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Alabama Football: Strengths and Weaknesses in 2015

Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban is always planning ahead. 2014 didn’t have a dream ending, but it’s now a thing of the past. Recruiting and preparation have taken the wheel, as the Crimson Tide looks to wreak havoc in 2015. Many battles will occur in the offseason, but competition has a way of solidifying a true champion. Alabama has many holes to fill for next season, but here is a projected list of its strengths and weakness heading into the spring.

 

Strengths

  • Position: Running Back
  • 2015 Departures: T.J. Yeldon
  • 2015 returners: Kenyan Drake, Derrick Henry, Tyren Jones and Altee Tenpenny
  • 2015 enrollees: Bo Scarbrough, DeSherrius Flowers
  • 2015 commit: Damien Harris

Summary: T.J. Yeldon will enter the 2015 NFL Draft. He posted 979 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in 2014, and 3,322 yards with 37 touchdowns in his career. Yeldon leaves, but Alabama returns Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, Tyren Jones and Altee Tenpenny next season. Henry saw his playing time increase this season. He led all backs with 990 yards and 11 touchdowns on 5.8 yards per carry. Drake was poised for a breakout junior season. He recorded at least one touchdown in three of Alabama’s first four games. A gruesome leg injury against Mississippi sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Drake finished 2014 with 271 total (112 rushing, 159 receiving) and six touchdowns. Jones was a pleasant surprise this season. He accounted for 224 yards and two touchdowns on 6.2 yards per carry (team lead). Tenpenny put in a lot of work on the scout team, but managed to have 136 yards in 2014. The additions of Scarbrough, Flowers and Harris build depth for Alabama. Both players have size and bring a different skill set to the table.

 

  • Position: Defensive Line
  • 2015 Departures: Brandon Ivory, Xzavier Dickson
  • 2015 returners: A’Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen, D.J. Pettway, Jarran Reed, Dalvin Tomlinson, Da’Shawn Hand, Tim Williams, Darren Lake, O.J. Smith and Josh Frazier
  • 2015 enrollees: Jonathan Taylor
  • 2015 commit: Daron Payne, Anfernee Jennings

Summary: Alabama’s defensive line was disruptive in 2014. It registered 24 sacks, and excelled against the run. Nine of those 24 sacks will depart as Xzavier Dickson heads to the NFL. A’Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen both will return as juniors in 2015. Robinson totaled 49 stops, while Allen finished second on the team in sacks (5.5). D.J. Pettway returns as a senior next season. He put in 23 tackles, two sacks, three pass breakups and five quarterback hurries in 2014. Alabama is hoping to have Jarran Reed back for another season. The junior led all defensive linemen in tackles (55) and pass breakups (5). Dalvin Tomlinson and Da’Shawn Hand both had two sacks apiece. Tim Williams and Josh Frazier didn’t play much, but both contributed when given an opportunity. Williams collected 1.5 sacks. Frazier chimed in with one sack. Alabama’s depth on the defensive line improves with Jonathan Taylor and Daron Payne. 2015 could potentially be a great season for the Crimson Tide on defense.

 

  • Position: Linebacker
  • 2015 Departures: Trey DePriest
  • 2015 returners: Denzel Devall, Reggie Ragland, Ryan Anderson, Reuben Foster, Dillon Lee, Rashaan Evans, Keith Holcombe and Shaun Dion Hamilton
  • 2015 commits: Adonis Thomas, Mekhi Brown, Joshua McMillon and Keaton Anderson

Summary: 2014 was productive for Trey DePriest. He finished third on the team in tackles (88) with three pass breakups, a forced fumble and a safety. 2015 should unveil Reggie Ragland as Alabama’s next leader at linebacker. He exceeded expectation this season, totaling 95 stops, 1.5 sacks, three pass breakups, three fumble recoveries, an interception and a forced fumble. Injuries plagued Denzel Devall, yet he managed to register 11 tackles. Ryan Anderson will more than likely take over at jack linebacker. He finished with 25 tackles and three sacks this season. Reuben Foster and Dillon Lee both accounted for 20+ tackles, but injuries negated some field time from them. Rashaan Evans recorded 15 tackles and a sack in 2014. Alabama is deep at the linebacker position. If Ragland returns, the Crimson Tide’s defense will have its play caller.

