Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Barring a major surprise, the season-long Duron Carter Watch is officially over for 2011.
The JUCO wide receiver transfer to Alabama (and son of NFL legend Cris Carter) has been waiting for full academic clearance since the day of his enrollment in Tuscaloosa, having eventually received the go-ahead to practice but still not to play. That clearance has been believed to have been an "any day now" development for weeks, but Nick Saban told reporters Wednesday that he no longer expects it to arrive this season.
"There's one piece of information that we did not receive, have not ever received and may not ever receive," Saban said. "It doesn't look like he will be eligible for this season."
Carter remains enrolled in school, available for practice and, according to Saban, will be eligible after a year of residency. He will redshirt in 2011 and still have two seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2012.
How big a blow Carter's ineligibility will prove to be for the Tide depends on how you view two factors: how good he might be, and how badly the Tide need him. On the downside, Carter was a former blue-chip recruit who contributed (if not quite "shone") during a true freshman season at Ohio State and flashed further potential in his single year at Coffeyville (Kan.) C.C. And aside from senior Marquis Maze, the Tide have few proven downfield threats of the kind Carter represents.
On the upside, though, Maze's season is off to an outstanding start, steady senior Darius Hanks has returned from a two-game suspension and had two receptions a week ago, and there's still time for young wideouts like Kenny Bell or DeAndrew White to develop into legitimate playmakers. And even if the Tide's need for Carter was desperate, there's no guarantee that after missing much of fall camp and the first several games of the season, he'd be capable of making more than a token impact.
At this point, we're leading more towards the latter viewpoint than the former; the way the Tide defense has begun the year, the offense could start a collection of well-trained collies at wideout and still be a national title contender. But if Alabama does find itself locked in a tight battle against Arkansas this Saturday and needs that extra bit of playmaking oomph Carter might have been able to offer him, that missing "piece of information" could prove costly all the same.