Friday, September 01, 2006

I don't mind you coming here, and wasting all my time...

The season finally started last night, and I remembered why I don't particularly care for the NFL pre-season. After the initial excitement of having football to watch wore off, I was nearly bored to tears by the ineptitude of both South Carolina and Mississippi State, so much so that I went to Wal-Mart to buy soap at the half and took my sweet ass time getting back. Even though the game was boring and I really couldn't come up with a rooting interest (well, State is in the Western Division, but The Girl goes to Ole Miss so I can't really pull for their rival, so I guess I should pull for South Carolina, but pulling for Spurrier isn't really an option cause, duh, and Croom did play for Bama, but then he talked shit about us, but both my teams play State this year and it would be nice if they had a decent record when we beat see my point), it was important because it was finally the proof that college football is actually back, and that tomorrow night the Tide kicks off to open their season and the world starts making sense again. 32 hours, 24 minutes...

I guess you're just what I needed

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I forgot to link to this article from the Birmingham News on the difference in styles of former DC (and big fat fatty) Wayne Bolt and current DC Rick Christophel. It makes Christophel sound kind of touchy feely, but if he's got this defense attacking and running to the ball instead of dropping into coverage and playing prevent every down then I say let him.

Don't think....HIT.

Week 1 Preview: UAB at Oklahoma

Well, there's really not a lot I can say for week one since neither team has played a down yet. Next week when I've actually seen the Blazers and their opponents in action and have some stats and such to back up my assertions there will be some more in depthery thrown your way. But for now, here's what you get.

Why an upset isn't as crazy as it sounds:
As I've noted plenty of times, the Blazer defense has been the talk of the pre-season, with plenty of talent and experience returning and the inept, incredibly fat, prevent defense fetishist Wayne Bolt banished from the Magic City in favor of new (sort of) DC Rick Christophel. The Blazer defensive front is stocked with talent, experience, and depth while the Sooner O-line is a question mark that's only loomed larger with the dismissal of starting QB Rhett Bomar and O-lineman J.D. Quinn, and the return of Paul Thompson under center. Thompson lost his starting job in last season's opener after a dreadful, turnover laden performance, and hasn't taken a snap as QB since. With Oklahoma closing practice it's difficult to guess what sort of offense new OC Kevin Wilson is installing, but some variation of the spread with a healthy dose of running from Adrian Peterson is a good guess since he came from Northwestern. Adrian Peterson will naturally be the focus of the defensive planning and stopping the run, while certainly cliched, is a key to Blazer success. I don't recall where I read it, but someone made the point that defenses will give up eight touchdowns through the air to the Sooners while trying to hold Peterson to less than 100 yards rushing. While that's a fair assessment, it's my belief that the Blazer D-line, if the Sooner O-line is as weak as it's been made out to be, should be enough to stymie Peterson. After all, even the best running backs need blocking at some point. With the D-line containing the run, the linebackers will be free to play both the run and pass, a necessity since the short passing game is expected to be a priority of the OU offense.

On offense depth, talent, and experience are also a key factor if UAB is to walk away victorious. The backfield is stocked with four senior backs who each have a 100 yard game. The two starters, Burks and White, are power runners, while backups Chaney and Elliott are speed backs. The new look Blazers have made the ground game, field position and clock control a priority, and keeping the Sooner offense (read Adrian Peterson) off the field and deep in their own territory won't hurt their chances of coming home with a big win. Losing deep threat Nick Coon in the pre-season is a negative for the Blazers, but this isn't the "hurl the ball 60 yards three times in a row" UAB of Darrell Hackney. Receivers Willie Edwards and Norris Drinkard have stepped up during the pre-season, as have freshmen wideouts Mike Jones and Sylvester Mencer. For each small modicum of success through the air for QBs Williams and Hunt the chances of an upset grow, especially considering the lack of true playmakers in the OU secondary.

Why UAB will probably lose:
Though I believe UAB's defensive front should be enough to give the OU offense fits, I'm positive the Sooner defensive front is more than capable of shutting the Blazer offense completely down. Linebacker Rufus Alexander led the team with 102 tackles (17 for loss) last season and is on the watch list for the Butkus Award. End Calvin Thibodeaux (why isn't he playing for LSU?) led the team with 10 sacks. That's just for starters on a defensive front that returns plenty of veterans and will continue to emphasize speed and aggressiveness. As much as our game plan will/should focus on exploiting the weak O-line of the Sooners, the OU game plan will focus that much more on penetrating the backfield and shutting down the Blazer offense before it can even get going. I have no doubt that Burks and White can run all over C-USA, but this front won't be looking to give up a ton of yardage to the opening cupcake. I expect UAB to keep it tight for three quarters, but at the end of the day we probably won't be able to score enough to pull this one out. If I had to guess a score, I'd say Sooners 28, UAB 13.

Blazer Names to Know: #10 Chris Williams

Last but not least, we have #10 Chris Williams. Williams has waited patiently for his chance to start since he redshirted in 2002, serving as backup to Darrell Hackney and briefly starting during the 2003 season after Hack broke his thumb against TCU. Fortunately one of those starts was against Georgia where the Blazers pushed UGA the entire game and came within three points of pulling the upset. During that season he went 37 of 90 for 607 yards and 3 TDs in seven games (though only 3 starts). He saw no action in 2004 and very little in 2005 (played in three games he only threw three times, hitting all three including an 11 yd TD pass in the win over Rice) as a healthy Hackney again took control of the offense. With Hackney gone Williams gets the nod as starter for the OU opener because of his previous experience and seniority, though Watson has repeatedly confirmed that Sam Hunt will probably be in as early as the second offensive series.

