Alabama’s offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has brought a different feel to this team, and while quarterback Jalen Hurts shares a vibe with some of the players, running back Damien Harris and wide receiver Calvin Ridley stand as the lone two consistent guys when it comes to huge plays.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s been Harris over Bo Scarbrough that has owned the Crimson Tide’s backfield. The junior from Richmond, Ky., chimes in with 500 rushing yards and seven touchdowns through six games – including 342 yards with four scores in conference play.
One needs to look no further than the second half of Alabama’s game versus Texas A&M to understand why Ridley is so important to Hurts. When the junior wide out and former five-star prospect left went to the sideline due to a thigh bruise, Hurts had no idea of whom he could trust with the football. Ridley has 29 receptions through six games for 390 yards and two touchdowns, while the next receptions leader (Bo Scarbrough) has 10 catches for 78 yards receiving.
Regardless of Harris and Ridley, head coach Nick Saban knows that other players must emerge on offense to give the Tide more firepower as the season gets tougher. Although he was not pleased with how Alabama finished last week, much of it was due to a lack of guys involved.
“We need to get Josh Jacobs involved more,” Saban said.
“Najee Harris is a pretty good player and we need to get him more involved. Our young wide receivers have made a lot of progress and we need them to be able to play more, because I think in the long run getting those guys better is what’s going to make us better.”
Aside from his performance versus Mississippi – four touches, 81 all-purpose yards, one touchdown – a hamstring in the latter stages of fall camp is what’s held Josh Jacobs back.
The gem of the 2016 signing class, Jacobs ended last season with 567 rushing yards, 156 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 99 touches. Daboll’s experience at New England with backs catching passes in space is why he wanted to center this offense around Jacobs early on.
Tide fans, much like the coaching staff, have a love and appreciation for Robert Foster and Cam Sims; nevertheless, more investment is placed on those that one can trust to catch the ball.
“I think when Calvin went out of the game, there was a little bit of an absence of guys that could step up and make big plays,” Saban said. “And it hurt us with receivers dropping balls, guys lining up in illegal formations and receivers fumbling the ball in critical situations in the game.”
Freshmen targets Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and Devonta Smith all bring different elements to the table, but of the three, a coin flip between Jeudy and Ruggs may determine who stands out.
Jeudy is second on the team in yards (131) and yards per game (21.8).
He’s caught at least one pass in the last three contests, including a pivotal 17-yard reception against the Aggies to set up a 44-yard field goal from Andy Pappanastos. A product of Deerfield Beach, Fla., Jeudy has yet to drop a ball thrown to him and accounts for one touchdown.
Ruggs leads the team in touchdown receptions with three.
All of his scores have come in the red zone, especially an 8-yard score last week that gave the Crimson Tide a 24-3 advantage. In the next two matchups, a No. 2 weapon must emerge to relieve pressure from Ridley and show Hurts that it can be dependable in all situations.