Steve Norman of Spandau Ballet: Making knee injuries sexy...
Richard over at ATVS did a post last week on five players that LSU can't afford to lose to injury in the coming season, and it got me to thinking. Last year we had some tremendous injury luck, and there's a very real possibility that we probably won't be as lucky this year. Unfortunately, there are still several positions we are pretty thin at and a loss to injury would be simply devastating for the Tide. So with that in mind, we begin our countdown of the Five Players Alabama Can't Afford to Lose to Injury with...
#5 - James Carpenter - LT
I was a little loathe to put a player who has never taken a snap for the Tide on this list, but given the precarious nature of the offensive line over the last few years and the departure of Andre Smith, anyone that can come in and lock down the left tackle spot in the spring as quickly as Carpenter did is clearly someone important.
Why is he so important?
At first thought I had Mike Johnson at #5 but ultimately went with Carpenter since, even though Johnson is our most experienced lineman, he's a true guard that played out of position at RT two years ago with poor results and, let's face it, we've got guards out the wazoo in Tuscaloosa. Should Johnson go down either David Ross, the top backup lineman last season, or Brian Motley, who impressed at LG while Johnson was out with a sprained ankle during spring practice and started at RG on A-Day, could step right in. Further, both Chance Warmack and John Michael Boswell are viable options to replace Johnson should he be lost. At tackle, not so much. Tyler Love backed up Carpenter during the spring, and should one day be a great SEC tackle, but he's just not quite there yet, while Drew Davis typically needed the help of a TE or back in pass protection on the right side of the line. The staff expiremented with John Michael Boswell at RT some during the spring, but he didn't look to make any headway towards playing time at the position, so it's a pretty sure bet he wouldn't be a viable candidate to step in at LT either. So even though the loss of Johnson's game experience would hurt us, it wouldn't be as devastaing as a loss at LT, where there just aren't any good options right now.
So What is the backup plan?
With Joe Pendry, there's just no telling. Mike Johnson moved out to LT with Smith out against Tulane and Utah, but he's just not cut out to be an LT in the SEC. Mean run blocker that he is, athletic pass rushers off the edge are going to eat his lunch 9 out of 10 times and without the help of a back or TE he's a liability in pass protection. As mentioned, Tyler Love backed him up during the spring, and could possibly be the guy if the unthinkable happens. There's also the tantalizing possibility that D.J. Fluker will be ready to go after fall camp, but this is a kid that, despite all the potential and upside he possesses, has only played offensive line for one season and will only be a true freshman. Yes, Andre Smith managed to start right away as a true freshman but there honestly wasn't anyone better on the offensive line when he came in and his starting was more out of necessity than anything else. If I had to bet, I would say either Love or Fluker steps up in his place, but given Pendry's penchant for shuffling the entire line if one player goes down, there's just no telling what the backup plan would be and this is exactly why Carpenter is so important; there just is no good backup plan.