October 26, 2006

Five questions with BOL's Travis Reier

The Crimson Tide lost another close game last Saturday at the hands of Tennessee, and many questions are arising about the direction of the Alabama program. BamaOnLine.com fielded some questions from our loyal subscribers and turned to senior writer and expert Travis Reier for some answers.

Here is what Travis had to say...

Question from Jox690am: This has been a rather crazy week with all the complaining, criticism, coaching rumors etc...What is the mood around the athletic department and amongst the players? Do you still see the fire in the players eyes? Do you see the "heat" getting to the coaches? Do you see a concerted effort to "rally the troops" so to speak?

TR: Funny thing about the players is that they never get as "down" or "high" as the fans. And after last Saturday, thank goodness for that. They hear and read the criticism, but I don't think it takes anything out of them from a desire standpoint. They put in too much work in the offseason not to be excited about playing on Saturday. I do think the coaching staff is preaching the need to play well for themselves and nobody else this week. Kind of an us-against-the-world mentality. As far as the coaching staff goes, earlier in the week you could hear the frustration in a few of their voices. But I think that's more about losing a close game at Tennessee than any job-related heat they might be feeling.

Question from SLJJ1: What do you think is the biggest problem with the offensive line? Talent, youth, coaching or all of the above. Have you been disappointed with the OL play this year and if so what would you change if you were Bob Connelly

TR: Has Connelly proven to be the Joe Bugel of college offensive line coaches? Not to this point, but I don't think they're poorly coached. Their first five consists of two sophomores, a true freshman left tackle, and a left guard who was a defensive tackle this time a year ago. As good as Andre Smith has been for a true freshman (and I had a UA assistant recently tell me that Smith was the first highly-rated freshmen he'd been around who actually lived up to the hype), he's still nowhere near the player he's going to be in a year's time. At right guard, B.J. Stabler continues to play on one good knee and I think they're just about to the point where Marlon Davis will have to give them more at that spot. Chris Capps catches a lot of flak, but he's the only lineman to grade out higher than Antoine Caldwell in a game this season. He's not a future NFL Hall of Famer, but trust me when I tell you that he's the very best they've got at right tackle. I think pass protection has improved a great deal this season. While I thought this would be a better run-blocking group, I don't think all of the ground game struggles point back to the offensive line. Certainly they should get some of the blame, but for whatever reason, it seems as if the backs are making good decisions on every other carry. As for what Connelly needs to do, I think he needs to be as visible as NCAA rules permit during the offseason program and try to create as much competition as he can at the two guard spots and right tackle. With the freshmen they have redshirting this season, spring ball should be much more competitive than its been at any point in the Mike Shula era.

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