Who’s the happiest guy on the team right now? Just keep reading.
Thursday Thoughts on Alabama Football
By: Larry Burton
You know, it’s almost fun to put Thursday thoughts down, they’re not big enough for articles, but they are things the Alabama Nation needs to know about. Like first of all, Saban is actually happy with the way the offense is going early on in practice and he’s tickled that Sims is showing significant improvement from last year and that Coker is doing as well as he is.
But maybe he’s happy that he has two quarterbacks that he can count on if he has to and though he, or most of the mainstream media won’t say it, maybe he’s happiest that neither is looking like sensational quarterbacks that can spray the ball around.
Why? Because Saban may not ever admit it, but some of what Lane Kiffin wants to do scares him. He would be happy exploiting the great stable of running backs he has and throw short safe passes to his speedy receivers and let them get extra yardage after the catch. This way they won’t be slinging the pigskin around so much and they’ll be less chance of interceptions and turn overs. Ball control and tough running offense with a hard nosed defense, that’s the heart of Saban’s comfort zone.
So for Saban to publicly say the offense is way ahead of the defense and that he’s pleased with the way the quarterback play is going, while they’re both throwing so many interceptions, does leave a little room for creative interpretation.
Speaking of the quarterbacks and the battle for the starting job, the real battle wasn’t over who would wind up being the quarterback, that ship has sailed, but who would be the quarterback the team was behind.
Early on, Sims was seen as a team guy that was respected by his team and all their players. He was seen as a hard worker and a guy who was making strides to become better. Coker was just somebody coming in from another team and it’s not like an incoming freshman or a JUCO transfer. This was a guy who picked another school and then left. Though players don’t like to admit it, that’s just not cool with most players. Coker came in with at least a few cards in the deck stacked against him.
However, when he did show up, he didn’t come in like the heir apparent. He came in and worked hard, didn’t force friendships and used both his abilities and his natural charisma to start changing people’s perception of him. And it’s working.
I know from experience after being told by an Alabama players in confidence a few years back that they were instructed to say nothing about the quarterback battle between the other Sims and McCarron. I was told that they were to say nothing if asked and if pushed to say, that’s up to those players and the coaches and the best man will win the job and that’s all I want.
Eventually, the players will end up gravitating toward the guy that has clearly won the job with talent. After all, that is the Alabama way. But the definition of talent here may not be the guy who can throw the best fade route or has the strongest arm, but the guy who is talented enough to do his job without throwing interceptions, taking foolish sacks and making poor decisions. In other words, the best game manager will win out and the players will be solidly behind him.
Now, who’s the happiest guy on the Alabama team this season? Jalston Fowler, without a doubt.
Fowler is relishing the role he’s in and I for one can’t wait for to see him in action. I’ve interviewed Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacey and all of them are huge Jalston Fowler fans. All have said that he could have been the star running back with his talent if any of them ever went down and that was with him playing running back. Now he’s a fullback or H Back as they call them on this offense and teams have to face a guy who is both a danger with the ball in his hands, just as big a danger with him in a passing route and now defenders have to face him as a blocking back who actually enjoys hitting people.
Fowler has been a team man for such a long time and was willing to continue being third or fourth string and contributing wherever he could. Now it’s going to be so nice to see him in every game and allowing him to go out in a role that could seriously attract interest from NFL scouts and perhaps get him to the next level.
And all this is due to Lane Kiffin’s offense he’s establishing.
Now, speaking of Kiffin, with everything I’ve seen and heard so far, I have to say that I am now fully on board with the Kiffin hire and not so much just for the good changes I’m seeing implemented, but the fact that it’s going to be so much fun watching Kiffin, the press loving, mike hogging, always bragging Kiffin being muzzled day in and day out and not being able to take credit for things when they go so well.
That’s going to be real fun. I didn’t follow USC football very closely, but I know he inherited a train wreck of probation and scholarship reductions amid far too high expectations. I do know that he did build a team in one season at Tennessee that came within one of two blocks field goals from beating the last undefeated national champion at Alabama. And that was a Tennessee team that shouldn’t have had a prayer to beat that Alabama team. Instead it took two miracles for the Tide to preserve that win. Whether you like or despise Lane Kiffin, you have to respect that.
If he could turn Jonathan Compton into a quarterback, just imagine what he’ll do with someone with the skill sets of Jacob Coker and the surrounding cast of folks on this Alabama offense. Personally, I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
And one of those bullets in the offensive gun is finally showing what I always knew he could do. Chris Black has had several of those WOW! moments in practice so far and after injury and depth chart issues, the time is coming where fans will finally get a glimpse of those moments on game days. There was a time when Black was first signed when I thought that the race to become the top dog at receiving corps would be a battle between he and Amari Cooper, but injuries plagued him and while he recovered, Cooper just ran away with it and others climbed above him in the depth chart and never relinquished their spot.
Soon however, he has the chance to showcase his skills and speed and the people above him on the depth chart better up their game or they could lose their spots.
So far so good on injuries. While a few players have a ding here or there, only Eddie Jackson is one the injury list that will keep him from practicing this fall. The valuable defensive corner was thought to have been a lock as a starter, but this opened the door for Bradley Sylve and a bevy of talented freshmen to get to have some valuable playing time.
If the Tide could remain this lucky with injuries throughout fall camp, then they have a seriously firm chance to be one of the four teams involved in the new playoff format. As for Jackson, he may be back by mid to late season.
Lastly, how desperate is the ESPN host Colin Cowherd, for publicity? It seems if you aren’t getting enough attention then you do or say something stupid that you mean to come across as “radical insight”.
Such was the case this week when Cowherd used his vast knowledge of college football to predict that Tennessee, a team that may struggle and fail to even make the Preparation H Bowl, will defeat Alabama this fall.
Seriously? How do people keep a job at ESPN with statements like that? This was a team that went 5-8 and one of those close wins was against South Alabama. For further proof, we’ve seen a year of Butch Jones and he doesn’t seem to have that Lane Kiffin magic that got that team on fire and almost defeated Alabama in 2009.
So Cowherd, you got your headlines, some airplay and your name discussed, but do you realize it was for being an idiot and not for being insightful or knowledgeable?
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 him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter