If you enjoy the 4th of July fireworks and love a team in Crimson, you’ll love the fireworks to come from that team.
Fireworks Anyone? You’ll Have Them This Fall on Alabama’s Offense!
By: Larry Burton
As you read this article, the Fourth of July is coming and you may have fireworks on your mind. I guess there’s two times a year that fireworks traditionally enter our lives, the fourth and maybe New Year’s Eve.
But this fall, you’ll see a season string of fireworks in crimson exploding on opponents in stadiums across the country and AJ McCarron will be man lighting the fuse.
If you know Alabama football, you know that Nick Saban loves a balanced offense. In fact, it would be hard to an offense more balanced that Saban’s has been since the season of the first title run.
The last two seasons have been a freakish example. In 2012 Alabama had 3185 yards of rushing and 3052 in passing. 2011 saw another almost equal number of 2788 rushing yards and 2797 passing. Saban did turn McElroy loose a little more in his senior year of 2010 and the passing yards outdid the rushing yards 3395 to 2378, the biggest descreptancy in his tenure at Alabama. In the championship year of 2009, it went the other way, with Ingram leading the way to help them gain 3011 rushing yards to 2631 passing ones.
But there was a time when Saban was happy turning one loose over the other. In 2001 at LSU, Saban turned Rohan Davey loose at QB and the Tigers threw for 3578 yards passing while only accounting for 1883 yards on the ground. In other words, if one part works exceedingly well over the other, Saban will allow that part of the offense to prove it. That was the biggest margin of difference in the Saban era in the SEC.
Saban told a group of us reporters a while back that his goal as coach was to get his team where they could have seven “big” plays a game nine “explosive” plays per game. He defined those terms as: big play – as a run of at least 16 yards or a pass of at least 21 yards. An explosive play is one of at least 13 yards rushing or 17 yards passing.
So how is that working for Saban in recent years?
National Rankings and Alabama’s Record of Big and Explosive Plays
2012 – 9th in rushing, 66th in passing 2011 – 25th in rushing, 70th in passing 2010 – #51 in rushing, 22nd passing
31st in total offense 31st in total offense 22nd in total offense
2012 rushing and passing plays 2011 rushing and passing plays 2010 rushing and passing plays
27 for 20+ yards 49 for 20+ yards 33 for 20+ yards 38 for 20+ yards 20 for 20+ yards 46 for 20+ yards
11 for 30+ yards 22 for 30+ yards 16 for 30+ yards 14 for 30+ yards 16 for 30+ yards 23 for 30+ yards
4 for 40+ yards 12 for 40+ yards 9 for 40+ yards 4 for 40+ yards 9 for 40+ yards 10 for 40+ yards
1 for 50+ yards 7 for 50+ yards 6 for 50+ yards 2 for 50+ yards 6 for 50+ yards 5 for 50+ yards
1 for 60+ yards 1 for 60+ yards 4 for 60+ yards 2 for 60+ yards 2 for 60+ yards 4 for 60+ yards
1 for 70+ yards 1 for 70+ yards 2 for 70+ yards 2 for 70+ yards
1 for 80+ yards 1 for 80+ yards
What do these numbers tell you? Well, lots. You can find a lot of stories in these numbers and some may be good ones and some may just be coincidence. But what you can see is when McElroy was a trusted senior, passing plays of 10 yards or more more than doubled those of the running plays. When McCarron was a rookie and the reigns were held a bit tight, that gap closed greatly. Last year, being a proven winner and the reigns loosened, passing plays of 20+ yards or more almost doubled those of the rushing plays of 20+ or more yards.
Now, with Saban having his first three year starter, returning at quarterback, combined with what could arguably be the best receiving corps in the nation and what will prove to be one of the best offense lines in the SEC, can you imagine what those passing numbers will look like this year?
Amari Cooper is considered by many to one of the top receivers in the nation, but with Chris Black back and healthy, there may be an equally dangerous players on the other side of the ball. Kevin Norwood is Mr. First Down or Mr. Reliable in clutch situations and Kenny Bell has ESP with quarterback McCarron and both he and DeAndrew White and Christion Jones are all home run threats on any given snap.
To risk a flag for piling on, the Tide will also have one of the best running games in the nation to keep everyone honest and stopping opponents from playing in the nickel or dime package too often. T.J. Yeldon has already shown the world that he is going to be the next great running back in Crimson before running off the NFL. If Kenyon Drake could get himself focused, he could rival any stat put up by Yeldon and Bama’s two bruisers will both be recovered by fall. Jalston Fowler will see time at H back, tight end and running back and freshman Derrick Henry will make both fans and opponents gasp at his ability this fall.
Anyone who says that the Tide could be in trouble because they are replacing key offensive linemen simply don’t understand just how good these replacements are. This line could be just as formidable as last year’s “best line ever”.
If there was ever a time for Nick Saban to turn a quarterback loose, it’s now, a two time national championship winning one with the best supporting cast any Alabama quarterback has ever had.
Look for Alabama’s offensive production to simply go through the roof this season. As the headline of the article states, if you like fireworks, then the games that this edition of the Crimson Tide are playing in this season is the place to be.
This is the season that all the pieces fell in the right place at the right time for the Alabama offense. In less than two months, Nick Saban will light this fuse and turn on this fireworks display. If you’re an Alabama fan, wear your sunglasses, the immediate future is about to be very bright indeed.
Larry is an award winning writer whose work has appeared in almost every college football venue. Now he primarily writes for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow Larry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter