The old coaches’ parable that ‘teams make their most improvements between week one and week two’ should have all eyes on the Crimson Tide, today. While they should take care of the Fresno State Bulldogs rather handily, a lot of questions remained unanswered about this year’s top-ranked Alabama squad. A lot of those questions come from the same place: the offense.
The hire of former New England assistant, Brian Daboll, created a lot of hype around Jalen Hurts and the offense. After spending the majority of his time in the NFL with the likes of Tom Brady, it was believed that Daboll could be the quarterback whisperer the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year needed. Against Florida State’s incredibly talented defense, it was hardly evident, but week two should give Hurts the perfect stage to show off an improved pocket presence.
A 96-yard preformance through the air last week soured the fans’ high expectations of Brian Daboll and what he was supposed to bring to the team. However, all is not lost, as it is fair expect Daboll to show off more variety and diversity against a putrid Bulldogs’ defense. It is likely that Daboll was given a short leash last week versus the third-ranked Seminoles, and even more likely that he will let off the chain over the next few weeks. The elite corps of receivers headed by star Junior, Calvin Ridley, demand balls be thrown their way.
Defensively, there are much fewer question marks. The most significant questions surround the many injuries suffered at the linebacker position a week ago. Two of the Tide’s biggest impact players – Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis – both suffered season-ending injuries last Saturday, and others will miss today’s game after getting banged up. Middle linebacker, Rashaan Evans, and outside linebacker, Anfernee Jennings, are of those expected to miss today’s game leaving Jeremy Pruitt’s linebacker corps very thin.
Mekhi Brown, Ben Davis, Keith Holcombe, Jamie Mosely, and a true freshman in Dylan Moses, are all potential impact players to watch for at linebacker. Consistently the strongest positional group on Nick Saban coached teams, it is strange to have a mystery at a ‘backer spot. However, that does not necessarily make it a weakness. The defense was by far biggest highlight against the Seminoles. They picked off a pair of Francois’ passes, forced a multitude of special teams blunders, and allowed only 40 yards rushing in Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Few improvements can be made, but the linebackers needed to step up are worth keeping an eye on when Alabama’s defense takes the field.
Expect young players to get a lot of opportunities today, including the highly-coveted freshman, Tua Tagovailoa. An improved offensive preformance would do wonders in helping to quell the fears of Alabama fans hoping for vengeance.