Many Unanswered Questions Remain for Alabama Crimson Tide

Walter KirkwoodAnalyst IJuly 27, 2009

My boss owns a software company with many employees.  We deal in high-tech products, but when it comes to an organizational chart, he uses sticky notes on a white board.

If you are stuck at the top of a list, that's good; being at the bottom is bad.

Sticky removed to trash can, you're fired.

I'm willing to bet Nick Saban has something similar, probably behind a locked door.  I keep such a file myself, it's a living document that changes constantly.  Sometimes it's more than what is published by the press, while in the offseason it's more of a speculation chart.

Rather than bore you with the details, lets ask the questions that need to be answered this fall.

Running Back

Lots of options, limited experience, finite number of touches available.

What to do?

Mark Ingram will get his carries, that is a safe bet.  After that, I'm not sure.

Most think freshman Trent Richardson will get some touches, I tend to agree.  Some say fellow freshman Eddie Lacy will too, if he qualifies.  I'm not so sure about that since he missed both summer sessions.  Terry Grant was expected by many to transfer this offseason, but he stuck around and had Saban raving about his improvement this spring.

Will often-injured Roy Upchurch ever play again? Didn't Jaramie Griffin look impressive in his limited action last year?  Lots of questions to be resolved in a month.  Saban generally plays three running backs extensively.

Who's it going to be?

One thing is for sure: if the balls in your hands, you better not dance.

Wide Receiver

Alabama has more than one last time I checked.  It's time for someone not named Julio to step up.

To be fair, it's a known fact that former quarterback John Parker Wilson didn't spread the ball around like he should have.  If Junior Greg McElroy can do that successfully, the offense could take a leap forward.  But the receivers also need better RAC yards (Run After Catch).

I'm keeping my eye on true freshman Michael Bowman.  Georgia may have miscalculated in his recruitment, or rather the lack of it.  Transfer tight end Colon Peek might also be in line for a huge year.  I can't wait to see him in Crimson.

Offensive Line

Can super-freshman D.J. Fluker start as a true freshman at left tackle?  Is newcomer James Carpenter as good as advertised?  What exactly does freshman Chance Warmack eat, and how was he only a three-star recruit?

Is William Vlachos big enough to handle the center job?  Will anyone step forward to truly lock down the right guard spot or will they have to shuffle people around?  

Defensive Line

Have the Tide enjoyed a deeper defensive line since the 85-scholarship limit started?

Can Terrence Cody bring back the thunder he terrorized offenses with in the first half of the '08 season?  Is Luther Davis ready to finally fulfill his vast potential?

Has Marcel Dareus improved this off season?  He was already pretty scary last year.  Will the Tide finally find a true pass rusher?  That's the million-dollar question.

Defensive Back

With seven upperclassmen in the secondary will they find a way to slow down the spread attack?

Is freshman Dre Kirkpatrick ready to play?  Has Javier Arenas managed to make the jump from a recruit nobody wanted to a special teams player to an NFL prospect at cornerback?

Will Justin Woodall jack somebody up this year? Is Kareem Jackson's sophomore slump history?  Is Burton Scott going to make his presence felt this year?


Who will play jack linebacker?  Alabama has a good set of third-down candidates, but none are ideally suited for that position.

Freshman Ed Stinson was recruited to play that spot, but is he ready?  Is Freshman Nico Johnson a candidate for playing time in the middle?  If so does that move Dont'a Hightower to jack?

Is Jarrell Harris ready fulfill his great promise as a recruit?  Will this be the year Chris Jordan breaks through for playing time?  Is there a better middle linebacker in the country than Rolando McClain?  Probably not.

In the next 60 days we should have answers to many of these questions.  But the biggest question of them all may be how the Tide responds to losing the No.1 ranking in college football so late last season, after a 31-20 loss to Florida in the SEC Championship Game, and a 31-17 loss in the 2009 Sugar Bowl to the Utah Utes.

Do the players lay awake in bed at night wondering “what if”...what if they played the final quarter of the SEC title game like they did the first three?

Where would they be ranked today if they had taken care of business in the Sugar Bowl?

Are obscenities sometimes heard in the weight room that sound suspiciously like “Gators” or “Utes” or some combination of the two?  Did the two losses at the end erase the joy of winning the first 12?  Perhaps the answers to these questions are the ones that matter most.


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