Preview 2009 - Offense
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2009 Bama Offense
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What you need to know:
Pound the ball, keep the chains
moving, answer every score with a big drive, and let the defense
win the game. Offensive coordinator Jim McElwain will do a good
job once again with a strong group of running backs working
behind a big, talented line that should be terrific by the end
of the year. John Parker Wilson wasn't always great, but he came
through when needed; Greg McElroy might be better as the new
starting quarterback. Having an NFL talent like Julio Jones to
throw to is a big help, and the addition of former Georgia Tech
tight end Colin Peek will be huge for a passing game that needs
targets. There won't be anything flashy out of the Bama attack,
other than Jones, but if all goes well, it'll be brutally
Passing: Greg McElroy
8-11, 123 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Mark Ingram
143 carries, 728 yds, 12 TD
Receiving: Julio Jones
58 catches, 924 yds, 4 TD
Star of the
offense: Sophomore WR Julio Jones
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior OT
Unsung star on the rise: Senior TE Colin Peek
Best pro prospect: Jones
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jones, 2) RB Mark
Ingram, 3) TE Colin Peek
Strength of the offense: Running back, Julio Jones
Weakness of the offense: No. 2 WR, Pass Protection
Junior Greg McElroy
isn't going to be Peyton Manning, but he might be the
perfect fit for what Alabama wants to do. The 6-2, 220-pounder
was a phenomenal high school player at Southlake Carroll High in
Texas where he threw for 56 touchdowns in one year after taking
over for future Missouri Tiger, Chase Daniel. He can throw the
ball and he has decent mobility, but his strength will be as a
game manager, and that's not a slight. He can keep the chains
moving, won't make any mistakes, and will control the game by
making the heady play at the right time. He complete 8-of-11
passes for 123 yards with a touchdown and an interception in
mop-up duty, and now he's ready to shine.
Projected Top Reserve:
Redshirt freshman Star Jackson
was originally considered to be a promising pro-style
passer when he came to the program as one of the top recruits of
last year, but as it has turned out so far, he appears to be a
stronger spread quarterback who still needs work. At 6-3, and
195 pounds he has good size and is fast, but he needs more time
and more seasoning. Most likely he'll be the apprentice for the
next two years behind McElroy and will hit the ground running in
6-6, 212-pound sophomore Thomas Darrah is a
big-armed walk-on who will only see the light of day in an
emergency. He's a pure passer who works well on the scout team,
but considering the work that Jackson needs, Darrah will likely
be an option in a disaster.
Watch Out For ... McElroy to be fantastic. He's an
accurate passer who will be solid at keeping the offense moving.
While he won't necessarily put up huge numbers, he could turn
out to put up better stats than John Parker Wilson.
Strength: The pecking order. Jackson has the talent and
the ability to be a special player, but he needs time. He'll get
it and will be able to be developed over the next few years,
while McElroy is ready now.
Weakness: Proven backup quarterback. Jackson will one
day be terrific, and while he might be an X factor because of
his running skills, Alabama can't win the West this year if
McElroy isn't under center.
Outlook: John Parker Wilson did a great job last
year and came through when needed. McElroy will be similar, and
he could even put up better overall numbers. Jackson is the one
to keep an eye on. The Tide could win with McElroy this year,
but in a few years it could win because of Jackson.
Sophomore Mark Ingram
came through with a huge true freshman season thumping
away for 728 yards and a team-leading 12 touchdowns. The 5-10,
215-pounder has a great combination of power and speed working
as a good No. 2 back behind Glen Coffee, but when he got his
chances in the red zone he almost always produced. While he'll
be seen as the power back in the equation, he also has good
speed and quickness and can catch a little bit with seven grabs
for 54 yards.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Terry Grant
might not be the fastest player on the team, but he's
No. 2. The 5-9, 190-pounder is a pure speed back who wasn't able
to tear off many big runs last year with just 88 yards and a
touchdown a year after running for 891 yards and eight scores.
He only caught four passes for 36 yards, but he has great hands
catching 26 balls for 176 yards two years ago. There were hernia
issues early on going into last year and will never be a true
workhorse type, but with Glen Coffee out of the mix, he'll be a
much bigger factor this year.
The team's best back might
end up being Trent Richardson, one of the
nation's top recruits after running for 2,090 yards and 26
touchdowns as a senior. At 5-11 and 220 pounds he has the size
to go along with track star speed. He could've gone anywhere in
America and now the star from Florida, who went to the same high
school as Emmitt Smith could turn out to be the team's lead
runner sooner than later. Bama is full of good backs, but
Richardson is the one who'll be starting in the NFL.
