2007 Alabama Preview - Offense

Posted Jul 30, 2007

Preview 2007 Alabama Crimson Tide Offense

Alabama Crimson Tide

Preview 200
7 - Offense

- 2007 Alabama Preview | 2007 Bama Defense Preview
2007 Bama Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Alabama Preview 

What you need to know: Major Applewhite takes over as offensive coordinator and will play around with several different formations and ideas, while trying to stick with Nick Saban's run-first philosophy. He'll incorporate a little bit of spread and four-wide sets. There's one problem; Bama might not have the backs to run well on a consistent basis. The strength is in the passing game with the great 1-2 receiving tandem of D.J. Hall and Keith Brown working with rising passer John Parker Wilson. The line welcomes back five starters led by soon to be All-Everything tackle Andre Smith.

Returning Leaders
Passing: John Parker Wilson
216-379, 2,707 yds, 17 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: Jimmy Johns
66 carries, 293 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: D.J. Hall
62 catches, 1,056 yds, 5 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore OT Andre Smith
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore RB Terry Grant
Unsung star on the rise: Grant
Best pro prospect: Smith
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Smith, 2) WR D.J. Hall, 3) QB John Parker Wilson
Strength of the offense: Wide receivers, offensive line experience
Weakness of the offense: Overall depth


Projected Starter: Junior John Parker Wilson is a better quarterback than you think. Thrown into a tough situation with no reliable running game and shaky pass protection, he came through with a nice year throwing for 2,707 yards with 17 touchdown passes and ten interceptions. While he struggled a bit down the stretch, throughout the year he showed he could grow into a top SEC quarterback with a live enough arm to get the ball deep. A decent runner, he'll get to take off a little more with a little bit of spread offense thrown into the mix.

Projected Top Reserve: There's no threat to Wilson for the starting job, but 6-2, 216-pound redshirt freshman Greg McElroy needs to see time just to get some sort of experience in case of an emergency. A runner as well as a passer, he has a good enough combination of talents to do all the things the coaching staff wants to do.

Watch Out For ... Wilson to flourish under the new coaching staff. He started to show signs of being a major player last year, and now with the right tutelage, he should become and effective leader who can carry the offense.
Wilson's quick grasp of the offense. He wasn't razor sharp throughout the spring, but that was to be expected. He limited his mistakes and was good enough to allow the coaching staff to throw more at him.
Backups. Uh-oh. With Jimmy Barnes transferring, there's no experience whatsoever behind Wilson, which might mean a concerted effort to limit his running early on until the reserves can get their feet wet. Greg McElroy was the only reserve this spring on scholarship.
Outlook: John Parker Wilson won't get the attention of other more heralded, flashier SEC quarterbacks, but he could be the most effective. No one in the league will have more pressure on his shoulders to carry the offense, at least for the first month or so. He'll be asked to do a lot more from several different formations, and he appears to be up to the task. The opportunity is there for someone to take over the number two job.
Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: For the moment, 5-9, 184-pound sophomore Terry Grant will be the starter, but he'll find himself part of a rotation and won't be a workhorse. A very quick back with more of pop than his size would suggest, he missed most of last year with a shoulder injury, finishing with just 22 yards on two carries, and then came out roaring, at times, this spring. He needs to become an effective 10-to-15 carry back and a reliable receiver.

With the loss of top fullbacks Le'Ron McClain and Tim Castille, sophomore Baron Huber will take over. At 6-4 and 252 pounds, he's a tall blocker who spent most of his high school career at defensive end. Banged up with an ankle problem throughout last season, he wasn't able to develop.

Projected Top Reserves: The offense needs 6-2, 227-pound junior Jimmy Johns to quickly get back in the mix after missing time this off-season with academic issues. A productive power runner who averaged 4.4 yards per carry last season on 66 carries, he ran for 293 yards and a score. He'll be the thunderback in mix, trying to power the ball between the tackles to loosen things up.

Trying to find time will be sophomore Roy Upchurch, a promising runner who came to Alabama with an amazing high school résumé, but hasn't been able to do much yet after missing most of last year with an ankle injury. At the moment, he's the likely number four back, depending on the day, and how well sophomore Glen Coffee is running. A big back with decent quickness, he'll get a few carries here and there if he can stay healthy after injuring his pelvis two years ago and his knee last season.

Watch Out For ... Grant. Everyone expected Johns to be the number one man, but after he didn't get his shot this spring, Grant stepped in and appeared to be good enough to take over the number one rushing job.
Size. Grant is the smallest of the foursome. Johns provides the most power, but Upchurch and Coffee can plow when they have to. Getting the short yards shouldn't be a problem.
Reliability. There isn't a whole bunch. Johns has seen plenty of time over the last few years, but hasn't had to be the main man. The classroom problems don't help the cause. Grant, Upchurch and Coffee were all hurt last year.
Outlook: In a perfect world, there's a steady rotation of the Jimmy Johns, who'll pound the ball, and Terry Grant, who'll bring a little bit of dash. Unfortunately, there isn't a special back on the roster to revolve the offense around, so it'll be running back by committee in an attempt to revive a ground game that didn't anything against a defense with a pulse. Improved play from the offensive line will help the cause, but the Bama backs will mostly complement the passing attack.
Rating: 6.5


Projected Starters: It's time for senior D.J. Hall to get the respect he deserves as one of the nation's best receivers. At 6-3 and 186 pounds, he has the size to go along with good speed and loads of production. Fine, so he disappeared for stretches over the second half of the year, and he didn't score over the final six games, but he finished with 62 catches for 1,056 yards and five scores with seven 100-yard performances. When the running game was going nowhere and injuries were a problem in areas, he stepped up and carried the attack. Oddly enough, Bama went 2-5 when he hit the century mark.

