You know the routine...
Question 1: What impact, if any, do you think the Jimmy Johns situation will have on the possible return of Prince Hall?
OTS: Some people have mentioned that Johns' dismissal will increase the chances of Prince Hall being reinstated, but I'm far from convinced. And in all honesty, I think it could make it slightly more difficult for Hall to return, simply because Saban has now got to be that much more wary of the well-known character cases.
At the end of the day, though, I doubt that the Johns situation has any significant impact on Hall. I imagine, and this is all speculation on my part, that Saban set out a list of conditions that Hall must meet in order to return, and when all is said and done the future of Hall will come down to whether or not he successfully meets those conditions.
Question 2: Any early projections on John Parker Wilson?
OTS: I'd say I am cautiously optimistic on Wilson going into the 2008 season. I do believe he will play better than he did a year ago, and I do think that the arrival of McElwain will improve his overall performance. His mechanics should improve, and the group around him, even with the loss of D.J. Hall, will likely be better than it was a year ago.
That said, however, I don't see any reason to believe that Wilson will have a breakout season. Being brutally honest, I'm just not sure the raw tools are there. He doesn't have a great arm, he doesn't have particularly good accuracy, and we all know about his decision-making abilities. Moreover, though the supporting cast around him will be better, it still has some shortcomings, and I'm sure there will be times that it will be all up to Wilson to get the job done (which does make you worry a bit).
At this point, I'm just hoping for solid production from Wilson and the end of the game-killing turnovers. If he could complete around 58% of his passes, while averaging around seven yards per attempt, with no overly costly turnovers (see FSU, LSU, MSU) then I'd be a pretty happy camper.
Question 3: Can Star Jackson start, and will he play or will he redshirt?
OTS: Unless John Parker Wilson is seriously injured, I just do not see any way that Jackson starts in 2008. I understand that Wilson hasn't exactly set the world on fire, but he is the most experienced quarterback in the SEC, and it is extremely difficult for a true freshman quarterback to start in this league, much less supplant an experienced senior. About the only time you see a true freshman starting under center in this conference is when there is a complete lack of quality depth at the position (see Tennessee in 2004), and even then it's far from an ideal situation.
And, honestly, starting as a true freshman has very little to do with overall talent. Here's a quick little trivia question for you... How many starts did JaMarcus Russell, Tim Tebow, Brodie Croyle, Jason Campbell, and Eli Manning combine to have in their true freshman seasons? The answer... zero. Even Peyton Manning was going to redshirt and spend the year on the scout team until injuries brought down both Todd Helton and Jerry Colquitt. Again, the only way I see Jackson starting is if we have a significant bout with injuries at the QB position.
As for whether or not he will play, I think there is a decent chance. After all, Nick Fanuzzi played last year, and if he can do it I'm sure Jackson can as well. I think he could very well use a year to develop and thus a redshirt would be an attractive option, but with McCarron coming in the coaches may very well want to stagger the eligibility of the QB's on the roster.
Question 4: No ifs, ands, buts, or other qualifiers... flat-out who was the best football player you ever saw?
OTS: This choice may not be popular with those who bleed crimson and white, but it's nevertheless true...
Question 5: What is the biggest worry to you on the schedule in terms of a game that everyone thinks we will easily win?
OTS: I'll echo Todd's sentiments from a few weeks back... Arkansas State.
This isn't a particularly good team, mind you, but with that said they aren't flat out terrible either. They kept it close against Texas, and put up 27 points against Tennessee -- and in both of those games they had nearly 400 yards of offense per game -- plus they beat Memphis and almost knocked off Southern Miss. Again, this isn't a terrible team by any stretch.
This is a team that, on paper, we should beat with relative ease, but if our late season lacksadaisacal performances continue, this one could very well be the sleeper. As we saw last year with ULM, we don't have the overall talent and / or quality depth to show up and play anyone uninspired and sloppy, and still not have a loss as a legitimate possibility. Hopefully we'll finally get it together on down the stretch, but this one could cause a few legitimate concerns.
Question 6: What "tough" game do you think we have the greatest chance of winning in 2008?
OTS: Easy... Tennessee. For whatever reason, some people want to chalk this up as a loss, and I just cannot see why. Far from it in fact, I feel pretty confident that we will win.
