Since the Penn State bloggers have copyrighted the idea of a roundtable, and they're willing to call out the lawyers to defend it, we'll be participating in A Discussion Amongst Bama Bloggers That Is In No Way A Roundtable (tm) each week once the football season starts. Topics will include the previous week's game, the upcoming contest, or anything else that strikes the fancy of the host blog that week.
Since the A-Day game is tomorrow, we thought we'd go ahead and get a quick one together here at RBR since several members of the Bamasphere will be joining Nico and I for our own Bloggerpalooza in Tuscaloosa (had I any mad photoshop skillz, I'd totally do up a "Monsters of
Rock Blog" poster, but I am, in fact, not so hot with the photoshop.), and because, well, we just wanted to.
Oh, the possibilities...
Joining me this week are Memphis Tider, Eight in the Box, and Newspaper Hack, and hopefully we'll also have the Capstone Report, Musings of a Littered Mind, and BamaHoops on board once the season starts. As always, the comments and diary sections are open so you guys can give us your answers as well. On to the questions.
1. Considering the media lockout on practices and scrimmages, what have you been able to glean from the scant reports, player and coach soundbites, and official releases about how spring practice has been going?
Todd: That we aren't deep or consistent in the front seven, and that Jimmy Johns ain't so good with the book larnin'. That's about it.
Hack: God only knows. I heard Saban told journalists that no one can report injuries or any such thing. Good to know the Kremlin's set up shop behind Coleman.
Memphis Tider: Discipline has changed drastically. The fact that Jimmy Johns had to sit out two practices for grades - which was mandated by the Coach and no one else - shows that Coach Saban won't be putting up with any crap. It's a good change from the past. I think the players are more serious about winning and they actually trust their coaches this year. That was a major concern last season.
Eight in the Box: I think the top two things for me has been the confidence in the offensive line, and the absolute lack of available candidates on the defensive line. I was disappointed to hear Johns has found his way into Saban's dog house so early into the new era.
2. That being said, what are you expecting to see on A-Day?
Todd: Probably not a lot of what we'll wind up seeing in the fall. I imagine the staff will keep things limited on both sides of the ball since they've had two scrimmages already to run both units through their paces without the prying eyes of the sports media and will likely continue to hold their cards close to the vest on Saturday. Plus, scrimmages really aren't about "the team," per se, as evaluating specific players in game situations. Offensively, I'm sure we'll see a lot more shotgun formations, and probably some personnel groupings that will seem weird to us (empty backfields, WRs or FBs lining up at TE maybe?), while defensively a whole lot of blitzes.
Hack: A good defense and a decent running game. If Jimmy Barnes can do his Jared Lorenzen impression, that'll be fun to watch, too.
Memphis Tider: I'm not expecting anything spectacular. I don't think they've had enough time to fully implement the full allotment of packages on either the offensive or defensive side. I think we'll get to see a little bit of what the jack linebacker does, and we'll get to see a few new plays on offense, but other than that, it will probably just be a show for the fans - nothing too serious, and nothing to risk any players being injured, etc.
Eight in the Box: I look for one of the running backs to have a big day and take advantage of the team that is playing with a walk on nose tackle. I hope to see a little more hustle and a little more pop out of the team in general. I don't expect to see the offense run anything other than pretty basic sets and plays. I'm expecting to see some effort.
3. What are you hoping to see on A-Day?
Todd: Some semblance of a functioning offense. There's been so much fretting over the perceived shortcomings of the defense that the offense performing just because Mike Shula isn't calling the plays has seemed like a foregone conclusion. Maybe I'm just gun shy after the past four seasons, but that side of the ball still worries me to no end.
Hack: JPW flinging 50-yard bombs while in full stride. But seriously, I'd give my first born to see the offensive line look competant.
Memphis Tider: Honestly, I'm hoping to see if John Parker Wilson has learned to trust his offensive line again. He got happy feet and his release was WAY too quick in the last few games of last season because he always thought he was going to be hit. I would also like to see what the linebackers are going to look like. We have very little experience there, but a lot of talent. I'd like to see somebody step up on the defensive line - it'll be fun watching Brian Motley.
Eight in the Box: I'd like to see a starting offensive line come out and be aggressive and execute their assignments. The offensive line missed a lot of assignments last year, and it costs us in some close games. As far as the defensive side of the ball I just want to see some guys who want to hit somebody. Toward the end of the year last year we lost some desire for contact, and that was one of the things that really disappointed me.
4. What are you afraid you will see on A-Day?
Todd: Dropped passes, and last weekend's scrimmage is a big part of that. Go back and look at the Tennessee game two years ago and count how many drives ended with an open receiver dropping a catchable ball. Now figure those passes were caught, and it would have been a blowout instead of a 6-3 thriller (though, sickly, I prefer the 6-3 outcome. DRAMA!). This is, again, why I'm still so worried about the offense. Yeah, we'll have someone calling plays that aren't predictable to everyone in the stadium as soon as they line up, but if the players aren't doing their part to execute those plays it won't do us any good.
Hack: A defense that looks servicable and an offense that can't score inside the 20.
Memphis Tider: I'm afraid I'll see a bunch of kids running around not knowing where to go. This is extremely possible because, as I said before, they haven't had enough time to implement everything. How anybody can expect to see a good football team after a complete regime change and only 14 practices is ridiculous. They'll be much better after fall practice, I'm sure. Right now, I wouldn't think it's anything to worry about, but I know the national media will jump all over it if they see something bad come out of this.
Eight in the Box: False starts, the defense giving up huge chunks of rushing yards, and some guys still not giving it up on every play.
5. What area of the team will you be concentrating on the hardest during the scrimmage?
Todd: Linebacker, definitely, if only to see just how complex the new defensive scheme really is. Quick nerd out: I can't find the post where he talked about it, but I recall SMQ writing something about how games like Madden and NCAA have served to better inform the football fans that play them about the actual game, and he's completely right. I had a pretty good grasp of the game and the strategies involved before I started obsessively playing NCAA two years ago, but after playing it enough I've been able to understand what real teams are doing just by watching how they line up on the field. That being said, whenever I play a team using a 3-4 or a 3-3-5 defense, I usually throw deep down the sidelines every time I call a pass play or just tuck and run with my QB because I have no idea where those damn linebackers (or DBs) are going to be based on where they line up.
Hack: O-line, of course.
Memphis Tider: I'll be watching the linebackers and defensive line. That is where Saban wins his football games. That's part of the reason why he couldn't win in Miami, and part of the reason why he'll have trouble winning at Alabama right away. If he can work magic and get the lack of depth to improve drastically, and then work with the freshmen that will be coming in the fall, this has the chance to be a very good football team.
Eight in the Box: The offensive line and the linebacking corps. Since two potential contributors at the nose tackle spot won't be playing in the game I don't think we'll be able to fairly judge what we're going to get out of that position. Because of that the offensive line might look a lot better than they actually are.
6. Which recruit that we won't be hearing from until fall do you think has both the opportunity and ability to make an immediate impact for the Tide?
Todd: I'm tempted to say Kerry Murphy since they'll be looking for anyone to add depth up front, but more than likely it will be Marquis Maze. Murphy seems like he could be the next Andre Smith, able to start as soon as he steps on campus, but having to learn a complex scheme in such a short amount of time will likely keep him listed as a backup for awhile. Maze, on the other hand, seems to be an instinct guy that just knows how to make things happen. He might not immediately make an impact at WR, but I'm sure he'll join Arenas deep during kickoff returns and possibly take his job as the punt returner, two places he excelled in high school, and then follow in Prothro's footsteps next season as a wide out after Hall and Brown have graduated.
Hack: Well, I'm actually looking to a freshman starter from last year. I think Prince Hall will be legendary. Hopefully, he will be.
Memphis Tider: Luther Davis, without question. The kid's got a big mouth, but he's a big time player that will have a good opportunity to play immediately. Hell, there's a chance he could start the first game.
Eight in the Box: It will be either a defensive tackle, or a linebacker. The hype over Rolando McClain and our lack of depth at the position makes me believe he will have the best shot and some significant playing time.
7. With a crowded backfield vying for the start, which RB do you hope we see the most of next season, not necessarily because you think he's the most talented, but because you just plain like him?
Todd: Terry Grant. If you go and watch this video from Tide Sports, he just sounds so country that you can't help but like him. Also, Coffee sounds straight thug in that video. I'm just saying.
Hack: I'd like to see Jimmy Johns perform with a wider delivery area. Zing!
Memphis Tider: I think I would prefer to see Glen Coffee, just because I loved him in high school. I always thought he'd be a big time player, even through the injury bug. He's got a good balance of speed and power, kinda like a Kenneth Darby mold, only a little faster. He's shiftier as well.
Eight in the Box: I was at the scrimmage last fall when Terry Grant gashed the starting defense for two long runs and I like the way he runs the football. He's not a big guy, but he has strong legs with a low center of gravity ala Barry Sanders.
8. Knock on wood, here, but which player can we least afford to lose to injury this season?
Todd: JP, hands down. McElroy might have gotten all the reps with the second string during spring practice but the offense is being designed around JP's particular skills and without him it won't be able to function as well.
Hack: JPW. Do you really want McElroy taking the reigns right now?
Memphis Tider: Honestly, this is the first year that I don't feel like we'd be in trouble if we lost any of our starters. I guess the correct answer would be John Parker Wilson, but everything I'm hearing out of T-Town says that McElroy is the real deal. If he were able to start against Western Carolina and get some good reps, he'd be a fine starter for this team. Or you could go with either Andre Smith or Simeon Castille, but I feel like we have decent depth at both of those positions.
Eight in the Box: I think that would be Andre Smith. If he would have gotten hurt last year in fall camp I'm not sure we would have won four games. We have a little more depth and a few more options this year, but we need big Andre if the offensive line is going to be dominant.
9. Conversely, what (projected) starter could we lose without any significant loss at that position?
Todd: Keith Brown or DJ Hall, but not both. Brown shined early last season as the go to guy while DJ was injured/suspended, but once Hall came on he became the reliable second option instead. After last season, though, guys like Stover and Oakley proved they can be just as effective in that backup role, so we'd probably be okay if either one went down, just so long as we have one true playmaker at wideout.
Hack: Any kicker. A geek off the street could do a better job that Tiffin the Younger did versus Arkansas.
Memphis Tider: Lets see. We don't even know who the starters will be on either line, running back, linebackers, etc. I guess the easiest would be either of the safety positions. We have tons of athletes on this team that know how to play that position.
Eight in the Box: That's a tough question. I'm not sure we can afford to lose anyone, but if I had to pick one I'd go with Eric Gray. He's a good player, but I think we have some depth at corner and if he went down I think we have a couple of guys who could step in and take over.
10. If you could take one player from this year's squad (a starter or a prominent backup, no fair dropping the third string center that isn't even on scholarship) and replace him with one that departed last season, who would you replace and with whom?
Todd: Jimmy Johns. I feel like I've turned on him here since his academic troubles, but I'm kind of with Saban on that "if you can't depend on a guy to do what it takes to get on the practice field, what does that say about them?" I wouldn't want to lose Johns, but if replacing him means we'd have a chance to bring back Marc Guillon and take bets on how long it would be before Saban had him crying like a six year old girl with a skinned knee? Hell yeah, I'd do it.
Hack: I'd be real happy to keep Tim Castille in the backfield.
Memphis Tider: HA. I'd take any of our defensive tackles and replace them with Jeremy Clark. He would have fit perfectly in Saban's system.
Eight in the Box: I'd probably drop Baron Huber and bring back Leron McClain. I saw Baron take a couple of snaps in mop up duty last year, and he looks like he is going to be a good fullback, but I would love to see what McClain could do in a one back set.
11. Purely for fun, which movie coming out this summer are you most looking forward to?
Todd: Spiderman 3 or Rise of the Silver Surfer. I saw the trailers for both before ATHF and I was a 14 year old comic book nerd all over again.
Hack: The movie lineup looks bad, but the 28 Days Later sequel seems to be the favorite.
Memphis Tider: Transformers, of course.
Eight in the Box: Transformers.