By Terry Pellman
After following several decades of Alabama spring camp, I've been shocked very few times.
This spring very well may make the one of the largest shocks I've experienced considering the pre-conceptions I had going in to the first practice close to three weeks ago. Some of the news has been expected. Some of it, well, dull, if it is even possible that football news could be described in such a manner.
I fully expected the battle for the starting role at quarterback to be one we really didn't have a clear cut answer for until we found ourselves emerged in fall practice. But, evidenced by Coach Saban's remarks during his press conference last week, this anticipated battle may not even qualify as a skirmish.
Greg McElroy made the comment "he feels good about where he is right now." That's understandable considering Coach Saban has described him as "being ahead of everyone right now."
McElroy's self-evaluation of the offense this spring is one that is "moving the ball effectively, assignment proof, and understands what they are doing out there."
Greg's confidence at this point can only be taken as a good sign due to the continued shuffles he's seen along the offensive line this spring.
Moves along the offensive line haven't been as shocking, but have been surprising nonetheless.
John Michael Boswell, by all indications, has put up his name (at least in pencil) to take the vacated right guard position. After spending last year as a backup tackle, he was one name tossed around as a possible starting tackle this upcoming season.
On the flip side of the coin, Alfred McCullough practiced the majority of the time last year at guard, but he has seen some quality time at the left tackle position as well. While signs point to newcomer James Carpenter to fill that left tackle position this fall, fans can begin to dismiss the drastic drop in production they witnessed last season when then starter, Andre Smith, wasn't in the lineup.
When McCullough was asked about his move to the left tackle position he commented,
"When [coach] first told me I was [surprised], but once I got out there, it was just like any other position. ... I think right guard is harder than left tackle, but you have more responsibility as a left tackle because you've got the blind side of the quarterback in pass protection."
What comes as absolutely no shock is the apparent plans the Tide has for using the tight end position in 2009.
The 2008 season saw the play of Travis McCall and Nick Walker serve as one of the cornerstones of the offense. 2009, while the names will be different, looks to continue featuring that foundation.
Much has been expected from Colin Peek.
In the second half of the 2008 season fans got a glimpse of what Brad Smelley brought to the position even though it wasn't in the tradition tight end position, but in more of a "H-back role."
The combination of these two players looks to make up a good percentage of the offensive production in 2009. Both players have the speed to get in the secondary, the discipline to run the correct routes making McElroy's job that much easier, and the experience to be a pivotal position for the Alabama offense.
"We all want to take the tight end position from what it was last year to make it a more vital, more pivotal position on this team, and also a more elusive position where we can all do everything," Peek said. "We can be out there in four-wide and it's two tight ends at the same time. Or we can be in a two tight end set and just pound the ball the whole game."
When it comes to that true blocking tight end role, Saban has been quick to praise the improvement in Michael Williams and the performance of the group as a whole.
"I think they've done a nice job as a group, and I think they have got a ton of reps because we play so many two tight ends," Saban said. "I think Michael Williams has probably made the most improvement. We moved him over there during bowl practice, and he is a big body guy that is a pretty good blocker.
"So that whole group has made nice progress and I am pretty pleased with the way they have developed."
Colin Peek discusses the tight ends, receivers, and offense as a whole: