Sunday, August 31, 2014

Blake Sims shines as Alabama defeats West Virginia

Football, as in life, is essentially a mixed bag of breaks and opportunities. When it came to the Alabama/West Virginia contest, Blake Sims made the most of a well-earned opportunity and West Virginia received a plethora of bad breaks. When the contents were mixed together in a four quarter blender, the Crimson Tide held off the pesky Mountaineers by the score of 33-23.

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High Tide and low Tide

On the Alabama side of the equation, the two stories of note were the 250 yard passing performance by Blake Sims and UA's lackluster pass defense. While Sims, in his first collegiate start, played as solid as anyone could have dreamed, the Crimson Tide defense, especially the secondary, picked up where it left off against Oklahoma. If Sims had a dream debut, the Crimson Tide defense had a nightmare. Allowing 393 total yards, 365 through the air, Alabama's secondary is still one of the biggest question marks entering the second week of the season.

Four quarter Sims

In respect to the aforementioned Sims and the Alabama quarterback situation in general, Saturday's contest at the Georgia Dome belonged to the fifth-year senior. While Jake Coker did warm up on one occasion, the Florida State transfer was a spectator against West Virginia. Although Sims, especially early, missed a couple of open throws, he was calm and collected against the Mountaineers and appeared to feed off Lane Kiffin's stoic demeanor. In total, Alabama garnered 538 yards of total offense.

Super Cooooooooooper

As noted in the prior embedded tweet which included the outstanding ground efforts of Derrick Henry and T.J Yeldon, wide receiver Amari Cooper proved to be Blake Sims' primary target against WVU. In what looked like an audition for the Atlanta Falcons, Cooper grabbed essentially every pass thrown in his direction and concluded the game with statistics worthy of the Alabama record book.

West Virginia butterfingers

In respect to West Virginia, the Mountaineers probably deserved better. Perhaps even a victory. While the Alabama secondary seemed to allow big play after big play, WVU had several dropped balls that could have easily changed the complexion of the game. Granted, Blake Sims had a few missed opportunities as well, but West Virginia seemed to encounter a self-inflicted pitfall every other drive. When the day was done, quarterback Clint Trickett had thrown for 365 yards and one touchdown, but his numbers should have been better. For a bulk of the contest Alabama's best defense in the secondary came in the form of WVU wide receivers dropping catchable passes. Those speaking with an objective voice would likely agree.

Nick Saban's postgame presser

Coach Saban shares his overall thoughts on Alabama's hard-fought victory against West Virginia and provides an injury update in respect to wide receiver DeAndrew White.

Looking ahead

Nick Saban is a teacher, and with Alabama's mixed bag in terms of overall performance against West Virginia, Saban and his entire coaching staff now have a laundry list of things to improve upon as the Crimson Tide move forward.

It shouldn't take much film evaluation to notice that 'Bama's weakest link is found in the secondary in respect to pass coverage. Alabama, for whatever the reason(s), still look like deer in headlights when it comes to facing an uptempo air raid system. Too many times West Virginia receivers were essentially wide open. That fact alone makes the aforementioned point about WVU's dropped passes even more critical. Who knows how things would have played out had Trickett received some help.

After week one, Alabama is a good team. Perhaps a very good team, but certainly not a great team. Over the course of the next two weeks, against much inferior competition, the Crimson Tide should be able to work out the kinks before rejoining the fold in respect to clashing with formidable oppositions.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Game Preview: Alabama - West Virginia

The 2014 college football season has arrived and for the Alabama Crimson Tide, like so many times since 2008, that means a trip to the Georgia Dome to participate in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.

Having clashed with Clemson in 2008, Virginia Tech in 2009, and Virginia Tech once again in 2013, the Crimson Tide will now tangle with Dana Holgorsen's West Virginia Mountaineers.

Betting Line: Alabama -26 (as of 8/27)

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West Virginia Mountaineers

While the No. 2 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will enter the Georgia Dome this Saturday with confidence and the expectations of yet another special season, the West Virginia Mountaineers are likely just searching for the right ingredients to guarantee a winning season.