 

  • Position: Wide Receiver/Tight End
  • 2015 Departures: Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White and Christion Jones
  • 2015 returners: Chris Black, ArDarius Stewart, Cam Sims, Robert Foster, Raheem Falkins, O.J. Howard, Brandon Green and Derek Kief
  • 2015 commits: Calvin Ridley, Hale Hentges

Summary: Reload.  Alabama is doing it at the running back and wide receiver positions. One cannot replace Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White and Christion Jones; however, the Crimson Tide will try to get the most production from its returning players. Chris Black may be used as Alabama’s deep threat in 2015. He has size and speed, but needs to work on his hands. Black caught 15 passes for 188 yards in 2014. ArDarius Stewart will be used in the slot. He reads coverages well, and is just as fast as Cooper. Stewart had 12 receptions for 149 yards this season. Cam Sims is one player that Alabama won’t keep off the field. He has the physical tools, and is an exceptional blocker. Sims accounted for 62 yards and a touchdown on nine catches. Robert Foster and Raheem Falkins both have potential, but they need to step up. Foster displays balance and body control, but his hands and speed lag behind. Calvin Ridley will wear a No.9 jersey, but will he be ready to step in and contribute as a freshman? Springtime will answer it for us. O.J. Howard is a tight end, but he has to emerge as a prolific pass catcher in 2015. His size (6-6/240) creates matchup problems on the field. Howard caught 17 passes for 260 yards this season.

 

  • Position: Cornerback
  • 2015 Departures: None
  • 2015 returners: Cyrus Jones, Eddie Jackson, Bradley Sylve, Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey
  • 2015 commits: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Montrell Custis

Summary: Cyrus Jones solidified himself as Alabama’s best coverage cornerback in 2014. He collected 46 tackles, three interceptions and a team-high 13 pass breakups. Eddie Jackson struggled in some games, but made plays nonetheless. He totaled 41 stops, six pass breakups, an interception, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Bradley Sylve chimed in with eight tackles and two pass breakups, but performed well against Auburn. Tony Brown had 10 tackles, while Marlon Humphrey was redshirted. 2015 will provide Alabama with depth at the corner position. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Montrell Custis both enroll in the fall.

 

Weaknesses

  • Position: Offensive Line
  • 2015 Departures: Austin Shepherd, Arie Kouandjio, Leon Brown
  • 2015 returners: Ryan Kelly, Cam Robinson, Grant Hill, Bradley Bozeman, Dominick Jackson, Alphonse Taylor, Ross Pierschbacher, J.C. Hassenauer and Josh Casher
  • 2015 enrollees: Brandon Kennedy and Dallas Warmack
  • 2015 commit: Lester Cotton, Richie Petitbon and Matt Womack

Summary: Alabama graduates three seniors from an offensive line that helped it average 36.9 points and 484.5 yards per game. Austin Shepherd, Arie Kouandjio and Leon Brown all displayed leadership, created holes in the run game and protected the quarterback. Center Ryan Kelly will return as the team’s most experienced offensive linemen. He along with Cam Robinson must get others to play at a high level. Grant Hill, Bradley Bozeman and Dominick Jackson all have seen some action, but they will pivotal in 2015 as first year starters.

 

  • Position: Safety (Defensive Back)
  • 2015 Departures: Landon Collins, Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams
  • 2015 returners: Geno Smith, Maurice Smith, Jabriel Washington, Laurence “Hootie” Jones and Ronnie Clark
  • 2015 enrollees: Ronnie Harrison, Deionte Thompson
  • 2015 commit: Shawn Burgess-Becker, Rico McGraw

Summary: Secondary play was either feast or famine for Alabama in 2014. Safety Landon Collins will enter the NFL Draft. He led the team in tackles (103) and tied for the team lead in interceptions (3). Alabama graduates both Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams from its secondary. Perry had a career season in 2014, totaling 80 tackles, six pass breakups and two interceptions. The Smith duo, Geno and Maurice, are the top two names in the conversation for 2015. Geno Smith had a bounce back season. He had 56 tackles, and excelled in run support. Jabriel Washington was in the right position a lot this season, but he’s undersized (5’11”). Laurence Jones and Ronnie Clark both have a year in the system, but can they process information quickly? Ronnie Harrison and Deionte Thompson are two freshmen that Alabama is high on. Both players have savvy on ball skills. Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban rarely plays a lot of freshmen in the secondary, but 2015 could reveal a true freshman at safety.

 

  • Position: Quarterback
  • 2015 Departure: Blake Sims
  • 2015 returners: Jake Coker, Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell
  • 2015 enrollees: Blake Barnett

Summary: Back at square one. Alabama didn’t know who its quarterback would be in 2014, and it won’t know in 2015 until someone emerges. Blake Sims defeated all odds. He answered every critic and put together a masterful season. Sims guided Alabama to 12 wins, an SEC title and a College Football Playoff appearance. He ended with 3,487 passing yards, 35 total touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Jake Coker has had a year to learn, but is he ready to lead the team? Coker will battle with Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell and Blake Barnett. Morris has been at Alabama for three seasons. He has a strong arm, but lacks mobility. Bateman enters his third season at the Capstone. He’s made vast improvements on his arm strength and ball placement. Cornwell was a topic of conversation in Alabama’s 2014 recruiting cycle. He has size, arm strength and mobility, but his accuracy isn’t quite there. Crimson Tide fans are high on Barnett. He is a five-star quarterback who has all the tools. Barnett rushed for 479 yards and seven touchdowns in his senior season at Santiago High School (Corona, Calif.). Spring practice will be interesting. A-Day will be a test, but rest assured that this competition will go deep into the fall.

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