2008 Alabama Preview - Offense
Alabama OT Andre Smith
Alabama OT Andre Smith
Posted Apr 11, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Alabama Crimson Tide Offense

Alabama Crimson Tide

Preview 200
8 - Offense

- 2008 CFN Alabama Preview | 2008 Bama Offense 
- 2008 Bama Defense | 2008 Bama Depth Chart 
- 2007 CFN Alabama Preview | 2006 CFN Alabama Preview 

What you need to know: Another year, another offensive coordinator as Jim McElwain comes over from Fresno State looking to kickstart a mediocre and inconsistent attack. There will be more running, more use of the tight ends, and quicker, shorter passes from veteran QB John Parker Wilson. Nick Walker and Travis McCall are good tight end to keep things moving. The backfield of Terry Grant, Glen Coffee and Roy Upchurch is good, but they have to stay healthy. The line, led by LT Andre Smith and C Antoine Caldwell, will be the strength, while the receiving corps needs uber-recruit Julio Jones to be a star right away.

Returning Leaders
Passing: John Parker Wilson
255-462, 2,846 yds, 18 TD, 12 INT
Rushing: Terry Grant
180 carries, 891 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: Mike McCoy
28 catches, 207 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Junior OT Andre Smith
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior WR Mike McCoy
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OT Drew Davis
Best pro prospect: Smith
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Smith, 2) C Antoine Caldwell, 3) QB John Parker Wilson
Strength of the offense: Running back, line
Weakness of the offense: Non-freshman wide receivers, consistency


Projected Starter: Senior John Parker Wilson has been fine, but now in his third year as the main man, he has to show he can sling it on a regular basis while cutting down on his interceptions. He threw for a solid 2,846 yards with 18 touchdowns, but he also gave away 12 picks with at least one in each of the final five games. The 6-2, 213-pounder has had his moments of greatness, bombing away on Tennessee and Arkansas, but now he'll have to show he can make quicker reads while getting the ball out of his hands faster. He's not a running quarterback, but he's mobile netting 104 yards with five touchdown runs.

Projected Top Reserve: Sophomore Greg McElroy has the 6-2, 218-pound size, the mobility, and the high school résumé, playing at Southlake Carroll High in Texas where he threw for 56 touchdowns in one year after taking over for now-Missouri Tiger, Chase Daniel. He saw a little bit of work last season completing 8 of 9 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown against Western Carolina. He's auditioning for next year.

Looking for some playing time is Nick Fanuzzi, a great recruit two years ago with 6-3, 201-pound size and the best mobility of the quarterback options. He'll be a threat for the starting job next season offering a different look than Wilson has shown.

Ready to make an early impression will be true freshman Star Jackson, a 6-3, 195-pound pro-style passer who can move. He threw 32 career touchdown passes and was a dangerous runner who did a little of everything. The super-recruit might have to wait in the wings for a year, but he'll be worth it.

Watch Out For ... the battle for the number two job. McElroy and Fanuzzi should wage a decent battle throughout the season as they jockey for position to see who can hold off Jackson going into next year. McElroy has the inside track, but Fanuzzi has excellent potential.
Wilson's experience. With a third offensive coordinator to deal with in three years, Wilson has to use everything he has learned to be a calming, consistent playmaker. He's the one who'll have to make everything go.
Wilson's leadership. It's not like he's not a leader, but the carousel of coordinators has meant all focus has gone to figuring things out. Wilson has to make everyone around him better, but that's not necessarily easy considering he's trying to figure out what to do in the new attack.
Outlook: The quarterback situation is fine, but it would be nice if Wilson made it special. He'll have to make quicker reads, hit more short to intermediate routes, and be a game manager (with all the cliché brings with it). McElroy and Fanuzzi could use some meaningful time in the rotation, but first, Wilson has get comfortable in the new offense, and that'll take some time.
Rating: 7

Running Backs

Projected Starters: While he's having hernia issues, the 5-10, 188-pound sophomore Terry Grant will end up being the main man for the running game. Even though he's more of a speed back looking to break the big play than a true workhorse, he proved last year he could carry the offense at times finishing with 891 yards and eight touchdowns despite missing the final two games of the year and being out of the loop midseason. A great receiver, he caught 26 balls for 176 yards and a touchdown, but he could do far more.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Glen Coffee ran for 545 yards and four touchdowns, but only averaged 4.2 yards per carry while catching 18 passes for 142 yards. At 6-2 and 197 pounds, he's a big back with good quickness to get to the outside and decent fight inside. A spot starter who can carry the workload if needed, he needs to prove he can stay healthy after missing four games last year down the stretch and after being out the entire 2006 season with a pelvis injury.

