The submarine film Crimson Tide and its gridiron namesake may
have some similarities, but lest anyone confuse Bear Bryant with
the Jack Russell terrier that bears his name in the movie,
here's a list of discrepancies between the USS Alabama and the
football team Alabama:
--First-strike capability: The film's true star, a Trident
nuclear submarine, had it. The football team, on the other hand,
had to come from behind in eight of its 12 victories in 1994.
"That'll change this year," promises senior quarterback Brian
Burgdorf, who is charged with replacing the dependable Jay
Barker. "We're going to be more wide open. Four-receiver sets,
shotgun formation. Stuff I like."
Though the Tide has lost Barker and All-SEC tailback Sherman
Williams to graduation, both positions are brimming with talent.
Of more immediate concern is the offensive line, where the
center may be a 305-pound walk-on named Michael (Bubba) Ray.
("If you live here and you weigh three bills, your name is
Bubba," says defensive tackle Shannon Brown.)
August 4, 1995
"I don't want to fuss," says Burgdorf, "but you see our
defensive line, and you think, I want some of those guys on my
side of the ball." Which brings us to ...
--The Gene factor: Gene Hackman's sub commander character in the
movie liked to win battles with offense.
And coach Gene Stallings? Before he chose Ray as the center to
replace John Causey (torn knee ligaments) in spring practice, he
told offensive-line coach Jim Fuller to pick anyone he wanted
from the defensive line--excluding only the top 10 defensive
Lest you think Stallings plucked that figure from a patch of
kudzu, listen to the words of West Virginia head coach Don
Nehlen. After observing a few of the Tide's spring practice
sessions in April, Nehlen said that the Tide had "10 defensive
linemen and six linebackers who could start anywhere."
"We're deep," defensive coordinator "Brother" Bill Oliver
concurs. "So there's no excuse for anyone not to go hard on
every play. This ought to be a great group of guys."
Unlike the top-ranked defense of 1992, seven of whom are now in
the NFL, this defense boasts no stars--yet. But along Interstate
65 you hear whispers that this unit is the best Oliver has
produced since then. If so, the 6'5", 266-pound Brown and
linebackers Ralph Staten and John Walters have the best chance
of becoming the Tide's--not just the defense's--marquee names.
"That's just the Alabama way of winning," says offensive
coordinator Homer Smith of Stallings's defensive emphasis. "We
want a physical approach to the game, and our defense takes care
--The rankings: Whereas the film found itself No. 1 at the box
office after its opening weekend in May, the football team was
unable to climb above the No. 3 spot in the polls last season
despite winning its first 11 games.
"Alabama always has a tough time getting recognition," says
Brown, whose senior class, should it repeat last year's 12-1
mark, will exit as the Tide's winningest ever. "Not that it
doesn't make us mad."
"Rankings?" says Burgdorf. "We can't worry about where we're
ranked. All we can do is go out and win."
THE DATA BOX
Head coach: Gene Stallings
Career college record: 79-55-2
Sixth year at Alabama (52-10-1)
1994 RECORD: 12-1
SEC record: 8-0 (first in Western Division)
W Tennessee-Chattanooga 42-13
W Vanderbilt 17-7
W at Arkansas 13-6
W Tulane 20-10
W Georgia 29-28
W Southern Mississippi 14-6
W at Tennessee 17-13
W Mississippi 21-10
W at LSU 35-17
W at Mississippi State 29-25
W Auburn 21-14
L Florida 24-23 (SEC Championship)
W Ohio State 24-17 (Citrus Bowl)
Final '94 Ranking: 5 AP, 4 CNN/USA Today
Lettermen lost: 26
Lettermen returning: 55
Returning starters, offense: 6
Returning starters, defense: 5
Sept. 30 at Georgia
Oct. 14 Tennessee
Nov. 18 at Auburn