2009 Alabama Crimson Tide Football Preview
2008 Record: (12-2, 8-0)
2008 Bowl: Sugar Bowl vs. Utah (L 17-31)
Coach: Nick Saban (19-8 at Alabama, 110-43-1 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jim McElwain
Defensive Coordinator: Kirby Smart
Other Key Returnees: CB Javier Arenas, DT Terrence Cody, Brandon Fanney, LB Don’t’a Hightower, CB Kareem Jackson, LB Cory Reamer, K Leigh Tiffin
Key Losses: C Antoine Caldwell, RB Glen Coffee, G Marlon Davis, DE Bobby Greenwood, S Rashad Johnson, TE Travis McCall, QB John Parker Wilson, OT Andre Smith, TE Nick Walker
Alabama had a great season last year, starting off 12-0 before falling to Florida in the SEC Championship game and Utah in the Sugar Bowl. That success has created high expectations once again for Coach Nick Saban and company. However, last year was ahead of schedule and the Crimson Tide should take a step back this year as they retool their offense.
But the defense is in good shape. Nine starters are back and Coach Saban continues to bring in great recruits who could make a huge impact. Nose guard Terrence Cody and end Brandon Deaderick will anchor the front line, but somebody needs to get to the quarterback more efficiently. The now departed Bobby Greenwood led the team in sacks and he only had five on the season. The linebacker corps will be one of the best in the nation led by Rolando McClain and Don’t’a Hightower. Starters Brandon Fanney and Cory Reamer also return, but keep an eye on freshman Nico Johnson who could emerge as a dynamic playmaker sooner or later. The secondary has one big question to answer after losing leader Rashad Johnson. The free safety led the team in interceptions and pass break-ups and ranked second in tackles. With Javier Arenas, Kareem Jackson, Marquis Johnson and Justin Woodall all returning, the secondary has plenty of experience, but do they have a leader?
Alabama was never that impressive on offense, but quarterback John Parker Wilson was a steady signal caller who did what he needed to do in order to win games. Now he is gone and the job will likely fall to junior Greg McElroy. McElroy lacks the experience, but he is expected to continue the ball-control tradition that has recently been implanted in Tuscaloosa. Yet, McElroy has a few more receiving options than Parker Wilson did last season. Julio Jones is now a sophomore and should be used in more ways than he was as a freshman and Mike McCoy is ready for a breakout season. But more experienced receivers will not do McElroy any good if the offensive line cannot give him any time to throw. Tackle Andre Smith was one of the best in the nation and center Antoine Caldwell will be missed nearly as much. McElroy will also need running back Mark Ingram to stay healthy and freshman Trent Richardson to be as good as everybody thinks he will be.
The Bottom Line for the Crimson Tide:
It might take some time for the offense to show signs of life, but Alabama hopes it does not take too long. If McElroy can manage the clock and get the ball to the playmakers and the offensive line can turn the running game into something at least halfway decent, Alabama can win the SEC West. The defense is that good and that deep. Do not expect a lot of high scoring games out of the Crimson Tide this season, but at some point the offense will have to make a difference and that is when Alabama will lose a game or two.
By Joel Welser
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