Monday, April 23, 2007

College Football News Preview - Part II

Today we cover CFN's preview of our offense.

CFN says the "Strength of our offense" is our "speed, starting offensive line, running options". I'll agree with two of those three. We definitely have speed to burn and a ton of running options.

I'm not sure our starting offensive line is such a great strength however. Here's the starting five at the end of spring, left to right: Ciron Black, Herman Johnson, Brett Helms, Lyle Hitt, Carnell Stewart. I have no problem with the first three of those. They'll make a terrific center-left side of the line. It could be even better if Will Arnold can return healthy to the Right Guard spot, moving Johnson back to left guard.

I am not so comfortable with the right side of that line. Hitt is a converted tight end who found himself deep down the depth chart there. Stewart is a converted defensive tackle, once again finding himself deep on the depth chart. He has played little in his career and is now a 5th year senior.

Frankly, Saban recruited this position terribly. He got some decent players, but he really neglected this position, and as a result we're currently starting two players who began their careers at other positions, and we have very little experienced depth.

It is however a position where a freshman can come in and play right away, because the depth isn't very good. Miles has recruited eight offensive linemen in the last two years, one of whom was recently kicked off the team, but the remaining seven will all be freshmen or redshirt freshmen. It is, however, a position where you rarely want to rely on a true freshman to contribute immediately.

Continuing, CFN says our weaknesses are "backup offensive linemen, proven number two receiver". I think that's exactly right. We have VERY few experienced backup offensive linemen. It's telling that the CFN depth chart lists two of the primary backups at the OL position to be walkons. I'm not sure this is accurate, but it illustrates the problem. Plus, we recently lost two backup offensive linemen to dismissal.

We are very vulnerable to injuries on the offensive line. If we get a little bad luck at that position, we could end having a real patch-work offensive line this year.

As for the receivers, I'm still not sold on Lafell. I'm just not.

We have recruited the wide receiver position lights out since Miles got here, and that talent will soon make an impact. It's just hard to know if those guys are ready to step into key productive roles now. Guys like Chris and Jared Mitchell, Terrance Tolliver, John Williams, and others are one day going to make an excellent corp of receivers. I'm just not sure that this year is going to be that year, as those guys are still pretty young. Frankly, we haven't had a lot of really productive young receivers over the last several years.

The talent is there at receiver. We're just going to have to see if it translates to production this soon.

I'd throw QB in there as a potential weakness as well. I have nothing against Matt Flynn, but any time you're starting a QB who has never been a regular starter, you have to expect problems. Add to that the questionable receiver corp, and you have a potential problem with your passing game.

If we avoid injuries on the offensive line, and if Matt Flynn and the receivers are able to connect, our offensive could end up VERY VERY good. National Championship contender good.

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