2007 RECORD: 7-6; SEC: 4-4
Won Independence Bowl vs. Colorado 30-24
LOCATION: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
STADIUM: Bryant-Denny Stadium (92,138)
HEAD COACH: Nick Saban
OVERALL: 98-48-1 (12 seasons)
AT ALABAMA: 7-6 (1 season)
The Crimson Tide defeated Colorado in the Independence Bowl and they needed a victory there more than you think. The win not only ended a four-game losing streak that saw them drop from 6-2 to 6-6, it prevented them from posting back-to-back 6-7 seasons and their fourth non-winning season in five. The Tide hasn’t exactly been rolling along. The Tuscaloosa faithful hope year two of the Nick Saban era returns ’Bama to national prominence…a win over Auburn to reclaim the state wouldn’t be bad either.
WHEN THE TIDE HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Jim McElwain (1st Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 8
KEY LOSSES: DJ Hall, Matt Caddell, Keith Brown, Justin Britt
Senior signal caller John Parker Wilson returns with 26 starts under his belt and is the leader in the ‘Bama huddle. What they need from Wilson is consistency—he had six games with multiple touchdowns, but failed to throw any in six others. The Alabama native needs to cut down on the mistakes, make better decisions, and find a way to be more accurate with his passes. He will be throwing to a new starting receiving corps, but could have shiny new toy to play with in true freshman Julio Jones, a potential superstar. Protecting Wilson’s backside is Andre Smith, arguably the top left tackle in the nation. Smith and senior C Antoine Caldwell lead one of the nation’s most experienced lines. While the Tide must replace their top three pass catchers, they return their top five runners, with junior Glenn Coffee and sophomore Terry Grant both primed for breakout seasons. They are deep at tight end with experienced starters Nick Walker and Travis McCall, so expect plenty of two-tight end sets.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) OT Andre Smith (JR), 2) WR Julio Jones (FR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
HEAD DEFENSIVE COACH: Kevin Steele (2nd Season)
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Kirby Smart (2nd Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 6
KEY LOSSES: Wallace Gilberry, Darren Mustin, Simeon Castille, Marcus Carter, Ezekial Knight
The defense should be better with a year of experience playing in Nick Saban’s three-four attack. Sophomore LB Rolando McLain is a perfect fit at 6’4”/250 pounds with the speed to cover sideline-to-sideline--a nice building block for the troika of Saban, Steele & Smart. They are thin at linebacker however, with Ezekial Knight leaving the team due to a heart ailment, the dismissal of Jimmy Johns (legal issues) and Prince Hall’s suspension. Saban will not hesitate to play youngsters (see McLain & Kareem Jackson) and it appears sophomore noseman Josh Chapman is making a push at the critical position. In the secondary, the Tide must replace two starters but should be among the best in the SEC with sophomore CB Jackson and senior FS Rashad Johnson, a pair of potential all-conference performers.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) LB Rolando McLain (SO), 2) CB Kareem Jackson (SO)
The Tide play ACC favorite Clemson in Atlanta to open up the year, and a win could jump start the Tide’s season…but a bad loss could plant seeds of doubt. Once they get into SEC action, they’ll find the conference schedule makers did them no favors. While they host the season finale with in-state rival Auburn, three of their four toughest conference games are away from the friendly confines. Saying Baton Rouge, Knoxville and Athens will be unfriendly is an understatement…so much for Southern hospitality. While Georgia is the preseason No. 1 team in the Coaches Poll and Tennessee is the hated border rival, the most buzz will be generated by Saban’s return to Cajun Country.
The Defensive Front Seven: Ends Bobby Greenwood and Brandon Deaderick return, but they combined for only three sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss—not exactly prolific playmakers. Who will replace Wallace Gilberry’s (10 sacks) production? At linebacker, not only did they lose seniors Darren Mustin (80 tackles) and Keith Saunders, but Knight—an emerging force—is also out with his aforementioned medical problem, and who knows what they will get from the talented Hall? They may need some of the recruits to step up as McLain did last season. One thing is for sure—a Nick Saban-led defense should never be counted out. In addition, Kevin Steele is the only returning defensive coordinator in the SEC West—a fact that shouldn’t be overlooked.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
Something tells me seven wins and an Independence Bowl victory isn’t going to cut it at ‘Bama in year two under Saban…nor should it. Cautious optimism is called for—we saw glimpses of success last season, but the four-game losing streak to end the regular season is still fresh on everyone’s mind. The schedule is tough and with Auburn and LSU in the West, don’t expect an SEC Title just yet. Finishing among the ranked is not an unreachable goal by any means.
Photo Credit: Collegiate Images
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
2007 RECORD: 7-6; SEC: 4-4