The 2013 season did not end well for the Tide. Instead of winning the SEC championship and playing for the national championship against Florida State, they lost on a last second freak play to Auburn and then lost to huge underdog, Oklahoma in their bowl game.
Definitely a shock and put Oklahoma back in the mix for this year’s championship. But, don’t feel sorry for Alabama. There’s still plenty of talent on campus and plenty of more talent coming in. Their last recruiting class was easily the best in the nation and some of those guys will make a huge difference in this program.
Unfortunately, Alabama did lose long time starter, AJ McCarron. AJ’s leadership and experience will be missed and spring football in Tuscaloosa will be more interesting than usual this year.
Senior Blake Sims (6-0,205) has a lot of athletic ability and has a little experience as McCarron’s back up last season. He is not the prototypical QB that Saban usually trots out on the field standing an even 6′ and weighing 205. But, he seems to have a good enough arm and can gain plenty of yardage with his feet.
He may not beat out Florida State transfer, Jake Coker (6-5,230), for the starting job. Coker is also athletic and has a big time arm and has that size that a pro style offense is looking for. Last year’s 3rd stringer was walk on Luke Del Rio and he has transferred to Oregon State.
Other challengers for the job could be Cooper Bateman (6-3,210) and Alec Morris (6-3,230). True freshman from Norman, Oklahoma, David Cornwell (6-5,240) should get a redshirt season. Cornwell should be a big time player for the Tide in a couple of years. This kid has a tremendous arm, runs really well and is huge. He has that Andrew Luck kind of feel about him and I am not sure how the Sooners let him out of Norman. David Cornwell and Jacob Park are probably the best 2 high school QBs I saw in this class.
However, Cornwell did injure his knee in high school and may have to sit awhile. Hope this doesn’t hurt his development.
New offensive coordinator Lane Kiffen should have plenty of options. Spring Practice will clear up things, more than likely, but Nick Saban has never seemed to like a running type of QB like Blake Sims. I am predicting that Sims plays but that Coker takes over the starting job.
No such uncertainty exists at RB. Bama returns super running backs TJ Yeldon (6-2,220), Kenyan Drake (6-1,200), and Derrick Henry (6-3,240). Yeldon is the starter and had over 1200 rushing yards a year ago. Yeldon could push for All American honors if he can hold off Drake and Henry.
Drake had 694 yards and Henry added 382.
Henry has the makings of star written all over him. Playing high school football in Florida, he is the one that finally broke Kenneth Hall’s 50 plus year old high school career rushing record which some thought would never be broken. Henry has the size at 240 and he has speed which was proven by his 80 yard run against Arkansas. I loved his potential which he flashed in the Sugar Bowl. I am surprised Henry is not the starter, but last I checked Nick Saban does not call me up and ask me such questions.
The Tide also has Altee Tenpenny (6-0,210) the state of Arkansas’ top recruit a couple of years ago. They also have Tyren Jones (5-9,215) a redshirt freshman from Marietta, Ga.
Jalston Fowler (6-1,250) is the Fullback.I am not sure where Bama plans on playing super recruit Bo Scarbrough (6-2,220) but he could be a great RB and the talented 5 star recruit needs to be on the field somewhere.
Alabama will be deep at RB this season and for years to come. Definitely a position of team strength.
Leading receiver, Amari Cooper (6-1,200) returns as does DeAndrew White (6-0,190) and Christian Jones (5-11,185). Cooper hauled in 45 passes and one of them good for 99 yards. White caught 32 and Jones had 36. Raheem Falkins (6-4,205) is a big and talented sophomore out of New Orleans that will push for playing time this season.
Chris Black (5-11,180) played enough to snag 8 passes and is a talented guy.
Robert Foster (6-3,190) was a super recruit a year ago and redshirted. Another super recruit that redshirted last season is ArDarius Stewart (5-11,190). Cameron Sims (6-4,190) and Derek Kief (6-5,200) are 4 star incoming freshmen that could play pretty quickly.
Bama should be excellent at the WR position this season.
TE OJ Howard (6-6,240) is potentially the best in the country. Standing 6-6, he is definitely potentially one of the best receiving TE’s around. Brian Vogler (6-7,260) also returns at TE and is an outstanding blocker. Malcom Faciane (6-5,265) is also back.
Up front, Bama returns 3 starters. Arie Kouandjio (6-5,315) returns at one guard spot with Ryan Kelly (6-5,290) returning at center and Austin Shepherd (6-5,315) returning at Right Tackle. Like Quarterback, the battle should be tough in the spring for the two open spots. I don’t believe this is going to be a problem for the Tide because they are loaded with outstanding prospects.
Look for Leon Brown (6-6,315) to be the leading contender at Left Tackle. Other contenders are former super sized TE Brandon Greene (6-5,310) and super star freshman from West Monroe, Louisiana Cameron Robinson (6-5,330). Robinson is the highest rated Offensive Tackle prospect in the country. I would not bet against him.
