1) Will the new offense and Offensive Coordinator be a positive change for John Parker Wilson? If so, how much? If not, what concerns you?
Any kind of change would be a positive one for both Wilson AND the Tide fanbase after the up and down season he had last year. If you're gonna suck, then suck it big Reggie Ball style (can't wait for the google searchs that's going bring in!), but don't tease us with spectacular performances against the Vols and then collapse inward like a dying star the rest of the way.
Honestly, I've got some very high hopes for Wilson this season. We all know about McElwain's tutelage of Brandstater at Fresno State; how he took him from a major offensive liability to a respectable QB and oversaw a thorough and shameful dismantling of "defensive genius" Jon Tenuta's Georgia Tech defense (I put that in quotes 'cause his genius reputation is built on blitzing a lot, which, what? I blitz on every down in NCAA 2008, does that make me a genius? No, it doesn't. My gigantic intellect and ability to freeze water with my mind make me a genius. Can you freeze water with your mind Tenuta? No, you can't. So there.) after a great season offensively, so if he can both a) teach Wilson to not stare down his receivers..no wait, that was plural, let's make that receiver... and b) figure out a way to call plays that both reflect the reality of the situation on the field (i.e., your QB clearly rattled and in way over his head) AND aren't bonehead (i.e. play fakes on clear passing downs right in the face of one of the best rush ends in the conference that's smart enough to not bite on the back even for half a second) then he could work some magic with John Parker. I liked what I saw with A-Day, and not to praise the enemy too much, but it really reminded me of the way Al Borges turned Jason Campbell into a first round draft pick. It's amazing what happens when you take a kid that's struggled, and then essentially wipe out half the playing field from the equation so he can focus on what's direclty in front of him and give him easy reads and throws to the best playmaker(s) on the team. Wilson might not be the most talented QB to ever play at Alabama, but he's shown flashes of being someone that can be productive and make good decisions if given the chance. O-line struggles and a lack of a consistent ground game didn't help him in '06, and those same troubles coupled with far greater responsibilites in a more complex offense sank him in '07, but after a full year plus an extra spring and fall in this offense and a play caller that is willing to tailor his calls to Wilson's abilities instead of trying to fit him into the offense whether he gets it or not should hopefully see him living up to his potential.
2) We’ve all felt the excitement of landing this studly freshmen class on signing day, but what expectations should we have once they all land in Tuscaloosa?
Rolando McClain and Kareem Jackson set the bar pretty high for true freshmen under Saban, and I think we can expect that at least several more are going to get some significant playing time early on and blossom into consistent playmakers. We're looking at a roster drowning in lackluster talent, so even if these kids are inexperienced coming in, just by being better raw athletes than their competition they should easily be able to grab the spotlight early and often and develop fairly quickly with the coaching staff we have. Are those unfair expectations? Probably. In most cases they would get redshirted and spend a year developing in the system and strength and conditioning programs, but I'm pretty sure Saban is pushing all of them to get to campus as soon as possible for the summer term so that they can go ahead and get in to the S&C program because redshirting a lot of these kids is just not a luxury he'll have. It's probably going to take another three or four signing classes to really get the kind of depth we need, especially on defense, to be able to bring kids in and let them sit a year, and even to really have a "complete" team.
3) What were your initial thoughts of the somewhat split job of Defensive Coordinator? Have they changed since then, or are they still the same?
I was actually a little surprised. I don't think anyone buys that the title changes will mean any kind of real, actual shifts in coaching responsibilities, but at the same time it's interesting that Saban was willing to go to those links to keep the defensive staff together. He just doesn't strike me as the kind of person to deal with petty crap like "if you stick around we'll give you a fancier title," but I guess he likes what's happening with the defense and the coaching staff. That's actually a pretty positive sign, now that I think of it.
4) In your eyes, who needs to step up the most in a position of depth concern?
I'm so tempted to say Jimmy Johns right now since this is his senior year and he's finally at a position where he could really make an impact, but there's still the possibility of a redshirt for him so I won't pick on him that way. I'm going to go with just about everyone on the offensive line instead, simply because our o-line has struggled to be both consistent performance wise AND in their positions. Antoine Caldwell has bounced around all over the place, and we've rotated so many guys in and out I don't even know who the starters are at any position beyond left tackle anymore. Mike Johnson needs to step it up and lock down left guard, Evan Cardwell needs to lock down center, Caldwell needs to move back over to right guard and own it the rest of the season, while Drew Davis or whoever winds up at right tackle....for God's sake, man, you can't be worse than what's been going on over there for the past few seasons, just block already!
5) We’ve all heard the talk of this possibly being Mal Moore’s last season as Athletic Director. What will his legacy be when it is all said and done?
Really, if the Saban experience turns out like we think it will, that's his legacy. All the fund raising and improved facilities are nothing without wins, and after some bungling in the hiring process landing Nick Saban is what he's going to be remembered for plain and simple.
6) Other than Georgia, what non-Alabama SEC team impresses you the most? (because everyone would normally answer UGA)
Weirdly, I'm going to say Ole Miss. They scare the crap out of me with Nutt on the sideline, if only because his brand of crazy is nothing compared to the Orgeron's and is therefor worth at least one or two extra wins per season on improved decision making alone. Remember kids, we've beaten the Rebels on the last play of the game three years in a row now and could have very easily lost all of them, while they pushed Florida, Georgia, and LSU to the brink as well. And that's not even mentioning the fact that Jevan Snead is an actual quarterback, not a Delta State transfer or a scat back that can kinda sorta throw like the two headed QB Orgeron was using, and he has talent at wide receiver to throw to as well. McCluster and Hodges could probably start anywhere else in the league, Mico McSwain can develop into a threat as well, and in the backfield BenJarvus Green-Ellis is one of the most underrated backs in the whole conference [ed. - Green-Ellis has graduated. I'm an idiot.]. The pieces are there for them to come out of nowhere just like Mississippi State did last season and lock up a bowl bid on the scalps of some of the bigger programs, and I wouldn't be surprised one bit if Nutt pulled it off in his first year in Oxford.
"Finding crazy ways to win in the SEC since 1998!"