of mobility and all the raw tools. Now he has the experience and he’s being given more room to do more for the offense. He proved himself, and now it’s his attack to run.
The backup situation is very, very sketchy with redshirt freshman Phillip Ely a 6-1, 198-pound pro-style quarterback who wasn’t a top recruit last season, but he won two Florida state championships and has the accuracy and the moxie to eventually see time. However, he didn’t exactly light it up when he got his chances this offseason, leaving the door open for true freshman Alec Morris, a 6-3, 225-pound bomber who fits the Alabama quarterback profile. Smart and accurate, he could quickly make himself into the No. 2 guy with a little bit of time.
Watch Out For … McCarron to do a lot more. The running game will be fine and the receivers will come around, but McCarron is going to be the one who runs things with the smarts and the experience to know what he’s doing. As long as he doesn’t start throwing picks, he’ll be allowed to open things up a bit more.
Strength: The defense. The Alabama quarterbacks don’t have to throw for 4,000 yards and don’t have to win games by themselves. Hit the third down throw, don’t throw picks, repeat. As long as McCarron is accurate and doesn’t make huge mistakes, the defense will take care of the rest. On this team, 14 points is usually more than enough to get the win.
Weakness: Backups. It’s uh-oh time if McCarron goes down. Phillip Sims might have more talent than McCarron, but he wasn’t going to take over the starting job and transferred to Virginia. Ely didn’t look the part on a consistent basis in spring ball and Morris is a true freshman.
Outlook: As long as McCarron is upright, and he should be behind a tremendous offensive line, he’ll be accurate and efficient. He’s not going to bomb away deep on a regular basis and he’s not going to have to take any chances, but he should be able to do more to spread the ball around and make the passing game a bigger deal. His biggest job, though, will be to stay n the field with a scary backup situation.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Gone is Trent Richardson and his 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns, and while he was a special player who’ll be tough to replace, 6-0, 220-pound junior Eddie Lacy might be even more explosive averaging 7.1 yards per carry with 674 yards and seven score to go along with 11 catches for 131 yards. Electric whenever he had the ball in his hands, he’s fast and slippery with a great array of moves to crank out the extra yard when needed. However, he has to get healthy after suffering through a toe problem throughout last season and missing all offseason recovering from surgery. Considered to be every bit the star recruit that Richardson was, if and when he’s right he’ll be the next great Tide back.
With Lacy trying to get back healthy and needing some help in the rotation, 5-9, 187-pound redshirt freshman Dee Hart should see his share of carries. The superstar high school prospect can be used as a runner, receiver and a kick returner, but he missed all of last season with a torn ACL and now will be mostly used as an ideal third down option. Fortunately, the injury happened early enough that he’s close to 100%.
6-1, 246-pound junior Jalson Fowler showed what he could do this offseason with Lacy out bringing excellent power and some decent speed for his size after finishing third on the team with 385 yards and four scores averaging 6.9 yards per carry. He ran for 125 yards and two scores in the blowout win over Ole Miss, and only got mop-up work, but he’ll be a good part of the rotation, as will 6-0, 212-pound sophomore Blake Sims if he can get past a hip problem suffered while playing basketball in the offseason. One of the team’s best all-around offensive prospects, he can do a little of everything rushing for 107 yards and catching two passes for 18 yards, and can play quarterback if absolutely needed.
While the Tide backfield might be loaded, the best player on the lot could be star recruit T.J. Yeldon, a 6-2, 210-pound Alabama Mr. Football who tore off 2,193 yards and 31 scores averaging 9.5 yards per carry last season and also flashed some nice hands as a receiver.
Watch Out For … Yeldon. It’s always important to take anything that happens in spring football with a few grains of salt, but the new guy stepped up in the spring game and ran for 88 yards while also coming up with 91 receiving yards with two scores.