After going 4-8 in 2013, 2-7 in the Big 12, and losing six of their final seven contests, the Mountaineers can only get better in 2014. While West Virginia does return starting quarterback Clint Trickett, the Mountaineers are still searching for a significant remedy on the defensive side of the ball. Giving up an average of 33.3 points per contest, West Virginia ranked 100th in the nation in respect to scoring defense in 2013.

On the positive side of life in respect to Saturday, West Virginia runs a high octane/air raid offense, the type of offense that has been known to give Alabama fits in recent years. Catching the Crimson Tide off guard will likely be a way for the Mountaineers to combat the fact they're simply not as talented, one-on-one, as Alabama.

Alabama Crimson Tide

The biggest talk around the Alabama program is the quarterback situation and rightfully so. Nick Saban, at least at the time of publication, has yet to confirm that Blake Sims will get the starting nod against West Virginia, but several reputable media outlets seem to think Sims is the man.

As was the case in the 2011 season opener when AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims juggled time, expect both Blake Sims and Jacob Coker to be utilized in a similar fashion against the Mountaineers.

In respect to the other aspects of the Crimson Tide when it comes to week one, Alabama's offensive line, though shaken up a tad due to injuries in preseason camp, should be quite formidable against WVU. However, chances do exist that UA's line could be in for a minor makeover during the first month of the season.

As was the case in 2013, the Tide secondary is once again a question mark, most notably the cornerbacks. Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve will get the start against West Virginia, and like most things, the proof will be in the pudding as to how long they're able to maintain those starting roles in the weeks to come. Alabama hasn't had a true lockdown corner since Dee Milliner in 2012.

Game nuggets

-West Virginia starting cornerback Ishmael "Ickey" Banks will miss the contest against Alabama due to suspension. Banks had 32 tackles and two interceptions last season.

-Per Nick Saban, linebacker Trey DePriest has been suspended for the contest against West Virginia due to a minor NCAA infraction. DePriest's suspension is only for one game.

-Per Nick Saban, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will coach from the field.

-Jacob Coker stands between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6, while Blake Sims is only 6-feet tall. While many differences between Coker and Sims have been discussed, the issue of height, especially while standing in the pocket looking over the offensive line, is something that hasn't been discussed very much in the media, if at all. Will Sims have issues seeing downfield while standing in the pocket? It is certainly worthy of conversation and observation. As a point of reference, Johnny Manziel is also listed at 6-feet tall.


While Alabama does have some questions, they're the type of questions that 99% of all teams in major college football would love to have.

Although West Virginia is a respectable opponent, and they should have a better season than the 4-8 campaign of 2013, the Mountaineers are simply light years away from Alabama when it comes to individual talent.

The Tide is almost a four touchdown favorite and that seems about right.

--- Alabama 38 West Virginia 10 ---

Friday, August 22, 2014

Alabama Analysis: New faces highlight Tide special teams

With the departure of kicker Cade Foster and punter Cody Mandell, the Alabama special teams unit will undergo an extreme makeover this season.

Prominent players

H - Cooper Bateman or Alec Morris
K - Adam Griffith
LS - Cole Mazza
P - JK Scott
KR/PR - Christion Jones

Potential kick/punt returners (In addition to C. Jones)

Chris Black
Tony Brown
Marlon Humphrey
Cyrus Jones
ArDarius Stewart
DeAndrew White

Departures from 2013

K - Cade Foster
KR/PR - Dee Hart (Transferred)
P - Cody Mandell
H - AJ McCarron

-New holder
-New kicker
-New punter

Does that qualify as an extreme makeover? Well, in the world of special teams play, it certainly does.

For the time being, which is obviously subject to change, it appears that either Cooper Bateman or Alec Morris, both backup quarterbacks on the Tide roster, will replace AJ McCarron as the holder on field goal and extra point attempts.

In respect to kicker, Cade Foster has graduated, which means Adam Griffith will take the wheel in 2014. Kicking in spot duty last season, and most noted for his "Hail Mary" against Auburn which was returned 109-yards for the game-winning touchdown, the job is Griffith's to lose.

