2019 Alabama Football: Is #13 #1?

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Made one of these two years ago. Success. Didn't make one last year? Shame on me. Clemson drubbed, lack of any kind of red zone offense, IOL struggled without Cornbread Brown, suspended.

So yeah, this team is ungodly stacked. Even for a Saban team. The only real question I have is who plays MIKE, between Kaho or McMillon. Theoretically, this should've Mack Wilson's spot to drive up his round stock for the NFL, but he unwisely shipped early. Can't understand that, it was shown he freelanced and was often out of position. Amazed he got drafted at all with the film. Addition by subtraction for Savion Wilson, the personal crème brûlée of Justyn Ross all last Natty. Brutal. Thank god Diggs is back, totally changed what this team had in CB depth. Josh Jobe shined in the spring to be a physical corner. This allows personal favorite Patrick Surtain II to move to STAR. Add that to the versatility Shyheim Carter is giving this defense, kind of like Minkah Fitzpatrick would in years past. Let this be the year Terrell Lewis stays healthy at SAM. Please dear god. First round talent, but horribly hampered with injuries. If he stays healthy, probably the best Tide draft steal since Eddie Jackson for whatever team gets him. Physically a freak, he, Xavier McKinney at SS, and Raekwon Davis need to be the guys this year to take that next step. Moses is already there. Good riddance to Lupoi, honestly. Great recruiter, shitty DC. Golding looks like probably an amazing hire that hasn't gotten enough publicity outside of T-Town, maybe UTSA where they had him a bit. Sure hope he's more agressive a playcaller than what I saw the last few weeks of last season. That said, favorite of the rotating SNL-like new staffers for the Tide is Brian Baker. Holy shit what a get for the DL. Those Bulldogs always played with an aggressive mean streak that fits the SEC wonderfully. Bama football is nothing if not hard-nosed D by tradition.

Special teams, Chris Sailer's camp and I both agree Will Reichard is a special kind of kicker. Simple, fluid, repeatable motion. He brought down the overall class score despite being easily the nation's top guy. Brings me back some memories of Van Tiffin in particular. Fletcher is a solid enough LS. Doesn't stick out to me as an especially Sunday guy down unlike what Starkville has been churning out. Hopefully, there's a little more to be had out of Delong this season, dude looked as awful as anything until Bernier took his spot, but then they were spoiled with JK Scott for enough years.

Of course, you can't talk Alabama 2019 without the offense and Sark, which I genuinely love as a fit for the personnel in place right. So let's start at OL. I personally am a big fan of Leatherwood moving back to his natural position of LT. LG is interesting, I think they'd start with Emile Ekiyor but think Brown takes this back fairly handily following his suspension. If either can't go, IMG Academy 5* Evan Neal, the true freshman giant is going to step in. Man I love this kid. Had the best Power Throw Toss distance of any OT freshman this season, at 47'6" (Bryan Clay, a 2008 Gold Medal Olympian decathlete, had a 38'9" for context), in SPARQ measurements, recently replacing max bench press. Requires a 3 kg ball, and is probably the best measurement of pure body strength and power we have.

Owens/Womack/Wills should have C-RT pretty secured respectively. TE is going to be tough to replace Irv Smith. Latu, Forristall, Tennison, Parker are great but right now I fail to see anything that remotely gives what Smith gave on the weekly with his separation and crisp routes.

RBs, this is going to be Najee Harris' year to absolutely get the carries he's been craving the best two years. To have a power, outside zone heavy dude like this is awesome in what can be such a screen based offense. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was concerned with the depth behind him. Brian Robinson is cool but it seems he's only gotten garbage time snaps before, although he's succeeded. Trey Sanders and his self-proclaimed #Fresheisman has looked good from the folks I know in the know at least? But man, if you have to rely on a freshman back? I'd rather not.

So, what's next? Receivers. This isn't fair. Jeudy is probably the #2 pick. Ruggs has Olympian sprinter speed. Was shown to go 27 MPH according to Bama's internal trackers last year in Training Days. Turbo button like a video game cheat code, Day 1 fringe pick in 2020. Devonta Smith is probably a 3rd round pick, and then there's Jaylen Waddle, a speed freak too, the sophomore they chose over in-state Justyn Ross of Clemson. So yeah. You can't really bracket these guys on both speed levels and who you probably leave open. 11 isn't enough to cover them all. There's not much of a way to stop them with any look they've seen before, because they will pounce like a hungry lion on raw meat.

So that leaves us with Mr. Heisman 2019, likely #1 overall to Miami(?), The Hawaiian, Tua Tagovailoa. Where do you start with him? A cannon for an arm, with a damn textbook perfect spiral, an ability to read and dissect defenses on a dime, then go through progressions 1-5/checkdown at genuinely Brady-esque speeds. Profiles a little bit like Russell Wilson in his game with a bit of a stronger arm, as someone who hates to make comps. If there's any knock on him, well, there's a couple: He holds on to the ball a bit long, look no further than the Georgia game to see that. This is where, for his development as a player, playing at Alabama isn't the best for him since the OL affords him the time and gets him into bad habits against teams with genuinely good DLs or when stunts are brought. Tua also has issues with how he works his first read into his second. Oftentimes the first read is a fake to try to draw off the defense, kind of like a one-man play action.

To be more precise, this kind of harkens (and takes effect) back to what Josh Rosen's response was about how he threw a 59-yard TD to Christan Kirk last year: "Back in college I learned the motherfucker rule: If there are a lot of motherfuckers over there, go the other way." I'd like to see a bit quicker of a release this year from Tua, but think there's every reason he can do this. It's really minor stuff with Tua, all the hard stuff is basically NFL-ready at this point. Even if you hate the Tide, take a few minutes out of your Saturday to watch this kid play. There's something special about him that I haven't seen at this level for a long, long time.

Also has the cool Billy Wagner-esque story of being naturally right-handed but pitching/throws left-handed, after his father taught him to throw as much. I mean, I have more fingers than left-handed notable QBs off-hand: Steve Young of course, but also Stabler, Esiason, Zorn, Douglass, and if you really want to throw back the clock, Frankie Albert and the original T-formation QB at Stanford.

Saturdays can't come back soon enough. Get here faster, 31st. This is a team that should be favored to at least make the National Championship. How they do against likely Clemson is anyone's guess, but I'd favor the Tide slightly, unlike how I felt last year, given how many DL Clemson lost that frankly aren't replaceable within a one year span, against this kind of juggernaut offense.

If you've got any questions here, be happy to answer them, or talk about the schemes Bama runs, especially on D. Crazy good in how well Saban teaches stuff that's exceptionally uncommon at this level with its complexity. Been one of my favorite projects the past few summers is to break down the film of these guys and see where they're going. Absolutely revolutionary and still an untapped inefficiency to run something as basic as a LIZ/RIP 3, to say nothing of the Fire Zone Blitzes, just to give a sampling of what's in that playbook behind the press podium Coke bottle.
 

canderson

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College football is **so** much more fun when there aren't super-teams like Alabama and Clemson. (Mind you, it will be a lot of fun if and when either or both of them lose before the playoffs, although I'm not holding my breath.)
There have always been super programs in CFB, though.
 

ConigliarosPotential

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There have always been super programs in CFB, though.
True...and I've always liked the sport more when none of them was dominant over any extended period of time. Alabama's dominance is particularly frustrating to me because every year at least 4-5 of the best 10-12 teams in the country these days play in the SEC, and yet Alabama is still head and shoulders above all of them - except maybe Georgia, but because the SEC schedule is the way it is, Bama and Georgia only play each other once or twice a decade during the regular season. Let's just say that I'm rooting for Nick Saban's earliest possible retirement.
 

jon abbey

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College football is **so** much more fun when there aren't super-teams like Alabama and Clemson. (Mind you, it will be a lot of fun if and when either or both of them lose before the playoffs, although I'm not holding my breath.)
For me it's the exact opposite, I'd be fine if the top handful of teams played each other every week and none of the rest existed.
 

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As with the Oklahomas, USCs, and Notre Dames of yore, this too shall pass.
You never look as sturdy as you do when you're at the mountain's precipice, never as frail when at its base. Just have to enjoy this when I can. Nothing is forever, certainly not this run, as it is more than likely the on the back nine at this point.

