I called it back in 2008. Our aubie friends were all ga-ga over their latest can’t-miss quarterback from Arkansas, Kodi Burns (remember him?). They were also giddy about their fad-offense-of-the-month, the Tony Franklin spread.
I couldn’t have been more right about either. Tony didn’t even make it to abarn’s championship game that season (the Iron Bowl) and Burns now plays receiver.
I said abarn would miss having a real offense, and even more, they would miss the quarterback so many of them loved to hate, Brandon Cox. You can read it here.
And on a side note, I’ll reserve space for a future article like this one on my prediction about their current dispy-doo, trickeroo offense and their impotent head coach, Frank Chiznik (thank you forever for that name, Larry Langford).
This time, I’ll turn the microscope on Alabama. While the wound won’t be as gaping as the Cox departure, the biggest difference on the 2010 Alabama team will be the absence of…
Rolondo McClain? While by far the best linebacker we’ve put in the NFL since Derrick Thomas or Cornelius Bennett, Dont’a Hightower is cut from the same cloth, physically and mentally. And Nico Johnson isn’t far behind.
Terrence Cody? A space eater, Cody’s absence will be felt, but Josh Chapman, the strongest man on the team, will stand in the gap and do more than just hold his own.
Where the biggest void will be felt this season is the void left by the departure of Javier Arenas.
Arenas was a freak. Fast as lightning, if he came off the corner on a blitz your quarterback was sacked. Period. Watch a highlight film of 2008 or 2009 and count how many times Javy was in the backfield.
Short in stature, he became a pretty decent cover corner as well. Dre Kirkpatrick possesses the physique that God drew up for cornerbacks. Javy didn’t have Dre’s long arms and broad gate when he ran. Still, he was so pesky, teams eventually gave up and had to go away from him.
But the biggest difference we’ll see this season was in Javy’s ability to flip the field on kick-off and punt returns. He had, hands down, the best field vision I have ever seen in a college returner. Able to wait on blocks that were happening, or see the ones that were about to happen. David Palmer is often thought of as the greatest returner at Alabama, with his slippery moves and stop-on-a-dime ability. But Javy’s stats were better, and with the ball in his hands, if you hated Crimson, he scared you to death until he was on the ground.
Not to mention his sure-handedness. He had a couple of flubs in 2008, but by 2009, literally if his life was on the line, he wasn’t going to fumble a punt return. Early indication is that Julio will return punts this season, which tells you that certainty of protecting the football is most key in the coaching staff’s minds. Julio doesn’t have the elusiveness of Arenas. But package sure-handedness with explosive yardage gobbling ability, and you have Javy Arenas.
In 2007 when Arenas went down with an ankle injury against La.Monroe, I knew any chance we had against abarn the following week was gone. He was our sole playmaker at that point in the season. Now understand me…losing him (to graduation) for 2010 will not be as detrimental. We have playmakers on this team galore, and I love what I’m hearing about our core of new defensive backs. And if what I am hearing about Blake Sims turns out to be true, who I think will eventually find himself returning punts, we may forget Javy and Palmer.
But still, the one player I’ll miss the most this upcoming season will be little #28. He is definitely in my top ten favorite Bama players of all time, and until other players we have in progress develop, we’ll be securing punt returns rather than taking them to the house.