Strength: Talent. Lots and lots and lots of talented options. Few programs could lose players like Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson over the last few seasons and still be more than fine. Getting high-end talents hasn’t been a problem with five very, very good backs who could start for just about anyone. Coming up with a good rotation to pick up the slack from the loss of Richardson shouldn’t be a problem.
Weakness: Is anyone healthy? Lacy is trying to get over a turf toe problem, Sims has a hip injury and Hart is trying to get back from a torn ACL. There might be lots of good options, but there are plenty of question marks about who’ll be available.
Outlook: Assume everyone will be healthy and back in the mix at some point this year. If that happens, the Tide will be loaded and ready to rock on the ground even without Richardson around to carry the load. Lacy, Sims and Hart can all hit the home run, while Fowler and Yeldon showed this offseason that they’re ready to go.
Unit Rating: 9
It will take a village. There’s plenty of speed and lots of promising options, but there aren’t any sure things with all the spots open. Junior Kevin Norwood didn’t do too much last season, and then he came up really, really big in the BCS championship with four catches for 78 yards. The 6-2, 193-pounder is big, tough and can get deep, but he has to prove he can be a consistent go-to guy and has to show he’s ready to start doing more. He’ll be working in a rotation with 5-11, 175-pound sophomore Christion Jones, a defensive back and occasional kick and punt returner who came up with three catches for 49 yards.
Junior Kenny Bell is one of the team’s fastest players, and while he averaged 15 yards per catch making 17 grabs for 255 yards, he needs to be a gamebreaker. At 6-1 and 175 pounds he has all the talent and all the tools to become a No. 1 target. 6-0, 181-pound sophomore DeAndrew White is a Houston native taken away from Texas and Texas A&M, and with Texas state champion-level speed he has the potential to be a big play target after catching 14 passes for 151 yards and two scores. A perfect slot option, he has the upside and talent to grab a starting spot, but he’ll most likely work in a rotation with Bell.
6-1, 205-pound redshirt freshman Danny Woodson was a good recruit with big play ability and the look of a whale of a complementary target. He might not be a go-to guy to revolve the passing game around, but he has the hands and the deep speed to make a big play here and there, while 6-3, 193-pound redshirt freshman Marvin Shinn brings the size and the physical ability. While he’s not a blazer, he has good enough speed to get by with the potential to grow into a matchup nightmare.
New recruit Chris Black doesn’t have elite speed, but he can move with good quickness with the ball in his hands. A do-it-all option, he has decent 5-11, 170-pound size to go along with his phenomenal athleticism. He’ll combine with fellow freshman Amari Cooper, a 6-1, 190-pounder out of Miami who was a late riser in the recruiting game averaging 21.9 yards per catch last year after catching just 16 passes for 175 yards and four scores as a junior.
Senior Michael Williams is a huge 6-6, 269-pound veteran pass catcher who made 16 grabs for 191 yards and two scores while also serving as a great blocker. A blaster on the outside, he’s like a smallish offensive tackle at times, but he’s able to work his way into the open and move the chains. A great athlete for his size, he should grow into more of a target with so many question marks at receiver. He’ll be backed up by sophomore Brian Vogler, a 6-7, 252-pound reserve who caught a pass for six yards in his limited time, but has the size and frame to be a threat on short-range passes.
Watch Out For … more from Williams. The Tide has to find someone who can reliably keep things moving on third downs. The wide receiver situation will figure itself out, but Williams is too good and too reliable to not be AJ McCarron’s guy on key throws.
Strength: Strength in numbers. Alabama doesn’t exactly have to beg to bring in talented receiver options, and while there might not be a Julio Jones to get excited about there are a ton of athletic speedsters to spread the ball around. Instead of one guy to carry the corps, there will be lots and lots of players in the rotation.
Weakness: Who’s the man? Marquis Maze led the team, and the No. 2 receiver was tight end Brad Smelley and No. 3 was Trent Richardson. There are lots of deep ball targets and plenty of prospects, but good luck trying to figure out the starting lineup.
Outlook: It’s not like the Alabama offense needed the wide receivers to make the offense shine. Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks were the top wideouts but they only combined for two touchdown grabs. There are way too many speedy players to not have an solid, efficient passing game, but there isn’t any sure-thing star power.
Unit Rating: 7
Great left tackles are worth their weight in gold, and there’s some thought that an elite one is harder to find than a good quarterback. All that 6-5, 302-pound senior Barrett Jones did was win the Outland Trophy, and now he’s going to switch spots. A brilliant blocker, he helped lead Alabama to the national title by keeping AJ McCarron from getting hit on a regular basis and doing a great job against the better SEC defensive ends. Now he’s going to go from being the best blocker in college football as a left tackle to leading the line as the anchor at center. Versatile, he was also considered a key guard prospect before settling in outside last year. A bad ankle limited him for a bit in the past, but he stayed healthy in 2011 and doesn’t seem to have any issues. As long as he’s 100%, the Rimington will be his for the taking.
There’s a reason Jones was able to move over to center; Cyrus Kouandjio is probably better. Yes, it’s really not crazy to suggest that the 6-6, 322-pound sophomore is actually better than the guy named the best lineman in college football. The superstar recruit of last year famously chose Auburn, looked like someone told him Christmas was being cancelled when he made his announcement, and then changed his decision to Alabama to join his brother, Arie. Considered the nation’s best offensive tackle prospect and among the top overall recruits last season, he has NFL size and great athleticism. However, he’s trying to come back from a torn ACL after seeing time in eight games. The coaching staff believes he’s more than fine and ready to handle the work on the outside. 6-5, 309-pound sophomore Arie Kouandjio, is also trying to come back from a knee injury and will end up working in at tackle, most likely on the right side.
Starting on the other side is veteran D.J. Fluker, a 6-6, 335-pound blaster of a run blocker with NFL upside. He’s a massive-bodied veteran who actually slimmed down a bit last year and turned in a terrific year starting all 13 games and turning in a dominant season. While his future at the next level is at guard – he’ll be better in the interior but will get a shot at right tackle – he has All-America skills and could stand out on a line full of standouts.
When Jones moved from guard to tackle last year, 6-3, 303-pound Anthony Steen took over at right guard and started every game. While the junior isn’t massive for the position, he’s one of the team’s strongest players and can move a house. He’s a phenomenal run blocker who has settled into the job.
At 6-3 and 320 pounds senior Chance Warmack is a big blocker who has been one of the mainstays of the O line for the last two seasons. With the nearly impossible task of taking over for Mike Johnson two year ago, he proved he could do more than just hold his own and then last season he turned into even more of a dominant run blocker who grew into his vast potential. While he was a good recruit, he wasn’t the typical elite of the elite pickup like Alabama usually gets. Now he has worked his way into a terrific pro prospect with a sensational future. Going into his senior season he has turned into dominator with freakish strength and a great motor.
Watch Out For … Cyrus Kouandijo’s knee. If he’s 100% fully healthy, he might be the best blocker in the SEC. If he’s not all back full, there could be some shuffling up front with Jones moving back to his old spot and good-looking redshirt freshman Ryan Kelly getting thrown to the wolves early on.
Strength: Phenomenal talent. Kouandijo, Fluker and Jones are almost certain future NFL first round draft picks, Warmack will go in the top 50 and certainly won’t slip out of the second round and Steen is stronger than all of them.
Weakness: Proven depth. This was a relatively healthy line last year, and while there are plenty of very good, very promising backups waiting in the wings, the front five is the most talented in all of college football and the last thing it needs is a change in plans.
Outlook: As good as the defense might be in several places, the line should be the team’s biggest strength if everyone can stay healthy. Alabama has become a factory for great offensive linemen, and this group can become the best year if Kouandijo’s knee is healthy and if Jones plays as expected at center.
Unit Rating: 10
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2012 Alabama Defense |
Alabama Depth Chart