Alabama may have one of the best WR groups in recent memory. They'll morph moreso into a passing team with Sanders out and be totally fine.
In theory, this should be true. Under Sarkisian? I expect unpredictability, for the most part, if uptempo, and run first. Some exceptions to look for that are staples of a SS offense: First and foremost, the zone-blocking scheme, with its fair share of RPOs (under), bootlegs, initialized with G/T focus on blocks. Eventually, pardon the cliche, I'd expect to see more play-action this season as much, especially as a given game develops. This is based upon the following Sarkisian quote: "Every year I've called plays in college football, I've always had a 1,000-yard rusher. You have to have the ability to run the football and when you can run the football, you can play-action pass. The play-action pass is a quarterback's best friend, to where defenses are trying to stop the run, and now you can create throwing lanes downfield for explosive plays."

If we see a passing game early, it's going to be, based on his DVDs, perimeter screens, high percentage throws, mixed in with some stack sets, bunch sets to counter defenses looking for bubble screens, possibly what Sarkisian calls 'now' routes as well. Were I the offensive coordinator? I'd run a fuckton of plays in 10* with this group to max its strengths. You have the now-primary back, Harris, to keep the defense honest, the OL is stacked enough (and only getting better) that you don't need a TE, especially with the blazing speed of this receiver group. Given Irv Smith's presence last season, this wasn't common last year. 4.9% of plays only were in 10, and furthermore, only 8% of plays were in X0 overall. That said, I expect Najee Harris to get a bunch of carries. Wouldn't surprise me to see some games where he absolutely is the bell cow where his strengths need to be on display for a given opposing defense (MSU, possibly A&M come to mind immediately), a la Derrick Henry in 2015.

*Why this rather than the NFL standard 11? I go to the Belichickian notion that you need to put your players in the best position to succeed: Who are they trusting right now at TE? Latu, the converted pass rusher? Forristall? Recovery from a foot injury at the moment.

But fuck man, I wanna talk OL. This is a unit that will feature its lightweights at roughly 310 pounds (at this level, holy shit!) between Leatherwood and Dickerson. Y'know how I said in the OP Chris Owens was likely the starting C? Wrong. Landon Dickerson is a former 5* recruit, transferred from FSU, and is getting first-team reps. Saban, the other day in a presser, not only seems to appreciate his ability and work ethic but basically implied he's further motivated by playing on a losing school, now appreciates what he has in Tuscaloosa. I'm kind of pumped to see a reclamation project like this, especially for a unit like this. Hopefully, Jake Coker's 'Nole to Tide transfer precedent/history repeats itself. Watching Dickerson in action, I love how smooth his follow-through is consistently through the block, doesn't go down, which speaks well to both footing and shoulder positioning. Also starts at a smart position to try to get an early edge.

McMillon is likely out for the season at WILL. Jeez, this team can't buy a break with man-games lost of late. Even when they won it all two years ago, they were down to true freshman LBs. The only position spared in this grouping back then was the JACK position with Anfernee Jennings, which is only somewhat true, given its hybrid nature/role. So that leaves of known quantities, umm, Kaho? The true sophomore, former 5* (#32 overall and #2 ILB of the 2018 class by 247) Washington commit, lots of family issues (parents divorced, two separate immediate family member deaths) back in Nevada last year, amazing he was even on the field. Was said by those close to him he wasn't his usual bubbly self. An emergence here would basically make this team free of weaknesses at every starting position, albeit still some obvious depth concerns in a sprinkling of spots.

Behind him would be two true freshmen, Shane Lee and Christian Harris. Yikes. Were it me, I'd rotate given the scarcity. Lee for run defense, Kaho in nickel and dime packages, Markail Benton on an as need-be basis. Have to hope Moses is ready to be the regular defensive play-caller at MIKE, and I think he is, for however you take my opinion, very mature, disciplined, and advanced player for his age.

In fun, looser news, the Bryant-Denny Stadium lights can now go crimson with the magic of LEDs. That is going to look bee-you-tee-full for the night games. Can't wait to see it in action, hopefully in person come October or November. AD Greg Byrne implied it might even happen after scoring, tweeting the image below. I'm down for that! They have to legally bound to play Raining Blood by Slayer when they invoke this though, right?