228-pound sophomore Jeramie Griffin will be used like a
fullback when needed. He didn't do anything last year, running
just six times for 29 yards, but he was a top recruit who can
run with power and should be a key blocker. While he might not
be a No. 1 back, he'll be used in a variety of ways.
201-pound senior Roy Upchurch was a phenomenal
high school back who never found his spot. He ran for 350 yards
and four touchdowns last season, highlighted by a 62-yard
scoring dash against Arkansas, and he was a strong special
teamer. He's trying to come back after suffering a neck problem.
Watch Out For ... Coffee to not be missed. Before
choosing to turn pro early, Coffee ran for 1,383 yards and ten
touchdowns in an All-SEC season, but the stable of backs are
deep. Grant and Griffin will be able to pick up the slack, while
Ingram could be a star.
Strength: Offensive coordinator Jim McElwain. He helped
make stars out the Fresno State backs, and he did the same right
away for Alabama's runners. The Tide offense will revolve around
pounding the ball, so if the backs want work, they'll get it.
Weakness: Durability. Ingram hasn't had to carry a full
load for a game, while Grant has had injury problems, Upchurch
was hurt, and Griffin has yet to see meaningful work. Yes,
Coffee can be replaced, but there's still a little bit of
Outlook: The backs are the offensive stars in the
Bama system, and while there might not be a 25-carry-a-game
runner, there will be a committee approach with the hot hand
getting most of the load. There's a great blend of power and
speed among the options, and there's more on the way with
Richardson likely to be the special runner to work around.
Sophomore Julio Jones
came in as the sure-thing, no question top recruit,
only ranking nationally behind Terrelle Pryor. Now he's just
playing out the string before going off to the NFL. The 6-4,
210-pounder didn't disappoint as a true freshman leading the
team with 58 catches for 924 yards and four touchdowns averaging
15.9 yards per grab. He was explosive and consistent, but for
all the great things he did and all the great performances, like
a five-catch, 124-yard day against Florida in the SEC title
game, he didn't catch a touchdown pass over the final nine games
of the year. That's just an aberration. Alabama's Mr. Football
of 2007 is big, physical, and has track star speed being named
the Alabama Track and Field Athlete of the Year two years ago.
Senior Mike McCoy would've been a No. 1
target if it wasn't for Jones. He's not a big-time target, but
he's a great athlete, experienced, and is dependable. The 6-2,
205-pounder only caught 16 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown,
but he has enough talent to thrive with all the attention paid
to Jones. He's not going to be a superstar, but he could be a
key third down target if used more.
Georgia Tech transfer
Colin Peek has All-SEC potential at one of the
tight end jobs. The 6-6, 247-pounder has all the tools with
tough blocking ability and field-stretching receiving skills. He
should grow into a dependable weapon and should end up as the
second-leading receiver behind Jones. Coming off a foot injury
that kept him out of the Sugar Bowl, after sitting out the
season to become eligible, he should be one of the team's new
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Marquis
Maze holds the unofficial title of Alabama's fastest
player, and now he has to show off his wheels. He made an impact
when he got his chances catching 11 passes for 137 yards and two
touchdowns, but he can do far more as a deep threat. He has a
little bit of starting experience and was a key player in every
game. Now he'll start out working behind McCoy and should be a
devastating deep threat in three-wide sets.
190-pound junior Darius Hanks caught eight
passes for 88 yards and will work behind Jones and in three and
four-wide sets. He has shown off tremendous speed and quickness
in practices with the skills to be explosive, but he'll have to
make things happen with the limited passes that'll come his way.
Fully recovered from a broken leg suffered a few years ago, he
has breakout potential.
In two tight end sets, sophomore
Brad Smelley will see plenty of time after
catching seven passes for 98 yards. While he's a willing
blocker, he's not Peek, but at 6-3 and 218 pounds he's like a
big wide receiver who can do things with the ball after the
catch. He should average well over ten yards per grab.
Watch Out For ... the tight end situation to be
even better. Losing Nick Walker, the team's second-leading
receiver, and Travis McCall would normally be devastating, but
Peek is better than either of those two and Smelley should shine
with more responsibility. Peek will finish the year with All-SEC
Strength: Julio Jones. He would've been a top 20 draft
pick had he been eligible for the 2009 NFL Draft, and he might
have been taken as high as the top ten. He's an elite talent to
revolve the entire offense around, however ...
