With the season starting back up, the Bama blogerati will once again be tossing around questions and answers via the Crimson and White Roundtable. As always, questions and responses can be found at the C&W Roundtable Blog, so here's this week's edition:
1. What are your expectations for the coming season?
I've already handled this one*, so I'll quote this tidbit...
I expect them to go out each and every game and work to dominate whoever they are lined up against. I expect them to go hard on every down. I expect each one to do his job trusting that the other 10 guys next to him are doing theirs, too. And that's honestly the only thing that we can expect of our team. They can't control what the other team does, so they have to focus on what they do, and that's go out there with the mindset that they will flat outwork the opponent until he can't take anymore.
...and trust y'all to click the link and read the rest.
2. What players do you most expect to stand out?
On defense, I think Courtney Upshaw is going to be a monster this year. The light came on for him at the end of the season and he was really a very dominant presence as a pass rusher, so I expect him to do some big things this year from the Jack position. I also have high hopes for Damian Square after his knee injury early last season, and Kerry Murphy should provide a solid pass rush from the NT position. All three of them are in for good seasons if they can stay healthy.
On offense, I just don't know. I actually kind of feel like everyone is going to be so good on that side of the ball that there just won't be enough air in the room for any one of them to truly outshine the rest. If i have to name one "surprise" pick, then I think Brad Smelley has a chance at a special season after kind of disappearing last year. There's no doubt he's a solid pass catching threat as a TE, but his blocking was just not up to snuff last season and his time on the field suffered for it. Every time he was mentioned in the spring and during the offseason there was always some "he's worked really hard to bulk up/improve his blocking/etc", so hopefully he's managed to get himself into the kind of shape he needs to be in to contribute more this season. And if we are really going to put an emphasis on opening up the passing game and using more four wide sets, I wouldn't be surprised to see him lining up at receiver some. Remember, he was often flexed out to the slot in five wides last year, so if we can get him on a safety or linebacker out there he could give McElroy a big target over the middle.
3. What do you think will be biggest difference between this team and the 2009 squad?
On offense I think we'll see more explosive plays from the passing game, but I don't think we'll be as wide open as some folks think. I'm thinking more along the line of what we saw against Florida, with a few more shots down the field here and there. I mean, we're still likely going to be an under center, two TE offense for the most part.
As for defense, I think the biggest change will be the athleticism along the defensive line. Without Cody's size, the linemen are going to have to depend more on their speed and technique to pull the double teams that Cody always earned, but for the most part I think we'll be just fine in that regard. Conversely, I think we'll see a more physical linebacking corps with Courtney Upshaw coming into his own at Jack (Eryk Anders was playing way above his head at that position, God bless him) and guys like Chris Jordan and Chavis Williams getting serious time. I'm still a little concerned about moving Jerrell Harris inside, though; the talent is there, but having Ro and Hightower inside last year was just unfair, and then Nico Johnson was no lightweight in Hightower's place either. Harris has ridiculous speed, though, so if he's bulked up enough to handle the point of attack then more power to him.
* that's what she said.