Football notebook

Clarke Bama's best tight end?

Passing along some tidbits from the reporter's notebook. <br><br>Topics include a big lineman's small contribution, a changing of the guard at tight end, and two defensive reserves earning more PT.

Ellington's effort

Despite his vast potential, Ellington must work to regain his promise (and position) on the offensive line.

As Alabama fans well know, since his excellent freshman campaign things have not gone particularly well for Dante Ellington. Freshman All-SEC that season, Ellington started every game as a sophomore and three more at the beginning of the 2001 season before yielding to Evan Mathis.

Plagued by false start penalties and poor conditioning, the athlete once touted as a sure-fire NFL prospect finished his junior year as a backup.

Ellington's 2002 season ended before it began. Academically ineligible, the big tackle has been forced to sit out what would have been his senior season. Coach Franchione announced back in August that Ellington had decided to spend this year on the Tide scout team, getting his academic house in order while also losing weight and improving his overall conditioning. The best-case scenario was for Ellington to return in shape and in good academic standing in 2003, thereby going a long way toward alleviating the loss of two senior starters (Alonzo Ephraim and Marico Portis) from the Tide line.

Hopefully Ellington is making progress on his academic status and conditioning, because a medical problem is preventing him from practicing with the team. A scalp condition won't allow him to wear a football helmet, which of course means he cannot be of any current help to the squad.

Clarke No. 1 at tight end?

Since the Tide coaches list both ‘W' and tight end on their depth charts, Theo Sanders and Donald Clarke are both considered starters. Sanders of course was touted during the off season as the ideal combo athlete, capable of playing strongside tight end, weakside (pass catching) tight end and blocking fullback. Unfortunately, in recent games the senior ‘W' has had problems catching the football.

Theo Sanders has struggled recently in catching the football.

In contrast, during the off season Clarke was valued mainly as a blocker. He actually has good speed, but Clarke had never really been asked to catch the football. And besides, during several spring drills he was frankly inconsistent as a receiver.

But this season Clarke has caught virtually everything thrown to him in games--which of course is when it counts. Catching passes full speed and then turning to rumble through opposing secondaries, the junior has often reminded fans of Terry Jones Jr., now a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

If sophomore David Cavan is able to return from injury, the Tide will have another receiving tight end. And redshirt freshman Clint Johnston shows promise at the ‘W' position.

Expect Sanders to keep his designation as first-string ‘W,' with Clarke remaining No. 1 at strongside tight end. But more and more when the situation calls for a throw to the tight end, Clarke will likely be the one running the pattern.

Gaining ground

Andrews is improving at strong safety.

When asked which if any of his defenders had earned more playing time during the off week, Tide Defensive Coordinator considered the question for a long moment. Then he quickly replied "Carlos Andrews and Mark Anderson."

The principal backup to Waine Bacon at strong safety, Andrews has long been considered one of the best all-around athletes in the Bama secondary. A star running back in high school, Andrews has worked at both cornerback and safety at Alabama.

During the Tide's first six games, Andrews has played a total of 62 snaps at strong safety. His game high came against North Texas, when Andrews totaled 29 snaps while Bacon was serving a half-game suspension. Andrews is credited with 10 tackles and one pass breakup on the season.

Anderson continues to impress at Rover.

A converted defensive end, Anderson brings excellent size and a nose for the football to the Rover position. For now Anderson is backing up Brooks Daniels, but Torbush especially likes his ability to rush the passer. He has totaled 40 snaps on defense, with his greatest contribution coming in Bama's last game against Georgia. This season Anderson has six tackles, two quarterback sacks, one quarterback hurry and a forced fumble.

Both Andrews and Anderson are also important members of Bama's special teams.

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