With the season a little over a month away, one has to begin to wonder how the pieces will fit together in the puzzle that will be Alabama football in 2009. This is the time of the year when speculation runs rampant and hope begins to bloom.
This wonder and speculation primarily comes from questions unanswered. However, with the help from an inside source, I am here to help answer some of those questions, clarify some speculation, and build more hope for the Crimson Tide faithful.
First, let us begin with perhaps the biggest question of all: the offensive line.
Worry should be calmed when it comes to replacing what was considered one of the best offensive lines in the nation last season.
JUCO transfer James Carpenter has locked down one side of the line, while veteran Drew Davis has the other side anchored as well. DJ Fluker, the highly anticipated beast of a lineman that is expected to dominate any and all defensive threats, will have to wait his turn.
While many are expecting him to fight for the starting spot, this news should only bring joy to the hearts of 'Bama nation, knowing that a year under his belt from the sideline may not be a bad thing. Along with Tyler Love, our offensive line should have the depth it has needed for many years.
Next, it is rumored that Saban thinks more highly of this year's linebackers than any he has every coached, including the two years he spent with the NFL's Miami Dolphins. That, to me, speaks volumes.
When you think of what is already back there—McClain, Hightower, Anders, and Reamer—along with the group of young guns coming in—Nico Johnson, Tana Patrick, Jerrell Harris, and Jonathan Atchinson—it should send chills down your spine, as well as the spines of opposing teams. In fact, Atchinson, although rated only three stars in last years recruiting, is said to be a freak of an athlete.
As for the QB spot, Greg McElroy is hands down the best 'Bama has to offer. He has the touch pass, the poise, and the leadership the offense needs. In fact, it was said that G-MAC is the "undisputed leader" of the unit. All players and coaches are giving him the respect he has earned from riding the pine and waiting his turn.
He knows the system, he manages the game, and he has the tools in place at running back and receiver to run a more threatening offense than most are anticipating.
Saban is pleased to have the needed options that will not require his QB to carry the team, but a QB that is willing to carry them if he has to. Mark it down: G-MAC will surprise some teams this season.
The next biggest question is who will be the backup, should 'Bama need one. Star Jackson is what most are expecting, but some sources say otherwise. The "freshman from Mobile" is reported to be the solid number two even before he reports.
Based upon his raw talent and the confidence Saban and the other coaches apparently have in A.J. McCarron, the other "MAC," he could force Jackson to start auditioning for other positions soon.
Sure, they have to play the actual games before they can be heralded as All-Americans, but this team is looking bright. In fact, Saban believes this class, along with last year's greats and the upcoming class of 2010, will be the stars that play a major role in separating Alabama from the rest of the pack very, very soon!