Alabama Preview 2006
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Alabama Crimson Tide Preview 2006

- Alabama Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

Good teams make their own breaks, but Alabama had a perfect convergence of everything going right in one year from a nice schedule that brought Florida and Tennessee to Tuscaloosa, to a senior dominated defense that hit its peak at the perfect time, to having a veteran leader at quarterback like rodie Croyle. Throw in clutch kicking from Jamie Christensen and several great strokes of luck, many of them happening against Tennessee, and the Tide had a tremendous season.
Head coach: Mike Shula
4th year: (20-17)
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 24, Def. 19, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best Alabama Players
RB Ken Darby, Sr.
2. C Antoine Caldwell, Soph.
3. LB Juwan Simpson, Sr.
4. DT Jeremy Clark, Sr.
5. OT Kyle Tatum, Sr.
6. FB Le'Ron McClain, Sr.
7. WR D.J. Hall, Jr.
8. CB Ramzee Robinson, Sr.
9. WR Keith Brown, Jr.
10. DE Wallace Gilberry, Jr. 
WR/KR Ty Prothro would by 2nd if/when 100% healthy.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 Hawaii
9/9 Vanderbilt
9/16 UL Monroe
9/23 at Arkansas
9/30 at Florida
10/7 Duke
10/14 Ole Miss
10/21 at Tennessee
10/28 FIU
11/4 Miss State
11/11 at LSU
11/18 Auburn

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 8-3
2005 Record: 10-2

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 MTSU W 26-7
9/10 Southern Miss W 30-21
9/17 at So Carolina W 37-14
9/24 Arkansas W 24-13
10/1 Florida W 31-3
10/15 at Ole Miss W 13-10
10/22 Tennessee W 6-3 
10/29 Utah State W 35-3
11/5 at Miss State W 17-0
11/12 LSU L 16-13 OT
11/19 at Auburn L 28-18
1/2 Cotton Bowl
Texas Tech W 13-10

Now the real work begins for Shula as he needs to replace seven fantastic starters from a defense that was among the best in the game, has to find a steady starting quarterback, and needs to quickly develop depth at just about every position. Meanwhile, the two teams that tagged the Tide last year, LSU and Auburn, appear to be just as good, if not better, while the tough early road trips are at play Arkansas, Florida and Tennessee.

Last year's formula for the Tide worked to near-perfection. Don't screw up on offense, get rock solid defense, and hope everything turns out right in the end. The defense was unbelievable allowing a ridiculous 13 points in the third quarter, but the coaching staff can't rely on the same sort of production again. The offense has to start producing much, much more needing better production on third downs, more big plays from the ground game, and more points after averaging 21.9 points per outing.

The casual college football fan won't be shocked if Alabama is a ten-win type of team again simply because of the brand name, Alabama is supposed to be good, but winning double-digit games should put Shula in the mix for coach of the year honors even though he has a layup of a home slate (more on that in a moment). Bama is a year away from making an honest run for the SEC title, but that doesn't mean this can't be another successful season.

The Schedule: The Tide might have the easiest home schedule of any big team in America, at least up until the regular season finale against Auburn. Hawaii, Vanderbilt, UL Monroe, Duke, Ole Miss, FIU and Mississippi State will all likely go bowling only if they have a ticket. Unless Bama falls flat on its face, it has seven wins without breathing hard. That means ten wins is a good goal needing to win three of the five tough tests against Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and LSU on the road and the Auburn game at home.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Ken Darby. While not spectacular, Darby is a steady runner who has a chance to be the first Alabama runner to ever have three straight 1,000-yard seasons. He's a good power runner, but he's not used much around the goal line with so many strong short yardage backs on the roster. Don't expect him to bust off many big runs, and don't look for double-digit touchdowns, but 1,500 yards isn't out of the question with an improved and more consistent offensive line.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Juwan Simpson. The lone holdover from one of the nation's best linebacking corps, Simpson returns for his third season on the weakside and has to be the leader and top playmaker until the rest of the back seven develops. He's not a big pass rusher, but he has good range and is strong against the run.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DTs Jeremy Clark and Dominic Lee. The Tide succeeded last year without an offense, but things will be better this year even with new starter John Parker Wilson under center. The defense is another story, and it desperately needs strong play from the team's two 300-pound tackles to have any hope of the production not completely dropping off the map.

The season will be a success if ... Alabama wins nine games. The home slate is too light to shoot for anything less, and an upset or two on the road will mean another double-digit year. Expecting to be a major factor in the SEC West race is asking for way too much considering all the new starters on defense, but finishing second is a good goal.

Key game: Nov. 11 at LSU. Of course the Auburn game is the most important game of the season, but a win over the LSU version of the Tigers might make the following week's rivalry game a battle for the SEC West title. A loss at LSU could mean a rough end to the regular season for the second year in a row.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Second half scoring: Alabama 132 - Opponents 43
- Sacks: Opponents 37 - Alabama 28
- Punt average: Opponents 42.4 yards per kick - Alabama 37.2 yards per kick

The Last Time Alabama
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Cotton Bowl vs. Texas Tech)
…missed a bowl game…2003
…pitched a shutout…2005 (Mississippi State)
…was shutout…2000 (Southern Miss)
…scored 50 points…2004 (Western Carolina)
…went undefeated…1992
…won a conference title…1999 (SEC)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…never (Brodie Croyle set the school record with 2,499 yards in 2005)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Kenneth Darby)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…1993 (David Palmer)
…had a first-round draft choice…2000 (OT Chris Samuels and RB Shaun Alexander)

Related Stories
Alabama Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 8, 2006
Alabama Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by  Aug 8, 2006
Alabama Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by  Aug 8, 2006

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