Bama could roll with the run in Shreveport
By Josh Cooper
TUSCALOOSA — Earlier this season, Alabama offensive coordinator Dave Rader referred to then-head coach Mike Shula’s play calling ability as “visionary.”
While Rader helped out with the offense and the development of sophomore quarterback John Parker Wilson, Shula called the plays.
Now it’s Rader’s turn to show if he can match the praise that he gave Shula.
With Shula gone, Rader will handle the offensive game plan and the play-calling when Alabama (6-6) faces Oklahoma State (6-6) in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., on Dec. 28.
“Mike Shula, in my most humble and professional opinion, is an excellent play-caller,” Rader said. “Now, all the plays are going to come across my sheet of paper. I want to be an excellent play-caller for this team.”
Even though Shula handled the bulk of the play-calling, Rader possesses experience in designing an offense.
A former offensive coordinator with Mississippi State in 1987 and the head coach at Tulsa during 1988-99, Rader has coached offenses that featured both the run and the pass.
During Rader’s tenure with the Golden Hurricanes, Tulsa saw quarterbacks throw for over 2,000 yards just five times, while Alabama had only two in that time frame.
So what will Rader call against Oklahoma State?
Running back Kenneth Darby offered an opinion.
“I think we are going to run the ball a lot more than we’ve been doing this season,” Darby said. “He hasn’t told me anything, but as far as I can see we have been running the ball a lot more.”
If Darby is correct and the Tide uses its ground game more, it will mark a departure from Shula’s philosophy of a balanced offense.
Shula opened up the passing attack, and that resulted in Brodie Croyle throwing for a school-record 2,499 yards last year, followed by John Parker Wilson breaking that mark with 2,539 yards this year.
And maybe a run-based attack wouldn’t treat the Tide so badly.
It has all the pieces in place with tailbacks Darby and Jimmy Johns and senior fullbacks Le’Ron McClain and Tim Castille.
It helps that Oklahoma State’s defense ranks as one of the worst in the country.
The Cowboys are 83rd out of 119 NCAA Division I-A teams in run defense, giving up 145 yards a game. They also stand 99th in pass efficiency defense.
“We go by our evaluation — we call it research, some people call it plagiarizing,” Rader said. “Things that work well against them that other people did, things we did that we can execute.”
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