Changing of the Tide (cont.)
Posted: Monday April 9, 2007 2:39PM; Updated: Monday April 9, 2007 2:40PM
The reporters were therefore dependant on Saban to summarize what happened -- under the circumstances, he could have said quarterback John Parker Wilson threw for 800 yards and we would have had to take his word for it -- resulting in such highly informative exchanges as this one:
Reporter: You said you liked the red zone offense. What exactly did you see that you liked about it?
Saban: Well, I said we did OK. I didn't say I liked the red-zone offense. I just said we did a good job offensively when we were in the red zone.
But Saban hasn't been completely mum this spring. On numerous occasions, he and his players have spoken in general terms about the offense and defense he's installing.
Saban intends to run a similar, multiple-look offense to the one he employed at LSU, while 28-year-old offensive coordinator Major Applewhite -- yes, the former Texas quarterback -- figures to incorporate more of the shotgun-spread offense he learned last year at Rice under then-coach Todd Graham.
"That's what I like to do -- get back there in the 'gun and sling it around a little bit," said the laser-armed Wilson, who quietly threw for 2,707 yards in his first year as the Tide's starter last season. The passing game, led by Wilson and returning receivers Hall (62 catches, 1,056 yards) and Keith Brown (44 for 590), figures to be the strength of Saban's first squad. "John Parker's done a nice job so far," said Saban.
Alabama's traditional strong suit, its running game, is the bigger cause for concern. Not only have last year's starting tailback (Kenneth Darby) and top two fullbacks (Le'Ron McClain and Tim Castille) graduated, but also Darby's logical successor, junior Jimmy Johns, is currently in Saban's doghouse due to academic issues. He missed Friday's scrimmage. "It's wide open," Saban said of the tailback race. "Dependability's part of it. You've got a guy [Johns] that can't even do what he needs to do to get to practice -- that's not saying much for him."
The most intriguing question surrounding the Tide is what impact Saban, a renowned defensive mind, will have on a side of the ball where 'Bama, at least in terms of numbers, is disturbingly thin. The secondary should be solid, but the Tide returned just two lettermen at defensive tackle, prompting Saban to install a base 3-4 defense that will include two converted ends, Ezekial Knight and Keith Saunders, at outside linebacker.
Whereas Saban went with a young-up-and-comer as his top offensive assistant, his new defensive coordinator, Kevin Steele, is a 25-year coaching veteran who recently served as Bobby Bowden's executive head coach at Florida State. Together, they are implementing Saban's familiar pro-style defense with a wide variety of looks and blitz schemes.
"He brings his same style of defense from the pros to college. It's really no different," said linebacker Prince Hall, a Rivals.com freshman All-America last season. "It's very complicated. You have to be in your book constantly."
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