Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Typically, when you've got a roster like Alabama's -- which is to hoarded talent what a bomb shelter is to canned food -- the transcript issues of a single JUCO transfer aren't that big a deal.
But in the particular case of the Tide's 2011 receiving corps and former Coffeyville C.C.-by-way-of-Ohio State wideout Duron Carter, those issues may prove to be a very big deal indeed. Despite expectations that the transcript snafu would be resolved (and he would be approved for practice) shortly after the start of fall camp, Carter is still nowhere to be seen as he waits for academic clearance.
"We still don't know," Nick Saban said Tuesday regarding Carter's status. "Until we get the information back on Duron Carter, which I haven't heard anything on compliance (Tuesday), we do have a few more days to be able to get this done."
Carter is the the son of NFL receiving legend Cris Carter (who more than one wag has observed has been at Tide practice more than Duron has), and still boasts the kind of talent that made him a top-15 receiver in his 2009 class. (He's pictured at right in the 2009 Under Armour All-American game.) If Carter and Alabama can "get this done" before the start of the season, there's still plenty of time to make the kind of immediate impact many Tide fans expect. (It's not just the Crimson faithful carrying high expectations, either; Phil Steele named Carter preseason second-team All-SEC.)
But the longer Carter's absence drags out, the less and less likely that immediate impact becomes. Not only does it look more and more possible the issue could swallow his 2011 season whole, but as a first-year player in Tuscaloosa, Carter needed every minute of practice time he could get. Even if the opener against Kent State gives him some leeway before the Tide's schedule really gets going, Carter projects to be so far behind the curve it may be weeks before he's ready to become a full-on contributor.
Again: at any other position, this likely wouldn't be an issue. But after Julio Jones's early departure for the NFL, the receiving corps is the one area where the Tide could use some immediate help. Seniors Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks were both productive last season, combining for 70 receptions and better than 1,000 yards, but neither represented the kind of vertical home-run threat that Jones was or that many expect Carter to be. (It doesn't help, either, that top tight end Preston Dial has graduated, leaving behind no TE with more than eight receptions to his name a year ago.)
With Maze and Hanks around (not to mention redshirt freshman DeAndrew White, whose praises Saban has suprisingly sung throughout camp), the Tide receiving unit is still going to be well above average, Carter or no Carter. But with a first-year starter under center that may need all the help from those receivers he can get, making another national title run could require something better than simply "above average."
And that, in turn, may require Carter.