29 August 2008
is nothing less than an amazing athlete and a polished football player with an excellent work ethic. I am confident that he will start game one, and I am confident that if he is not our top receiver this year it will because somebody else played great, not because Jones didn’t play well.As it turns out, Julio has performed beyond even MY expectations, with respected voices like Spencer Tillman saying absolutely ridiculous things about the true freshman wideout and jaws dropping all over Tuscaloosa at a certain scrimmage play. Now I think the question is not whether Julio will start, it is: is Julio just real good, or is he already a game-changer? I can't wait to find out. (3) In contrast to having been one of the 99 million accurately predicting that JJ would come in and be a starter, I didn't have all that much to say about Don'ta Hightower in my pre-camp defensive report. Sure, I at least implied he had a good shot at playing time in my piece on the new freshman class, but I've got to admit there were a fair number of analysts tooting the Hightower horn harder than me. Whatever. So what. He's here now, and drawing comparisons to Rolondo McClain, circa last year. Big, cut, fast, mean. Is he just filling in til Prince Hall comes back, or is he Lou Gehrig to Prince's Wally Pipp? (4) Although all three may be ticketed for a redshirt, all three of Alabama's offensive line signees saw significant camp time with the second team and all three got at least a mention in the two-deep on the "official" depth chart. That's a great sign that none of them will be klunkers and all three will eventually contribute significantly. Now step to the dining table, boys, and then to the weightroom. Our need for your services in '09 will be considerable. (5) Saban was happy enough with Cody and Chapman to move Washington to DE, and unsurprisingly, Marcel Dareus stepped up quickly to show his talent. No shockers, but good news nevertheless. That leaves a lot of folks, like me, thinking that our DL will be improved over last year's version, despite the loss of Wallace Gilberry, who was easily our best defensive lineman. Bad News When you go into the regular season with zero injuries, there is no really bad news. After all, if a guy doesn't shoot up the depth chart the way you had hoped, that might just mean that somebody else is doing well, not that the guy you expected to do better is doing poorly. With that in mind, I still have a few nits and quibbles over what was, undoubtedly, an overall successful camp. (1) Any offense can benefit from a star at running back, an all-SEC or better type - and I don't think camp produced one. From my perspective, the only returnee who might possibly achieve star status would be Terry Grant, and that could only be true if his play for most of last year was explicable by having been hampered by injury. I thought a healthy Terry Grant could possibly be a star, and further, I thought the only other guy on the roster who might make a star at tailback was B.J. Scott. Well, Terry didn't beat out Glenn Coffee, who is a solid back but I just don't see as a star, and B.J. never got a shot. With all the receivers we've got, I don't quite understand that - the one scrimmage clip I saw on Crimson Tradition of B.J. in action did not disabuse me of the notion that he just might be the best ball-carrier on the team. I expect our running backs to be solid, but I had hoped for better. (2) There weren't any real dramatic positive surprises from the linebackers, and that in itself was bad news because linebacker figures to be this team's weak spot. No word that Brandon Fanney was set to give a seminar in jack, nothing about offesive players fearing to line up across from Corey Reamer, no dramatic ascent up the depth chart from Jerrell Harris. Yeah, Hightower was good news, but we were pretty much assuming at least one true freshmen would start because really, it had to be that way. The real optimists were hoping that multiple TFs would come in and demand playing time with their presence on the practice field. Didn't happen, and we're scheduled to get pretty much what we expected at linebacker. (3) In my pre-season defensive outlook, I put it at 50-50 that Alonzo Lawrence would be starting by the end of the year. With Lawrence not cracking the depth chart, and having worked with the scout team last week, that looks to have been over-optimistic. Still, I wouldn't rule out Lawrence getting into the flow by the end of the year. To all accounts, it is a matter of Lawrence learning technique, not of his athletic ability, and he is learning from top-notch coaches, so the technique should come. With a guy of Lawrence's athleticism who struggled a bit to qualify academically, it should probably be considered unlikely that he would stick around for five years even if he does get redshirted, so the shirt will probably come off as soon as he can contribute, even if that is late in the season. (4) Darius Hanks has been getting glowing practice-field buzz ever since he showed up last August; I've heard it suggested that he would be our top returning receiver. Yet he, too, worked with the scout team this week. (5) Whither art thou, Nikita Stover? Roy Upchurch? Preston Dial? Indifferent News It was hot in Tuscaloosa. We're trying somebody else at right tackle this year. J.P. Wilson and Mike McCoy looked great in camp. P.J. Fitzgerald hopes to have a better year. Nick Saban does not suffer fools gladly. This is the year we are going to start throwing to the tight end.
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