Another option at OT could be outstanding JC transfer Dominick Jackson (6-7,305)
The other guard could be Alphonso Taylor (6-5,335) or Leon Brown if he loses the battle with Cameron Robinson at LT. Bradley Bozeman (6-5,310) is a redshirt freshman who could battle at guard for playing time. Grant Hill (6-5,310) has played some and may challenge. Bama signed the top 2 center prospects in the nation in Joshua Casher (6-1,290) and JC Hassenauer (6-3,290) from Minnesota. They also signed the 3rd ranked OG prospect from Iowa, Ross Pierschbacher (6-4,270)
Chad Lindsey would have helped, but he decided to transfer to Michigan.
Defensively, Alabama returns 4 starters, but that means little really. They have a ton of returning players that logged playing time and could be really great.
Brandon Ivory (6-4,310) returns to plug up the middle. Freshman super man A’Shawn Robinson (6-4,320) returns for his sophomore year and should be one of the SEC’s best. The guy is a monster.
Jeoffrey Pagan should have handled the end opposite of Robinson, but declared for the draft. Darren Lake (6-3,325) should play and Dalvin Tomlinson (6-2,285) and throw in Korren Kirvin (6-5,290) and Anthony Orr (6-4,280).
JC transfers Jarran Reed (6-4,315) and DJ Pettway (6-3,250) should play also. Da’Shawn Hand (6-4,260) is one of the top DE’s in the country ranked #2. Joshua Frazi er (6-4,335) is one of the top DTs coming in from Springdale, Arkansas. It’s an embarrassment of riches in the defensive line for Bama.
Alabama will miss CJ Mosely, but MLB Trey DePriest (6-2,245) is back to tear up SEC offenses. SLB Adrian Hubbard is another that is leaving early for the draft. DePriest’s back up should be Reuben Foster (6-1,245) or Foster could move over to the weak side.
Xzavier Dixon (6-3,265) and Denzel Devall (6-2,250) basically split time at the OLB or Jack position for Bama which is a DE/LB combination. Both, are outstanding players.
Reggie Ragland (6-2,260), Ryan Anderson (6-2,255) and Dillon Lee (6-4,240) are all extremely talented players and will be hard to keep them off the field.
To make matters worse for offenses across the country, Alabama added Christian Miller (6-4,215) and Rashaan Evans (6-3,220) the number 1 and 2 rated OLBs in the nation. Wow, and if that isn’t enough, they added outstanding ILB Shaun Dion Hamilton (5-11,235) and 4 star OLB Keith Holcombe (6-3,210) a home town guy from Tuscaloosa. Hamilton graduated early and is participating in Spring Practice. Miller, Evans and Hamilton are about as good as you can recruit.
This is an outstanding group of LBs and I haven’t seen a better or deeper group across the country.
The secondary is loaded and deep. They will miss Ha Ha Clinton-Dix if for no other reason than his cool name.
Bradley Slyve (5-11,180) and Cyrus Jones (5-10,195) are the Cornerbacks. Probably, their top 2 back ups will be Maurice Smith (6-0,180) and Eddie Jackson (6-0,175)
Landon Collins (6-0,215) and Geno Smith (6-0,185) should be the safeties with Jarrick Williams (6-1,210) being the primary nickel back or Star.
Alabama had by far the best recruiting class in the country and the positions helped out the most by that is the defensive backfield.
Freshman 5 star recruits Tony Brown (6-0,195) and Marlon Humphrey (6-0,180) could help right away at CB and the starters might be worried about them. Lawrence Jones (6-2,210) is one of the top safety prospects in the country.
Ronnie Clark (6-3,210) recruited as a safety if he doesn’t grow out of the position.
Nick Saban has recruited with the best of them in recent years and they brought in another top class this year. In my opinion, he needs to recruit a top kicker or two. I believe that has been a bit of a problem for a while.
The Tide under defensive coordinator Kirby Smart have struggled with the spread or sophisticated passing offenses. They will run across a few tough offensive teams but they should easily prevail.
Biggest challenges on the schedule are LSU and Auburn. Their non SEC schedule is West Virginia, Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss and Western Carolina. None of those teams should provide any kind of challenge for the Tide.
If FSU struggles or Jameis Winston should have a sophomore slump, I have no problem with the Tide being #1. Best case scenario is an undefeated Bama and FSU making it to the new championship series.
Love em or hate em, Alabama is one of the best college football programs of all time. Since I am a huge football fan, I really admire them and generally pull for them. Since the arrival of Nick Saban, they have become a dynasty and expect nothing different next season. Should be an enjoyable year and especially if they can control the line of scrimmage on both sides and learn how to defend the passing game. Personally, I was stunned at the outcome of the Sugar Bowl. I did not see the Sooners coming out to play and winning that night. Was it a fluke? You can’t compare last year’s teams and games so we will never know.