6-0, 192-pound junior Roy Upchuch was a phenomenal high school back who hasn't been able to find his groove yet. He finished third on the team with 237 yards and a touchdown, and he caught seven passes, but he was an afterthought in the attack. He was banged up throughout 2006 with an ankle injury and has been an inconsistent back ever since.

When the offense is using a fullback, it'll be up to redshirt freshman Jeramie Griffin to step in. The 6-0, 225-pounder was a top recruit who can power run and be a decent blocker. If he can catch a little bit, he'll be a factor.

Watch Out For ... Grant to be used more. While he still has to show he can be a full-season back who can carry the workload, the potential for the big play is too great not to keep feeding him the ball.
Offensive coordinator Jim McElwain. He did a wonderful job for the Fresno State ground game as the Bulldogs finished 14th in the nation in rushing. While FSU's Ryan Mathews, Lonyae Miller and Clifton Smith were all talented and productive under McElwain, Bama's group should be better if there's some ...
Reliability. All three top backs were hurt two years ago and Coffee and Grant missed time last year, too. There's plenty of talent to do more after averaging just 149 yards per game, but the coaching staff has to prepare for injuries, and no staff likes to think about that.
Outlook: The backs should get far more work in the new system, and they have to do something more with the responsibility. There's talent in the backfield with Grant a dangerous playmaker on the verge of breaking out, but the big key will be to keep everyone fresh. Between the three backs there should be a steady rotation to help avoid breakdowns. At least that's the goal.
Rating: 7.5


Projected Starters: You don't get a recruit like Julio Jones and keep him in the dorm room. The 6-4, 210-pound NFL-ready true freshman was one of the nation's top prep prospects, and in some opinions, the No. 2 man behind Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor. Jones was Alabama's Mr. Football catching 194 career passes for 3,287 yards and 42 touchdowns. While he's big and physical, he has the quickness of a much smaller target and the speed of a track star, which he was as the Alabama Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

For now, 6-3, 199-pound junior Mike McCoy will be the No. 1 target after finishing third on the team with 28 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown. He's not Jones, but he's a fantastic athlete who should be doing far more than averaging 7.4 yards per catch. He has shown just enough flashes of greatness in practices over the course of his career to get everyone fired up.

The Tide likes to use plenty of two tight end sets, and for good reason. 6-2, 261-pound senior Travis McCall is a fantastic blocker who caught six passes for 45 yards last season. That might be a game for him this year. He's not the best receiving tight end, but he should be dangerous on short to midrange routes.

6-5, 255-pound senior Nick Walker is the the pass catcher with 23 grabs for 204 yards and two touchdowns. He has the hands, the size, and the athleticism to make a big push for the NFL scouts if he's used more, and in this offense, he will be. While he's not the blocker that McCall is, he's not bad.

Projected Top Reserves: Until Jones gets off the train and into a starting job, 6-0, 207-pound senior Nikita Stover will be a starting wideout. A decent veteran, he caught 10 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns with one coming in the win over Colorado in the Sun Bowl. With his experience and his decent size, the former JUCO transfer should be a good one in three-wide sets. With some of the best deep speed on the team, he needs to make more big plays.

Adding another big, dangerous player to the mix will be Devonta Bolden ... next year. He's a 6-4, 220-pound tight end recruit who could also be used as a large receiver after coming back from the JUCO ranks. Not only is he physical, he could also have been considered a top defensive prospect, but he was also a high school sprinter.

6-3, 195-pound true freshman Melvin Ray is still raw around the edges and could benefit from a year to learn a little more, but he has the size and the game-breaking ability to eventually be a top target if and when he joins the team. The Tallahassee native somehow escaped Florida State's clutches and would've been a bigger deal of a get for the Tide if it wasn't for Jones, and if he wasn't off playing baseball. He signed a contract, but could be back in a year or so if it doesn't work out.

