| FTBL '07 OFFENSIVE CLASS: A Review and Preview for '08


A few weeks ago we took an in-depth look at how the signing class of 2007 progressed through the 2008 football season with a Defensive Review and Preview looking at ‘09. Now, it is time to move to the other side of the ball and take a look at which players saw action, which players red-shirted, and how they may fit into the offensive schemes at Alabama for the ‘08-’09 football season.

Going along the same lines as we did in the first preview, this will not take into account those players who have issued their verbal commitment to play with the current Tide players or how they may have an effect on the starting line-up’s and two deep rotation for the upcoming season.

Patrick Crump-OL was one of the most interesting stories in last years class. Offered by the former staff, Crump was looking to gray shirt his freshman year until a late surge from Auburn made Patrick look South East for earlier playing time. By the time the Saban staff arrived and evaluated our players the gray shirt offer was no longer an issue and he was given a full ride for the ‘07 season.

Crump spent the majority of this past fall working with the 2nd and 3rd team offensive line but when the suspensions hit he was afforded a lot more practice reps. Coach Saban has remarked that he was one of the players that benefited most from the opportunity. Patrick red-shirted in the ‘07 season and has the ability to play either the guard or tackle position which fits perfectly with Coach Joe Pendry’s insistence that our OL be able to play a multitude of positions. In high school at Hoover he spent most of his time at the Guard position. If that ends up the position he is competing for in the fall he’ll be fighting returning starters Marlon Davis and Antoine Caldwell for the starting position and has an excellent opportunity to see playing time with the second string opposite B.J. Stabler.

Nick Fanuzzi-QB is a name seemingly lost in all the attention that has been focused on Star Jackson. Much like Greg McElroy, Fanuzzi is a back-up that will need to see action in ‘08 simply to get some experience under his belt. Nick saw a little playing time in the first game this year versus Western Carolina but didn’t see the playing field again. When asked about Fanuzzi, Saban commented he was one of the players that fought injury in practices that directly resulted in him not seeing the field again. Along with a few of our other freshman the staff has applied for a medical/hardship waiver so he’ll be able to regain what could be a lost year of eligibility.

It’s a long shot that Fanuzzi will compete for the starting role next season but it isn’t a stretch to think he has the ability to challenge McElroy for the back-up role at QB. Fanuzzi has impressive arm-strength and is a very athletic QB. Perhaps his best feature is his quickness with his feet giving him the ability to drop back a lot faster in passing formations giving him more time to see the field and what the defense is allowing.

Brandon Gibson-WR will find himself in a position that is wide-open for the ‘08 season. When he arrived on campus he found himself looking at a depth chart that had 10+ players at the position. Now, with the only returning starter being Mike McCoy, he has opportunity to display the skills that made him one of the top five recruits from the state of Alabama his senior year. He joins Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks who’ll be in competition with McCoy, Alexander, Oakley and Stover for playing time in ‘08.

Brandon is a track star which speaks well for his ability to “get down the field.” He’s also known for having very soft hands and good size for the WR position. He’ll have 4 years of eligibility left when the fall of ‘08 rolls around since he was given a red-shirt for the ‘07 season. Depending on how things work themselves out we may see Brandon returning kicks next season as well. In his high school playing days he averaged over 25 yards per attempt returning kick-offs and over 16 yards on punt returns.

Demetrius Goode-RB, a signee from Hargrave, torn his knee ligament the first day of fall camp in one of the teams non-contact drills. At the time, it didn’t look like that would have a great amount of difference in our rotation until the injuries and suspensions began to take their toll on the starting lineup. During his red shirt year he’s been in rehab on a daily basis. At the end of this season he’s been able to get up and do some light running and cutting drills but it is still unknown how much he’ll be able to participate in spring camp. The prognosis, however, does look good.

As the only remaining RB for the ‘07 class Goode joins a group that has seen their share of playing time. While Saban has employed a 3-man rotation in all of his stops in college football close attention is going to be paid to Goode if he is able to “go” this spring. With Coffee, Upchurch and Grant returning, adding Goode to the mix gives the offense yet another versatile player in their arsenal.

Jeramie Griffin's-FB addition to the offense lends another interesting story line for ‘08. With so much talent at the WR position in ‘07 the Tide didn’t employ FB sets that often. Now, with the graduation of several players we very well may see more traditional I-formations in ‘08. Joining Griffin in the FB position is returning player Jonathan Lowe although it won’t come as a bit of a surprise if Lowe is seen in the WR formations in ‘08.

