The State of Alabama Football
After what in reality was only months that seemed like years, the 2018 College Football season is here. It’s an amazing time of the year and although the coolness isn’t in the air here in Alabama just yet, the feeling of another championship for the Crimson Tide cannot help but infest the hearts of those who wear the Crimson and White every single day. So, what is it going to take for Nick Saban and his herd of pachyderms to put a second straight and sixth since the modern dynasty began in 2009 College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy in the Mal Moore Athletic Complex? Today, we preview exactly that as we examine the state of Alabama football.
Does anyone remember Blake Barnett? Seriously? For those that do, great job! For everyone else, he is the Quarterback that Nick Saban chose to start in the 2016 season opener against USC. Yes, that was his name. Everyone knows who took his starting job and never looked back though. That man is Jalen Hurts. Hurts came in and did a phenomenal job for Saban. He put up staggering numbers as a Freshman throwing for 2,780 yards, 23 TDs. He also rushed for 954 yards and added 13 more TDs. His Sophomore season wasn’t too shabby either, but it didn’t match his rookie season. He did, however, learn how to protect the ball better. After throwing nine interceptions in 2016, he only threw one in 2017 and improved his passer rating from 139.1 to 150.7.
Why all the stats? He didn’t win the National Championship! It’s important to remember who got the Tide to Tampa and again to Atlanta, that’s why. Did Tua Tagovailoa come in and provide a spark for Alabama against Georgia? Absolutely he did, and he deserves all of the credit in the world, but to just dump on Hurts is something that sounds like it’s coming straight out of Knoxville, Tennessee.
In all actuality, Hurts has a logical complaint about the situation in T-Town right now. This has been his team, but he needs to also understand that no one except Tagovailos can take it away from him. Coach Saban and his excellent staff are not going to change their ways of coaching in order to suit a personal desire to have someone else play. It is about winning championships!
In the past several years, Alabama has been at the pinnacle of college football when it comes to running backs. With those great running backs have come National Championships:
- 2009 – Mark Ingram (New Orleans Saints)
- 2011 – Trent Richardson (Currently in the CFL)
- 2012 – Eddie Lacy (Seattle Seahawks)
- 2015 – Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans)
- 2017 – Bo Scarbrough (Dallas Cowboys)
This year’s key returner is Damien Harris. Many believed that Harris would declare for the NFL Draft early. However, to Bama fans’ excitement, he decided to stay for his senior year. He has been a big part of Alabama’s rushing offense since Day one. In 2016, he rushed for 1,040 and two TDs. Last season, he had 1,000 yards and 11 TDs. He has also been a target out of the backfield with 30 career receptions for 203 yards and two receiving TDs. His return will be key for Saban’s Tide to contend for the crown once again.
Other running backs that are returning for the Crimson Tide are:
1. Joshua Jacobs spent most of last season limited by an ankle injury.
2. Najee Harris showed out, especially in the 4th quarter, against Georgia in the Championship.
3. Brian Robinson, Jr. showed his abilities against teams like Vanderbilt, but as he continues to learn and grow will be a viable part of the offense.
4. Ronnie Clark has been bitten by the injury bug in his time at Alabama, but he is still an important part of the depth at running back.
5. Jerome Ford committed to the Tide in December. As a very fast running back out of the state of Florida, he could end up seeing some time on the field this year in the backfield or on special teams.
Alabama is a dangerous team because of their ability to have great talent at multiple positions. The wide receivers are another group that makes this potent offense even more difficult to figure out how to stop.
Those returning for the 2018 season are:
1. Jerry Jeudy is as reliable as they come when the ball is thrown in his direction.
2. Devonta Smith will forever be etched in Bama history as the man who caught Tua’s 2nd and 26 pass in OT to beat the Dawgs for the National Championship. He is returning and is sure to continue to be the home run threat for Alabama.
3. Henry Ruggs III averaged just over 19 yards per catch in 2017. He is especially dangerous in the Red Zone and seems to have an amazing ability to find an opening for his QB in the End Zone.
4. Alabama’s speed off the line lies with Xavian Marks. He is sure to be the deep ball threat for the Tide.
5. As if the receiving corps for the boys in Crimson wasn’t strong enough already, they also have a young man by the name of Jaylen Waddle. Waddle was one of the players that Saban really wanted to come to Alabama because of his athleticism and playmaking ability. He hasn’t played a snap yet but be on the lookout for him because he’s sure to impress.
6. Xavier Williams, the number three WR in the 2018 class, is another weapon on the already stacked roster.
This is the one area that has some fans wondering. What is Alabama’s defense going to do this year? The question stems not only from the fact that Alabama lost several defensive stars to the NFL Draft, but because in the 2017 opener against Florida State, the Tide lost two of their starting Linebackers. This has fans worrying about how things will go this season, but in reality, Alabama’s depth at all positions should give some relief.
Not to overlook the other special teams’ players, but the focus this season will be on a Placekicker. The National Championship game may have very well been the cause of some heart-related conditions in the state of Alabama. Just to recap, Andy Pappanastos had a chance to win the game in the final seconds with a 36-yard field goal. 36 yards! This was from the middle of the field! Kicking from the base of the eight on the 2018 CFP logo. Yes, he missed it. Was it the pressure of the moment? Maybe his footing wasn’t right on the artificial turf. Whatever the reason, he missed it.
Imagine, if you will, that the game wasn’t tied. What if Georgia had been up by one or more? This is the reason Saban went out and got Austin Jones. Jones is a transfer from Temple. This is the number one kicking transfer in the country. At Temple, Jones made 102 of 104 extra points and 50 of 67 field goal attempts. He made 19 consecutive field goals which broke the school record at Temple. By getting someone with experience and skill, the Tide hopes to not duplicate the near disastrous outcome of last year.
The State of Alabama Football is practically the same as it has been since Saban took over in Tuscaloosa. The one difference that has been noted is that the QB situation is a bit unstable. However, with two first-class play callers to choose from, it is still a great problem to have. Also, it does not seem to have brought forward any drama into the program.
The players and coaches appear to be business as usual and barring some unforeseen circumstances, it is a very safe bet to assume that the Alabama Crimson Tide will be among the top four teams when the final CFP rankings are released. Will we see trophy #18 in Mal Moore Athletic Complex? The road to the National Championship starts in Orlando when the Tide kickoff against Louisville on September 1. Until some detours that road, it runs straight through Tuscaloosa, Alabama.