 

RedOctober3829

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You never look as sturdy as you do when you're at the mountain's precipice, never as frail when at its base. Just have to enjoy this when I can. Nothing is forever, certainly not this run, as it is more than likely the on the back nine at this point.



In theory, this should be true. Under Sarkisian? I expect unpredictability, for the most part, if uptempo, and run first. Some exceptions to look for that are staples of a SS offense: First and foremost, the zone-blocking scheme, with its fair share of RPOs (under), bootlegs, initialized with G/T focus on blocks. Eventually, pardon the cliche, I'd expect to see more play-action this season as much, especially as a given game develops. This is based upon the following Sarkisian quote: "Every year I've called plays in college football, I've always had a 1,000-yard rusher. You have to have the ability to run the football and when you can run the football, you can play-action pass. The play-action pass is a quarterback's best friend, to where defenses are trying to stop the run, and now you can create throwing lanes downfield for explosive plays."

If we see a passing game early, it's going to be, based on his DVDs, perimeter screens, high percentage throws, mixed in with some stack sets, bunch sets to counter defenses looking for bubble screens, possibly what Sarkisian calls 'now' routes as well. Were I the offensive coordinator? I'd run a fuckton of plays in 10* with this group to max its strengths. You have the now-primary back, Harris, to keep the defense honest, the OL is stacked enough (and only getting better) that you don't need a TE, especially with the blazing speed of this receiver group. Given Irv Smith's presence last season, this wasn't common last year. 4.9% of plays only were in 10, and furthermore, only 8% of plays were in X0 overall. That said, I expect Najee Harris to get a bunch of carries. Wouldn't surprise me to see some games where he absolutely is the bell cow where his strengths need to be on display for a given opposing defense (MSU, possibly A&M come to mind immediately), a la Derrick Henry in 2015.

*Why this rather than the NFL standard 11? I go to the Belichickian notion that you need to put your players in the best position to succeed: Who are they trusting right now at TE? Latu, the converted pass rusher? Forristall? Recovery from a foot injury at the moment.

But fuck man, I wanna talk OL. This is a unit that will feature its lightweights at roughly 310 pounds (at this level, holy shit!) between Leatherwood and Dickerson. Y'know how I said in the OP Chris Owens was likely the starting C? Wrong. Landon Dickerson is a former 5* recruit, transferred from FSU, and is getting first-team reps. Saban, the other day in a presser, not only seems to appreciate his ability and work ethic but basically implied he's further motivated by playing on a losing school, now appreciates what he has in Tuscaloosa. I'm kind of pumped to see a reclamation project like this, especially for a unit like this. Hopefully, Jake Coker's 'Nole to Tide transfer precedent/history repeats itself. Watching Dickerson in action, I love how smooth his follow-through is consistently through the block, doesn't go down, which speaks well to both footing and shoulder positioning. Also starts at a smart position to try to get an early edge.

McMillon is likely out for the season at WILL. Jeez, this team can't buy a break with man-games lost of late. Even when they won it all two years ago, they were down to true freshman LBs. The only position spared in this grouping back then was the JACK position with Anfernee Jennings, which is only somewhat true, given its hybrid nature/role. So that leaves of known quantities, umm, Kaho? The true sophomore, former 5* (#32 overall and #2 ILB of the 2018 class by 247) Washington commit, lots of family issues (parents divorced, two separate immediate family member deaths) back in Nevada last year, amazing he was even on the field. Was said by those close to him he wasn't his usual bubbly self. An emergence here would basically make this team free of weaknesses at every starting position, albeit still some obvious depth concerns in a sprinkling of spots.

Behind him would be two true freshmen, Shane Lee and Christian Harris. Yikes. Were it me, I'd rotate given the scarcity. Lee for run defense, Kaho in nickel and dime packages, Markail Benton on an as need-be basis. Have to hope Moses is ready to be the regular defensive play-caller at MIKE, and I think he is, for however you take my opinion, very mature, disciplined, and advanced player for his age.

