Alabama Sends Andre Smith Home From Sugar Bowl

Larry BurtonSenior Writer IDecember 29, 2008

Andre Smith, Alabama's All-American offensive tackle and arguably the best player on the team, has flown back to Tuscaloosa and will not even be allowed to watch the game from the sidelines.

Smith was suspended from all bowl activities some time Sunday night, with the announcement being made Monday.

Speculation is rampant, but as of now, nothing is known.

Theories are everywhere, but if I had to guess at this point, I would say that perhaps Smith may have either signed with or committed to an agent, therefore disqualifying him from the game.

He was projected as a first round draft choice and has attracted much NFL attention.  Many already knew he would not return for his senior year.

"The University of Alabama, the team and the football program are more important than any individual player," head coach Nick Saban said, in a prepared statement. “Everyone on our team depends on each other to be responsible, to make good choices and decisions relative to their actions.”

Saban later finished: "Andre Smith has done an outstanding job in our program as a person, student and player and we will do all we can as an institution to support him in all future endeavors."

This means the anticipated Sugar Bowl matchup between Utah defensive end Paul Kruger and Smith won't happen.

But Alabama does have another left tackle, one that did quite well during Smith's absence earlier this year with an injury. 

Smith is obviously a big key to Alabama's offense, regardless of the fact the Crimson Tide's offensive line didn't miss a beat when Smith went down. Mike Johnson moved from left guard to left tackle, which left David Ross to fill in at Johnson's spot.

Whether or not this is what Saban chooses to do again remains to be seen. 

It will not change the outcome of the game, but it could make things uncomfortably close at times.  Since this was Smith's last game anyway, this gives his replacements time to practice with the first team and get valuable experience against a more than worthy opponent.