Preseason All-SEC cornerback Ramzee Robinson joked with teammate Forress Rayford during practice last week.
Tide shows it can take to the air, as well
Hawaii's first foe this season boasts a balanced offense
FIRST IN A SERIES » The absence of star running back Ken Darby and his two top backups probably wasn't the only reason, but Alabama decided to throw the ball around at its scrimmage Saturday.
Attention Jerry Glanville: Their results were pretty darned good.
Darby, a 1,242-yard rusher last season, missed a few practices because of family reasons last week. Backup tailback Glen Coffee hurt his knee in a previous scrimmage and No. 3 Jimmy Johns had a head injury.
So coach Mike Shula had his new quarterback, John Parker Wilson, air it out. The former Parade All-American completed 14 of 21 passes for 173 yards, with one interception and a touchdown. The 6-foot-2, 209-pound sophomore completed six passes in a row at one point.
Most of this was against the Tide's second-team defense, but it still should be cause for concern for Glanville, Hawaii's defensive coordinator. It's clear the Warriors won't be able to just cram eight guys in the box every play aiming to stuff Darby.
Alabama returns eight starters on offense from the team that went 10-2 last year and finished ranked eighth in both polls.
Wide receivers D.J. Hall and Keith Brown are among those returning starters. Brown latched onto five passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns in the Saturday scrimmage.
Another wide receiver, Tyrone Prothro, was Alabama's most exciting player before breaking a leg against Florida last year. He was still limping recently and might not play at all this season.
Center Antoine Caldwell and left tackle Chris Capps anchor a young but experienced offensive line. The line, as well as fullback Le'Ron McClain and Darby, should help Wilson get comfortable. So should the early schedule that starts with three home games.
The defense is led by preseason All-Southeastern Conference cornerback Ramzee Robinson. But Alabama has only three other returning starters on that side of the ball: end Wallace Gilberry, tackle Jeremy Clark and linebacker Juwan Simpson.
Simpson's availability for the Hawaii game was still in Shula's hands as of yesterday. Simpson (who had never been in trouble before) was arrested last spring on gun and drug charges and pleaded guilty last month to carrying a handgun without a license.
Defensive coordinator Joe Kines said recently he's hoping to put lots of pressure on UH's passing game by blitzing Warriors quarterback Colt Brennan.
Kicker Jamie Christensen won games with field goals as time expired and one with 13 seconds left last season. But he's missed practice time due to injury, and Leigh Tiffin has made the most of the opportunity. Tiffin is the son of Van Tiffin, an All-SEC performer for the Tide who was Shula's teammate when Alabama beat USC in the 1985 Aloha Bowl.
Alabama Crimson Tide
10-2 (6-2 SEC)
Mike Shula (20-17 in three seasons at Alabama)
Last meeting with UH:
Hawaii 37, Alabama 29, Nov. 29, 2003, at Aloha Stadium
||at South Carolina
||at Ole Miss
||at Mississippi State
*Cotton Bowl, Dallas