Last Season: 12-2, lost to Utah in Sugar Bowl
- Resurrection came a year early for Nick Saben and the Alabama Crimson Tide. A three year plan skyrocketed to the present when Alabama shocked the country and won the SEC West. A SEC title game loss to Florida and a bad bowl game loss to Utah may have dampened the memories for a little bit, but now Alabama is ready to both embrace and build on the season that snuck up on all of us.
But doing so may be easier said than done. The Tide will have to hope that the loss of starting quarterback, John Parker Wilson and running back, Glenn Coffee doesn't have to much of a negative effect. But if history is any judge, loosing your record breaking quarterback and top rusher never bodes well for building.
To avoid having to start over again, the Alabama offense will rest its hopes on quarterback Greg McElroy and running back Mark Ingram.
One thing that benefits McElroy is his experience. He has sat behind Wilson for two years after being redshirted in his first season. In limited action last season, McElroy completed 8 of 11 passes for 123 yards, one touchdown, and threw one pick. However, if I'm looking for reasons to get excited about McElroy is that he knows the playbook inside and out. That's a positive. Whether he succeeds or not is anybodies guess. His stat line, although interesting to look at, is too small to make any bold predictions.
McElroy is helped by the return of sophomore receiver Julio Jones. Jones had an outstanding freshman campaign. He caught 58 passes for 924 yards and four touchdowns last season. Unless McElroy is downright dreadful, I would expect Jones' 2009 stats to, at the very least, stay the same- if not improve a great deal.
But Jones alone does not give the Tide a dangerous passing attack. McElroy will need contributions from Mike McCoy, Earl Alexander, and Marquis Maze to contribute. None of these players saw a tone of action last season. Mike McCoy is the most experienced of the group. McCoy caught 16 balls for 191 yards and one touchdown last season. The offense will certainly need a better year from one of these three to complement Jones.
What may put even more pressure on the passing game is a running game that will not be quite as dangerous as it was last season. The 1000+ yards and 10 touchdowns that Glen Coffee brought are gone. The Tide will now be relying on Mark Ingram. Ingram had a nice season last year, rushing for 728 yards and 12 touchdowns. But the real question is how much of Ingram's production was because of Coffee's presence. If Ingram can handle starting running back carries, the running game won't miss a beat. But if he can't, the late season rushing game might suffer severely. Also look for big time recruit Trent Richardson to make an impact. Richardson is drawing comparisons to a young Emmit Smith
But as important as Ingram is to the running game, one can make an argument that the rebuilt offensive line is just as much a question mark. The loss of nutcase left tackle Andre Smith and All-American Antoine Caldwell hurts the line tremendously. James Carpenter, a junior college transfer, and William Vlachos will try and fill those large shoes. I would be concerned about the offensive line, particularly how it affects the running game. Yes, Coffee and Ingram had an outstanding season, but how much of that had to do with an outstanding line?
It's a concern- most likely the biggest that 'Bama has coming into 2009.
Offense is where the problem areas for Alabama may arise, defense is another story. The Tide only lost two starters off a defense that ranked second in the nation in stoping the run and third in total defense. While loosing Rashad Jones hurts, it certainly could be a lot worse. Assuming that none of the starters get hurt or decline in production, the defense will be just as good- probably better.
The biggest concern is how the offense transitions with a new quarterback and a new starting running back. I could see this Alabama team struggling to score. Expect a lot of 14-7 games, especially early in the year.
After last year, it might be a season filled with disappointment in Tuscaloosa
3 Games To Watch
September 5th- @ Virginia Tech- A brutal way to open the schedule. Coming off a slashing of Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl last year, Virginia Tech looks to again be a top team in the A.C.C. A fantastic opening weekend game could put 'Bama in a hole early.
October 10th- @Ole Miss- 5-3 in the SEC last year, Ole Miss projects to be one of the nations most improved teams this year. Picked by The Sporting News to finish first, Ole Miss and Jevon Sneed could return Ole Miss to national prominence quickly. If Alabama has any hopes to make it back to SEC championship game, they will need to win this one.
November 7th- LSU- A Les Miles coached team is always a tough play. If 'Bama is still in the hunt for an SEC west title, this is the game that could decide it... and don't think LSU has forgotten that overtime loss last year at home.