The Alabama punting department will meet the same fate as the field goal unit. Due to the graduation of Cody Mandell, freshman JK Scott will take over the skyscraping duties. Scott, per reports, has garnered high praise from head coach Nick Saban, and like Griffith in respect to field goal duties, the job at punter is Scott's to lose. Prior to Scott's arrival, backup quarterback Alec Morris did the punting during Alabama's spring game.

When it comes to the return game, Christion Jones is the man, but don't assume it will stay that way. This unit always has a chance to be shuffled simply based on in-game production. If (big if) Jones were to have various issues in regards to catching the ball and/or fielding/returning treacherous punts or kickoffs, a change would certainly be made. Wide receivers Chris Black and DeAndrew White are the most viable options in the return game to complement Jones, as well as freshman defensive back Tony Brown.

Many times in college football, the special teams unit is essentially invisible until a costly mistake is made. Lack of fundamentals within the group always has the potential to change the complexion of a game.

Speaking in general terms, as well as for Alabama, not every kickoff or punt has to be returned for a touchdown, and not every 50-yard field goal has to split the posts. Take care of the basics and “routine” plays, and let the offense/defense take care of the rest.

Don’t be a hero, just execute the fundamentals.

Unit rating: 8/10


Alabama Analysis: CB play will decide fate of 'Bama secondary

While Crimson Tide fans and media pundits continue to talk about Alabama's quarterback controversy, and rightfully so, arguably the biggest concern for the 2014 Alabama squad is the secondary.

For yet another season, most notably at the cornerback position, justified cause for concern is still warranted. As was the case in 2013, Alabama won't enter the season with a proven lockdown corner.

Expect the Crimson Tide to utilize a host of players in the secondary this season, especially if the core group is not as productive as the coaching staff would like.

Prominent players

Landon Collins
Eddie Jackson
Cyrus Jones
Nick Perry
Geno Smith
Maurice Smith
Bradley Sylve
Jarrick Williams

Emerging talent 

Anthony Averett
Jonathan Cook
Jabriel Washington

Tony Brown (True Freshman)
Ronnie Clark (True Freshman)
Marlon Humphrey (True Freshman)
Laurence "Hootie" Jones (True Freshman)

Departures from 2013

Deion Belue
HaHa Clinton-Dix
John Fulton
Jai Miller (Left the team)
Vinnie Sunseri

While losing HaHa Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri is a substantial blow to the Crimson Tide secondary, the bright spot is found in the positions they held. Safety...

Fortunately for Alabama, the safety position, both free and strong, will likely be the strongest point of the secondary for yet another season. With players like Landon Collins, Nick Perry, Geno Smith, and Jarrick Williams, UA is in solid hands.

In respect to the cornerback position, as noted earlier, when fans and pundits talk about the Tide secondary, they're really just talking about the lack of proven leadership and success at cornerback.

While Deion Belue and John Fulton are the two departures from the 2013 squad, with all due respect and honesty, both players struggled. To say that Belue and Fulton will be missed will likely not be the case, considering that neither player, at least in 2013, proved to be irreplaceable assets at corner.

As of right now, it would appear that Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve will get the starting nod at the corner spots (base defense) entering the season, but as mentioned, expect the Tide to use a heavy rotation, especially if the named starters prove to be ineffective. Look for Eddie Jackson and Maurice Smith, who both saw respectable action last season, to play a significant role for the Tide this fall. In respect to freshmen, one certainly can't eliminate the possibility of Tony Brown and/or Marlon Humphrey getting an opportunity, especially if the upperclassmen fail to get the job done.

From top-to-bottom, the Crimson Tide secondary, most notably the safeties, will be solid, but as mentioned ad nauseam, the real areas of concern are the corners. At least for the time being, the days of a lockdown cover man such as Dre Kirkpatrick or Dee Milliner, seem to be over. Someone, whether it be an upperclassman like Bradley Sylve, or a youngster like Eddie Jackson, will have to prove they have what it takes to stay on the field.

Guarantee, without a shadow of a doubt, 'Bama oppositions will test the edges until the Tide defensive backs can prove they're able to make plays on a consistent basis.

Unit rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Alabama Analysis: Tide linebackers begin life without Mosley

When it comes to the Alabama linebackers in respect to the 2014 season, one can't talk about the present without touching on the past.

