The West Alabama Tigers boasted one of the best offensive units in all of Division II football in 2013. Their 539.1 offensive ypg was the third highest in D2, their 49.5 ppg was second best, and although they only threw for 234 ypg (76th in D2), they were the most efficient passing team in the country. Junior quarterback Kyle Caldwell won the Gulf South Conference Offensive Player of the Year award after he went 143 for 227 (63%) for 2,271 yards, 28 touchdowns, and only 4 interceptions. He was the second most efficient passer in D2 behind Trevor Adams from National Champion Northwest Missouri State.
Caldwell started his first game for the Tigers in the fourth week of his freshman season, and has lead West Alabama to three-straight winning seasons, two-straight conference titles, and two playoff appearances (2011 and 2012). Last season, despite his stellar play, West Alabama split the GSC title with North Alabama and missed playoffs. The Lions and Tigers finished the season with identical 5-1 conference records but the Lions lost one less non-conference game and beat West Alabama 30-27 in overtime when they matched up head-to-head. That was the difference.
-Head Coach Will Hall
-Taylor Burnett OT
-Ethan Corkren OL
-Skeeter Sellers C
-Seth Roberts WR – 40 catches, 857 yards, 12 TDs
-Mario Gainer LB – 47 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 6 sacks, 1 FR
-Malcolm Butler CB – 45 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 blocked kick
-Robert Jones S – 63 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF
What to Watch For
Spotty Reception – The Tigers lost three of their top five receiving targets this offseason; Seth Roberts, Malik Lofton, and Reggie Hall accounted for 45.7% of West Alabama’s receptions and 42.4% of their receiving touchdowns. Chad Toocheck and Ty Morgan will see a big increase in their targets as a result.
Turnover on D – This was a solid (if under the radar) unit in 2013. They allowed 338.5 yards and 22.3 points per game, good for 33rd and 36th in D2, respectively. They lost seven starters going into this season however, including their entire linebacking corps and three of four starting DBs. It’s going to be impressive if they manage to even come close to last year’s production with this much roster-turnover.
Even with the loss of most of the starting offensive line (and several depth players), the Tigers’ biggest concern going into 2014 should be the defense. New head coach Brett Gilliland was the QB coach at Kennesaw State, so he’ll have to rely on new D-coordinator Nathan Burton to make the right moves on D. Burton was the D-coordinator at Shorter University for the last two years.
With the success of small QBs like Russell Wilson and Johnny Manziel, the taboo of a sub-six-foot quarterback has somewhat diminished, but at 5’7”, 165, Kyle Caldwell makes these two “short” quarterbacks look like Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. He’s going to continue to prove everybody wrong this year with his best season yet – even if his offensive line is inexperienced and his receiving corps is mostly new. Just watch.
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