There are still six weeks to go before the highly anticipated Penn State-Alabama rematch, but news out recently has Penn State fans paying close attention to the Crimson Tide. Injuries, potential illegal benefits, and other compliance issues have all been reported in recent days, none of which bode well for Alabama.
Some of these issues, most notably starting running back Trent Richardson's alleged involvement in receiving impermissible extra benefits, may end up being nothing. With the majority of Nittany Lion fans hundreds or thousands of miles away from the epicenter, we asked Friend of the Shoe kleph from Roll Bama Roll to stop by and answer some pressing questions. We even managed to sneak in an additional question about the Alabama quarterback situation.
Black Shoe Diaries: News came out yesterday that backup running back Eddie Lacy tore his pectoral muscle and may miss some of the 2011 season. Since Alabama plays Penn State in Week Two, what are the chances that Lacy misses the game? And if he does, who is left in the Alabama backfield other than Trent Richardson?
kleph: First off, we don't know if Lacy will be out for the game or not. There are a lot of rumors going around about his injury but the reliable sources indicate it's not a major injury - i.e. requiring surgery. That still gives us no idea of the timetable for return. If he's limited or out that means the depth in the position is down to the wire. Earlier this summer, very hyped freshman Dee Hart was lost to a knee injury. So basically all that's left is Jalston Fowler, who is a bit of a bruiser but not known for a ton of speed.
BSD: Roll Bama Roll reported yesterday that starting wide receiver Darius Hanks will miss the first two games of 2011. How will that affect the Alabama pass game, and who will replace the team's third-leading receiver from 2010?
kleph: In terms of the Penn State game, the loss of Lacy and Hanks is relatively minor. In both cases the primary player expected to take the bulk of reps in the posision is fine and should be on the field in Beaver Stadium come Sept. 10. But that isn't to say the losses are inconsequential.
As for Hanks, he was behind Marquis Maze in the depth chart. Maze got lost in the glare of the spotlight on Julio Jones but he's always been a reliable deep threat and is acknowledged as the fastest guy on the squad every year. Hanks was a known quantity and recognized for his reliability. That said, Roll Bama Roll's outsidethesidelines thinks DeAndrew White or Kenny Bell will fit into the second receiver position without much trouble.
BSD: Speaking of the pass game, who will be under center in September? Will we see A.J. McCarron, or is Phillip Sims the QB of the future?
kleph: While having two pretty equally-matched signal callers going into camp might be cause for drama elsewhere, the Alabama faithful are pretty sanguine about it. RBR did a poll on it earlier this summer and it was pretty much split right down the middle on which one fans wanted to see under center come the season opener.
The reason we're pretty nonplussed is everyone is counting on the defense to carry the load while the offense gets up to speed. It's going to take a few games for the new unit to gel and we know that, but as long as the defense can keep folks out of the end zone, they should have that chance.
That said, the player to probably keep an eye on with the offense is tight end Brad Smelley. While Julio Jones and Mark Ingram got all the ink, folks in the know recognized the player that made the offense go was actually the tight end. Preston Dial and Colin Peek went largely unrecognized for their efforts in 2009 and 2010 but they were a big part of the reason Greg McElroy became the most efficent quarterback in Alabama history. If Smelley can assume a similar role, the growing pains at the other skill positions will be far less difficult.
Thanks to kleph for stopping by and weighing in on the Alabama goings-on. We look forward to September 10th, and we hope to extend the same courtesy that was extended to us last year (both on and off the field).
Finally, I mentioned to kleph that we will likely be having some sort of competition in the Snacks on Snacks series leading up to this game. Not one to back down, kleph told me that "I feel confident about my team but I know I can kick some ass in a kitchen." With that, Penn State fans now have six weeks to start coming up with some killer recipes to show those 'Bama fans how we do in the North.