In fun, looser news, the Bryant-Denny Stadium lights can now go crimson with the magic of LEDs. That is going to look bee-you-tee-full for the night games. Can't wait to see it in action, hopefully in person come October or November. AD Greg Byrne implied it might even happen after scoring, tweeting the image below. I'm down for that! They have to legally bound to play Raining Blood by Slayer when they invoke this though, right?

Wow that looks awesome. Yea, lots of 10 personnel for Sark will be the best way to use his most talented players. He will use the pass to set up some zone running plays that because the OL is so good will make whoever is back there productive. Should be interesting to see how the offense develops.
 

RedOctober3829

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Fuckfuckfuck. What is it with this team and LB injuries the past 3 years? Christ.

A lot of the folks I see who are also Gumps seem to think this is going to be a shootout Big XII team this year with a lot of 50-30 wins. I just don’t see that, the secondary is too deep to where dime guys would start for other teams in this conference. If it does happen it’s because I think the offense will be scoring too quickly and not giving the defense proper rest. This was a genuine issue early on last season.

My real concern is just how much time they have to properly plan for the trip to College Station since usually the first few weeks are used as a pseudo preseason to sort roles, see what you’ve got from which players work in which scheme. A QB like Kellen Mond now becomes that more of an issue.

And because they weren’t on their laurels post LSU last year, Devonta Smith, Najee Harris, Brian Robinson suspended internally for the first half because they didn’t go to a mandatory team function (sauces say it was a movie). Short of any lawbreaking incidents, I don’t think this offseason could’ve gone worse by player specific news.
 

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Nick's all fired up!
Had every reason to be. Awful, horseshit excessive celebration call. Let out a big, deserved ‘No way! Fuck you!’

Shane Lee looked awesome as a true frosh. Note I didn’t say for, I meant as. He belonged to say the least. Tua didn’t swing for the fences every single time, thank god. OL needs help but man it helped to have Najee, Devonta in on the O. Opened it up perfectly past the first quarter. Jeudy’s TD was out of a comic book. Overall, I’m okay with where they are after week 1 but lots to improve. Showed me especially the impact TL makes when healthy on D, how much Diggs was missed down the stretch, and how much they miss Cornbread.
 

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Wish Nigel Knott well, medically forced to retire this week. Hope he’s able to live as normal a life as possible.

Non-conference snoozer incoming this afternoon against New Mexico State. Just have to hope for health, see some solid positioning, plus some better work from the ACE blocking, really. Not an unreasonable ask. Seeing more ferocity out of Dickerson would be great as well. Loved what I saw last week.

The only question will be red or green. Well, Tide should be in their crimson, a shade of red, and they should absolutely be money, which is green, with a screen and run focused offense. So why not both? To use the New Mexican term for this phenomena, Christmas.

For me as an eater? Red. No question. Hearty bite with a bit of spice is unique to the Chimayó red pepper, contested with the green’s earthy herbiness.
 

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Sakerlina goes down in 14 hours. No Stephen Garcia bullshit this time. With a win in Columbia this afternoon, the worst record Saban will have against any SEC opponent is .500. Furthermore, it also means Alabama has an active winning streak against every single SEC school. As much as I love that the Cocks have some nice pieces, like true sophomore, 6’4” RCB Israel Mukuamu, that just won’t cut it. That’s not enough to keep up with a four super deep wideout group. Furthermore, on O? Dowdle hasn’t been much running the ball since he broke his leg a few years ago, and Bryan Edwards hasn’t really developed into that Alston Jeffery type Muschamp and Co. had hoped for. Curious to see how Hilinski, the Bentley replacement, pans out. Has looked great but against frankly shitty competition.

On a a lighter note, one of my wishes in life is to see USCe(ast) playing Oregon State sooner than later. It has never happened.

Prediction? Tide should roll, but wouldn’t surprise me to see the Gamecocks score first and early with some energy, wherein talent does the rest. I’m saying like a 45-17 final where football Twitter claims for a good hour that Bama’s D is a weak link on the team.

Active losing streaks that would then need amending over the last 12 seasons: theOSU, Utah, Louisana-Monroe, fucking Clemson.

Non-Saban schools? They’ve got to win, but I’ll make that part of the victory post if they do so. Some really interesting teams in this bunch to be sure.