C.J. Mosley, one of the greatest linebackers in program history, has moved on to the NFL, which means the present will have to deal with his absence. While Mosley was only one man, he was the signal caller of the defense and the ultimate team leader.

Will current stars like Trey DePriest and Denzel Devall have what it takes to fill the void left by Mosley? The nation will be watching...

Prominent players

Trey DePriest
Denzel Devall
Xzavier Dickson
Reggie Ragland

Emerging talent

Ryan Anderson
Rashaan Evans (True Freshman)
Reuben Foster
Shaun Dion Hamilton (True Freshman)
Keith Holcombe (True Freshman)
Walker Jones
Dillon Lee
Christian Miller (True Freshman)
Tim Williams

Departures from 2013

LaMichael Fanning (Transferred)
Adrian Hubbard
C.J. Mosley
Tana Patrick

While the aforementioned DePriest and Devall have the experience and leadership to lead the Tide linebackers, as per usual, 'Bama is loaded with hard-hitting young talented.

Expect Xzavier Dickson and Reggie Ragland to become national household names before 2014 is over, and look for Ryan Anderson, Reuben Foster, and Dillon Lee to play ample minutes this season as well. Given Alabama's defensive structure, as many as seven or eight players could make a significant contribution this season.

In respect to true freshmen, and who will play and who will receive a redshirt, Shaun Dion Hamilton appears to be the young man who will enter Alabama's rotation this season. Granted, that doesn't guarantee Rashaan Evans, Keith Holcombe, and Christian Miller will all be redshirted, but odds suggests that at least one or two will likely be held out of action until 2015.

The loss of C.J. Mosley will be felt, because it is simply unavoidable. However, Alabama has leadership, proven talent, and eager young guns who will collectively form one of the best unit of linebackers in the SEC, if not the country. Expect big plays and hard hits from this bunch.

Unit rating: 8.5/10

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Alabama Analysis: Tide set to release mean D-line in 2014

When it comes to solid and talented, look no further than Alabama's defensive front. While the Tide did lose two talented playmakers in the person of Jeoffrey Pagan and Ed Stinson, 'Bama has more than enough horses to carry the load this fall.

As is always the case with any team and specific group, health and depth will play a major role in terms of success. While Alabama does have some inexperience when it comes to various backup roles, the young men who are expected to be major contributors are no strangers to the Crimson Tide system.
Prominent players

Jonathan Allen
Brandon Ivory
Darren Lake
D.J. Pettway (Defensive end/Linebacker)
Jarran Reed
A'Shawn Robinson
Dalvin Tomlinson

Emerging talent

Josh Frazier (True Freshman)
Da'Shawn Hand (True Freshman)
Korren Kirven
Dee Liner
Anthony Orr

Departures from 2013

Dakota Ball (Moved to Tight End)
Wilson Love (Left the team)
Jeoffrey Pagan
Ed Stinson

Courtesy of offseason issues, and injuries during preseason camp, the Alabama defensive front, in respect to probable starters, was thrown for a loop. Nose guard Brandon Ivory, who was the primary starter in 2013, and JUCO transfer Jarran Reed, who was expected to fill a void at defensive end, were both suspended as preseason camp commenced.

Although Ivory and Reed have been reinstated, and have been on the practice field for a couple of weeks, Nick Saban has relegated them to a distant spot on the depth chart, at least for the time being.
On the injury front, A'Shawn Robinson has missed the bulk of camp due to a sprained knee. His status, in respect to the opening game of the season, is very much a question mark at this time.

In respect to the starters in Alabama’s base 3-4 defense, in terms of West Virginia, Darren Lake, D.J. Pettway, and Jonathan Allen will likely be the main trio. However, quite obviously, who will actually take the field for Alabama's first defensive snap is still a crapshoot. The injury to Robinson, coupled with the noted suspensions, have made 'Bama's starting front quite the mystery.
As for the backup line, expect Dalvin Tomlinson to fuel a hungry and talented second unit. Given Alabama’s defensive system, the Crimson Tide rely on a solid second-team due to heavy rotations; so many players will need to be prepared for game action at any moment. Before it all plays out, D.J. Pettway, for example, could very well find himself in the regular starting rotation.

In regards to true freshmen, the jury is out, and will possibly remain out for several weeks. The first note of business is which players, if any, will receive a redshirt. The second point of contention will be the rotation in regards to the aforementioned freshmen. Da'Shawn Hand is likely to contribute this season, but who really knows how things will play out at this point. Alabama has four and five-star talent across the board on the defensive line, but “star ratings” certainly don’t always equate to college playing time and success. Playing time is earned…not given.
As a whole, Alabama is stout on the defensive front. While the Crimson Tide will have to "mold and shape" in terms of building solid chemistry and rotation, virtually every team in the nation would love to have 'Bama's "problems" right about now.

Roll Spoiled Roll!

Unit rating: 9/10


Monday, August 18, 2014

Alabama Analysis: Cooper leads talented unit of receivers

While Alabama's quarterback situation continues to be a prominent topic of discussion, the plethora of targets UA's eventual quarterback will have to throw to has been well established.

With arguably the best crop of receivers in the SEC, and quite possibly the nation before 2014 is over, 'Bama is poised to have a statistical juggernaut when it comes to the passing game if the Crimson Tide can cement a confident and efficient starting quarterback.

Blending familiar and proven talent with highly touted freshmen, UA will form what can only be considered a dream for the Crimson Tide offense, and a certifiable nightmare for any defensive secondary.

Prominent players

Amari Cooper (Wide Receiver)
Christion Jones (Wide Receiver)
DeAndrew White (Wide Receiver)

Jalston Fowler (Fullback/H-Back)
O.J. Howard (Tight End)
Brian Vogler (Tight End)

Emerging talent

Chris Black (Wide Receiver)
Raheem Falkins (Wide Receiver)
Robert Foster (Wide Receiver)
Derek Kief (Wide Receiver - True Freshman)
Cameron Sims (Wide Receiver - True Freshman)
ArDarius Stewart (Wide Receiver)

Dakota Ball (Tight End - Defensive lineman in 2013)
Malcolm Faciane (Tight End)
Ty Flournoy-Smith (Tight End - JUCO Transfer)
Kurt Freitag (Tight End)
Corey McCarron (Fullback/H-Back)

Departures from 2013

Kenny Bell (Wide Receiver)
Kevin Norwood (Wide Receiver)

Brandon Greene (Tight End - Returned to offensive line)
Harrison Jones (Tight End - Medical)

If Amari Cooper wasn't already the "headliner" of Alabama's talented receiving unit prior to this season, with the departure of playmaker Kevin Norwood, Cooper will almost certainly be the star attraction in 2014. Faced with lofty expectations as the season approaches, Cooper will be looked upon to make the big receptions at the most critical times.
Joining Cooper, to likely form Alabama's main trio, will be Christion Jones and DeAndrew White. Barring something unforeseen, Cooper, Jones, and White should garner most of the receptions in 2014. Chris Black will also vie for significant playing time as well, within this core unit.
In respect to the supporting cast at wide receiver, the talent pool is deep, yet the rotation is quite the mystery as of the present time. While too early to tell who will make an impact, and too early to tell which, if any, true freshmen will be given a redshirt, one can only speculate that players such as Robert Foster, Cameron Sims, and ArDarius Stewart will be three of the highly touted receivers who will contend for respectable minutes this season.

When it comes to the h-back/tight end position, which is still a vital tool within the Alabama passing game, expect O.J. Howard to have a huge season. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has a track record of utilizing the tight end in the passing game, so look for Howard, as well as Jalston Fowler, Brian Vogler, and potentially JUCO transfer Ty Flournoy-Smith to be on the receiving end of numerous passes this fall.
As was the case in 2013, Alabama is loaded at the receiver position. If the UA offensive line can be stout in the trenches, and the Crimson Tide can find a quarterback who is stable in the pocket, 'Bama certainly has the potential to make some serious waves in the passing game this season.

Unit rating: 9/10

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Alabama Analysis: Henry and Yeldon lead dynamic RB unit

Since Nick Saban began his tenure at the University of Alabama, the Crimson Tide running back unit has been more like a stable of horses bound for the Kentucky Derby.

