August 21, 2007
Camp Questions Revisited
1) How much improvement can be expected for the running game?
Matt Scalici: As experienced as Ken Darby was going into last season, it's clear that No. 34 wasn't himself out there in 2006. While the offensive line bears some of the responsibility for the lack of a legitimate running attack a year ago, the line should show some improvement after another off-season of working together while the presence of four healthy tailbacks should mean a more consistent and varied attack on the ground this year.
2) How will an inexperienced defensive front seven hold up?
Matt Scalici: Despite the presence of veterans like Wallace Gilberry and Bobby Greenwood, it's the performance of the Tide's freshmen that will determine the effectiveness of the defensive front. While it could take several games for some of these newcomers to get the hang of things, the overall level of play from the front seven should improve as the season goes on.
3) Will the kicking game be improved?
Chase Goodbread: If Jamie Christensen's strained quad muscle becomes a lingering problem, things could be interesting at the start of the season. Leigh Tiffin has kicked well in scrimmage work and this is one position where past experience may not count for much to a new coaching staff. Whichever candidate opens the season with the job, the leash may be a short one.
Matt Scalici: While many find it hard to forgive Leigh Tiffin for his meltdown in Fayetteville a year ago, the young placekicker did an impressive job up to that point. With that incident behind him, Tiffin appears to be pushing Jamie Christensen for the starting job, and that competition will help ensure that the Tide's kicking game will take a step up in 2007.
4) How is the competition at safety shaping up?
Chase Goodbread: Based strictly on their play in 2006, Rashad Johnson's hold on a job should be more firm than Marcus Carter's. But the clean slate that comes with a new coaching staff makes that more dangerous to assume. Among reserves, Chris Rogers has shown up more than others in scrimmage work with nine tackles, one TFL and an interception (both scrimmages combined). Javier Arenas's interception return for a touchdown in the latest scrimmage won't hurt his chances, either.
Matt Scalici: Marcus Carter and Rashad Johnson weren't exactly the most effective safety duo in the SEC last season but as yet they have held off all challengers during fall camp. The two returning starters could be improving but it's also possible that the rest of the competition has failed to step up. I expect both players will hang onto their starting jobs at least until they pay a visit to face Vanderbilt's Earl Bennett.
5) Will the right tackle position continue to be problematic?
Chase Goodbread: It's been a bit surprising that Johnson has held a spot with the first group all camp, if for no other reason than his shortage of experience. Either Johnson has made great strides since last season, or B.J. Stabler's move from guard hasn't been particularly smooth. The former can't be assumed until Johnson lines up against Arkansas in Week 3 and delivers at least a decent performance.
Matt Scalici: Johnson[/db] and B.J. Stabler have battled fiercely at the position and both players, according to their teammates, have made major improvements in the offseason. While Johnson's inexperience makes him the weakest link in the chain, I expect the overall play at right tackle to be drastically improved from a year ago.
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