Sunday, April 16, 2006
AN ABSURDLY PREMATURE ASSESSMENT OF: ALABAMA
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SMQ spins the wheel for a hastily-rendered, too-soon look at a random school's prospects for the fall, sans inevitable academic and criminal suspensions, sudden transfers, debilitating injuries and other miscellaneous misfortunes of the long summer
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PAST FIVE SEASONS: 37-25 (21-19 SEC) - 2005: 10-2 (6-2 SEC), Won Cotton Bowl
STARTERS BACK, ROUGHLY: 13 (9 Offense, 4 Defense)
WHAT'S CHANGED: SMQ began last season by dubbing Mike Shula "The Perplexed-Looking Mike Shula," and predicting his hasty ouster by also calling him "temporary." Gradually, though, Shula's perplexedness waned as his team's success crested. Before last season, Shula was 10-15 career coach, a desperate, last-second, relatively inexperienced solution whose seat was beginning to simmer; after, people were calling him a "once-in-a-lifetime hire," and he's got a little ten-game-winner capital to spend.
Also, to impatient Tide fans, as a certain president might put it: You won't have Brodie Croyle to kick around any more, and you may wish soon that you did.
WHAT'S THE SAME: You can draw a direct line, beginning with Bobby Humphrey in 1986, to Siran Stacy, then to Derrick Lassic to Sherman Williams to Dennis Riddle to Shaun Alexander to Ahmaad Galloway to Shaud Williams and now to Kenneth Darby; the Tide has never had a 2,500-yard passer and has had one 1,000-yard receivers (David Palmer, at exactly 1,000 in 1993), but it's had an almost uniterrupted string of terrifying running backs. SMQ only went back to the 1,000-yard club, which doesn't even include Ricky Moore, Tony Nathan, Johnny Davis, Johnny Musso and so forth...the point is, these bastards can run the hell out of the ball, whether you like it or not.
And as a fan of school that's seved as a frequent victim even when a Division III-level passing game would make Tide fans drool, SMQ can testify: we don't like it. So we're just not playing y'all anymore.
HEEEE'S BAA-AAACK...ER, MAYBE: So - assuming it gets him back at all, does 'Bama get the demon beast emerging as the best wideout/all-purpose threat in the SEC or a gimpy, never-the-same-again shell of what was once Tyrone Prothro? The difference is tangible; last year, it was 75 yards and two touchdowns per game (402 yards, 30 points in five games with Prothro, 327 and 16 in seven games without). It'll be well into the summer before the offense knows if he'll be able to go in the fall after a second surgery to put a metal rod in his mangled leg, and a couple months more before it knows if it can count on him.
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A Tale of Two Prothros: Is this what happened to Freddie Milons, too?
SOBRIETY IS KEY: Of course, Prothro's health won't matter so much if John Parker Wilson, latest in a long line of in-state schoolboy heroes, doesn't have a competent enough grip of the offense yet to get him the ball. Wilson follows Croyle and Tyler Watts, inconsistent and oft-injured high school phenoms who showed flashes, had some success, but never fulfilled their massive expectations. Wilson took 15 snaps last year, threw on 12 (running himself on the other three so, amazingly, he hasn't yet handed off in a game) and, very importantly, probably was not wasted on all of them.
WHO HE? Here's guessing they'll be pretty good, but lord, a lot of the faces on the defensive depth chart are new. DeMeco Ryans, Roman Harper, Freddie Roach, Mark Anderson, Charlie Peprah and Anthony Madison were stalwarts with like 756 career starts between them; ergo, the six guys replacing them have virtually none.
The new crop does still have typical Tide linebacking terror Juwan
GarthSimpson and defensive linemen Jeremy Clark and Wallace Gilberry, but the back seven was gutted. And what's up with Simeon Castille still listed as a backup? He was all over the field as a nickel back last year. OVERLY OPTIMISTICDISTURBINGLY GRISLY POST-SPRING CHATTER: There was no murder, we must now assume, but the strange, bloody death of Logan Young (while - oh irony! - trying to extend his life by eating a salad, no less) has kept attention off the field and opened up old wounds. The last thing Shula needed at this point was the ghost of Albert Means haunting the locker room.
REASON(S) FOR HOPE: The offensive line is tough and almost entirely intact; ditto the backfield and receivers. When's the last time Alabama didn't have a fuck-you-up defense? Hit the post-probation ground running; back on the upswing.
REASON TO BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID: The Tide's last two ten-win season were followed by 3-8 and 4-9, respectively. Plus: First-time starting quarterback with a history of alcohol problems lining up with his top target's status in flux, while most of the defense that delivered the majority of last year's wins is answering questions in street clothes on the sidelines about tomorrow's big game with playoff implications ("Which you can see right here on CBS!") and urging their former teammates to hang in there - they'll get better, they just need to step up and make plays, because that's what players do, know what I'm sayin'?
IF THIS TEAM WERE ANY POP CULTURAL, HISTORICAL, POLITICAL, LITERARY OR OTHERWISE NOTABLE FIGURE, IT WOULD BE... Bob Dylan. Still good, you know - amazing resurgence, wow - but it's just not like in the sixties, you know? I mean, that string from 1964-66? Just...I mean, holy shit, man. Take a look at that stuff again. It can never be that good again.
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They say you can't repeat the past - whaddaya mean you can't? Of course you can.
HONESTLY, WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SCHEDULE, SMQ'S THINKING: Nine wins, respectable pre-New Year's Day affair. In this case, SMQ lied, because he has seen 'Bama's schedule (he linked to it, duh), and it is absurdly weak outside of the Auburn-LSU-Florida triumverate. "Hey, FIU, we just beat the hell outta you! Rammer Jammer..."
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Previous absurdly premature assessments:
April 3: Central Michigan...April 4: Brigham Young...April 6: Kentucky...April 7: Bowling Green...April 8: Southern Cal...April 11: Rutgers...April 12: Marshall...April 13: Florida State...April 15: San Diego State
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