Thats the end of my look at the Blazers squad before kickoff Saturday. Here are a couple of hagiographies of HC Watson Brown and OC Pat Sullivan, though I don't know if Sullivan can really be called the OC since Watson does all the play calling, coaches the QBs, and pretty much tells the former Heisman winner to do whatever he doesn't want to, like say coach the running backs (which really makes a ton of sense since he won the Heisman while QB at Auburn, though maybe going to Auburn actually explains why he doesn't seem to have enough sense to not let a former Vandy QB push him around. Nevermind...).

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Blazer Names to Know: Linebackers Coach Ron McCrone

Behind moving Coach Christophel back into his old slot as DC, the biggest move on the part of the Blazers to rectify the many problems on defense last season was the hiring of Ron McCrone to coach the linebackers. McCrone spent the past two seasons at rival Southern Miss (though are they really a rival if we've never beaten them?) where he coached both the defensive ends and the secondary. Last season the Golden Eagles defense ranked second in the conference in scoring defense and allowed an average of 3.89 ypc rushing while McCrone coached the defensive ends. In 2004, while McCrone coached the secondary, they finished second in conference in scoring defense and allowed 186 completions on 362 attempts for 2,411 yards through the air, giving up 19 TDs but getting 16 INTs. Given his success at Southern Miss and the return of a core group of experienced linebackers this defense should be much improved after it's miserable showing last year. He's also one creepy looking son of a bitch, and will more than likely be caught leering at the cheerleaders and/or Golden Girls throughout the season.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I'm adding Dawg Sports to the links since I've been reading it for awhile now and because his preview of the UGA/Auburn game contains this priceless gem:

A Brief History of Auburn University

A poor illiterate farmer named Clem fell off of a turnip truck near what Auburn fans themselves describe as a "village" in eastern Alabama. Along with his wife and his mule, Clem decided this would be a good place to found a university. Clem and his wife had a son, who later moved to South Carolina, where, he, too, founded a university, which Clem's son named after himself.

Check out his other previews as well, the man can write.
I think everyone is aware of my weird crush on Tara Reid. It's more out of habit now than any actual affection (I prefer to think of her in "Josie and the Pussycats" terms rather than "skank that hangs out with Paris"), but I genuinely felt bad for her after watching this.

Look how happy she was then...

Blazer Names to Know: #3 Sam Hunt

Middle Tennessee State transfer Sam Hunt is the second string QB for the Blazers, though he will see plenty of action throughout the season. Senior Williams has been given the start against opener Oklahoma, but with neither he nor Hunt solidifying the starting job Williams wins by default because of seniority and (limited) game experience. Hunt is considered the bigger running threat of the two and will be the likely candidate on option plays in the new look offense. He sat out last season after transferring, and only saw limited action during the 2004 season for MTSU after redshirting his freshman year. He did run the Blazer scout team during that time, though, and made enough of an impression during spring and fall practice to guarantee playing time this season.

Monday, August 28, 2006

"I don't know if I'll ever get tired of football. One time I thought I might. . . I was out there on the practice field wondering whether football had passed me by. Then I heard the Million Dollar Band playing over on the practice field. When they started playing 'Yea, Alabama,' I got goosebumps all over me." - Bear Bryant

99.5 played a Bama promo this morning with 'Yea, Alabama' in the background (they play all the radio broadcasts of the games) and I got ridiculously excited and it reminded me of that quote. I know I haven't said anything about Bama on here, but with Nico holding it down at RBR and no one showing the hometown Blazers any bloggy love I wanted to focus on them even though my thoughts, as ever, are routinely focused on the Crimson Tide. Starting next week after the first game this will be a two team blog, because I just won't be able to help talking about Alabama. 5 days...

Also, Fight Music has mp3s of college fight songs and cheers to get you in the mood no matter who your team is, and here are their entries for Alabama:

Alabama Fanfare
Bammy Bound Cheer
Rammer Jammer (Hey Vols)
Go, Go, Go Alabama
Roll Tide, Roll
Go Bama, Go
Yea Alabama (long version)
Yea Alabama
Yea Alabama (old version)
Are You From Dixie & Alabama Jubilee
Eat 'Em Up
Go Bama

Blazer Names to Know: DC Rick Christophel

Five days 'til Norman. I've layed off the Blazer coverage the past few weeks after covering the backfield, wideouts, and the defense, so here in the final push I'll run down some of the coaches and the three QBs. During pre-season preperations the Blazer defense outshined the other side of the ball for the first time in years. New (sort of) defensive co-ordinator Rick Christophel likely has something to do with this. Returning to the post after two years as the senior associate athletics director, Christophel looks to take a senior laden defense that ranked 56th in the nation in total defense and 59th in stopping the run last season and turn it into a strength for the Blazers. Christophel presided over a defense that ranked 5th overall and was the top ranked run defense in 2001 before changing hats again (during his nine year tenure with the Blazers he's also coached wide receivers, offensive tackles, tight ends, and running backs). With Christophel back with the defense and the hiring of Ron McCrone as the new linebackers coach, there is hope that our biggest weakness last season will become our biggest strength.