Weakness: The offense. Alabama will pound the ball with
the running game and occasionally go for the home run. This
isn't going to be a hurry-up, spread the ball around offense
meaning the good receiving corps will be underutilized. It's not
Jones's fault that he didn't score enough. Put him on Oklahoma
and he'd have 20 touchdowns.
Outlook: The receivers have to know their place.
Jones is the star, the running backs control the offense, and
everyone else fills in the cracks. The goal of the Bama targets
is to run crisp routes, make the third down grabs, and come up
with big plays when the opportunities are there.
Step one is trying to find a
replacement for Andre Smith, who showed how much he was worth after
being suspended for the Sugar Bowl. Trying to step in for the
All-America left tackle is JUCO transfer James Carpenter
who was a superstar recruit and is ready made to step in and
star. The 6-5, 305-pounder was given the hard press by Oklahoma but
chose Bama where he'll have the spotlight on him from day one. He's not
the dominator that Smith was in any way, but he should be a rock in pass
Returning to the line, and starting at left guard is
senior Mike Johnson, who is an inside blocker by nature
but could play tackle if needed. He started two times at left tackle for
Andre Smith, and while he's great at run blocking, he'll be exposed if
he's at tackle by any pass rusher with speed. At 6-6 and 305 pounds he's
big and experienced, and now he'll be the top blocker to work behind on
While the loss of center Antoine Caldwell, a perfect
quarterback for the front five, is tough to get over, junior
William Vlachos will be a good replacement. He's a short,
squatty 6-0 and 305 pounds, but he's great at getting leverage and he's
one of the team's strongest players. He could move out to guard if
needed, but he has proven this offseason that he has the smarts to be
the leader of the line at center.
Sophomore John Michael
Boswell has the size and the toughness to step in and shine at
right guard after serving as a key backup throughout his true freshman
season. Seasoned for his age, the 6-5, 300-pounder has the athleticism
to play tackle and the strength to start at guard. He'll move around
where needed, and will likely be a tackle later on his career, but he's
Senior Drew Davis turned into a
rock at right tackle last year and is now one of the leaders on the
line. At 6-7 and 305 pounds he has a long, big frame with the arms to
keep pass rushers at bay with one big shove. He's not an elite pass
protector, but he's extremely tough and is still improving even though
he's one of the veterans of the line.
Projected Top Reserves: Redshirt freshman
Tyler Love was one of the nation's top recruits last season and
was expected to be a factor, but he suffered a foot injury early on and
was out the rest of the year. The 6-7, 290-pounder is a phenomenal
athlete with the tight end-like feet to be great in pass protection, and
he should grow into a tough run blocker. He'll eventually start at one
of the tackle jobs.
6-3, 295-pound junior David
Ross was a top prep player who has seen plenty of time on
special teams and as a spot starter. Able to play either guard spot, he
was a key backup at left guard and at center. While he wouldn't be a top
starter, he's indispensible as a backup because of his versatility.
While D.J. Fluker wasn't quite the hyped recruit
that Andre Smith was, he wasn't far off. The 6-5, 340-pound freshman was
considered by most as one of the five best tackle prospects in America
with a next-level combination of size, strength, and mobility for his
weight. He's not going to be asked to start right away, but if there's
any sort of slip from either tackle, he'll step in.
Watch Out For ... Carpenter to hold down the job.
While there are other big-time recruits who'll be jockeying for the left
tackle position, Carpenter is a ready-made starter who can be more than
just serviceable at the key spot. If this is going to be a special
season, the coaching staff might not want to trust the job to Fluker
Strength: Talent. Nick Saban and his coaching staff have
done a phenomenal job of gathering NFL-caliber linemen over the last few
years, and while this won't be a finished product, eventually, this
group will dominate. It might not be until next year, though.
Weakness: Pass protection. For all the talent up front
and for all the work on keeping things relatively conservative, there
were too many sacks allowed giving up 25 in each of the last two years.
That's not likely to improve this season.
Outlook: This is a very big, very talented line
that has tremendous upside. It might take a little while to find the
right combination, but the big question at left tackle appears to be
settled and the gaps are starting to be filled in. Give this group a
little time and it should be fantastic, but Virginia tech and its'
tremendous defense are up right away.