Welcome to this edition of the Crimson and White Roundtable. We’re so close to the opener, yet it still feels so far away. I cannot wait.
So, here are the topics for this week:
1. Other than Quarterback, what position(s) does Alabama need to stay healthy this year in order to compete in 2007? What position would still thrive if we had to suffer an injury?
2. Name one Alabama player you think is a sleeper right now, waiting for his come out year.
1. I truly believe we’d still be just fine at running back and at wide receiver. We have a whole lot of depth at both of those positions, so we’d be fine. However, if we were to lose a defensive lineman, we could be in serious trouble. Also, well….you see who we have playing behind Andre Smith. Better hope he stays healthy, or we’ll be stuck with Capps in the game.
2. Well, I’m sure this will be everyone’s answer, but Terry Grant looks like an absolute star at running back. We’ll see if he can handle the pounding he’ll receive in the SEC though. Also, Rolando McClain is going to be excellent. My real sleeper is Nikita Stover. The kid has some damn good hands, and is a true player. He’ll be a late season surprise for everyone.
(a) Any offensive line position. The past few years have told us that having a strong, tough, and together offensive line is a prerequisite to having a winning program.
(b) If Bama loses a guy at running back (see: Grant, Terry), the Tide should still be OK.
Zach Schreiber. He’ll be a breakout star on the defense. How do I know this? NCAA ’07, baby.
|Alchemist – Eight in the Box|
I think we need to stay healthy at the offensive tackle spot. The starters will be solid, but an injury at either tackle and we might be in a bind. I think the interior line is pretty good between the first and second team so an injury at guard might not hurt to bad. The secondary could probably survive a couple of injuries without seeing the quality drop off to a disastrous level.
The guy I’m really pulling for this year is Ezekiel Knight. Knight has bounced around at a couple of different positions and to this point hasn’t shown a lot play making skills, but I think in his new position at outside linebacker he may have found the right place. His size and speed will be a huge benefit for the defense. If he can get comfortable with the defensive concepts, and play with some reckless abandon I think he will have a big season.
I fear that if the defense gets any thinner, we could be in for some trouble. With all of this confusion surrounding Josh Chapman, I’m left with a feeling that Coach Saban won’t play him just to stay on the safe side of things. So, I imagine Alfred McCullough will be seeing plenty of action. If he goes down, our Defensive Line would be extremely thin.
The one position that can still do alright after an injury would probably be Wide Receiver. We would lose a good deal of production if D.J. Hall or Keith Brown went down, but we would still do fairly well with the rest of the guys in that group.
I’m really looking forward to the freshman Linebacker Rolando McClain in live action. The move from the 4-3 to the 3-4 has opened up some opportunities for the younger players. For a freshman Linebacker getting a chance to start in this new defense, I believe that he will make some heads turn come mid-season. I could just be over-hyping the guy, but I think he just might be the best recruit of his class when it is all said and done.
1. What position must stay healthy for us to compete? I’d say Left Tackle. But I’m biased towards the importance of linemen. As a freshman, Smith led the team in knockdown blocks (62). He’ll only get better, and I’d hate to think of 2007 without him on the line.
As for what position could best weather an injury, I’d say receiver. The receiving corps is probably the best in the conference right now. An injury would hurt, but unless something horrible happened, the unit would still function well.
2. People are going to think I’m crazy for calling a senior a sleeper, but I think we are going to see an oustanding year from Wallace Gilberry. His freshman year (2004) he notched 13 stops behind the line and 6.5
sacks. His sophomore season he had 10 stops behind the line and 1.5 sacks. Last year his junior season he had 10.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. See where I’m going with this? I think there is room for Gilberry to grow, and as a senior he could very well. He should become a stalwart for this young defense. In the second scrimmage he posted seven tackles,
four for a loss and three sacks. That is only a scrimmage, but I believe he’ll surpass expectations when the regular season arrives.
|Todd – Roll Bama Roll|
1. We’re obviously thin on defense, so anyone along the line or in the linebacking corp being lost to injury would be extra bad. Wallace Gillberry and Prince Hall are probably the two guys I’d fear losing the most on the defense, but the secondary, while deep, doesn’t have a lot of true playmakers outside of Castille. Should he go down, I think we’d still be decent in pass coverage, but there wouldn’t really be anyone back there that I would single out as a game changer.
We’re pretty stocked at both wide receiver and in the backfield, and if we were to lose either DJ or Keith Brown we’d still be okay in the passing game, but we can’t afford to lose both.
2. Matt Caddell. He really came on at the end of last season, and he’s got loads of potential that was never fully utilized by the previous staff. If he can get out there in some three and four receiver sets with Keith and DJ, opposing defenses will likely let him sneak a few big plays in trying to keep the “names” covered.
Starters Returning: 16 (9 offense, 5 defense, 2 specialists)
Offensive Starters Lost: RB Kenneth Darby, FB Le’Ron McClain
Offensive Starters Returning: QB John Parker Wilson, WR DJ Hall, WR Keith Brown, TE Travis McCall, OL Justin Britt, OL Antoine Caldwell, OL Chris Capps, OL Andrew Smith, OL B.J. Stabler
Defensive Starters Lost: DT Jeremy Clark, DT Dominic Lee, LB Terrence Jones, LB Juwan Simpson, CB Ramzee Robinson, S Jeffrey Dukes
Defensive Starters Returning: DE Keith Saunders, DE Wallace Gilberry, LB Prince Hall, CB Simeon Castille, S Marcus Carter
Starting Specialists Lost: none
Starting Specialists Returning: K Jamie Christensen, P P.J. Fitzgerald
Though we have some good talent we are thin on experience on the defensive side. The defensive line and line backers are two areas that really jump out at you.
Bama made 13 sacks last season and luckily most of those were by returning defensive ends Wallace Gilberry, Bobby Greenwood and Keith Saunders. Jeremy Clark and Dominic Lee are gone as well as Byron Walton who had to leave the team for medical reasons. Brian Motley has been a pleasant surprise at defensive tackle. I expect last year’s signee Milton Talbert to back up Gilberry and really surprise some people. True freshmen Josh Chapman, Luther Davis, and Alfred McCullough all stand a good chance of early playing time.
When you look at the defensive backs, Simeon Castille and Marcus Carter are returning, but we will need more defensive backs to stay in ball games. Kareem Jackson, a true freshman appears to have come to the Capstone ready to play, and he will. I look for Javier Arenas to perform well in the secondary as well. Middle linebacker Prince Hall is solid in the middle, but BAMA needs a few good outside linebackers to stand up since we lost both our starting outside line backers and it looks as if Zeke Knight and converted defensive end Keith Saunders are doing that and will be manning the Jack position as well as Brandon Fanney. Look for Rolando McClain to play early and often and to sometimes be on the field at the same time as Hall.
The only position on the team I can see that would still thrive with a few injuries is the wide receiver position.
As for sleepers, there are a few that could shine. A healthy Zeke Knight may finally have his day. Others I would not be surprised to see shine are Travis Sikes and Mike McCoy.