Alabama Football 2008: Better Team, Worse Record
Is'nt ironic that just a few weeks after being named the recruiting National Champions the first time in over thirty years the University of Alabama did not have a single player drafted by the NFL. After all the national criticism of Nick Saban for not being honest about leaving Miami to take the Alabama job, the Tide posted a record of 7-6. The season offered us some keen insight into the failures of those who came before Saban, it also gave fans something to look forward to down the road, the took a team in Georgia to over-time, a team who many thought would have been a worthy National Champion, we also saw the Tide overcome a 4th QTR. deficit the time this decade against Arkansas, the Tide was one series away from beating LSU. With all that being said we also saw the discipline of Coach Saban cause some division among some prominent players such as D.J. Hall which some believe may have led to the meltdown against LA Monroe a team in which the Tide should have been able to throw their helmets onto the field and chalked it up a "W", and this started a four game losing streak to end the regular season, including the sixth loss to instate rival Auburn. With the exception of LA Monroe I think the season went the way most people thought it would, new coach, new system, and the Tide being a year removed from scholarship restrictions. If there was one thing I thought stood out to me all season it was that the whole team looked in very good physical shape. Now moving out of the past looking to this season I think there are a lot of key points that you can look at to get a gauge of what this season will hold in store.
The Offense: John Parker Wilson is the Quarterback and leader of this team even with all the buzz around incoming freshman Star Jackson JPW is coming into his senior year and he has started the past two years without injury and according to sources very close to the program over his tenure at UA is has been the model of hard work and dedication. Now over the past two years he has sure had his share of ups and down and his share of critics, but if we look a little deeper I think we will see some indicators that led to this. First off we all know Mike Shula was a joke as a head football coach and his play calling was atrocious which led to one of the worst redzone offenses in the nation. Last year was Wilson's first year in a completely new offense, that lets face it wasn't really taylor-made for Wilson's abilty. With new offensive coordinator Jim McElwain who is said to be tweeking the offense to better fit the talent available. Look to see a different Wilson than fans have seen. The O-Line is one year deeper and as we seen last year although it had improved from previous years there still are some needs this year should be even better. The backfield has a stable of talent look to see Terry Grant as more of a scamper back or check-down receiver in the flats on first and second down with Glenn Coffee as the horse running between the tackles in short yardage situations. Also look to see Roy Upchurch and Jonathan Lowe get there share of reps.. At wide receiver there is a depth of talent but for the most part this talent is unproven but watch out for the young star Julio Jones.
The Defense: At the first of the season last year the defense at times just looked plain confused but as the year wore on they seemed to be much more comfortable. The D-Line seemed to be the weakest link they never seemed to be able to get a good push off the ball apparently Saban noticed this too seeing how he really grabbed some great talent on this past recruiting year for the D-Line as well as Line-Backers. With Wallace Gillberry gone look to see Rolando McClain develop into the leader of the squad and continue to hone his already phenomenal skills. The dismissal of Jimmy Johns: don't be to worried about this other than just the initial black eye. I can't name you one meaningful contribution he has made since he has been there. He had high expectations and they just never turned into reality. Other players to watch include: Javier Arenas, Rashad Johnson, Kareem Jackson, and Lorenzo Washington.
The Season:You can look forward to a much better team in 08 going into their second year under Saban, but I am not so sure the record at the end of the year will show it. When you step back and look at it Schedule is just as tough with one key difference all those close tough home games will be tough road games this year with stops in Arkansas, Athens, Knoxville, and Baton Rouge. Also the season opener will be in Atlanta against Clemson which should prove to be a good gauge on what the season may hold. Look to see a better RedZone Offense and a stouter D-Line in 08. Also look to see some surprises as we all know how Coach Saban likes to keep things close to the vest!!
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