26 August 2008
Yesterday, we took a look at Clemson backs and receivers compared to Alabama's defensive backs and linebackers.
Today we flip the script and look at...
Bama's offensive backs and receivers vs. Clemson's secondary and linebackers.
Away we go.
Alabama is one of only a handful of SEC teams that returns their starting quarterback in senior John Parker Wilson (two others being Georgia's Matthew Stafford and Florida's Tim Tebow). Number 14 is 731 yards shy of becoming Alabama's all time passing leader and has thrown for more yards in each of the last two seasons than any other Bama quarterback in history.
At running back, everyone is back for the Tide as well. The 3-headed monster of Terry Grant, Glen Coffee, and Roy Upchurch combined to rush for 1739 yards on 2007 with Grant on pace for 1000 yards until sidelined with injury. Coffee and Grant were the primary options a year ago and it appears to be the same headed into this season.
Someone to watch is true freshman Mark Ingram, who appears to have moved past Upchurch in the rotation and figures to put down the redshirt and contribute right away. Physically, this kid does not look like an 18 year old college freshman and at the least should push Coffee and Grant to raise the level of their game.
After losing Matt Caddell, Keith Brown and 1,000 yard receiver DJ Hall, there should be huge questions at the wideout position but there is anything but in the eyes of most (if not all) Bama fans. With the additions of much heralded freshmen Julio Jones and BJ Scott, Tide faithful are more excited about this position than they have been since Al Bell and Greg Richardson were catching passes from Mike Shula.
By all accounts Jones is as good as advertised - and Scott has shown flashes of his ability as well - but Junior Mike McCoy has shown signs that he is ready to step up and become the go-to guy he was projected to be. Add to the mix Darius Hanks, who had the best spring of any Tide receiver, and this might be the deepest position on the roster. Marquis Maze and Earl Alexander could also provide even more depth to this potentially dangerous group.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention the tight ends. I haven't been alone in this in recent years as Coach Shula used to do the same thing. With seniors Travis McCall and Nick Walker, Alabama has two of the more underrated TE's in the country.
Walker is a prototypical NFL tight end who should get many more touches now that Shula (and apparently Major Applewhite) are out of town. McCall is a fantastic blocker who is a better receiver than given credit for. With Bama looking to use more two-tight-end sets this season, look for soft-handed redshirt freshman Chris Underwood to figure into the rotation as well.
When Bama has the ball, the Tigers will field a veteran defensive backfield with all four starters returning. Corners Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor will draw the assignment of sticking Jones and McCoy. They might very well be up to the task as they combined for seven INT's a year ago and helped Clemson to a top 15 ranking (13th to be exact) in pass efficiency defense. Safeties Chris Clemons and Michael Hamlin also return. Hamlin tied Chancellor with a team high four picks in 2007.
At linebacker, Clemson is replacing their three top tacklers at that position. Scotty Cooper, Kavell Connor, and Josh Miller all have earned letters during their tenure at "Auburn With a Lake" but together they totaled only 89 tackles last season.
Someone to keep an eye on is sophomore DeAndre McDaniel. A safety last season, Tommy Bowden has been experimenting with him at linebacker. It will be interesting to see how much, if any, playing time he gets in the opener - not only due to the position switch but also how seriously Coach Bowden takes beating up your girlfriend, which McDaniel was arrested for this summer. No suspension has been announced and his playing status was still undecided the last time anyone asked.
The fact that Wilson has been inconsistent during his time at the Capstone is no secret. Even with his impressive stats, #14 always seems to make a mistake at the worst possible time. That being said, new offensive coordinator Jim McElwain's offense seems to really suit Wilson's talents. Short and intermediate routes appear to be a focus of this offense which will allow John Parker's accuracy and touch to shine.
Look for Bama to establish the running game and mix in the short passing game to control the clock and keep Clemson's James Davis and CJ Spiller off the field as much as possible. Everyone and their brother are predicting Julio Jones to break out in his first game as a collegian.
While I am not ready to invite him to the Downtown Athletic Club just yet, look for him and the rest of the receiving corps to have a big day against a Tiger secondary that gave up 423 yards to an Auburn team that had just gotten their playbooks in last year's Chic-Fil-A Bowl. The question is can the Tide make Clemson relive that bad dream from New Year's Eve on the eve of Labor Day eve?