The fact of the matter is that Tennessee hasn't been anything overly special since 2001. Since then we've split the series with them three games a piece, and that includes two blowout victories for the Tide, and you also have to consider that even the losses have been extremely close to wins for us. In 2003, we had the game won before we threw it away multiple times in five overtimes; in 2004, even with a third-string quarterback, the Vols still needed a fumble returned for a touchdown on the opening play and an overthrow of an open Tyrone Prothro in the back out of the end zone to eak out a four point win. Finally, in 2006, we led 59 minutes with a 6-7 Mike Shula led team.
Beyond that, Pythagorean projections say they will decline, and let's be frank, this is a team that we beat up on pretty bad last year. I really like our chances in this one, and I think we get the victory.
Question 7: Who do you think will be next to commit to Alabama in the 2009 recruiting class?
OTS: Andrew Bone was recently quoted as saying that he felt William Ming would be our next commitment, and that sounds about right to me. Ming has long been considered a heavy Alabama lean, and most expect that he will make a decision before the start of his high school football season, so that should put something coming in the next few weeks.
If not Ming, I'd go with Anthony Orr. He's another defensive end prospect that most have felt to be a big 'bama lean for quite some time now, and he too is looking to make a decision in the near future. There has actually been a lot of discussion in the rumor mills that Orr is a silent commitment at the moment, and though I have no way of knowing whether or not that is true, I do expect him to eventually commit to Alabama.
The smart money, I think, is on one of those two guys.
Question 8: Will Alabama take two quarterbacks in the 2009 recruiting class?
OTS: There have been quite a few direct quotes from prospects saying that Alabama planned to take two quarterbacks in this class, but I'm really not so sure. At the moment, I just don't see who it would be. We seemed to have cooled on Ryan Mossakowski, and I don't think Clint Moseley will get a firm offer. Moreover, with McCarron in the fold, that's going to be a turn-off to a lot of prospects.
I think, all in all, the staff would like to take two quarterbacks, but I'm just not sure we will. We signed an Elite 11 quarterback last year, and will sign another Elite 11 quarterback this year. Considering how much we need upgrades all across the board, combined with the small size of this recruiting class, I'm just not sure if we will take two. At this point, I'd say taking two quarterbacks in this class is not quite the certainty that some make it out to be.
Question 9: A non-Alabama question here, but how do you think Petrino will do in Arkansas?
OTS: I'll be honest, I think Petrino has a relatively tough job in Arkansas. That state turns out, perhaps, less talent than any other state in the SEC (including Kentucky), and with LSU, Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri having so much success, he's not going to be able to go into border states and get talent. I just don't see where the talent is going to come from, bottom line.
At Louisville, Petrino was a solid developer of players, and he will have to do that in Fayetteville as well. He's always going to be behind Alabama and LSU in terms of overall talent, so he'll have to squeeze more out of the stone. In the long-term, I imagine Petrino will do pretty well and will consistently have the Hogs competitive. And, honestly, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Hogs in Atlanta one day, and I wouldn't be overly surprised to see them win the SEC. However, those who think Petrino will turn Arkansas into a powerhouse, in my opinion, are wrong. I figure that, much like Houston Nutt, he'll average 7-9 wins per year, and struggle to go higher than that.
Question 10: Again early, but who do you think is the favorite now to win the national championship?
OTS: The smarty money is probably still on USC, in all honesty. They have more raw talent than anyone in the country (shocking, I know), and if they can get by Ohio State -- which I think they will -- they have clear sailing to Miami. Unless injuries hit them very hard like they did a year ago, I just don't see anyone in the Pac-10 being able to take them down, and you know they will massacre Notre Dame.
Aside from USC, it gets tough from there. Georgia is the lovable pick, but I'm not sold. Their schedule is an absolute nightmare, and despite all of the hype UGA did struggle a fair amount at times in 2007. Florida, I think, may be the next best team, even better than UGA, but the problem with them is that they are always one play away from disaster with Tebow... I don't think there is another team in the country so dependent on one player. Ohio State is laughable, and you know no one else is coming out of the Big Ten, and I would be stunned if a Big East or ACC team made it to Miami. That leaves us Oklahoma, the likely class of the Big 12, so I'll go with them by the process of elimination.
So, there there you have... my hell-will-freeze-over-before-it-ever-actually-happens-2008 BCS Championship Game: USC v. Oklahoma, with an edge going to USC.