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5 Players Essential to Bama's '06 Success

  • John Parker Wilson: Any team's quarterback is virtually guaranteed to hold the #1 spot on a list like this and Alabama is no exception. JPW has only thrown 11 passes in his career and he'll be required to throw more than that every game this year. The need for him to quickly assume a leadership role both on the field and in the locker room cannot be overstressed. Hopefully he can keep "rookie" mistakes to a minimum and become sharp as quickly as Brandon Cox did at Auburn last year. Don't get me wrong, I don't want JPW to throw four INTs against Hawai'i, but we'll be quite fortunate at the end of the year if we have a 9-3 record and a 2,300+ yard passer.

  • Ken Darby: #34 is in a position to become Alabama's all-time leading rusher in '06 if he produces at levels similar to the '04 & '05 seasons. We'll need a big year out of KD to help relieve the pressure on JPW. This team will be running the ball a lot and big rushes from Darby can help keep JPW out of third and long situations. This is essential to help ease Wilson into the starting role.
  • D.J. Hall: A player like Tyrone Protho can't be replaced, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility for someone to step into the playmaker's role. No one's asking for acrobatic catches like Pro had against Southern Miss, but this team needs a receiver that's a deep threat and one that can be counted on in long yardage situations. Hall had a key reception against Tennessee and caught passes of 40+ yards in four games last year. He's had some off the field problems that led to his not playing in the Cotton Bowl last year and his not being in Tuscaloosa for summer training this year. He has star potential, he just needs to focus his efforts both on and off the field. Keith Brown could fill this role as well, but I have a feeling it's going to be Hall that really steps up.

  • Antoine Caldwell: The injury that got all of the attention last year was the Tyrone Prothro injury because the offense lost its "bang" when #4 broke his leg against Florida. Crimson Tide fans realize how key the injury of center J.B. Closner was as well. Surrendering 11 sacks to Auburn? That's because we didn't have a center that could direct things down in the trenches and the Tigers' defense mauled our offensive line all day long. Caldwell was switched to center for the Cotton Bowl and we saw drastic improvement. Texas Tech didn't manage a single sack in that game and we can only hope that's a sign of good things to come from Caldwell.
  • Ramzee Robinson: On a defense that lost seven starters (several of them three year starters) having solid leadership is essential. Robinson is unquestionably one of those leaders and he'll be the essential component of a secondary that will be tested early by Hawai'i.