While he'll have to fight for playing time, 6-0, 190-pound sophomore Darius Hanks showed this spring that he has the potential to be a devastating deep threat. He only caught one pass for six yards last season, but he has the potential to emerge as a key third or fourth target who can stretch the field.

Watch Out For ... Jones. If he's the real deal from day one, the receiving corps goes from blah to special. He could be one of the SEC's biggest instant impact players.
The tight ends. Offensive coordinator Jim McElwain did a great job at Fresno State at using the tight ends, making converted quarterback Bear Pascoe a good NFL prospect. McCall and Walker might be better than Pascoe.
Proven talent. McCoy is fine and Stover can be plugged in, but the wide receivers will be one of the team's weaknesses if the freshmen don't turn into instant stars.
Outlook: The passing game needs playmakers, and the coaching staff went out and got them. Jones is a big, dangerous target who will be better from day one than anyone on the roster, while McCoy and Stover are serviceable. The new stars should be the tight ends with Walker and McCall being used far more. The rating is assuming it'll take ten minutes for Jones to figure out what he's doing.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: And with the first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons select Andre Smith, offensive tackle. Considered by many to be the nation's best recruit two years ago, he came up with a good freshman year, an excellent sophomore campaign, sharing the honor of being the SEC's best blocker along with Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs, and now he's in a salary drive. The 6-4, 340-pound junior left tackle is a dominant run blocker, but he has to be more consistent in pass protection. He's good, but he needs to be great.

Smith might be the star of the line, but 6-3, 292-pound senior center Antoine Caldwell isn't far behind. One of the nation's best all-around blockers, he has been a durable, versatile star for the line starting out at guard for a few years before moving between center and guard last season. He was suspended for four games last year after violating NCAA rules regarding some textbooks he received, but he's as dependable as they come.

Moving from tackle to guard is 6-6, 298-pound junior Mike Johnson, a right tackle who'll now get to work next to Smith on the left side. While he's not a star, he's a good, dependable player who's decent in all areas and is far better suited for a guard spot than at tackle. He had a great spring and he should blossom with a big more time.

Senior guard Marlon Davis has been decent for the last few years and now will own the starting spot at right guard. The 6-4, 290-pounder was suspended for four games, along with Caldwell, for the textbook incident, but he's a good veteran who'll be great for the ground game.

The line needs 6-7, 276-pound junior Drew Davis to keep improving. He was originally a left tackle working behind Smith, but now he'll step in on the right side where he'll have to keep battling to keep the job he earned after a strong spring. He didn't see any real action lat season, but he has the potential to be a fixture up front for the next two years.

Projected Top Reserves: Is Tyler Love ready? The team's top recruit for the O line has the 6-7, 290-pound size and the athleticism to step into a tackle spot right away. Strong, fast, and tough for the ground game, he's great on the move and should be ready to be a top run blocker whenever he steps in.

6-2, 278-pound junior Evan Cardwell isn't all that big, but he's one of the team's strongest players. He only saw a little bit of time early on, and then he was thrown into the starting center job after Caldwell got suspended and eventually played at guard. He's smart, quick, and extremely strong; he can step in and the line wouldn't miss much of a beat.

Sophomore David Ross was a top prep player who has seen time in every game on special teams. The 6-4, 297-pounder will work behind Johnson at right guard, but he could play on either side or at center if desperately needed.

Watch Out For ... Love. Drew Davis played well enough this spring to hold on to the right tackle job, but Love was a much-needed get for the coaching staff and he could fill the spot sooner than later.
Smith and Caldwell. With all due respect to Luigs, these two could be the best blockers in the SEC. They are two NFL talents who'd be starting in the big league right now.
Pass protection. Part of the issue was the offensive style with several deep balls forcing the line to hold their blocks for an extra click. However, the front five really was average in pass protection allowing 25 sacks.
Outlook: With talents like Smith and Caldwell to start with, the star of the future in Love, and with good veterans in Johnson and Marlon Davis, the line should be better. It's a big enough group to do more for the ground game, but with so many good SEC pass rushers to deal with, the key will be how well this group can handle the top ends.
Rating: 8



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