the game will be on CBS at 2:30 central time,
NFL talent will flood Alabama-LSU game
By Jon Solomon -- The Birmingham News
November 04, 2009, 6:00AM
Gil Brandt of NFL.com projects Terrence Cody as a first-round NFL draft pick. (The Associated Press)This story appeared in Wednesday's edition of The Birmingham News.
Alabama-LSU could feature more future NFL players on one field than in any regular-season college football game this season.
So says NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt, the former director of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys. Brandt estimates Saturday's game in Tuscaloosa will feature 25 seniors who will be in an NFL camp next season, 11 for Alabama and 14 for LSU.
And that's not counting underclassmen, such as Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain.
"Twenty-five is a very high number," said Brandt, who believes Alabama nose guard Terrence Cody will be a first-round pick and LSU running back Charles Scott and LSU wide receiver Brandon LaFell could be, too.
"Texas-Oklahoma was close. Florida-LSU had about 24," Brandt added.
Alabama will face an LSU team with defensive talent on par or a little better than Tennessee's and a better offense, said CBS analyst Gary Danielson, who will call Saturday's game and has seen Alabama and LSU twice each.
"I think LSU may have the best group of wide receivers in the country as a foursome," Danielson said. "They might not have the star power of a Julio Jones or A.J. Green, but as a group, they're tremendous. They're getting way better at quarterback. And they've got an emerging star in Russell Shepard."
ESPN analyst Tom Luginbill said LSU's key will be getting Scott, who averages 13 carries per game, at least 20 touches.
"LSU has the best outside skill guys Alabama will play all year, so I think Alabama will be in position to rush the passer well and force (quarterback) Jordan Jefferson into some poor decisions," Luginbill said. "That means LSU has to run the ball better on the road."
Luginbill believes the Crimson Tide must stay out of the Wildcat formation inside the red zone and return to the I-formation, where Alabama can run or create one-on-one matchups outside for Jones.
"Alabama's tendency to go away from their bread and butter seems to be because their thought is, 'That's what the defense thinks we're going to do,'" Luginbill said. "Sometimes you give the other team a little too much credit and you just need to make the opponent prove they can stop you."
Danielson said Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy has given up on downfield passes too quickly, partly because he is still just a first-year starter.
"He's a very bright person who probably anticipates a little bit too quickly and runs through his progressions a little too fast," Danielson said. "One of the Alabama offensive linemen told me that the defenses they played recently -- Ole Miss, Tennessee and South Carolina -- have three or four future NFL players on each one, and it's a little quicker pace than Greg was used to in games 2, 3, 4 and 5 when he was kind of playing against inferior talent."
Even when McElroy finds some rhythm lately, he then understandably throws off his back foot a couple of times due to the pass rush, Danielson said.
Luginbill said Alabama's philosophy with McElroy is to not make mistakes or have negative plays. "So the clock in his head is probably saying, 'Even if I want to wait another second to give the receiver another step, I'm better off checking down and not taking a sack,'" Luginbill said.
Danielson believes Alabama's offensive line is not as powerful at the point of attack as last season, but possesses more athleticism and remains about the same in pass blocking.
"When they get in a position where they have to protect the passer, they have holes in it," Danielson said. "That's not unlike a lot of teams. Florida is that way. When you're playing against these defenses in the SEC, if you have holes on third down, they'll expose it."
Meanwhile, Danielson said LSU's offensive line clearly hasn't lived up to coach Les Miles' preseason declaration that this would be his most physical line in his five years.
"The offensive line has been the biggest disappointment for LSU," Danielson said. "I think their backs are physical but not real elusive. I don't think they get the 30- or 40-yard gains like (Trent) Richardson and (Mark) Ingram, and that might be the difference in the game."
Alabama's week off to get healthy could either be a curse or a blessing, Luginbill said.
"I like a Nick Saban team with an extra week to prepare," he said. "But sometimes you have that bye coming up before a big game and it's difficult to gauge how your team is going to play. I think that is going to be an interesting dynamic to watch early in the game."