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Alabama football: Five reasons why Tide’s offense will be more lethal next season

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.– The University of Alabama football program won its third straight Southeastern Conference championship last season, and made its third appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Despite falling in the 2017 CFP national championship game to Clemson, the Crimson Tide accomplished many things offensively under Lane Kiffin. After the three-year marriage between Kiffin and head coach Nick Saban ran its course, the 41-year-old play caller accepted a head coaching job at Florida Atlantic University.

Since then, the Tide has located a new coordinator in Brian Daboll and expect to be more lethal in the fall. With starters and young talent returning, yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine lays out five reasons why opponents should fear the Crimson Tide’s offense going into next season.

1. Better offensive line play

As much as Tide fans enjoyed having Cam Robinson at left tackle for three years, there were moments a season ago where he cost the team yardage. Numerous false start penalties took Alabama’s offense out of rhythm, which allowed opposing defenses to set and read the play.

When people weren’t so focused on making sure Robinson did not fire off the ball too early, their eyes were caught on the revolving door at right guard. A combination of Alphonse Taylor, Lester Cotton, Korren Kirven and Josh Casher all participated, yet Kirven had the most success.

While the 2016 group did carry the SEC’s best scoring offense (38.8 ppg) and the conference’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner – Robinson – next year’s unit will be more sound across the board.

2. QB Jalen Hurts, improved accuracy

Jalen Hurts guided Alabama to an SEC championship, a Peach Bowl Trophy and almost pulled out a dramatic win over Clemson in the 2017 CFP national title game, and he did all of this while not being asked to be a dynamic passer a season ago. As a true freshman quarterback, Hurts kept the Tide in position to win games as he compiled 2,780 passing yards, 954 rushing yards and a school-record 36 touchdowns responsible for (23 passing, 13 rushing) in 2016.

A native of Channelview, Texas, Hurts completed over 60 percent – 62.8 percent – of his attempts last year while collecting four 100-yard rushing games versus Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

His athletic prowess earned him the SEC’s Freshman of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year, but now the sophomore is expected to do more through the air. Reminiscent of his first A-Day performance, Hurts gave fans a clear picture of his improved accuracy in the spring game. The 6-foot-2, 214-pounder hit on 16 of 25 throws for 301 yards with two touchdowns, including a 65-yard bomb to Robert Foster along the sideline.

With five-star Tua Tagovailoa behind him, Hurts will continue to get better.

3. Emergence of Robert Foster, Jerry Jeudy

Greatness has been spoken over Robert Foster since the moment he arrived on campus in 2013, and it seems like the words will finally take root in the upcoming fall. He started to chirp some in 2015, but a rotator cuff injury against Ole Miss would sideline him for the remainder of the year.

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 196 pounds, the Pennsylvania native carries balance, body control, hands and top speed to go along with his size. Tide’s head coach Nick Saban considers him a vertical threat and it showed on A-Day, as he brought two receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown.

Calvin Ridley will find ways to get his numbers.

Whether it’s of the 1,000-yard variety in receiving or all-purpose, the junior is too explosive to be contained for a long period of time. Although he racked up four catches for 102 yards and a score in the spring game, Ridley’s experience opens the door for five-star freshman – Jerry Jeudy. In the same manner that teams weren’t keen on Ridley as a freshman in 2015, expect the same for Jeudy next season.

He’s got speed to burn at 184 pounds and a pair of reliable hands. While the connection between Jeudy and Tagovailoa is undeniable – five catches, 134 yards, two scores on A-Day – if he can build with Hurts throughout summer workouts and fall practice, defenders won’t have a chance.

4. Rotation of running backs

Usually, it is at this point in the offseason where rumors of players transferring away from the University of Alabama start to surface. According to sources, the Tide expects to have all six running backs in summer camp and fall practice. Even with Damien Harris accumulating 1,037 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 146 carries as a sophomore, the team leaned more so on Bo Scarbrough – 812 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns, 125 attempts – on the biggest of stages.

Josh Jacobs, the recruiting gem from the 2016 cycle, came in with no expectation.

Regardless of the low-end value, he produced a near 600-yard rushing season (567) with four touchdowns. When one adds this trio to B.J. Emmons, Najee Harris and Brian Robinson, the degree of difficulty becomes unbearable for defensive coordinators to strategize. Will it be hard to satisfy all six rushers?

Most definitely. However, a humble group makes for fresh legs in the fourth quarter.

5. Brian Daboll’s play-calling scheme

First off, let’s give Lane Kiffin the credit he deserves.

Alabama did not always have to drop 50 points on a team, but it sure felt good to have an offense that could score at any given moment. Under Kiffin, the Tide averaged 36.9 points and 455.6 yards offensively through three seasons. He encountered some situations where he was not consistently focused; nevertheless, one cannot say that Kiffin did not understand his craft.

Most individuals look at the jet sweeps, tunnel screens and pop passes as ingredients that led to Kiffin’s departure from Alabama, but in all actuality, it was his inability at times to stick to the script. His love for creating mismatches got him into trouble, due to him going away from plays that generated success.

Kiffin got a national title out of it, but now enter Brian Daboll in the mix.

Unlike Kiffin, Daboll comes from a highly-wired regime. New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick runs a tight ship. He has the blueprint of success documented and expects every assistant on his staff to take notes. In being one of those proteges, Daboll earned five Super Bowl championships as a receivers and tight ends coach.

Now at Alabama, he wants to get the best production from the quarterback position.

During the spring, Daboll had Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones all training on footwork, accuracy, ball placement and observing the entire field. His first audition calling the offense went well, seeing how Hurts and Tagovailoa combined for 616 passing yards and five touchdowns on A-Day. Both torched the Tide’s secondary with deep passes, including Hurts – who hooked up with Robert Foster and Calvin Ridley for touchdowns in excess of 30 yards.

Daboll has built a firm relationship with everyone inside the program, and after getting his $1.2 million contract, the 42-year-old is prepared to create some magic with a play sheet.

Stephen M. Smith is a managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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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