Preview 2016: Alabama Crimson Tide. What are the keys to the season, who are the best players, what do you need to know, and what’s going to happen?
What You Need To Know About The Alabama Offense
The offense was far more explosive than it got credit for, and it should be again with a fantastic receiving corps that could be one of the team’s biggest strengths if the quarterback play is solid. And that’s the problem – there might be several decent options to play around with, but the quarterback situation is as murky as it’s ever been in the Nick Saban era.
The line will be more than fine working around star left tackle Cam Robinson, and it’s going to do what the Alabama O line always does. As always, everything revolves around the power game, but there’s no Derrick Henry to count on needing the combination of Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough to fill the void.
What You Need To Know About The Alabama Defense
Considering the massive talent losses, including defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, almost any other program would be crushed in a rebuilding process. Not Alabama. Jeremy Pruitt is a veteran DC who’s been through the wars, and he has more than enough talent to work with to make it all work again starting with Jonathan Allen returning to the front three and Reuben Foster about to be the newest Crimson Tide superstar linebacker.
The pass rushers are there – get ready to know the name Tim Williams – while the secondary should be just good enough to get by after playing around with the combinations.
Key To The Alabama Offense
Even more should come from the receiving corps. It’s Alabama, so it’ll find a way to get its ultra-talented running back prospects the ball over and over again, but there isn’t a Derrick Henry type of talent ready to roll. The other problem is that Aaron Rodgers isn’t going to be under center – it might take a little while for everyone to trust the quarterback.
However, the receivers that were such a question mark last year after losing Amari Cooper is now going to be fantastic, including TE O.J. Howard. Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart form one of the SEC’s best 1-2 receiving punches, and the more they can get the ball in their hands, the better.
Key To The Alabama Defense
The defensive front seven lost three NFL starters, and it’ll still might be good enough to be No. 1 in the nation again against the run. The 2015 Alabama defensive line was the best in the Nick Saban era – at least it was the most talented – with more of a pass rush than usual coming from the front three and with future NFL starters A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed dominating in the rotation.
And that’s the key – the rotation. Alabama kept everyone fresh with big bodies replacing big bodies up front, and now that’ll pay off big, literally, with another great group of linemen to work around returning starter Jonathan Allen. The linebacking corps loses a leader and star in Reggie Ragland, but it’s loaded with pass rushers on the outside, thumpers on the inside, and plenty of depth.
Alabama Will Be Far Better If …
The offense can start converting better on third downs. It was one of the strangest quirks of the 2015 season. Derrick Henry and the running game always cranked out yards and gave the offense manageable third down chances, but the chains just didn’t move consistently enough. They did against Clemson – the offense converted 50% of their opportunities – but on the year the offense converted a mere 37% of the time.
By comparison, the 2014 offense converted 51% of their third down chances, and the team hasn’t been below 40% since 2009. The Crimson Tide went 14-0 in ’09, so it’s not the end of the world, but it’ll make life easier. With this receiving corps and with an NFL-caliber go-to tight end in O.J. Howard, the O should be more effective.
Best Alabama Crimson Tide Offensive Player
WR Calvin Ridley, Soph. – All he had to do was try replacing Amari Cooper and help give Alabama a passing game – no pressure there. He more than came through with a brilliant freshman season leading the team with 89 catches for 1,045 yards and seven scores, and now he’ll be used even more as a deep threat and could get the ball a bit as a runner. The only thing holding him back now is the quarterback play. If someone can get him the ball, he’ll do something with it.
Best Alabama Crimson Tide Defensive Player
LB Reuben Foster, Sr. – Close your eyes, point to a player on the defensive front seven, and you probably have Alabama’s best defensive player, but it’s Foster who’s about to take over and become an absolute killer and one of the favorites for the Butkus. The 6-1, 240-pound blaster took over as a starter last season finishing second on the team with 73 tackles while doing a strong job in pass coverage and occasionally getting into the backfield. This was Reggie Ragland’s linebacking corps last year, and now it’s Foster who’ll seek and destroy.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Cooper Bateman, Jr. – Or Blake Barnett, or David Cornwell, or Jalen Hurts. Take a guess on the Alabama starting quarterback, and you might have it. Two years ago, Jake Coker was the sure-thing starter to take over for AJ McCarron, until he wasn’t, and then Blake Sims got the team to the College Football Playoff. There was a time last offseason when it looked like Coker was a backup, and then he went on to win a national title. If the season started right now, the 6-3, 224-pound Bateman would almost certainly get the starting nod as the No. 2 guy last year and with the size, arm, and basics to fit what the offense needs. Barnett is more talented, but he needs to be consistent in practices, and Cornwell can stretch the field a bit better. Hurts is the star of the near future of the position, but no way, no how does Alabama roll with a true freshman.
The Alabama Crimson Tide Season Will Be A Success If …
The Tide win the national championship. If this was just your regular everyday superpower college football program, you’d think this might be a team in the playoff mix and with a great shot at winning the SEC West and going on to take the conference title. But Alabama is still ultra-talented, it’s still ultra-loaded, and it’s national title or bust at this point in the Saban era. Realistically, winning the SEC title this year – an epic season for anyone else – really would be a success no matter what happened in the CFP world. But if we’re not talking about the Saban Six in early January, the season will be a massive disappointment.
Nov. 5 at LSU The Crimson Tide have massive games to deal with week after week with USC, at Ole Miss, at Arkansas, at Tennessee just a few of the killers to deal with, but they can lose one of those and still probably get to the CFP. There’s a good chance they can’t win the SEC West if they don’t win at LSU. This is a different, better Tiger team this season, and making matters worse, this comes at the end of a run of three road games in four dates. On the plus side, this is the last road game of the year with the last three in Tuscaloosa.
2015 Alabama Crimson Tide Fun Stats
– Second Quarter Scoring: Alabama 166 – Opponents 64
– Rushing Yards: Alabama 2,999 – Opponents 1,136
– Sacks: Alabama 53 for 337 yards – Opponents 25 for 189 yards
2016 Alabama Crimson Tide Season Prediction
What’s going to happen to Alabama this season? Check out what the final record is going to be …