It’s difficult to assume what we’ll see out of Griffin in the ‘08 season. He’s a physical, athletic player who can do a lot more than simply block. But, if ‘07 is any indication the FB position won’t fall into the “glamour category.”

Darius Hanks-WR is one player that we should expect great things from in the future. He’s been pointed to a great deal as a playmaker by different players on the defensive side of the ball this past season even though the only work Darius has been involved in is with the practice/scout team.

Darius, like Fanizzi, is one of the freshman that the staff will seek to have granted a hardship year. While he isn’t as physical as his fellow classmate, Brandon Gibson, there is no doubt his quickness and skills will put him in the competition for the ’08 rotation.

Marquis Maze- ATH brings a variety of possibilities to the table in ‘08. He’s one of the few players Alabama has on its roster that can be termed a “space player.” In other words, get him out in space and let him do this thing. While he’s listed in the WR position, he may have the best opportunity to see early playing time in ‘08 returning kicks with Javier Arenas even though that would be replacing Lowe which won’t be an easy task.

Red-shirted in the ‘07 season makes Maze one player we know very little about, but his past track record makes it very easy to draw the conclusion he is the type of player we’ll need to get the ball, and he’ll be the type of player that “big plays” are always a possibility.

Chris Underwood- TE red-shirted in the ‘07 season and is clearly the smallest in our TE corps. While the strength and conditioning program will do wonders, the one talent that Chris has that makes him stand out is his ability receiving the ball.

It’s doubtful we’ll see Underwood on the field much in ‘08 due to the three seniors the team will have next season: Hoke, McCall and Walker. However, with this staff liking a double-tight end set we’ll see a lot of Underwood starting in the ‘09 season where he’ll join Preston Dial and recent transfer Colin Peek in our lineup.

William Vlachos-OL joins an impressive group of offensive lineman already on campus at UA. Much like the situation with Crump, Vlachos was unsure of where he stood with the staff change until he received a phone call from the staff telling him the gray-shirt was no longer on the table and he would be able to come in with the fall class. Much like a few other players already mentioned here, he saw a limited amount of action in the Western Carolina opener but found himself limited in practice as he dealt with nagging injuries throughout the fall as well. The staff has also sent in application for a hardship year for Vlachos.

By no means is Vlachos one of the taller members of the Offensive line, but he can be compared to Justin Britt when it comes to his abilities. He’s quick, aggressive, and has a lot of strength for a player his age and his size. He’ll join about 15 other offensive lineman in the fall all competing for playing time but in all likelihood he’ll be in back-up roles primarily.

In closing, if there is one thing that we can sit back and relax knowing is that in every position on our team we have the numbers. What we lack, as evidenced by both of these reviews, is experience in some of our key areas.

Up next:

After signing day we’ll take the information we’ve compiled here and mix in the new arriving players. It will not be an in depth look at what we’ll see in the fall, but a mix of this information along with the contributions some of the back-counters against the ’07 class can make.
Chuck-E-Cheeze said:
Outstanding work Terry, I'm looking forward to the next one already. Do you know what is going on w/ Earl Alexander? I expected him to be a stand-out in year two.

A good portion of Alexander not progressing had to do with the fact he was behind Hall, Brown, Caddell, McCoy and Stover...probably running head to head with Oakley in terms of depth position.

This past season I don't think the staff thought he could contribute "meaningful snaps." One reason I say that is because towards the end of the year when we started facing mobile QB's, EA was seeing snaps along with the scout team simulating playing that type of QB.

Chew on these numbers for a second. While he played in 11 games this past season, we had two TE's with more receptions and 3 RB's with more as well. 4 catches the entire season is ALL Alexander was able to reel in.

He's going to be in a log jam...and that is putting it mildly.

Consider, McCoy, Stover, Oakley, Alexander, Maze, Hanks, Gibson, Jackson and maybe even Lowe...and that is just spring camp!
Hey Terry, amazing job as always. Well-written and very valuable. Then, looking forward for the next one.

I didn't know that injury issues you posted about Fannuzi. I thought he would battle for a starting QB job in the spring practices, because IMO he's the type of player Major Applewhite searches to run his offensive system. Although I guess Star Jackson is definitely that guy. :roll:

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