OT Wesley Britt

2002 Statistics

Coach: Mike Shula
1st year
2002 Record: 10-3
at Oklahoma LOST 27-37
at Arkansas WON 30-12
at Tennessee WON 34-14
at Vanderbilt WON 30-8
at Louisiana State WON 31-0
at Hawaii WON 21-16

2002 Final Rankings
AP-11, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2003 Outlook

Change 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 teams first.

Shula 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.

Tide 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.

Look 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.

Projected 2003 record: 8-5
QB Brodie Croyle
DE Antwan Odom
DE Chris Harris
QB - 4 DL - 4
RB - 4 LB - 4.5
WR - 3.5 DB - 3.5
OL - 5 ..

Passing: 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, 38.2 avg.

Kicking: Kyle Robinson, 6-10 FG, 23-24 PAT, 41 pts.

Tackles: Brooks Daniels, 110 tot., 68 solo

Sacks: Antwan Odom, 10 sacks

Interceptions: Charlie Peprah, 4 for 90 yds.

Kickoff returns: Ray Hudson, 13 ret., 20.5 avg.

Punt returns: Shaud Williams, 40 ret., 8.6 avg.


ROV Brooks Daniels
OFFENSE: Tyler Watts-QB, Ahmaad Galloway-TB, Sam Collins-WR, Theo Sanders-W, Alonzo Ephraim-C, Marico Portis-OG, Santonio Beard-RB (NFL), Dante Ellington-OT (NFL)
DEFENSE: Kindal Moorehead-DE, Jarret Johnson-DT, Kenny King-NT, Gerald Dixon-CB, Hirchel Bolden-CB, Waine Bacon-SS, Lane Bearden-P

written by Collin Mickle

Alabama was to begin 2003 with an entirely new coaching staff, brought in by new hire Mike Price. Eh-hem…circumstances 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.

Starting 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 often.

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.

With 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.


QB Brodie Croyle


Returning Starters in bold
QB Brodie Croyle-So Spencer Pennington-So
FB Greg McLain-So La'Ron McClain-Jr
TB Shaud Williams-Sr Ray Hudson-Jr
WR Dre Fulgham-Sr Zach Fletcher-Sr
WR Triandos Luke-Sr Antonio Carter-Sr
TE Clint Johnston-So David Cavan-Jr
OT Wesley Britt-Jr Atlas Herrion-Sr
OG Justin Smiley-Jr Danny Martz-Jr
C J.B. Closner-So Matt Lomax-Sr
OG Dennis Alexander-Sr Mark Sanders-So
OT Evan Mathis-Jr Justin Moon-Fr
K Kyle Robinson-Sr Michael Ziifle-Jr / Brian Bostick-Jr



written by Collin Mickle

Defensively, 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 end.

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.

The 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.


DE Antwan Odom


Returning Starters in bold
DE Antwan Odom-Jr Mark Anderson-So
DT Ahmaad Childress-Sr Jeremy Clark-Fr
NT Anthony Bryant-Sr Taylor Britt-So
DE Nautyn McKay-Loescher-Sr Chris Harris-Fr
SLB Cornelius Wortham-Sr DeMeco Ryans-So
MLB Freddie Roach-So Derrick Pope-Sr
WLB Brooks Daniels-Sr Juwan Garth-Fr
CB Anthony Madison-Jr Thurman Ward-Jr
CB Charlie Peprah-So David Scott-Sr
SS Roman Harper-SS Carlos Andrews-Jr
FS Charles Jones-Sr Chris James-Jr
P Bo Freeland-Jr Jeff Aul-Fr




Special 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 after that.

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 the summer… 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… People 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 defense.

Jeff 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.

FYI- 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.