Within two years, if not sooner, the "fresh face" in town becomes one of the most distinguished running backs in the nation. The notable list includes, Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon, and if the trend continues, Derrick Henry.

Granted, high school talent and "star ratings" aren't enough to guarantee collegiate success, but Nick Saban's "potential driven" attitude, coupled with the fundamental teaching of running backs coach Burton Burns, allows the crop of rushers who land at the Capstone to become some of the best backs in the nation.

Prominent players

Kenyan Drake
Jalston Fowler (Fullback)
Derrick Henry
T.J. Yeldon

Emerging talent

Tyren Jones
Corey McCarron (Fullback)
Altee Tenpenny

Departures from 2013

Dee Hart (Transferred)
Alvin Kamara (Transferred)

When it comes to the 2014 stable, Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon are the undeniable stars. Not to say that someone with the skill set of Kenyan Drake, for example, won't shine like a diamond when called upon, but entering the season, Henry and Yeldon are the two players who will likely garner the highest amount of attention.

As is commonplace with Nick Saban, Alabama loves the "package deal" at running back. Ingram/Richardson, Richardson/Lacy, and Lacy/Yeldon, proved to be three of the greatest running back duos in Crimson Tide history. Given the structure of the Alabama offense, Henry and Yeldon, will likely form the dynamic twosome in 2014.

With his sophomore year under his belt, expect the aforementioned Kenyan Drake to garner a healthy load of the carries this season. Working in spot duty in 2012, and as Yeldon's primary backup in 2013, Drake has shown moments of greatness with his balance and ability to read blocks along the offensive front.

2014 will mark the final season for Jalston Fowler. The "bull" of a back who missed essentially the entire 2012 campaign due to a knee injury, was moved to H-back in 2013 and will likely play fullback this fall. Known as a great blocker, Fowler also comes equipped with soft hands for his size, which makes him a great mid-range receiver out of the backfield. While Fowler is not likely to steal the show like Henry or Yeldon, the redshirt senior will be a vital tool for the Crimson Tide offense this season.

In respect to the remainder of the running back unit, sophomore Altee Tenpenny, redshirt freshman Tyren Jones, could each receive respectable playing time in 2014. Five-star signee Bo Scarbrough would have likely been a contributor this season, at least in some small measure, but the highly touted running back failed to qualify academically. Nick Saban has expressed his hope to have Scarbrough on campus by early 2015.

Unit rating: 9.5/10

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Alabama Analysis: Coker and Sims battle for QB job

Jacob Coker or Blake Sims?

The pro-style pocket passer who looks like the next big star?


The former running back turned quarterback with several years of experience in the Alabama system?

As the eyes of college football pay close attention to the most talked about quarterback battle in the nation, it won't be long before Nick Saban has to make a decision.

AJ McCarron has taken his show to the NFL, and if things continue to be as neck-and-neck as many beat writers have reported, the Crimson Tide QB job could very well be decided by the flip of a coin.

Prominent players

Jacob Coker
Blake Sims

Emerging talent

Cooper Bateman
David Cornwell (True Freshman)
Alec Morris

Departures from 2013

Luke Del Rio (Transferred)
AJ McCarron
Parker McLeod (Transferred)

While Alabama does have several talented quarterbacks on the 2014 roster, Coker and Sims are the only two viable options at this time.

Cooper Bateman, a redshirt freshman, obviously has no live game experience, while David Cornwell, though highly touted, is a true freshman whose only been in the system since January.

In respect to Alec Morris, although familiar with the system, Morris has yet to get over the hump, for whatever the reason(s). Truth be told, Morris is more likely to see the field as Alabama's punter than UA's quarterback. Because freshman kicker/punter JK Scott was not an early enrollee, Morris was the punter during the Tide's spring scrimmage, and actually worked with the punters for a brief time during the initial practice sessions of preseason camp.

With two weeks remaining until the start of the 2014 season, the Alabama quarterback situation is far from finalized, but things could be much worse. Keep in mind, 'Bama fans, we aren't that far removed from the days where the Alabama quarterback was selected based on somewhat of a "lesser of the two evils" formula.

Quality versus quality is a good problem to have.

Unit rating: 8/10

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Alabama Analysis: Expect more from UA's offensive line

While fans of the Alabama Crimson Tide shouldn't expect the 2014 offensive front to be as stout as the 2012 line, one of the greatest in 'Bama history, the 2014 line should be better than what UA fans winessed last season.

During the 2013 campaign, the offensive front was a question mark most all season, especially during the first month. Most Tide fans can still remember the uneasiness which seemed to permeate the season-opener against Virginia Tech.

While the Crimson Tide did lose Cyrus Kouandjio and Anthony Steen from the 2013 squad, two impact starters, Alabama should be more secure and solid this season as a whole.

Prominent players

Leon Brown
Dominick Jackson (JUCO)
Ryan Kelly (Returning Starter)
Arie Kouandjio (Returning Starter)
Cameron Robinson (True Freshman)
Austin Shepherd (Returning Starter)
Alphonse Taylor

Emerging talent

Bradley Bozeman
Joshua Casher (True Freshman)
Brandon Greene
J.C. Hassenauer (True Freshman)
Grant Hill
Isaac Luatua
Ross Pierschbacher (True Freshman)

Departures from 2013

Cyrus Kouandjio
Anthony Steen
Kellen Williams

For 2014, the Crimson Tide will return three starters, add a prominent junior college transfer, and welcome arguably the top offensive lineman in the nation in the person of five-star stud Cameron Robinson. The talent is on the table, now the chemistry needs to cook on the front burner.

In respect to the aforementioned Robinson, by virtually all accounts, the true freshman will be the starter at left tackle. The kid is a mountain on two legs, and has garnered nothing but high praise from the 'Bama coaching staff since his arrival in January.

Leon Brown, Dominick Jackson, and Alphonse Taylor will likely battle to decide who completes the Crimson Tide front line. Due to a foot ailment, Brown missed the first week of preseason camp, and Jackson, during Alabama's initial scrimmage of camp, suffered an ankle injury. As of now, simply due to the obvious factors, Taylor is the current favorite to start against West Virginia. However, quite obviously, this is subject to multiple changes.

Alabama's offensive line is talented, big, and strong. Tide fans should expect this group to gel much faster than the 2013 edition. Come October, barring injury, 'Bama should have one of the most productive offensive fronts in the SEC, and perhaps the nation.

Unit rating: 8.5/10

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Alabama concludes first week of preseason camp

With the initial week of preseason camp in the books, here are some news and notes from the week that was. In typical fashion, as is the case for most teams, the Crimson Tide has had some impressive performances as well as a series of bumps and bruises.

General observations

For the most part, things are essentially as predictable as they were during the course of spring camp, which is a positive, all things considered. Nothing has really stood out as a major problematic issue in terms of player development or drastic experimental position changes.

-Blake Sims and Jacob Coker, as expected, are in a battle for the top spot at the quarterback position. Thus far, by all accounts, both men have had a solid preseason camp.
-Nick Saban seems to be very high on the Alabama receiving unit, especially the younger guys. Saban, during media obligations, has mentioned the likes of Chris Black, Robert Foster, and ArDarius Stewart.
-In case you're not aware, offensive lineman Cameron Robinson is a mountain. An early enrollee, Robinson has continued to pick up where he left off in spring camp in terms of learning his position across the offensive front. All signs point to Robinson starting in the Tide's season opener.
-As of publication time, linebacker Tim Williams is the only suspended player who has yet to hit the practice field. Thursday marked the first practice session for nose guard Brandon Ivory and defensive tackle Jarran Reed, who were each suspended prior to the start of preseason camp.
-The Crimson Tide will have a closed scrimmage Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Earlier this week, Nick Saban noted that Alabama's first scrimmage will be more of a situational outing rather than an exhibition.

-Linebacker Denzel Devall did not participate in individual drills during either practice session on Friday during the media viewing periods. While Devall was not wearing a black non-contact jersey, the reason he was not active remains a mystery. Nick Saban will likely address the situation following Saturday's scrimmage.

