College football countdown: No. 3 Alabama

Friday, August 4th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Tide goes from ebb to flow in no time

Hard to believe Alabama coach Mike DuBose was one misstep away from being out of a job last September.

His Crimson Tide had just lost to Louisiana Tech for the second straight time, his contract was shortened and his athletic director fired. Fears of the looming SEC obstacle course had Alabama fans in an uproar.

Consecutive victories over Arkansas, Florida and Mississippi quelled the talk, as success finally began to materialize from DuBose's three years in charge of the Tide.

What ended in a 35-34 overtime loss to Michigan in the Orange Bowl, though, marked only the beginning of the latest incarnation of championship-caliber football at Alabama.

DuBose looks to the heavens and credits divine intervention for his situation today. It's a point hard to argue.

"I'm glad that God's plans are better than man's plan, because man's plans were not for me to be here this year," DuBose said straightforwardly. "And maybe I'm not supposed to say this ... but I like our football team an awful lot."

Go ahead, Mike, enjoy your team and enjoy the moment. Maybe that's not poor-mouthing Bear Bryant style, but Bryant's style is long gone.

DuBose has two gifted and proven quarterbacks – sophomore Tyler Watts and junior Andrew Zow – and a versatile receiver/return man in Freddie Milons.

Milons (5-11, 183 pounds), a junior, averaged 10.8 yards per reception and 11.9 yards per rush in his all-around-the-offense role last year. DuBose said an important part of the Alabama coaching staff's job is "how creative we can be to make sure we find ways to get the football to him."

Another issue is selecting a starter from Zow and Watts. Zow won the job as a redshirt freshman in 1998 but lost it when Watts, supposedly the better passer of the two, led a comeback against Auburn last year and finished with more rushing yards (116 to 94) than Zow.

"I hate to use the term 'backup,' " said DuBose, who nevertheless is pressing forward with plans for a one-quarterback system. "We're very fortunate to have both of them, but I just don't feel we can get enough reps in practice for both."

One thing that would make the Bear smile is the 'Bama defense. Ends Kenny King and Kindal Moorehead are the best bookends in college football.

The biggest replacement is at running back, where 1,544-yard gainer Shaun Alexander is gone to Seattle of the NFL. His replacement will be redshirt freshman Brandon Miree, a scout team star last year who has good size (6-2, 228) and the advocacy of Alexander, who calls Miree "a bigger, stronger, faster version of me."

That's enough to make a coach optimistic. Which, this season, DuBose clearly is.

Alabama Schedule- Sept 2 at UCLA; Sept 9 Vadnerbilt; Sept 16 Southern Miss; Sept 23 at Arkansas; Sept 30 South Carolina; Oct 14 Mississippi; Oct 21 at Tennessee; Oct 28 Central Florida; Nov 4 at LSU; Nov 11 at Mississippi State; Nov 18 Auburn

Alabama Crimson Tide Capsule

COACH: Mike DuBose (21-15 in three years at Alabama).

LAST YEAR: 10-3 (lost to Michigan in the Orange Bowl).

OUT: Louisiana Tech and Florida, which have handed losses to the Crimson Tide alternately in the past four years, are not on the 2000 schedule.

IN: Junior college transfer Shawn Oglesby (6-7, 250) is in to add strength and depth to an already powerful defensive line.

BIG PLUS: Florida is gone and South Carolina in – the SEC schedule rotation works in the Crimson Tide's favor this year.

BIG MINUS: Season-opening trip to UCLA. Alabama traditionally likes to begin play with SEC driftwood Vanderbilt, or a nonconference opponent at home – note BYU, Houston and Bowling Green over past four years.

NATIONAL TITLE IF: SEC teams can't solve the Alabama defense, and Freddie Milons makes a few big plays in close games to get the Tide to 11-0 before SEC title game.

BOTTOM LINE: This appears to be a year the Crimson Tide can step up and be ready to claim the crown if other powers falter. Very similar to '92 team.

25. Clemson
24. Mississippi
23. So. Miss.
22. Utah
21. Texas A&M
20. Penn State
19. Tennessee
18. Colorado
17. Oklahoma
16. Purdue
15. Illinois
14. Kansas State
13. Florida
12. Ohio State
11. TCU
10. USC
9. Wisconsin
8. Michigan
7. Georgia
6. Texas
5. Florida State
4. Miami
3. Alabama