Whether you're worried or not, here's a chance to see what some are worried about and if they should be.
What Alabama Fans are Worried About and What the Insiders Know
By: Larry Burton
What are the Alabama fans worried about and are those worries well founded? In this article we will cover what the fans are worried about and what we know from being close to the program with our ears to the ground. In the comment sections below, let us know if you agree with or disagree with either the things fans are worried about, or things we left off that list, or the things you do agree with.
1. Is Alabama going to have a winning quarterback? And who will it be? Let’s get the elephant out of the room first, the quarterback situation.
Let’s face it, Alabama fans may have been sold a bill of goods on Jacob Coker. Fans were told he almost beat out a Heisman Trophy winner in open competition and most thought he was going to lead the Crimson Tide to another title with the magic in his arm. In truth, he couldn’t beat out a guy who had never started a game and just got cut from Canadian football. I’m not saying this to disparage Blake Sims, who did a good job, but wasn’t the answer Alabama needed last year.
So are we supposed to have faith in him this year? Unless Harry Potter flipped his wand in his direction and changed his timing and other problems, it would seem that him getting the starting job simply means that all the studs Nick Saban has been drafting at the quarterback position are duds. That and continuing another campaign of one and done quarterbacks doesn’t put Alabama in position to start a new season with an experienced quarterback for a third season in a row.
But word from summer sessions is that former top recruit David Cornwell is more than willing and apparently is showing he’s more than ready to mount a serious charge for the starting job. That is good news for both this season and mostly next as Alabama could start the season with an experience SEC ready quarterback and this is what at least this author is predicting will happen, but keep in mind that I was wrong last season in prediction Coker would win out that competition.
Cornwell could very well bring the “first year starting quarterback wins a national championship” tradition that both McElroy and McCarron accomplished. With that in mind, Alabama fans can quit worrying about the quarterback position.
2. Should fans be worried about the running back position? Absolutely, yes!
There was a time when Alabama seemed to have as many running backs in the stable as Texas had cattle. Starting in the 2013 class when Saban brought in Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, Altee Tenpenny and Tyren Jones, then in the 2014 class when Bo Scarbrough, DeSherrius Flowers and Damien Harris came on board, the Tide appeared to be set for years to come. Then in this class, Damien Harris and Desherrius Flowers came on . But that was before the mass exodus of running backs.
Likely 2015 ball carrier Bo Scarbrough tore his ACL in the spring, Jones was dismissed and Kamara, after a season at a Jr. College, will be carrying the pigskin for Tennessee this fall. Altee Tenpenny is off to UNLV and now DeShrrius Flowers has been ruled academically not qualified for this season.
Given the fact that Alabama is counting on some previously injured running backs to carry a big load this fall, this makes the depletion all the more concerning. While the casual fan knows all this, insiders know that the real problem this fall is that a lack of running backs means a far weaker scout team to prepare the first team offense.That is the biggest problem.
An even greater fear is another dismissal, injury or problem in this corp. For the casual fan who thought Alabama’s one two punch would be Henry and Drake, let’s rethink that a bit. Drake looks to be used in more of a hybrid “Reggie Bush” type role in Kiffin’s offense this year, so look for him anywhere from slot receiver to wide out, to a second back in the backfield to a standard running back.
That means that the second “pounding back” looks to be true freshman Damien Harris. Not since Trent Richardson, will a freshman have such an impact.
So with Alabama’s running back position now running on a razor’s edge of depth, yes, the average fan should worry and worry a lot.
3. Is the offensive line as good as everyone says? Sadly, the talent is certainly there, but no, they aren’t up to SEC standards or should I say, up to great Alabama standards yet.
They have the size, they have the strength, they have to ability, but something’s just lacking somewhere. While they seem to do well in workouts, as a group they just aren’t jelled. Pass protection isn’t up to standards and they aren’t consistent in driving defensive lineman out of the way.
Of course part of the problem is that they’re practicing against what may be the best defensive line in college football, but still, they just aren’t sharp yet and that’s reason to worry with a new quarterback going under center this season. Nothing helps a new quarterback more than a solid offensive line. This line has to be able to dominate to give the running backs a chance to take most of load off a new signal caller.
So while Alabama fans should worry about the offensive line for now, they can take solace in the fact that there is adequate depth, there is adequate talent, (Saban has taken care to stock the shelves with back to back number one offensive tackles) and that this is a group that can certainly get to be a unit that can dominate in time.
As for how it will go by crunch time, the jury is still out, but the prospects are good, so a little worry is right in line.
4. The receiving corp is something you don’t have to worry about. Yes they lost a world class, first round draft pick, but they aren’t going to miss a beat. You can quote me on that later in the year.
The talent is there to have this group be better as a complete unit than last year’s who may have been a bit too reliant on Amari Cooper. Chris Black can fill the role of gamebreaker and with six other good ones on the roster and offensive backs who can help fill some catches, like the role previously talked about with Kenyan Drake, there is no, nada, nil reason to worry about life after Super Cooper.
And while we’re talking receivers, let me say that this year the tight end will once again be a target in the passing game and that O.J. Howard will turn some heads this year.
If Alabama finds a quarterback to get them the ball and I think that will happen, this is a group who knows what to do with it and can indeed be a total top to bottom group that will scare the hell out of opposing defensive coordinators.
5. No one in their right mind is worried about the defensive front and linebackers. Nor should they be.
As good as this group was last season, Ohio State showed they could be run on and they certainly were. This group is better, meaner and deeper than last year’s group. The depth could be the main thing as the difference between the first and second teams is all but razor thin in difference. In fact some third team could be starters and no one would notice a drop in tenacity.
So here, fans are 100% right, there is nothing to be worried about here. Fingernails you had earmarked for biting over this group can be spared.
6. The defensive backs look like they could be a problem again, is that so? Yes, there is reason to worry.
Depth is an issue, experience is an issue and cohesiveness is another issue. Alabama has been burned regularly for a few years now despite having players leave that were in high demand by the NFL. The problem has been too few good players on the field at one time with too little experience and let’s face it, with too little one on on coaching from a full time, really good coach.
But new defensive back coach Mel Tucker is putting a lot of those fears to rest with insiders. They see the huge strides this group is making under Tucker’s leadership and guidance.
While these men are often placed on an island in one on one situations that allow for failure, there will always be times when things go bad, but I’m convinced that Tucker is one of the Saban picks that will pay real dividends and pay them fast in big bucket fulls.
While this is always a group to be worried about just because of the nature of their work. You can be worried less about them this year than you have in years past. I think for most, this year will be a pleasant surprise.
7. Special teams didn’t look great last season other kicking side, just the punting side, with the same players returning, so most fans are worried. And they should be.
Last season Alabama made an abysmal 63.6% of their field goal attempts. Alabama’s opponents made a staggering 92& of their attempts. Adam Griffith is better than that. Call it a first year’s initiation into the SEC or whatever, but both Saban and most insiders know that Griffith is capable of doing better. He’s shown he has the leg, so whatever he’s missing in the mind game is the only part missing.
With Griffith the only real kicker, though Scott could be used in pinch, it’s sink or swim with Griffith and Alabama won’t have another kicker show up until the 2016 class when Miami’s Eddy Pineiro shows up.
But the other special teamer of note is J.K. Scott, who could be one of the best punters in the nation. He’s a field flipper that is a huge part of the ammunition in Saban’s arsenal and he will continue to be the weapon he was last season. This is as good as it gets for Alabama fans in the punting department.
Lastly, let me say this, because it’s not often said enough, Alabama’s long snappers have just been incredible during the entire Saban era. They don’t get enough praise and they don’t get enough press but they have all been simply outstanding and as close to perfect as you can get.
So you won’t have to worry about the long snappers or the punter and until Griffith convinces us that he’s solved his head issues, fans should still worry about the overall ability of the special teams to win a close game with a last second kick.
8. Should the fans worry that Alabama won’t return to the college championship playoffs again this year? Quite simply yes.
Last season Alabama was taken to task by an up and coming Arkansas team they only managed to beat with a blocked extra point. They lost outright to an Ole Miss team and looked beatable against LSU and Mississippi State and this year’s schedule is even tougher, so not to worry would be absolutely stupid.
With a tougher schedule, opponents on the upswing and Alabama with yet another untested quarterback and a thin set of running backs, this could be a tough year for the Tide.
But there’s just as much room for hope. If the winning quarterback out of the fall comes out and plays at a level that they’re capable of doing and the injury bug doesn’t bite at running or defensive back, then seeing the Tide come out of a tougher than usual season with a shot at making the playoffs is not a far fetched idea at all.
So fans, yes worry, there’s little to take for granted at this point, but hold onto your hope because it too is well founded. As to how good this team will be when lined up against the competition, the jury is still out. But don’t expect the worst and be happy when the team exceeds those expectations, that’s what the Vanderbilt does.
This is Alabama football, expect to not only make the playoffs, but win it all. That’s what Alabama fans do. But it’s still permissible to worry and worry you should.