-Linebacker Trey DePriest continues to wear a rather bulky brace on his left knee. While he's been active in drills, he'll likely be absent during 'Bama's initial scrimmage of preseason camp.
-Defensive end A'Shawn Robinson has missed the latter half of the week due to a sprained knee which has been reported as an MCL issue. While Nick Saban has said the injury will not require surgery, Robinson while likely miss the next several Tide practice sessions.
-Offensive lineman Leon Brown, who missed the first week of preseason camp due to a foot injury, will likely be on the shelf for a few more days. Nick Saban says Brown is getting better, but he's not ready for football activities at this time.
-Defensive lineman O.J. Smith, a February signee, will miss the 2014 season due to a shoulder ailment that will require surgery. Earlier this week, Nick Saban confirmed that Smith arrived at Alabama with a shoulder injury.
Coming soon

Next week will be dedicated to unit-by-unit position breakdowns. Stay tuned.

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Weekend Wrap: Practice sessions, media obligations, Fan Day

While Saturday marked the first time that Alabama's 2014 squad came together as one unit on the practice field, Sunday featured a mixed bag of media obligations, a public practice, and the annual "Fan Day" autograph session.

Media time

Given the occasion of such a busy weekend for the Tide program, and out of respect for reader attention, I'll try not to go long-winded.

However, I will say that @BamaFootballTCE, the official Twitter account of The Crimson Elephant, was able to capture a plethora of quotes from Lane Kiffin, Kirby Smart, and Nick Saban courtesy of some of the best beat writers and diligent reporters in the state. Personally, I say thank you for providing a wealth of information.

Be sure to visit the Twitter account, linked above, and take a quick scroll through an assortment of news and notes.
The 2014 team photo...
Public practice

In respect to Alabama's Sunday practice session, the early morning blue sky didn't last long. The session, in which the Crimson Tide adorned helmets, pads, and shorts, was met with a brief rain shower.
Autograph City, USA

As you can expect, the race to get an autograph from Nick Saban, Lane Kiffin, Amari Cooper and "insert player here" was quite intense. Watching 'Bama fans race across the turf at Bryant-Denny Stadium has become something of legend...and pure comedy.
Picture of Alabama fans in line to meet Nick Saban...
Coming Soon: Unit-by-unit position breakdowns of the 2014 Crimson Tide.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Preseason camp begins at Alabama (News and Notes)

The month of August has finally arrived and football season is in the air. In the case of the Alabama Crimson Tide, the smell of an early fall commenced around 9:30 a.m.

With the 'Bama veterans taking center stage, joined by a few select newcomers, here is what the morning had to offer.

-Quarterback Jacob Coker, arguably the most highly anticipated figure of Alabama's initial practice, was joined by Blake Sims and Cooper Bateman in the quarterback rotation. Based on video and photo galleries, Coker, at least physically, looks like a top-notch SEC gunslinger.
-The running back rotation consisted of T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, and Jalston Fowler.

-In respect to a feel good story, defensive back Eddie Jackson is back. Jackson, a rising star who tore the ACL in his right knee during spring practice, was on the practice field this morning going through drills.
-Concerning newcomers, punter JK Scott and offensive lineman Dominick Jackson joined Jacob Coker. With the loss of Cody Mandell due to graduation, the starting job at punter is essentially Scott's to lose.

-Offensive lineman Leon Brown was not in attendance. Post practice reports have confirmed that Brown's absence was due to a foot injury.
-Wide receiver DeAndrew White, who missed spring practice due to his recovery from toe surgery, is back in the fold and looks to be healthy.

-In his post practice press conference, Nick Saban announced the indefinite suspension of nose guard Brandon Ivory, defensive lineman Jarran Reed, and linebacker Tim Williams.
-Wide receiver Chris Black is now adorning No. 1 rather than No. 5.

-Earlier this week it was noted that offensive lineman signee Montel McBride failed to meet enrollment standards. As of the present time, the same would appear to be true for five-star running back Bo Scarbrough. Per Nick Saban, Scarbrough is appealing his situation and Alabama hopes to have him on campus in January.
10 p.m. UPDATE: Click HERE for a recap of Alabama's evening practice dedicated to newcomers and younger roster players.

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