2002 Final Rankings
AP-11, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR
will be the watchword for Alabama in 2003.
The Crimson Tide, entering a second year
of NCAA probation, start from scratch with
Mike Shula. The departures of so many 2002
contributors means that Shula will depend
on players brought in by the Franchione
regime, rather than the Mike DuBose holdovers
who were prominent under Franchione. Although
Franchione was able to put together a good
season despite probation, the penalty's
effect will truly be felt in 2003. The truncated
probation-era recruiting classes will begin
to impact depth, discernable on special
will have to evaluate his talent before
any concrete changes can occur. Alabama
won 10 games in 2002 for the 27th time,
an impressive feat. Unfortunately, the Tide
will be unable to approach that number in
2003. A decent showing in the SEC is certainly
possible, especially given the unsettled
nature of the West division, but much more
than that is unlikely.
fans can rest assured, however, that their
season still includes a late season road
trip to an exotic locale. For the second
straight year, Alabama will close out the
season in Hawii (Nov. 29). For the bowl-prohibited
Alabama faithful, the trip might be better
than a legitimate postseason. After all,
Hawaii in November always beats Shreveport
in December. But Timmy Chang is nothing
to look forward to, huh.
for Alabama to be competitive in almost
all of their games next season, with a respectable
but far from outstanding finish. Given Bama's
schedule - 12 of 13 opponents finished 2002
with winning records - more than eight wins
seems a long shot. Any more wins will reflect
an outstanding job by this new coaching
regime from now through late August.
2003 record: 8-5
QB Brodie Croyle
DE Antwan Odom
DE Chris Harris
Brodie Croyle, 123-60-5, 1046 yds., 5 TD's
Rushing: Shaud Williams, 130 att.,
921 yds., 5 TD's
Receiving: Triandos Luke, 41 rec.,
482 yds., 2 TD's
Scoring: Kyle Robinson, 6-10 FG,
23-24 PAT, 41 pts.
Punting: Michael Ziifle, 8 punts,
Kicking: Kyle Robinson, 6-10 FG,
23-24 PAT, 41 pts.
Tackles: Brooks Daniels, 110 tot.,
Sacks: Antwan Odom, 10 sacks
Interceptions: Charlie Peprah, 4
for 90 yds.
Kickoff returns: Ray Hudson, 13 ret.,
Punt returns: Shaud Williams, 40
ret., 8.6 avg.
Tyler Watts-QB, Ahmaad Galloway-TB, Sam Collins-WR,
Theo Sanders-W, Alonzo Ephraim-C, Marico Portis-OG,
Santonio Beard-RB (NFL), Dante
Moorehead-DE, Jarret Johnson-DT, Kenny King-NT,
Gerald Dixon-CB, Hirchel Bolden-CB, Waine
Bacon-SS, Lane Bearden-P
by Collin Mickle
was to begin 2003 with an entirely new coaching
staff, brought in by new hire Mike Price. Eh-hem
arose (no comment) and Price was relieved of duty
just three months prior to August camp. In steps
former Alabama QB Mike Shula (1983-1986) as his
career came full circle when he was named the
Tide's 26th head football coach. At age 37, the
son of former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula becomes
the youngest coach ever to be hired in the Bama
modern era and the youngest current SEC coach.
His first choice for offensive coordinator was
Dave Rader, who coached receivers in Tuscaloosa
when Mike was barking the snap count.
QB Brodie Croyle set Alabama high school records
in almost every passing category - and may have
been better suited to Price's gunslinging style
that was practiced all spring. Although he will
certainly be the starter, Croyle will be pushed
by redshirt freshman Spencer Pennington (no relation
to Jets' signal-caller Chad). This competition
bodes well, so that as coaches can see what's
what, the best possible QB is guaranteed to be
at the helm as the season begins.
Whoever the quarterback is, he will be surrounded
by an offensive unit with plenty of experience
and talent. Four of Bama's top-five pass-catchers
return, including senior wideouts Triandos Luke
(team-high 41 rec, 482 yds, and 2 TDs) and Dre
Fulgham (30, 505, and 3).
The big winner could be WR Zach Fletcher. The
biggest of Alabama's returning WRs (6-3, 200),
Zach has the size Price loves at the position.
