Tide ready to roll
Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 5, 1999
The deafening silence that has been coming from Tuscaloosa the past few years is a result of two subpar campaigns by the Crimson Tide. Fans known for smearing lopsided wins in the faces of their opponents had to eat more than their share of Alabama crow since losing a number of scholarships due to a NCAA probation.Third-year coach Mike Dubose and the Crimson Tide could be in for a change of fortune. Alabama looks to field a strong team that could contend for the SEC West crown and a return to dominance in the conference.The Alabama offense is the cause for the optimism. The Crimson Tide is usually known for fielding strong defensive teams that suffocate opposing team until their offense can score just enough points to win. Lack of offense should not be a concern at Alabama.Shawn Alexander returns for his senior season as tailback of the Tide. Alexander was the SEC’s leading rusher and has a shot at the school career rushing record. Alexander rushed for 1,178 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior. Alexander has size and breakaway speed, which will make him a definite choice for the NFL after this season. Alexander blockers are intact as five starters return on the offensive line. Alexander also led the Tide in receiving with 26 catches for 385 yards. Be prepared to see a heavy dose of Alexander in ’99.The chore of getting the ball to Alexander will fall to quarterbacks sophomore Andrew Zow and redshirt freshman Tyler Watts. It would seem the job would be Zow’s after an impressive freshman season. Zow took over the field general duties in the fifth game of the season. He established a freshman school record for passing yardage at 1,969. Zow is a big quarterback who can scramble out of trouble.Zow starts the season as a shaky number one quarterback. The reason being highly regarded freshman Tyler Watts. He has a stronger arm than Zow and edged closer to Zow during spring practice. Dubose will use a two-quarterback system at the start of the season. Zow should get the majority of the snaps but Dubose will slowly work in Watts.The receiving corps is young but talented. Sophomores Freddie Milons and Eric Locke are speed merchants who impressed as freshmen. Both will see considerable time as flankers. Senior Shamari Buchman is set as split end. Track star Jason McAddley was a star of the spring game.The defense will rely on a strong defensive line to protect the Tide’s weakness at the linebacker position. All four linemen from last season return. Seniors Cornelius Griffin and Jamie Carter will clog the middle while Kindal Moorehead and Kenny Smith pressure for the ends.Only junior middle linebacker Travis Carroll returns for the linebacking corps. The backer position is considered weak due to a lack of experience. The talent is there and should improve as the season progresses.The defensive backfield should be strong. Pascagoula native, Reggie Myles, returns at cornerback after completing a SEC All-freshman season.The schedule is tailor made for a Tide team needing to develop confidence early in the season. Their only true test in September will be a home game against Arkansas. October will be the month that defines the Tide season. They will play at Florida and Ole Miss and two home games against defending national champions Tennessee and Southern Mississippi of Conference USA. November offers home games with LSU and Mississippi State before ending the season with in state rival Auburn.With a little luck, the Tide could finish the season 8-3 although the Tide could easily be 4-4 when they entertain a strong Southern Mississippi team. The Southern Miss game could be the make or break game of the season.Since Tide fans believe one loss ruins the season, they will have to wait a couple more years for the true post game gloating to return. Look for a 7-4 season and a gradual climb to respectability.