Questions loom for ‘Air Bama’



    The questions started almost directly after Alabama’s first loss of last season by one point to Arkansas.

    Fans began to ask if first year Alabama head coach Mike DuBose was ready for the responsibility of running a major Division I program? Was he ready for his dream of someday turning the Tide into a Saturday after Saturday nightmare, which ended the season at 4-7? Could DuBose handle being the coach that couldn’t win a game at Bryant-Denny Stadium and have the worst record in almost 50 years?

    Apparently, DuBose pulled through the season fine. He’s back with a new system and a new group of handed-picked assistant coaches. According to DuBose, last season he assumed his assistants were better experienced to coach their positions then he was. This year, though, the coach says they’ll have to prove that to him.

    After Bama’s inconsistent quarterbacking last season, DuBose hired Charlie Stubbs away from UNLV to help starting quarterback John David Phillips learn the new “Air Bama” offense. While DuBose said that Phillips has adjusted well to the starting position in front of red-shirt freshman Andrew Zow and true freshman sensation Tyler Watts, the bigger problem for the Tide was who to throw to this season. A team that has won championship after championship with tough defense and a smash-mouth running game suddenly found it needed a better and much deeper receiver corps than it had.

    The team will be counting on wide receiver Michael Vaughn, who missed last season with a back injury, to be the team’s superman, but after him the depth at the position gets shallow. Junior Shamari Buchanan will miss the first six weeks of the season with an injury and cornerback-turned-receiver Fernando Bryant was injured during a kick-off return drill and may miss the BYU game.

    Others such as Quincy Jackson and true freshman Terry Jones, Jr. will be fighting for passes while offensive coordinator Neil Calloway is still trying to find a way to keep his offense fresh while at some points running five receiver sets.

    The real offensive show this season may come from junior running back Shaun Alexander. After sharing duties last season with Dennis Riddle and Curtis Alexander, this season Shaun is the only experienced running back on the team and has said he welcomes the burden. DuBose plans to heap that burden on, too. The coach has said since Alexander will be the play maker on the team, Phillips will have to get him the ball 25 to 30 times a game. Whether that be by pass or run, DuBose says that Alexander will be a key part of the new offense.

    The questions regarding DuBose as a head coach started after the first loss of last season and grew louder and louder as the season spiraled into desperate grasps for wins. The questions will not stop as a new season begins, but they can begin to be silenced if DuBose is able to fend off one of the greatest football traditions in college history this Saturday.

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