Second on the team in receptions was 6-3, 204-pound senior Keith Brown, who made 44 grabs for 590 yards and three scores. Potentially the team's most dynamic receiver, he has to get through a season healthy for the passing game to explode. That could be a problem considering he's had issues with his knee over the course of his career, but when he's right, he's a big home-run hitter who creates a slew of matchup problems.

6-2, 264-pound junior Travis McCall returns after being used sparingly as a target with eight catches for 105 yards and a score. More of a blocker than a receiver, he'll be part of a rotation and could eventually become more of a third down, outlet receiver.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-11, 189-pound senior Matt Caddell stepped up his play this spring and emerged as a leading candidate for the number three role while backing up Brown. He caught 16 passes for 150 yards and two scores, and while he's had a mildly productive career as a reserve, he has to maximize all his talents. He's too fast and too experienced to not be doing more.

Playing behind Hall will be 6-0, 204-pound junior Nikita Stover after making 12 catches for 192 yards and two scores. He did a whole lot of nothing throughout the season before cranking out five grabs for 101 yards and a score against Auburn. After a nice spring game, he's shown the ability to do far more.

Soon to be a major playmaker is 6-2, 217-pound sophomore Mike McCoy, who hasn't done anything yet on the field, but has shown flashes of greatness in practice. One of the team's best athletes, he should eventually grow into one of the team's top receivers. That might not happen until next year.

Backing up McCall, and seeing plenty of action, will be 6-5, 270-pound junior Nick Walker. While he only caught three passes for 39 yards, he came up with a touchdown in overtime against Arkansas. He has the hands and athleticism to be use more in the passing game, and the size to become a better overall blocker.

Watch Out For ... the tight ends to be used more. Underutilized over the last two years, McCall and Walker will become a bigger part of the new offense and should become steady factors.
Size and experience. Brown and Hall are each 6-3 and each has shown the talent to make a slew of plays over the last few seasons. As long as the two are healthy, they'll explode and should take the pressure off each other.
Explosive third receiver. Caddell has mostly been a short to midrange target and Stover hasn't done it when the lights are on. They have the talent to do more, and they'll get the chance.
Outlook: It's not a stretch to call D.J. Hall and Keith Brown the SEC's best 1-2 receiving punch, and they have a good supporting cast around them. If the tight ends blossom as expected, and more comes from the backups, the receiving corps will be one of the team's biggest strengths.
Rating: 8

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: Sophomore Andre Smith is the real deal. Considered by many to be among the nation's top prospects last year, he didn't disappoint as a true freshman and is now on the verge of superstardom. As it turned out, yes, he really was good enough to go from high school to the pros. He's 6-4, 348 pounds, and athletic, with great feet in pass protection. The team's most dominant blocker, he also had a two-yard touchdown run against Oklahoma State in the bowl game.

Next to Smith on the left side will once against by 6-4, 290-pound senior Justin Britt, a starter at guard in every game and turned into a durable all-around blocker. It helps that he gets to play alongside Smith, but he's good in his own right. Now he has to do more to make a difference for the running game.

Emerging as one of the SEC's best centers is 6-4, 288-pound junior Antoine Caldwell, a durable, versatile blocker who's seen time over his first two years at guard as well as in the middle. It took him all of the last two years to grow into a top player, and now he's about to become a star technician.

The right side is experienced, but it's not nearly as good as the left. 6-7, 283-pound senior Chris Capps has to overcome a shoulder problem and has to be far, far better in pass protection. He has the size and the experience to improve and be more of a positive.

Junior guard Marlon Davis had a decent year with four starts, and while he's not quite the player Britt is on the other side, he can hold his own. He showed tremendous promise, and at a strong 6-2 and 311 pounds, has the potential to grow into the role over the next two years.

Projected Top Reserves: A knee injury has kept junior B.J. Stabler from being a regular part of the line like he's supposed to be, but that could quickly change as he gets healthier. He started at right guard over eight games before getting hurt, and when all is said and done, could move to tackle.

6-2, 291-pound sophomore Evan Cardwell is great in the weight room, and now he has to do more on the field. A versatile blocker who could be moved to guard if needed, he'll start out behind Caldwell in the middle.

6-6, 268-pound sophomore Drew Davis won't see a whole bunch of playing time behind Smith at left tackle and could end up moving to the other side if needed. While undersized, he can move.

Watch Out For ... Smith to become special. He has all the tools and all the potential, and he seems to be on the verge of maximizing his skills very soon. He has top ten draft pick written all over him.
Experience. With five starters returning, and another in Stabler who'll step in somewhere when healthy. The overall consistency should be better this year.
Run blocking. The right side was a nightmare at times in pass protection, but the real overall problem was generating a push for the ground game. That needs to change from game one.
Outlook: New offensive line coach Joe Pendry has a good combination of talent and experience to work with. Revolving around Andre Smith, the line should grow into a strength as the season goes on as long as everyone stays healthy. Depth is an issue, especially at tackle, and, on the whole, there aren't enough battles for jobs, but there should be an overall improvement from the uneven play of last year.
Rating: 7


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