February 11, 2008

Fitting in

Biggest offensive area of need
Reier:
Goodbread: Offensive line. Last season showed depth on the Crimson Tide's offensive front is in short supply. With four starters returning, 2008 may not be the year this signing class impacts the lineup. But 2009 figures to be a re-tooling job up front, which means this year's newcomers could find themselves in the two-deep early in their careers.
Scalici:

Biggest defensive area of need
Reier:
Goodbread: Linebacker. With two starters graduated and a third being a health-related uncertainty (Ezekial Knight), the incoming freshmen could stampede the depth chart at linebacker. At 250 pounds, Don'ta Hightower figures to make a push for an inside spot, while Jerrell Harris and Courtney Upshaw figure to challenge from the outside.
Scalici:

Biggest special teams need
Reier:
Goodbread: Punter. Inconsistency plagued P.J. Fitzgerald as much in 2007 as it did in 2006. Newcomer Corey Smith gets an early crack at the competition thanks to his spring enrollment. Though Smith is an all-purpose leg who could challenge in other specialty areas, it's at punter where he has the best chance to supplant a veteran.
Scalici:

What aspect of the 2008 team will this signing class impact the most?
Reier:
Goodbread: Wide receiver. With three graduated starters, UA has some experience returning but no proven big-play options. Spring practice will be a heated competition, but fall camp will be even hotter. Incomers Julio Jones, Burton Scott and Melvin Ray will have the veterans on their proverbial toes. Receiver also requires less of an adjustment for freshmen than most positions.
Scalici:

Early area of need for the 2009 class
Reier:
Goodbread: Offensive tackle. While left tackle Andre Smith has played very well, Crimson Tide fans are hard-pressed to recall the last time UA had a pair of bookend dominators at tackle on both the left and right sides (now there's a good Round Table thread idea). Even if hopes that Tyler Love will effectively succeed Smith on the left side, the long-term picture on the right side remains a blur.
Scalici:

Don't be surprised if ...
Reier:
Goodbread: Alonzo Lawrence earns early playing time. While freshman Kareem Jackson nailed down one cornerback spot in 2007, the other corner spot was an unsettled carousel that never really landed on the right answer. Lawrence is a uniquely gifted pure corner, and Jackson proved Nick Saban is unafraid to go with a freshman at the position.
Scalici:

Least likely to redshirt
Reier:
Goodbread: Julio Jones. It's the easiest answer, but also the one that makes the most sense. The most heralded recruit in the nation's No.1 class enters a wide-open competition at his position. Expectations that Jones will be the No.1 receiver from day one are overblown, but it's hard to imagine Jones not at least finding himself a place in the rotation.
Scalici:

Exclamation points
Reier:
Goodbread: Three off-season watches: The Destin Hood baseball watch, the Terrence Cody weight-watch, and the Kerry Murphy grades watch. ... Hood's place in the MLB Draft will be a fun diversion for Tide fans this June, and where he gets picked will go a long way to determine his future. There are observers in Mobile who feel Hood is as gifted an athlete as any of his Port City signing mates. ... If Cody arrives at fall camp too far north of 350 pounds, the JuCo noseguard will learn to regret those extra biscuits for breakfast. ... Meanwhile, Murphy works to make sure his detour from Hoover to Hargrave lands him not back home, but rather an hour west of home.
Scalici:



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