Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day #23 - Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The University of Alabama Head Coach has a lot of decisions to make. Nick Saban has to determine all kinds of things this spring. He needs to try to figure out who his starting QB will be, who will supplement Trent Richardson in the running game, what he needs to do to a couple of misbehaving players, who will wear a redshirt and who will not, and how much leeway to give the new assistants on the Crimson Tide Staff. Given the talent on this year's squad Coach Saban has decisions, decisions, and more decisions to make.

The Crimson Tide kicked off its spring practice sessions and there were a few notable things going on. First and foremost, Mark Barron was in attendance sporting his black “no contact” jersey. Coming on the heels of his arrest this past weekend, I and the rest of the Bama nation wondered if he would be allowed to practice this spring. Saban basically told the media after the practice session that Barron did something stupid and was only trying to cover up for his cousin. He went on to say that the matter would be handled internally and there would be no other information forthcoming from the Tide program on the subject (Sound familiar? Read my post regarding Barron published a couple of days ago). I agree it was stupid, but the crime did not hurt anyone and I’m glad that Mark will get a chance to finish out his senior year in a Crimson jersey. 

The other decision relating to off field troubles is in regard to Robbie Green. Green, a safety on last year’s squad was suspended for the season for the ever so evasive “breaking team rules” violation. Then we hear that Saban has once again suspended him citing the same reason. Last year there were many rumors surrounding the reason Green was suspended, but I heard that it was for failure to pass a drug screening. If that’s true and it is a similar situation this time, I don’t expect to see Green ever return to the field at Alabama. Even if last year’s rumor wasn’t true, I still think Green’s days playing for the Tide may be over. Saban’s doghouse is most definitely somewhere you don’t want to be. To go back for a second time means you are either an idiot or just don’t give a darned. Either way, don’t be surprised to see Green anywhere other than Bryant Denny. I hope I’m wrong because Green is a talent, but behavior that repetitively lands you in trouble is not needed on this football team. It can work like a cancer and grow from within. So Mr. Green, if you get another chance, GROW UP!

The QB battle is the main topic for Bama fans going into the spring practice sessions. The battle between AJ McCarron (anointed successor to McElroy) and Phillip Sims (young buck superstar) is going to be one worth watching. I wouldn’t expect a starter to be named this spring as I think the off season / summer workouts will allow both guys to grow considerably at the position. In all honesty, I think the winner will be the guy who plays using his brain. Look at Saban’s last two QB’s and note what they have in common. Both John Parker Wilson and Greg McElroy were game managers. While they had adequate athletic ability, it was their intelligence in game situations that kept them in their starting positions. From an athletic standpoint, both Star Jackson and McCarron were more athletic than the previous two starters, but I would take GMAC’s tenacity, smarts and general management skills every time over both of them (I think we will miss GMAC probably more than anyone suspects at this point).  Sims is definitely more athletic than McCarron but will he make smart decisions on the field? He’s young and aggressive, two great qualities to have in a football player but not necessarily the qualities that Saban seems to look for. McCarron has more time in the system as well as “real” game experience.  It is these two factors that I think will ultimately make McCarron our starter for the fall. This is my opinion and I could be totally wrong, but it is at least an educated guess.

McCarron made a statement last year that seemed to indicate that the loser of this QB battle may end up transferring. If McCarron loses this battle, he may do just that. I’m not so sure Sims would jump ship so quickly. He still has some learning to do and has the time to make a push for the starting job. That part of this battle will be interesting to watch.

Who will supplement Trent Richardson in the running game with the premature exit of Mark Ingram? In all honesty, there is a stable full of studs at the RB position in Tuscaloosa. I offer that any one of the guys behind Richardson could and probably would start at any school in the SEC save maybe South Carolina. I personally think Eddie Lacey is the guy to watch. While he got a lot of bad press for what was misdiagnosed as a case of fumblitus last season, the kid is a beast. He is surprisingly quick and agile for his size, not to mention he does have breakaway speed. He is a threat to run over a defender or break his ankles with a nice juke move. His fumble issues came from trying to make too much happen when he had the chance. It was a non-problem, I’m almost sure of it. Don’t  forget incoming freshman, Dee Hart. He is a little smallish compared to prototypical Saban RB, but he wouldn’t be there if Saban didn’t think he could carry the load for him. He will get his looks this spring and again in the fall. Running Back is the easiest position on offense for a guy to start at as a freshman (not that I think he will start), so I think he very well may have an opportunity to avoid a redshirt next season. If Saban thinks he can help the Tide, he will play. Goode seems to improve every game, so don’t count him out by any means. He runs hard and secures the ball well. Those are two things that will not go unnoticed by Saban. While the other backups are all “playable”, I think the three I have mentioned here will be the ones to watch this spring, summer and in fall camp. One of them will emerge as the sure fire bet to supplement Richardson.

MICHAEL BOWMAN – What the heck is this guy? Is he a TE? Is he a WR? I’m not really sure myself, but what I am sure of is that he is the guy I expect to really step up this year. With the exit of Julio, Bowman is by far the biggest receiver on the squad. He can run, jump, block and catch. I think we will see him lineup in multiple sets at different positions. One thing that Bama has done on a limited basis is move the WR’s around to get matchups that they like against an opposing secondary. We may see this more often this season with Bowman. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him line up as a fullback, a TE or a WR. A Bowman verses a LB matchup would be something I would love to see. I don’t think there is a LB in the country that can run with him. I fully expect him to be more than a possession type receiver.

The WR position as a whole is very deep. This could be Hank’s year. He’s shown flashes of greatness, but was often overshadowed by Julio. Darius will make a splash this season, bank it. Marquis Maze will also take on a much larger role this season. I expect us to see our top WR as Hanks, Maze and Bowman. The thing I like most about the Tide receivers this year is the depth. I think we will see a ton of WR’s play this season… it’s the fresh leg theory. From a depth perspective, I don’t see any defense having enough capable DB’s to run with us. I expect huge numbers in the passing game this season (which also bodes well for Richardson making the Heisman ballot). If you can pass, you can run and vice versa.

ED STINSON – The former RB, turned TE, turned LB is now a DE. If the kid keeps growing, he may replace the entire defensive line. I’m not 100% sure that he will play at DE, but he sure did work with that group in the practice session. Stinson is a bull, has speed and a fantastic work ethic. I’ve been told he pushes himself in the weight room in the same vein that Trent Richardson does. It’s that kind of thing that gets a guy noticed and Stinson has obviously gotten on Saban’s radar. Saban is the best at getting the right players on the field regardless of what position they have played previously. If Stinson needs to be on the field at DE, that’s where he will be. Congrats to you Big Ed….keep up the hard work.

ZEUS!!!! – Hightower’s knee injury season before last bothered him all last season. While he played the best he could, he simply didn’t have the range he had prior to the injury….until… the last game of the season. Ask any number of Michigan State players if they thought Hightower had regained his pre-injury form. I’ll bet that it would be a resounding “YES” from all of them. I think Saban kept Hightower in the position last season because he knew that he had speed around him and he needed Hightower’s leadership abilities and “defensive QB” skills on the field to compensate for the loss of Rolando McClain. Hightower was fine against the runs between the tackles, it was the sideline to sideline requirements he was hurting in last season. Against MSU (the Yankee one) he seemed to be back to his old self. I look for him to be a terror this season. This is the final year for him to show what he can do. My money is on him making believers out of NFL scouts left and right. Welcome back Mr. Hightower.

Overall, I have really high expectations this year even though we lost some major contributors from last year’s squad. The depth that this Crimson Tide team has is simply unbelievable. Think about all of the guys I haven’t even mentioned in this article. You have the likes of Lester, Nico, J. Harris, Kirkpatick, P. Jones, Milliner, Lowery, Upshaw and Menzie to name a few on defense. Then offensively there are guys like Bell, Fluker, Fowler, Gibson, Norwood, Blake Sims, and Smelley plus a ton of others. Then add to that all of the young bucks that have the potential to contribute such as: Carswell, Depriest, Hart, Grant, Orr, Smith, White and several others. The Tide is rising, no doubt in my mind about that.

THE BAMSON25 WAAAAY TOO EARLY PREDICTION: We win the West and make a run for the big dance again this year. The play of our new QB will have a lot to do with making this prediction come true, but keep in mind that Trent Richardson is going to take a lot off of our new starter at the QB position. I’m excited… when is kickoff again?


1 comment:

  1. BamaSon said,"THE BAMSON25 WAAAAY TOO EARLY PREDICTION: We win the West and make a run for the big dance again this year. The play of our new QB will have a lot to do with making this prediction come true, but keep in mind that Trent Richardson is going to take a lot off of our new starter at the QB position. I’m excited… when is kickoff again?"

    You had better go back and study the other team that you will have to go through in order to do what you say. LSU will win it all this year and that is not a Hommer statement. LSU has a Senior QB and complete stable of RBs and also WRs and the OL is finaly experianced that has 2 deep down the line including TE. The Defense is younger than last year but even without PP7 will be better than last year. So Bama winning it you come to Cajunland so the West will be won through Baton Rouge. LSU is Atlanta Bound and then down 90 miles South on I-10 to the Big Easy in the Dome LSU's Home away from Home for the BCS NCG and the 3rd NC in 8 years.