Monday, July 17, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama got to the gates of the promised land once again, and while they fell short of winning the national title in a 40-35 loss to Clemson in a 4th quarter collapse, what the Tide has accomplished in the modern era is nothing short of amazing. Nick Saban has created the best overall program in the nation, and has anointed himself as king of all coaches in the college game. With another reload in order, will Alabama get back to the finals once again?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Jalen Hurts was a real find at QB last season, and gave the Tide a dual threat trigger man with the ability to keep defenses honest. He passed for 2780 yards and 23 TDs to just nine INTs as a freshman last fall, and completed 62.8% of his passes, while rushing for another 954 yards and 13 TDs. He averaged 4.99 yards per carry, an averaged over 12 carries per game to with his 25.5 pass attempts per game. As good as he was, he is still getting a bit of a push from freshman Tua Tagovailoa. Such is life at Alabama.
The run game is one of the best and deepest in the nation once again. Damien Harris led the team in rushing as a sophomore last fall with 1032 yards, and he scored just twice. He did manage to average 7.1 yards per carry, and could end up really exploding this season. Bo Scarbrough rushed for 812 yards, and scored 11 times, and may be the best overall back on the team. Look for Josh Jacobs and BJ Emmons to get some looks as well this fall.
Calvin Ridley caught 72 passes last season, and returns as the primary top option in the passing game.
The interior offensive line looks rock solid with the return of Ross Pierschbacher and Lester Cotton at the Guard spots, and with Bradley Bozeman at Center.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
With Ridley back as the top receiver, the concern is the depth around him. The other two projected starters are Cam Sims and Robert Foster, but they combined for just 15 receptions last season. There is no doubting their ability or talent, but they are unproven at this point, and there is little depth behind them as far as proven production is concerned. The loss of OJ Howard at TE is also a major killer.
The Tide will be young at the Tackle spots, as a pair of sophomores project to start in Jonah Williams and Matt Womack. Again, I am certain of their talent, but they have the curse of youth about them.
The kicking game is looking for a new starter at PK, and that is being handed to Andy Pappanastos, a RS senior who connected on the only attempt he tried last season.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Shaun Dion Hamilton and Rashaan Evans are the starters at ILB this fall, and they combined for 117 tackles last season. They are expected to be the new stars in the middle of the defense this season, and so will carry a lot of weight with them.
The CB situation is in good hands with Anthony Averett returning after he finished last season with eight PBUs. The Safety spot may have the best defensive player in the nation in Minkah Fitzpatrick, who finished with seven PBUs, six INTs, and 66 tackles. He is to be avoided at all costs in the passing game. Ronnie Harrison gets a lot of attention taken away by Fitzpatrick, but is rock solid as well. He finished with 85 tackles, seven PBUs, two forced fumbles, and a pair of INTs. Tony Brown plays the STAR in certain packages, and finished with 32 tackles last season in rotational duty.
JK Scott returns after completely crushing the ball on punts averaging 47.12 yards per try in 2016.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The Tide will be reloading on the line, as personnel losses cut deep. Again, the talent level is strong, but there are a trio of new starters who are trying tpo prove themselves as we move into a new season. Da'Shawn Hand and Josh Frazier will start at the DE spots, while Da'Ron Payne is back at NG, and could step right in and lead this unit. The depth players are young, but should get some experience on a rotational basis.
The OLB spots are much in the same shape as the line. Anfernee Jennings will be starting at the JACK spot as a RS sophomore, while junior Christian Miller gets his shot at WLB. Terrell Hall and Jamey Mosley still have some say in those spots as well.
Trevon Diggs will project to start at CB opposite Averett, and will also need to prove himself as the season wears on.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Florida State at Atlanta, 9/9 Fresno State, 9/16 Colorado State, 9/23 at Vanderbilt, 9/30 Ole Miss, 10/7 at Texas A&M, 10/14 Arkansas, 10/21 Tennessee, 11/4 LSU, 11/11 at Mississippi State, 11/18 Mercer, 11/25 Auburn
Final Overview
There is no doubt that this program is a machine that just keeps rolling until there is nothing left to roll over. Nick Saban took the loss to Clemson in the national title games as personal, and looks at that game as a lesson to learn from. When you are able to focus on an individual loss that much, you are doing something right. The Tide is in an excellent position to compete for yet another national championship, and they should win the SEC once again, as nobody in the conference is quite on their level right now. Expect nothing short of another amazing run.

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