Friday, September 3, 2010

What to Watch for in the Crimson Tide against San Jose State

With the beginning of the 2010 season beginning tomorrow. There are some questions that this year’s Crimson Tide will have to answer. While we will have to wait until the second week of the season to answer a some of them. Here are some things to watch this weekend against San Jose State.

Trent_Richardson_1 1. Backfield: With reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram out of the line up to start the season with an injury to his knee. The Tide will have to rely on Trent Richardson to take most of the carries for the first time. There is no doubt that Richardson has the talent to take over as the top running back in Ingram’s absence, I mean he was ranked as a preseason first-team all SEC running back along with Mark.The only question is can he do it 20 to 30 times he will have to on Saturday instead of splitting half of the carries with Ingram. Not to mention, Trent will also be taking some kick returns as well during the game, adding to his time on the field. Trent will also need some help from redshirt freshman Eddie Lacy, who is listed behind Richardson in the depth chart. While Lacy has no game time experience, he will have to learn quickly on Saturday in order to give Trent some time off between carries.

2. Defensive Line: Now that Marcell Dareus is suspended for two games, the Tide defensive front will have to find a way to replace last season’s BCS National Championship Defensive MVP. They will also have to fill the void created by the departure of Terrence Cody. The Tide will look to sophomores Undra Billingsley and Kerry Murphy to take the snaps without Dareus in the lineup. Adding to the pressure is the fact that the Tide rush defense has not allowed a opposing rusher to run over 100 yards in a game 34 consecutive games. In most rushing downs, Murphy will take most snaps to help keep the streak alive. The Tide defensive front will have a good warm up game this weekend against the pass heavy offense of San Jose State, and will have its first test next week against Penn State. Either way

images3. Secondary: This season, perhaps the biggest holes to fill may be replacing those in the secondary a year ago. The only thing that will look familiar in the secondary is All-SEC safety Mark Barron. At cornerback, getting the starts are Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie. Kirkpatick has little game experience, but definitely has the talent. Incoming junior college transfer Menzie will test his newly repaired Achilles tendon in a real game for the first time since tearing it this spring. Behind Kirkpatrick and Menzie are B.J. Scott and Phelon Jones, who should also see some time in the game Saturday. The last question will be who patrols the outfield with Mark Barron. Slated as the starter at free safety is Robert Lester who does have  a small amount of playing time at safety. The group will have some growing pains as they gain more and more playing time, but they say they are up to the challenge and Saban and Smart both believe they all have the talent to keep the Tide secondary and defense as one of the best in football.

4. Special Teams: Adding to the difficulty of replacing key fixtures from a year ago is how the Tide will replace its place kicker, punter, and return specialist.The first issue is replacing the leading scorer in Alabama Football history and a finalist for the Lou Groza Award a year ago, Leigh Tiffin. As of the last UA scrimmage, Saban had not set a firm kicker but suggested that he may split duties between two kickers. The two kickers competing for the job are freshman Cade Foster and walk on Jeremy Shelley. Foster has a big leg and will handle the kick off and longer field goal attempts, while Shelley has shown to be the more accurate of the two and will handle point after attempts and shorter field goals. At punter, replacing P.J. Fitzgerald may also come down to a competition between a freshman and a walk on. The freshman is Jay Williams and the walk on he is competing against is Cody Mandell. Both have shown talent, but it may come down to who shows the most consistency punting going into game day. Last but not least, the Tide will have to find a way to replace possibly one of the most feared return specialists in Javier Arenas. In the depth chart released Monday, Trent Richardson and Julio Jones will share kick off responsibilities, while Julio Jones will handle the punt returns. Others that may contribute in this throughout the game and year may also include Darius Hanks and Marquis Maze.

All in all, this game will boil down to the Tide replacing those key components it lost either to injury, suspension, or departure from the team due to leaving for the NFL or graduation. While there are some big holes to fill, literally when talking about Terrence Cody, this Tide team will have to create a culture and style of its own to insure that the team competes on the high level we saw last season. On offense, we know that replacing Mark Ingram may be difficult, but Alabama may be the only team with a back up running back that may be better that than last year’s Heisman winner. As for the defense, we know that Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart and Coach Nick Saban have created on of the most dominate defensive schemes there is and has the talent to build a foundation of success for this season.

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