Week one of the 2019 College Football season has concluded for most of the teams in the nation. Alabama starts 2019 strong as they wanted to make a statement after experiencing the National Championship loss to Clemson for more than seven months. The offseason helped the Crimson Tide develop patience, focus, and the drive back to their full potential once again. It did come with a price to the Crimson Tide with the loss of middle linebackers Joshua McMillion and Dylan Moses to season-ending injuries.
Alabama wanted to rebound with a strong start to the 2019 season against the Duke Blue Devils in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic. That was not the case for Alabama in the first quarter as they were shut out by the Blue Devils. Last season, the Crimson Tide were only shut out once in the 2018 SEC Championship win against the Georgia Bulldogs. After a rough start, Alabama went into halftime with a 14-3 score and then scored 21-points in the third quarter. The Tide’s offense got back to their high-power capabilities and their defense was stout as Alabama outperformed the score projection. The Crimson Tide dismantled the Blue Devils with a 42-3 score.
Crimson Tide’s passing offense back on track
The Crimson Tide had the sixth-ranked passing offense last season and they return their four top receivers and quarterback in 2018 Heisman Trophy runner-up in Tua Tagovailoa. The biggest difference for Alabama and the passing offense is the change in offensive coordinator from Mike Locksley to Steve Sarkisian. This new offensive philosophy that coach Sarkisian brought in for Alabama will make them more efficient in the red zone. This will only make them more dynamic in their play calls and different plays. This was evident in the matchup against a highly experienced Blue Devils defense. The passing offense started slowly with a fumble by running Jerome Davis and a missed field goal. They found what plays the Blue Devils would be difficult to defend after the first two drives.
The Crimson Tide’s offense accounted for 512 total yards with 367 yards coming from the passing game. Tagovailoa threw for 336 yards and four touchdowns on 26 completions (out of 31 attempts). 2018 Fred Biletnikoff award winner in wide receiver Jerry Jeudy accounted for 10 receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown. Jeudy played in multiple different sets as an outside and inside receiver. He also ran multiple distinctive routes from deep vertical to inside hitch routes. Sophomore wide receiver Jaylen Waddle accounted for five receptions for 90 yards. The Crimson Tide offense was able to utilize their tight ends more in recent seasons. Tight ends Miller Forristall and Major Tennison each accounted for a touchdown in an efficient and diverse play setting.
The offensive line showed they have some work to do
If there was one area that the offensive coaching staff for the Tide had the most concern with, it was the offensive line. The Tide returned three offensive linemen from last season with Alex Leatherwood moving from guard to left tackle. When the game started, guard Matt Womack was not named among the starters. Landon Dickerson started the game at right guard instead of Womack. At the beginning of the game, Tagovailoa was pressured consistently by the Blue Devils defense. Right tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. made some mistakes on not picking up blitzes which effected Tagovailoa into forcing bad throws. New starter Chris Owens snapped the ball well but made too many mistakes and penalties. Guard Emil Ekiyor Jr. made some progress in his performance but he reaggravated his knee injury and might miss a few weeks.
Freshmen inside linebacker Christian Harris and Shane Lee started their careers well
Both Harris and Lee were thrown into the starting roles of inside linebackers after the season-ending injuries to Moses and McMillion. Both highly recruited players didn’t expect to contribute this early in their career as starters. Harris and Lee were tested early by Duke head coach David Cutcliffe with their flex running backs and short passing game. They rarely showed weakness and even made big plays. Lee made the tackle that resulted in a turnover on downs early in the game. Both Harris and Lee accounted for six total tackles each, which tied for second-most by Tide defenders. They also controlled the impact the flex running back potential of Brittain Brown and Deon Jackson. Expect both Harris and Lee to get better through experience as they have started their careers with the Crimson Tide on a strong note.
The secondary looks to be the Tide’s strength
Before last season, the Tide’s secondary was young and inexperienced. This season, they were the most experienced and efficient unit on defense. Throughout the night, they made new Blue Devils starting quarterback Quentin Harris’ impact at a minimal. He passed for 97 yards and two interceptions on 12 completions (out of 22 attempts) for a 23.3 QBR. Senior Trevon Diggs accounted for two total tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery. Star Nickelback Patrick Surtain Jr. was the player that forced the fumble. Often, Harris quickly threw to his targets to avoid sacks from the defensive line, but they were more rushed. Freshman safety Jordan Battle also accounted for an interception off Harris on a deep pass. The Tide’s secondary rarely gave up big plays and read the ball consistently. This secondary might be the most talented overall secondary for Coach Nick Saban in his entire career at Alabama.