Alabama optimistic about 2002

By By Mark Etheridge/EMG staff writer
August 2, 2002
Hoover Ala. Alabama may not go to a bowl game this season but optimism abounds after a strong finish and a quality offseason. Head coach Dennis Franchione feels his team is much more comfortable in the second year in his system. He also feels that a strong finish that included a 14-13 Independence Bowl victory over Iowa State could have a big impact going into this season.
That late season surge was tempered as Alabama experienced an offseason rocked with the announcement of NCAA penalties. Some teams might have crumbled under those conditions. Juniors and Seniors also had the opportunity to freely transfer without sitting out a year.
Franchione's star defensive tackle Jarret Johnson talked about the team's offseason.
Franchione stated his offense would have three strengths.
Franchione stated his biggest concern on offense is at wide receiver and tight end but did single out Sam Collins and Antonio Carter as wideouts and Theo Sanders at tight end as players he feels good about heading into Fall practice.
On the defensive side of the ball, Coach Fran stated the defensive line has to be a strength with all conference selections Jarrett Johnson, Kindal Moorehead, and Kenny King.
Alabama will look to the intense Johnson to lead the way on defense. "Jarret is the heart of our defense. He's the chemistry. The last month of the season, I'm not sure there was a defensive lineman playing better than Jarret Johnson. He's such an energetic, catalytic personality to our defensive ball club. Jarret talks the talk but he walks the walk. Players respect him a great deal."
Coach Fran listed depth on the defensive line as a concern. Johnson felt different. "I don't feel we have any concerns. Well, maybe the heat," Johnson quipped.
Franchione is concerned that he has found a kicker yet. Lane Bearden returns as the punter.
Alabama will face a difficult schedule that includes road trips to Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU, and Hawaii along with home games against Georgia, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Auburn.