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The Real Key to Alabama’s Season is Not the Quarterback

If you think the key to Alabama success this season depends on this position, then you aren’t a very smart fan.

The Real Key to Alabama’s Season is Not the Quarterback

By: Larry Burton

During this buildup to the season opening game, much, perhaps far too much emphasis has been placed on the quarterback position and it’s control over the fate of the season for the Alabama Crimson Tide. However, that is not the position that will or could ultimately decide Alabama’s chance to make an appearance in this, the first college football playoff.

After years of closely following the Tide as well historically looking at what cost Alabama games in the past, it was not the quarterback position and I fully expect that whoever wins that spot will do more than an adequate job of running an offense that can and will put points on the board. Furthermore, I’d go so far as to say that the apparent third string quarterback, Alec Morris could run this team and do as good a job as the other two above him in getting points on the board.

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” That is a famous quote from Edmund Burke and it was said over 200 years ago and remains as true today as it was the day he said it.

Looking at past losses in order and cause of loss reveals….

Alabama put 31 points on Oklahoma but lost the game 45-31 because the defense could not stop Oklahoma’s passing game – Defensive secondary cost the Tide.

Alabama put 28 points on Auburn but lost 34-28 to a lapse of special team effort allowing Auburn to run a missed field goal back – Special teams cost the Tide.

In 2012 Alabama lost to Texas A&M 29-24 because they couldn’t stop a fleet footed Manziel and his passing game – A lot of reasons for the loss, but mostly defensive secondary.

In 2011, Alabama lost 9-6 to LSU in a defensive war, but they lost the game because they missed 3 field goals. Special teams cost the Tide this game.

2010 saw Alabama lose to South Carolina 35-21 and Auburn 27-27 because the opposing quarterbacks got hot and blistered the secondary. The secondary cost the Tide both these games.

So while Alabama fans are perhaps too caught up in who the starting quarterback will be, the honest truth and history proves it, is that quarterback play doesn’t usually affect the loss column near as much as the defensive secondary and special teams play. Saban knows this too. Why do you think that Saban spends most of his attention with the defensive secondary? It’s not that this is a position he knows the most about, it’s that he realizes it’s the position that can cost him the most losses.

In all honesty Alabama has four quarterbacks capable of steering an offense that can put 28 points on the board each game. That is not saying that Alabama has four excellent quarterbacks, it’s saying that Alabama has an offense that is so over the top in so many areas that they don’t need to have a stellar quarterback to win games. This offense may well put one touchdown a quarter on the books if I was the starting quarterback and I’m 57 years old but still capable of handing the ball off and throwing a screen pass and that’s about it’s going to take.

Having Jacob Coker with an arm that forces defenses to respect the long ball is simply a plus, having Blake Sims as a running threat also is also a plus, having Alec Morris with his big arm to stretch the field is also a plus, but it’s not a necessity with the talent on this offense.

If Alabama loses games this fall it will be because in a tight game the secondary will break down or the special team simply blows another chance to seal a game.

So while fans still want to continue to dwell on every syllable of every word that has to do with the quarterback, the real attention must be paid to the defensive secondary where only Landon Collins seems a solid playmaker. Both cornerback slots and the other safety are still in the air and both are positions where the Tide was torched last year. While all the players involved have a little more experience, they don’t have a record of being able to stop a hot handed quarterback.

Eddie Jackson may be back up to full health by mid season at cornerback, but then he’s coming back a little rusty. Till then Bradley Sylve has been looking better, but he’s been a work in progress for some time since switching from another position. And on the other side, there’s a lot of speed and talent, but also they are players without a history of shutting down receivers and with a history of getting burned. No clear winner has emerged for the other safety spot and that’s reason for concern too.

As for special teams, Saban says he pleased, very pleased, with the way his kicker and punter have been looking and that certainly isn’t reason for as much concern as rests on the shoulders of the men in the defensive secondary.

Saban is a master of coach speak and like all coaches, he’ll never say what he’s thinking directly to the press, but if he did, he might just say, “I don’t really give a damn who the starting quarterback is going to be. That’s not the key to us winning anyway. We have several guys who can do the job and do it well enough. I just want the one who will make the least mistakes, not the one with the most razzle dazzle ceiling. I just want to get the damn quarterback job settled so they can start becoming a leader and not have everyone distracted by all you folks in the press over that starter. What I’m really concerned with is getting the defensive secondary settled and getting them in rhythm and working as a cohesive unit. Aright?”

And there, is the truth and there is the real key to Alabama’s success in this 2014 campaign.

 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

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