Alabama Football News

More personnel changes may be in order for Nick Saban and Alabama to repeat as national champions

Nick Saban in the locker room with Alabama team after win over Arkansas
Picture comes via Crimson Tide photos

Alabama and Georgia will face each other for an SEC Championship showdown in Atlanta on Saturday, Dec. 4.

It will be the second time Nick Saban and Kirby Smart challenge each other for conference supremacy. In 2018, Saban got the better of Smart by bringing Jalen Hurts off the bench in the second half – guiding the Tide to a 35-28 win.

RELATED: Bryce Young signed, sealed, and delivered a historic Heisman-worthy performance against Arkansas

Both schools have two common opponents, Florida and Arkansas. 

Georgia dominated both programs, allowing seven points to the Gators. The Bulldogs shut out KJ Jefferson and the Razorback’s offense at Sanford Stadium. Alabama, on the other hand, had intense outings against both teams.

The Crimson Tide escaped Florida with a 31-29 victory over the Gators, and the Hogs played Alabama down to the wire.

Saban’s group earned a 42-35 win on senior day. He has discussed changes needing to happen offensively and defensively, but will he go all-in on those adjustments? Tide fans targeted Chris Owens (offensive lineman) and Josh Jobe (cornerback) to be replaced, and it happened versus the Razorbacks.

Darrian Dalcourt started at center, and Damieon George earned the start at right tackle upfront.

After he struggled with Treylon Burks, Saban benched Jobe for freshman Kool-Aid McKinstry.

RELATED: Alabama fans sound off on Pete Golding, Tide’s defensive issues after struggles against Arkansas

As experienced as he is, Owens is not the answer for the Tide on the line.

He has not been dominant at right tackle, and the team feels Dalcourt gives it a better chance at center.

People thought Jobe would be one of the best corners returning to college football.

However, he consistently grades as one of the worst at his position via Pro Football Focus.

Jobe dropped from No. 259 to 337 in rankings and has a grade of 65.2. He is 64.6 percent in coverage in 360 coverage snaps. Jalyn Armour-Davis has outplayed Jobe at cornerback.

PFF has Armour-Davis with 80.3 as a defensive grade and coverage grade in 363 coverage snaps. Coach Saban said McKinstry is growing in confidence, and he might become the starter opposite Armour-Davis going forward.

Alabama also needs to consider a change at middle linebacker.

He came in highly regarded from the transfer portal, but Henry To’oto’o has been inconsistent all year. Analytically, he grades as one of the worst inside ‘backers per Pro Football Focus.

To’oto’o ranks at No. 452 with a defensive grade of 52.7. His pass-rush grade (57) is slightly better than his run defense (56.4) and pass coverage mark (51.1); however, he is not delivering the way fans thought he would.

Now, the Tide needs to look at Jaylen Moody. He is not the athlete To’oto’o is, but he knows the complexities of the defense more.

RELATED: Nick Saban talks Kool-Aid McKinstry’s performance replacing Josh Jobe

Moody is also a thumper, and Alabama needs that player at linebacker to set an aggressive tone. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder is someone that sticks his nose in and makes plays.

He takes on blocks, fights off offensive linemen, and attacks the play. Saban has not had anyone excel in that category all season. When he has entered games, Moody created an impact.

Shane Lee would also provide more physicality against the run. He made the Freshman All-SEC team in 2019 after totaling 86 tackles, six tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, three quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, and one interception. Lee suffered from an injury in 2020, but he is healthy now. He shared a sack with Justin Eboigbe versus New Mexico State.

In the secondary, the Tide needs to look at replacing DeMarcco Hellams. As a safety, he ranks at No. 322 per PFF. Hellams has a defensive grade of 62.3. He plays well against the run (75.2) but is a liability versus the pass (55.5) in 274 coverage snaps.

Alabama started the season with Malachi Moore at free safety against Miami, and it worked well.

It also has Brian Branch, Kristian Story, Jahquez Robinson, Terrion Arnold, and Devonta Smith that can play the position. Daniel Wright has the experience, but he tends to be inconsistent too.

Changes are needed if Alabama wants to be defending national champions.

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

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