July 8, 2008

Who might surprise on offense?

BamaOnLine.com's two-part series on possible veteran surprises for the 2008 season begins with the offense. Players are listed alphabetically.


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style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248);">style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 0, 80);">Senior TE Nick Walker

Why it will happen: Walker has been a decent receiving option for two years now, but the table is set for Walker's production to be more than just decent in his final year. Alabama's inexperience at wide receiver could make Walker a primary target for John Parker Wilson, especially early in the season. UA threw heavily to the tight ends in spring scrimmage work, and an expected increase in two-tight end sets will help keep him on the field more.

Why it might not happen: Walker has been prone to the occasional drop in the past, something that can't continue if Walker hopes to improve from a two-catch-a-game player to a more consistent target. The tight end position in general is famous for being higher on expectations than production, and not just at Alabama. It's rarely a quarterback's first read, and when it is, it's usually on a short route.
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style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(228, 231, 235);">style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 0, 80);">Junior RT Drew Davis

Why it will happen: Davis' offseason size gains were perhaps the most impressive on the roster. He eclipsed the 300-pound mark yet still looked fit, and coach Nick Saban called him the surprise of the spring. He has always possessed the athleticism for pass protection, which is what Alabama has lacked most from the position in recent years.

Why it might not happen: In a word - experience. Davis has none. For all his offseason strides, Davis remains completely untested against top-notch rush ends on fall Saturdays. Better play from Davis can be expected near the end of the season after he's gotten some games under his belt, but how will he respond to the August/September challenges of Clemson, Arkansas and Georgia, none of which are at home?
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style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248);">style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 0, 80);">Senior QB John Parker Wilson

Why it will happen: With two years of starting experience and a veteran offensive line, conditions are optimum for Wilson's poise and decision-making to make needed strides. Although he is working with his third OC/QB coach in as many years, he will essentially be operating the same offense for the second year in a row.
Why it might not happen: While the line returns mostly intact, the wide receivers don't, and Wilson may not be immediately comfortable with all the new targets. Eliminating turnovers is his biggest challenge. He can improve in other areas, but if he doesn't improve in that one, losses will result.
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style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(228, 231, 235);">style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 0, 80);">Junior RB Glen Coffee

Why it will happen: Coffee's ability to block ensured him playing time last year, and unless another back matches him in that department, he's ticketed for more action in 2008. From there, it's a question of yardage production. If Terry Grant has trouble staying healthy again, Coffee could be leading this backfield for much of the season

Why it might not happen: Coffee missed all contact in the spring after shoulder surgery, giving Grant the chance to reclaim the lead role in the backfield. He's shown he is dependable on the field - but he hasn't shown he can be dangerous.
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style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 248);">style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 0, 80);">Senior WR Will Oakley

Why it will happen: Oakley will be looking to make a strong finish to an injury-plagued career, and has as good an opportunity to play as he has ever had given UA's graduation losses at the position. When he is right physically, which admittedly hasn't been often, his speed and athleticism compares favorably with any of the returning veterans.

Why it might not happen: According to coach Nick Saban, Oakley may not be fully recovered from a broken foot when fall camp begins. If that's the case, he could be playing catch-up on the depth chart upon his return, depending on how some of the younger candidates fare. Beyond the foot issue, Oakley staying healthy for a full season is also an obvious question mark.

style="vertical-align: top; background-color: rgb(178, 34, 34);">style="font-weight: bold;">Offense: Five veterans who may surprise









Coming tomorrow: Who might surprise on defense?


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