The States of College Football: Alabama
Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL Tags:
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Well, it’s springtime again - when a young man’s fancy turns to love. Love of college football and everything that comes with it. All over the state of Alabama, questions are being asked. Auburn is asking if their new staff can get it done on the field. Fans in T-town are wondering if the success of last year was a fluke (ref. 2005). In Trojan country, the question looms whether or not Troy can finish off an LSU this year and get over the mid-major hump. And those in Birmingham are wondering if the Blazers even have a football team this year…
And we start in Saban country, Tuscaloosa, where St. Nick and his tweaked staff are looking to replace more key starters at once than the Tide has in recent memory. Their offense will need an overhaul, as their quarterback (John Parker Wilson), starting center (Antoine Caldwell), anchor left tackle (Andre Smith), and leading rusher (Glenn Coffee) are all off to greener pastures. QB Greg McElroy figures to be the favorite signal caller, but will have competition from redshirt freshman Star Jackson. One of the state’s top recruits, Trent Richardson, will challenge incumbent Mark Ingram for carries. The line will get quite the makeover, as several new recruits led by the Terrence Cody of the offense, D.J. Fluker. Here’s hoping that Saban’s reputation for getting early returns on freshmen (see: Ingram, Don’te Hightower, and Julio Jones) continues, as the line will need a ton of help from new starters.
On defense, there is surprising stability, with the notable loss of Rashaad Johnson. As that side of the ball looks to deepen its roster, look for increased pressure on the relatively young group. As the offense gets comfortable, more and more pressure will be placed on the defense. With nine starters returning form the #3 D in the land, let’s see if they can fend off Virginia Tech in the season opener. That’ll be the first of many tests.
Across the state, Auburn is looking to start fresh…again. Gene Chizik returns to the school he helped coach to an undefeated season and a Sugar Bowl win back in 2004. It’s been downhill from there on the Plains. Chizik looks to get the Tigers back on the mountaintop, and what was his first move? Hire Gus Malzahn from Tulsa to try Auburn’s offense on the spread…again.
True, the last time (last year) they tried the spread, the results were no good. This is a different coach. This is a coach who has proof he can do it. In the SEC. Gus Malzahn helped lead Arkansas to 10 wins and a trip to the SEC Championship game in 2006. After leaving for Tulsa, he refined his strategy to give the Golden Hurricane a Top 2 ranking back to back seasons. This change is for real. After acquiring a strong recruiting class, don’t look for the Tigers to lay down this year. There might be a rebuilding process that takes a year or two, but they will definitely give a fight. Look for season opening opponent West Virginia to be a good barometer for early success.
As we look at the mid-major teams in the state, we see the Troy Trojans are eyeing another Sun Belt title and a bowl win. The past three years have brought the Trojans eight wins each, and they are hoping to crack the double digit win mark for the first time ever. It’s gonna be awfully hard with Florida on the schedule, but there’s a chance on a Nov. 14th trip to Fayetteville they could get to number nine, which would leave two more chances to crack 10 wins.
UAB, on the other hand, is coming off their worst season EVER. The Blazers are hoping to just stay in games and not be embarrassed. Their schedule is respectable, and they were even lucky enough to land separate deals with two SEC schools that would give the Blazers home field advantages – just not this season. Third year coach Neil Callaway certainly has his work cut out.
It’s good to be talking about college football again. See you all next month for a recap of the Spring games of Bama and Auburn. Until then!
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