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STEPHEN’S REPORT: Focusing on the Performance of the Players

Running Backs—Overall [A]

T. J. Yeldon [A] – T.J. Yeldon took heed to running backs’ coach Burton Burns and held the football high and tight. He hit the holes hard and ran with patience. Yeldon used his cutbacks and ran behind his pads well. He finished the game with 126 yards rushing and two scores off 23 carries.

Derrick Henry [A] – Fresh off the 2014 Sugar Bowl performance, Derrick Henry wanted to show Tide fans what he could do this season. His sophomore campaign starts with a bang after his performance against West Virginia. Unlike Yeldon, Henry didn’t lose any yards on the ground. He displayed power, speed, vision and patience in the hole. Henry followed Alabama offensive line and averaged 6.6 yards per carry. His night ended with 113 yards rushing and a touchdown off 13 carries.

Summary: Alabama’s run game excelled against West Virginia. The Crimson Tide recorded 288 yards rushing and three scores. Kenyan Drake totaled seven yards rushing, but Blake Sims had 42 rushing yards off six carries.

 Wide Receivers—Overall [A]

Amari Cooper [A] – Amari Cooper is 100 percent healthy and it showed against West Virginia’s secondary. He got into a rhythm with Blake Sims and made clutch receptions. Cooper’s route runner was good, but he did a great job of getting yards after the catch. He led Alabama receiver corps with 12 receptions for 130 yards.

DeAndrew White [A] – DeAndrew White put in a good stat line before injuring his shoulder. He displayed a lot of quickness and caught passes in traffic. White’s night ended with 6 receptions for 73 yards, including a 38-yard shake and bake after the catch.

Christion Jones [B] – Christion Jones is normally a sure-handed receiver, but he struggled with drops against the Mountaineers. One of Jones’s drops occurred on a play where he was left open. Despite some drops, Jones ended with three catches for 31 yards.

Summary: Cooper and White were in tune with Sims. Both receivers made life easier for him. OJ Howard wasn’t found in the stat column, but Chris Black was. Black tallied one reception, but it was a critical third down converting catch.

 Offensive Line—Overall [A]

Summary: Against Virginia Tech (2013), Alabama’s offensive line struggled. Today, the Tide was prepared for West Virginia. Ryan Kelly, Arie Kouandjio and Austin Shepherd anchored the team well. He may be a freshman, but Cameron Robinson showed promised tonight. Alabama totaled 538 yards of offense and Blake Sims wasn’t on the ground at all. Leon Brown was the lone knock against the Tide. He continues to struggle with penalties. Of the team’s seven penalties, three were on Brown.

 Defensive Play—Overall [C]

Xzavier Dickson [A] – He was quiet last season, but Xzavier Dickson played well against West Virginia. He led the team in sacks with two and recorded two tackles. Both of Dickson’s sacks came at pivotal moments.

Jonathan Allen [A] – A’Shawn Robinson didn’t play much, but Jonathan Allen did. Allen tied for fourth on the team in tackles with 5 and recorded a sack. He played well on the line and was able to find the football.

Landon Collins [A] – Landon Collins displayed consistency tonight against the Mountaineers. He led the team with eight tackles, including a huge hit in the fourth quarter.

Summary: The absence of Trey DePriest affected Alabama tonight. Reggie Ragland (six tackles), Reuben Foster (seven tackles) and Dillon Lee are good, but DePriest’s knowledge of the system and leadership were both missed. The Crimson Tide’s secondary was picked apart. Bradley Sylve got burned on a lot of plays. Sylve has speed, but speed only does so much. He didn’t play the ball well and his head was turned away from the ball most of the time. Cyrus Jones played well tonight. He had seven tackles and a pass breakup. As a whole, Alabama’s defense tightened up in the second half. The Tide held West Virginia to six points.

 Special Teams—Overall [A]

Adam Griffith [A] – Nick Saban has given him the nickname “Griff” and Adam Griffith has earned it. He was perfect on field goals (4-4), including making three from 40+ yards.

JK Scott [A] – JK Scott punted twice, but averaged 50.5 yards per punt. Scott pinned West Virginia inside its 20-yard line and recorded 101 yards punting.

Kick Coverage [C] – Rashaan Evans made a huge tackle to start the game, but Alabama missed many tackles on special teams. West Virginia’s Mario Alford retuned 3 kicks for 145 yards, including a 100-yard touchdown against Alabama.

Summary: Griffith, Scott and Christion Jones (99 return yards) played well, but the Crimson Tide must improve on kickoff coverage. Alabama had too many missed tackles. Saban wants this team to be sound on coverage.

 Quarterback Play—Overall [B]

Blake Sims [B] – Blake Sims worked on his mechanics this offseason and it’s starting to pay off. It’s just week one, but Sims showed confidence passing the ball. Alabama’s decision to go no huddle helped Sims get into a rhythm passing. He used his feet well and was able to scan the field. Sims has more to work on, but tonight he showed Saban and company that he can lead this team.  Sims played well in the first half. He gathered himself in the second half, despite a shaky start. Sims completed 73 percent of his passes (24-33) for 250 yards with one interception. Overall, there is room for improvement, but Sims handled himself well against West Virginia.

After the game, Saban said this matchup was exactly what he expected. Dana Holgerson and West Virginia challenged Alabama. Trey DePriest will be back in the lineup next week. As for DeAndrew White, Saban said he has a minor separated should. White should be back in a week or so. In conclusion, the Crimson Tide has a lot of work to do.  The good news is Alabama is 1-0 to start the season and not 0-1.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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