Fletcher averaged 27.6 yards per reception (2
TDs). The senior trio of Fletcher, Luke, and Fulgham
will fill out Price's preferred three-wide set
well enough to make either QB shine early and
Up front, Alabama returns three starters on the
line. The junior returnees - tackles Wesley Britt
and Evan Mathis, and guard Justin Smiley - are
a solid group. Britt was named first-team All-SEC
as a sophomore, while Mathis and Smiley were both
second-teamers. Alabama was able to pull of the
rarity of starting the same five linemen in every
game. The consistency was a big factor, especially
on the ground as evidenced in the team's 2002
average of 4.5 yds/rush and 29 TDs. This unit
will continue its achievements.
Running backs Beard and Galloway departed, leaving
Shaud Williams (team highs - 921 yds, 7.1 avg)
as the starter at tailback. Although the passing
offense earns most of the attention in Price's
system, the running game's role in offense we
see come September under Shula may be quite the
opposite - a similar system most Alabama grads
have become accustomed to, and that is a focus
on the run.
the exception of Fletcher, lanky receivers who
can run like gazelle after the catch are largely
missing. Luke has some speed, but at 6-0, 190,
he is relatively small. The same goes for the
6-1 Fulgham, though his sheer strength makes DBs
pay for each hit.
Aside from that concern, Alabama's offense looks
poised for an outstanding season. The entire offense
will miss only if inexperience at QB leads to
spotty success. And this could go unchecked, so
one/both of these kids can learn valuable lessons
through his/their mistake(s). It is called sticking
with your guy(s), something that often reaps major
benefits down the line.
2003 DEPTH CHART
Returning Starters in bold
Ziifle-Jr / Brian
by Collin Mickle
the Crimson Tide enter 2003 in fairly good shape.
Coaches must replace five starters, including
a pair of All-SEC players up front, from the conference's
top-ranked defense. Five of Bama's top six tacklers
return, led by rover Brooks Daniels (2nd-team
All-SEC, 110 tackles, 6 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 FF).
Senior Nautyn McKay-Loescher (4.5 sacks, 21 hurries)
and junior Antwan Odom (10 and 11, 4 TFL) will
compete for the starting job at right defensive
Inside, a pair of mammoth seniors will step into
the starting lineup. NG Anthony Bryant and DT
Ahmaad Childress (10 QBH, 1 INT, 1 FF) are both
listed at 345 pounds. Childress spreads the weight
over a 6-7 frame, while Bryant is considerably
more compact at 6-3. Their girth will be an advantage
against the run, but could pose a major problem
against the pass, especially when facing a quick-tempo
team on a hot field (which could also pose run-stopping
dilemmas late in the second half). Conditioning
will be vitally important; there is not a single
proven reserve behind them.
The linebackers have some big dogs. All three
starters return. Daniels, (two-year starter, 100
tackles in 2001, 2002 each) is the headliner of
the unit. MLB Freddie Roach (53 tackles, 2 FF)
was outstanding in 2002 as a true freshman. Roach
is a sideline-to-sideline player who will benefit
(as will the team) from the ample bulk of Bryant
and Childress occupying blockers up front to allow
him to laterally take aim and plug holes. Strong-side
linebacker Cornelius Wortham (95 tackles) is adequate
in pass coverage with a good nose for the ball.
They will accelerate and grow into a competent,
seething linebacking corps.
The defensive backfield returns two of four starters.
'Bama finished with an SEC best 18 interceptions
and allowed just over 175 passing yards per game.
Sophomore Charlie Peprah, who had the team-high
of four picks (despite splitting time), will be
the starter at one of the cornerback spots. The
other starter will probably be junior Anthony
Madison (6 PassBrUps), who plays well in the nickel
role and will step up to make this position a
strength. Junior Carlos Andrews is at the strong
safety slot, alongside returning starter Charles
Jones at free safety. Jones is solid against the
run (85 tackles, 3 FF) and a playmaker against
the pass (3 INTs). The defense won games last
year. They will be called upon to do the same,
with varied results and less consistency.
questions start up front for 'Bama's defense.
The departure of a trio of starters leaves the
defensive line with something to prove in 2003.
Do not expect this team to again be fourth nationally
(80.2 yds/game) against the run. No real experienced
back ups means there will be a drop off in this
area, but how far remains unknown.
The problem with employing a pair of hulks like
Bryant and Childress on the interior of the defensive
line is the question raised above of conditioning.
Coaches will have to work out a rotation that
does not expose the unit's physical dilemmas.
2003 DEPTH CHART
Returning Starters in bold
teams will be largely the same in 2003. With the effects
of probation expected to start showing in depth, special
teams could be a problem area. Without an excellent
freshman class, Alabama will be depending on unproven
players in key special teams' roles.
With the graduation of punter Lane Bearden, junior Michael
Ziifle will step into Bearden's role. Ziifle is different
than Bearden - where Bearden depended on power and distance,
Ziifle is much more accurate. Four of eight punts were
downed inside the 20. He will win the field-position
battles more often than not this way.
Last season's committee of placekicking disappointments
returns, but there is no guarantee that any of the three
- senior Kyle Robinson and juniors Brian Bostick and
Ziifle - will have the starting job. Look for one to
eventually shine and start, but then to disappoint and
be replaced, meaning a rotation will continually occur
Coverage was a mixed bag for Alabama in 2002. The Tide
yielded a stifling 8.1 yards per punt return, but gave
up 23.3 yards on kickoffs. This area will, if they achieve
the same results, offset any field-position gains won
by the punting unit. The special teams could easily
be a liability and cost 'Bama a game or two unless tightened
and attuned in spring.
Conditioning has been a noted concern for
the entire team. It was heavily emphasized
this spring and will continue throughout
Shaud Williams just may
be the most valuable player for the Crimson
Tide this season. In addition to being a
great runner (averaged 8 yards per carry
in the spring game), he is also a stifling
weapon as a receiver and on special teams.
If there's a legit Heisman candidate on
this team, it's Williams. Fellow running
back Kenneth Darby has impressed this spring,
with strong running performances and the
ability to turn the simple into the simply
remarkable. He will provide a third back
who can help keep this stable fresh and
effective throughout four quarters
The highly publicized O-line held up well
against the pass rush this spring, which
portends good things for Croyle
are severely overlooking the talent that
lies in this group of receivers. The Tide
(seriously) go six deep on the outside,
with about four more who can contribute
if needed. They are sorely underrated (as
a group), and are dying to team with Croyle
to prove cynics otherwise. One of those
(back) four likely to get action this year
is freshman Eric Packer. He has been clocked
at 4.32 in the 40-yard dash and has a 41-inch
vertical leap. He reminds some of former
standout David Palmer.
Thurman Ward has been switched from WR to
CB and will be a contributor in the secondary
this season. Roman Harper has paced the
secondary with constricting coverage and
hellacious hits, which earned him a starting
spot heading into August practice. His backup,
Carlos Andrews, has turned in worthy outings
as well and their competition certainly
boosts this unit
DE Antwan Odom showed
many why he will be one of the top defensive
players in the SEC. Blowing up plays along
the front and dictating action on the edge,
Odom often made ballcarriers find alternate
routes- and will only get better as the
season progresses. Redshirt frosh DE Chris
Harris has done well enough to challenge
for extensive P.T. Classmate Kyle Tatum
could play a big part in the DL rotation
as well. At 6'7" 285 lbs, he does a
great job of filling running alleys and
deflecting passing lanes with his intimidating
stature and incredible wingspan. He might
be the surprise player of the year on this
Aul and Bo Freeland separated themselves
as the top two punters bearing towards fall
camp. Triandos Luke performed marvelously
as a return man, showcasing his versatility
and speed by zipping past wannabe tacklers.
He'll most likely team with Ray Hudson and
Brandon Brooks on kick returns. Antonio
Carter and Brooks will be the top two in
the PR slot.
It's going to be hard for the players to
adjust to Shula's new offense so quickly.
That alone could take a toll on this team.
Think of what they have been through, emotionally,
in the last eight months alone. These occurrences
have already tainted a vision of their season
(especially being on probation). If they
win more than 8 or 9 games in a 13 game
schedule, it would have to be considered
a major accomplishment.