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

Quarterback Play—Overall [B]

Blake Sims [B] – He misfired on 10 passes, but Sims demonstrated great poise and leadership against Tennessee. He made some big time throws and moved the chains with his legs. Sims targeted Amari Cooper early and often. He needs to improve his communication skills on zone read plays, but overall Sims held it together and exits with his second road win. He completed 58.3 percent of his passes (14/24) for 286 yards and totaled three (one rushing) touchdowns.

Summary: Sims has come a long way, but there is still room for improvement. He had a few passes in which the ball was thrown behind receivers. Sims has to give Alabama’s play makers a chance to produce in space. He must place the ball on the numbers.

Defensive Play—Overall [C]

Defensive Line [C] – Alabama’s defense line established leverage in the first quarter, but struggled to maintain it during the course of the game. Tennessee’s quarterback Joshua Dobbs did a great job of pressure Alabama’s defense with his mobility. Dobbs rushed for 75 yards. A’Shawn Robinson led all defensive linemen with seven tackles. Jonathan Allen and Jarran Reed each had three stops. True freshman Da’Shawn Hand registered a sack.

Linebackers [C] – Alabama’s linebackers missed some gap assignments against Tennessee. Dobbs was able to extend plays, creating positive opportunities for the Volunteers. Reggie Ragland continues to play well. He led Alabama with nine tackles, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. Trey DePriest recorded six tackles. Ryan Anderson and Xzavier Dickson (one sack) each had four stops.

Secondary [C] – Marquez North and Alton Howard didn’t record 100 yards against Alabama, but both players had decent games. North caught four passes for 56 yards. Howard had four receptions for 49 yards. Tony Brown is young, but will he improve with experience. Nick Perry exits as Alabama’s leading tackler in the secondary for a second straight week. Perry recorded eight stops. Jarrick Williams, Landon Collins and Eddie Jackson (fumble recovery) each had four tackles. Cyrus Jones registered three stops, a pass breakup and an interception.

Summary: Sophomore Joshua Dobbs showed a lot guts against Alabama’s defense. Tennessee totaled 181 rushing yards. The Crimson Tide were aggressive in the first quarter, but slacked off as the game went on. Reggie Ragland played well and Cyrus Jones’s interception sealed it, but Alabama’s defense has to play four quarters of solid football.

Running Backs—Overall [C+]

Derrick Henry [B] – It was a grinder for Henry, but he protected the ball. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Henry started slow, but gained momentum down the stretch. He rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

T.J. Yeldon [C] – It didn’t result in a turnover, but Yeldon did fumble the ball against Tennessee. He has to secure it tight and get down. Yeldon was involved in a lot of slow developing plays for Alabama. He ripped off a few good runs, but not many. Yeldon averaged 3.7 yards per carry. He finished with 52 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

Summary: Lane Kiffin’s play calling got cute in the run game. He went with a lot of slow developing jet sweep plays, instead of pounding the ball right at Tennessee. The Volunteers shot the gaps and attacked the ball well. Alabama’s offensive line was beat on some plays. Yeldon and Jalston Fowler must remember ball security.

Special Teams—Overall [A]

Adam Griffith [A-] – Griffith played well, despite missing an extra-point in the first quarter. He did not attempt a field goal, but his distance on kickoffs improved. Griffith averaged 63.5 yards per kick. Three of Griffith’s six kicks resulted in touchbacks.

JK Scott [A] – Scott continues to prove why he is the best punter in the Southeastern Conference. He averaged 42.8 yards per punt. Scott had four punts with a long of 60 yards. Three of his four kick pinned Tennessee inside its own 20-yard line.

Summary: Adam Griffith and JK Scott were good against Tennessee. Kickoff and punt coverage was good. Alabama’s return game didn’t make mistakes.

Receivers—Overall [A]

Amari Cooper [A] – It doesn’t matter who opponents put on him, Amari Cooper makes plays. Tennessee was his latest victim. Cooper caught nine passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns. His 224 yards set an Alabama single-game receiving record (Julio Jones—221 yards against UT in 2010).

DeAndrew White [A] – White quietly put together a solid performance. He had four catches for 59 yards. White did a good job of rolling with Blake Sims.  He created separation and made receptions in traffic.

Summary: When an opponent can’t cover the best player on the field, get him the ball. Blake Sims did that for Alabama. Amari Cooper abused Tennessee’s secondary. His route running was good and he displayed speed on the perimeter. DeAndrew White benefitted from Cooper’s attention. He played well and made himself a valuable second option for Sims.

Offensive Line—Overall [B-]

Summary: Give Tennessee’s defensive line credit in the leverage department. Alabama’s offensive line didn’t impose its will until the second half. The Crimson Tide did total 469 yards of offense (183 rushing, 215 passing). Alabama surrendered one sack.

Aftermath

Alabama wins its second road game, but still has a lot to improve on. Focus and intensity is what head coach Nick Saban will preach on during the bye week. The Crimson Tide got off to a fast start in the first quarter, but then slacked off. Alabama allowed Tennessee and its fans to get back into the game. When a team is on the ropes, an opponent must knock them out. It took Alabama four quarters to deliver a knock blow.

Alabama’s offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was greeted with lustful boos. He left Neyland Stadium as a winner. Kiffin received a cup to the head from a Volunteers fan, but he also received a standing ovation from Alabama’s Million Dollar Band.

Conclusion

Joshua Dobbs gave Tennessee fans hope. Tennessee’s defense fought hard, but Alabama gets a 34-20 win. Nick Saban improves to a perfect 8-0 against the Volunteers. Alabama has scored 30+ points in six of the last eight meetings against Tennessee.

Make room in the record books for Amari Cooper. He becomes the first receiver to record two 200-yard receiving performances in a season. He stands at 2,868 receiving yards. Cooper is 55 yards away from D.J. Hall’s record of 2,923 yards.

Alabama’s bye week comes at a good time. The Crimson Tide suffered some injuries, despite a hard fought victory.

Freshman Cameron Robinson has a high ankle sprain. Senior receiver Christion Jones (hamstring) didn’t play against Tennessee. Tight End Brian Vogler sprained his knee. Defensive back Landon Collins had cramps. DeAndrew White and Austin Shepherd hobbled a bit during the game.

Nick Saban said the injuries to Vogler and Jones shouldn’t be serious. Robinson will have an MRI done on his ankle Sunday.

“I am hopeful we [Alabama] will be able to get Cam Robinson back in a couple of weeks,” Nick Saban said.

Puff a cigar and be sure to pass it along. Alabama celebrates tonight, but rest assured the ash tray will swallow the cigar Monday as the team returns to work. Alabama will face LSU two weeks from now at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

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