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What’s Good And Bad With Alabama Football So Far

The season is early but trends are developing and it’s time to look at the things that going good and bad with Alabama football so for this season.

Do you have additions to the good and bad? Add them in our comment section. (Photo-TDA Football)

What’s Good And Bad With Alabama Football So Far

By: Larry Burton

Since I was always told to end things on a positive note, we’ll start with the bad.

The 400 pound gorilla in the room in this category is the apparent lack of Jalen Hurts in polishing his passing game. The season is early though and with some easy opponents ahead there’s plenty of time polish that portion of the pigskin before the next real opponent and that’s LSU rather late in the season. Much was made in preseason of Hurts working hard but it really has shown yet. The thing for new offensive coordinator Brian Dabol to do is work on getting him comfortable and confident in the things he can do and gently slipping in some more challenging throws every now and then. It is a problem that seems close and seems fixable so we’ll see as the season goes on.

In two games so far this season, Alabama’s All American offensive tackle has been consistently getting whipped by pass rushers from Florida State and Fresno State. It seems the move from right tackle where he thrived, to left tackle has been a bit much. Saban usually has his tallest player with the most upside at that spot and Jonah Williams isn’t that man. Maybe the coaches are waiting to see if he improves for a while, but there seem better prospects out there that might not be beaten so badly. So far the move hasn’t worked out and I’m not sure if it can be fixed without a switch.

Play calling – One pass attempt to a tight end all season, it went for a touchdown and God forbid we should ever attempt another one. Deep balls keep defenses honest and Alabama has had some success with them, but let’s not try that too often and become predictable.  The diversity in play calling we all heard was coming just isn’t there. The spreading around of the ball to all possible receivers just isn’t there either. And in the Florida State game, Damien Harris averages 8.1 yards a carry and the one time they throw to him he gains 11, so let’s put him on the bench and give Scarbrough (who averaged 2.7 yards a carry) a lot more carries and let’s try the rookie Najee Harris (who averaged 1.7 yards a carry) a try. Let’s just stop running the ball most of the time with the guy who has proven to have the hot hand. Like other problems though, this too can be fixed.

Bend but not break defense. I hate that kind of defense, however not as bad as the bend and break defense. Alabama can get tough when it counts, but gives up lots of yards in the middle between the end zones. Getting teams off the field quickly not only gives our offense more chances to score, but win field postition too. This too is fixable.

Pass rush problems on offense. I’ve already picked on left tackle Jonah Williams, but as a group overall, there doesn’t seem to find a way to stop the leaks. I’ve also picked on Jalen Hurts and that too could be helped by an offensive line that doesn’t make a quarterback nervous when he drops back. The pieces are there, maybe they just have to be re-arranged, learn to work better as a unit or something. If I had the answers I’m sure Saban would hire me and clearly I don’t, but something has to step up there.

Lastly, third down conversions. Alabama sucks at them and has for a while and it cost them a championship last season and could again this year. So far this season and this includes one game with a creme puff team, Alabama is just 7 of 26 in third down conversions and that equates to a 26.92% success rate. That ties them for 118th place out of the 130 division one schools. So this just isn’t bad folks, it’s ashamedly embarrassing to have just 11 teams out of 130 below you. In this all important category, Alabama isn’t just a joke, they are THE joke in college football. Just as proven last season you don’t win championships with 3rd down successes like this. Had Bama just converted one more of the many chances they had in the fourth quarter of that championship game, they would have had an additional championship, so if you think this isn’t something that has to be addressed you don’t know football. There are 26 schools that do 50% or better at this, so don’t think 50% isn’t an attainable goal.

And now for the good and there’s more of that than I’ll list here, but hitting the high points are as follows:

Damien Harris looks to have clearly claimed his spot as the beast in the backfield this season with the other capable herd of running backs. So far it looks like only Damien Hurts can challenge his yard per carry average. Harris looks like the back he was last year, the back that led all back in total yards and yards per carry. So far this season his yards per carry are almost double that of all the other running backs and I see no reason why that will change.

Great receivers. Ok, the numbers may not be there, but there aren’t many silly drops to be seen, routes are run crisp and when given a proper chance and throw, they have been delivering time after time. As soon as Hurts get in a groove, this team is going to be unstoppable.

Absorption of injuries. The Tide lost two linebackers and they were valuable players, but the depth of this squad was such that quality of play was not hindered. If Alabama was going to have to absorb some losses, this was the deepest pool to do so. While injuries at defensive back may cause concern, Alabama’s “Next Man Up” mentality and style of play has certainly worked so far this season.

Scoring defense. Again, one of the national leaders, Alabama is allowing less that 9 points a game and one of their two games was against the number 2 or 3 team in the nation with what was thought to have one of the best offenses in all of football. This is just a typical “reloading” year for Alabama who never seems to have to suffer with a rebuilding year.

Lack of “Clutter”. Clutter is what Nick Saban calls things that distract you from focusing on the things you need to be focused on. The lack of off field distractions by this year’s team has been great overall. Yes one did make headlines with a DUI, but when circumstances were learned, he never actually drove and just sleeping it off in his car. Overall, with this many high profile athletes on one team, the lack of clutter has been amazing and the coaches and team should earn a tip of the hat for that.

Robert Foster. We all knew that Calvin Ridley would be a good receiver this season, but hats off to Robert Foster for sticking around and making this senior season his best. While the numbers haven’t piled up yet, they will. Foster was courted by many other teams to come and be their big star, but a sincere thanks are due to man who wanted to finish what he started with his brothers in Crimson. He’s caught two passes and averages 11 yards per grab. That alone is reason to target him more. That’s higher than Ridley’s average, even if it’s so close. Ridley averages 10.80 per grab. With Ridlely on one side and Foster on the other, once Hurts gets hot, teams will have more than just one great guy to focus on.

The substitute players. I’m someone who really pays attention when subs come in and Alabama keeps you busy with the way the rotate players in and out. The great thing about this team as a whole is that it’s just not 22 players deep, it goes far, far deeper. There have been third and even fourth string players make appearances in critical times of each game and there is no apparent drop off in results. That not only tells the players that the staff has faith in them, but prepares them for a time when another in front them may be nicked up and need to rest a while. Plus having fresh players come in just wears down to opposing team who cant match that depth. You can see that Alabama in the fourth quarter is a much different team that the ones they play against. They’re tougher, fresher and more full of fire.

Again, there are very many more things that are going right for this team such as the continuance of perfect long snaps and lack of turnovers. They are leading the nation in blocked kicks, but it’s only one blocked, they’re tied for 7th place in interceptions, tied for 3rd in red zone success and more, but it’s hard to write an article that includes everything.

Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://htwitter.com/LBSportswriter

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Larry Burton is a member of the Football Writers of America Association (FWAA) and was the most read SEC and Alabama football writer during his time at Bleacher Report. He has been credentialed by all the major bowls and the University of Alabama. Larry provides some of the best insight in the business through his "Larry's Lowdown" segment with TDA.

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