2014 SEC Preview: Alabama: Good schedule, good team, SEC favorite

Now we’ve done our SEC champions (Auburn and Missouri), it’s time we focus on the perennial favorite: Alabama. Alabama looked unbeatable all season long, until Auburn came along with ‘Kick Six’ to ruin their chances of going to Atlanta and the National Championship Game and Oklahoma beat the living hell out of them in the Sugar Bowl. Well, ‘Bama has reloaded and they are BACK, people. You know, if they’d ever left…..

LAST SEASON

Johnny Football scared the crap out of Alabama with a heroic performance, but the Crimson Tide won out 49-42. The rest of the games of the season simply were not close….until they were to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the Iron Bowl. Alabama went for the long, game-ending, Auburn-heart-breaking field goal to end the game, and kick went down the throat of Chris Davis, who ran the ball back to the house for the touchdown and ‘Kick Six’. You don’t believe me? Check this out. Anyhow, with their hopes of facing Florida State in the National Championship Game neutered, they went to NOLA to face Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. They made Trevor Knight look like Drew Brees out there, and promptly lost 45-31. And it was 31-17 at half-time. In other words, Alabama is now on a two-game losing streak…

RECRUITING

As usual, Alabama had the top pile of recruits in the nation. You know, this dude Nick Saban – and his team are pretty good recruiters. The five-stars they picked up were OT Cameron Robinson, DE Da’Shawn Hand,  linebacker Rashaan Evans and cornerback Marlon Humphrey. The list is frightening. OK, so you could crack the joke about how many of these players actually getting to play, and how many will be forced to transfer by Saban (or get arrested), but that’s college football, right?

OFF-SEASON

There was a HUGE rumor going round that Nick Saban – not renowned as the most loyal of coaches – was preparing to leave Tuscaloosa to join Texas. Paul Finebaum insisted Texas regents were preparing a $100m offer. Anyway, it came to nothing but got a lot of SEC coaches a nice pay rise during the off-season…bearing it mind that IF Saban had moved, it would have set off one of the biggest coaching carousels in history. Speaking of coaching carousels, Saban did hire otherwise-unemployed offensive guru Lane Kiffin to be the team’s offensive co-ordinator (Doug Nussmeier went to Michigan to help the clueless in Ann Arbor), defensive line coach Chris Rumph left to Texas (replaced by Bo Davis) and defensive back coach Greg Brown resigned (he’s now at Louisville worked with former UGA DC Todd Grantham and one Bobby Petrino), too.  Add to that five early departures from the actual team to the NFL, and it’s hardly been an off-season of quiet.

 

Oh, and then there’s the team’s behaviour…which is an on-going soap opera. Defensive players Jarran Lee, Dillon Lee and Tony Brown were all arrested in the off-season, as was back-up running back Kenyan Drake. Former running back Dee Hart was also arrested for possessing weed and having counterfeit money, but no-one knows if he was playing for Alabama or if he wasn’t (Saban says he wasn’t part of the team). Anyway, Nick Saban’s pissed about it so we can expect all four players to NOT play a part in the West Virginia game.

Oh, and former FSU back-up Jacob Coker transferred, and he’ll probably be the next QB at Alabama.

SO HERE ARE OUR BIGGEST QUESTIONS FOR THE 2014 ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

QB: WILL JACOB BE ALABAMA’S MOSES?

Jacob Coker‘s put a lot of smiles on a lot of people’s faces since his transfer from Florida State – where he nearly won the starting job from Jameis Winston in 2013. The kid’s got a cannon, and everybody’s very excited that THIS will be the guy to lead ‘Bama back to the Promised Land. Senior Blake Sims didn’t exactly impress a lot of people in the Spring Game, but redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman DID impress at the ‘A-Game’. Although Bateman’s good, he’s not experienced. So we’ll give the job to Coker. And Coker will do just fine, people.

WR: AMOROUS FOR AMARI

We love Amari Cooper. So do a lot of people. Cooper had 736 yards and 4 TDs on a Bama team that had 8 receivers with over 100 yards receiving for the season. He wasn’t the point man for TDs last year – that was Kevin Norwood. Cooper’s going to give DBs fits next year, and then so will returners DeAndrew White and Christion Jones. Hell, Alabama’s running backs can all catch the ball too, so Alabama shouldn’t have a problem scoring. We’re also pretty excited about seeing Chris Black getting to see some more playing time. OJ Howard and Brian Vogler come in as two excellent TEs who are going to haunt secondaries too. In short, if Kiffin’s offense is going to be less run-orientated, then we can see the numbers explode and defenses not know how to deal with them.

RB: GET LOADED

Kenyan Drake‘s ****headery aside, Alabama is loaded at the position. And by loaded, I mean, LOADED. Last year’s starter TJ Yeldon put up over 1,200 yards for the Tide, and he’ll be doing the same this season. In fact, if you’re a fantasy expert, I would probably put some money on seeing Yeldon get LESS touches than last, because Derrick Henry blew everyone’s minds at the Sugar Bowl, and we even heard some critics compare him to Bo Jackson. Look, we think Henry could well be the No.1 RB in Tuscaloosa this year. And Drake will come in and play, too. If Drake had been arrested at any other school, there would have been hysteria. Not in Tuscaloosa. That’s how good Henry is.

OFFENSIVE LINE: A LITTLE INEXPERIENCED

Phil Steele projects Alabama’s starting offensive line unit to have the second-lowest amount of starts of any offensive line in the SEC, with 37. And while we can’t quite believe Cyrus Kouandjio left for the NFL after a piss-poor bowl performance (he went from mid-first to second round), he has and has to be replaced. His brother Arie has stayed, and he and Austin Shepard are the only recognised starters. Insiders/Bama Believers believe that freshman Cameron Robinson’s going to start immediately, and sophomore Grant Hill is pretty useful, too. Mario Cristobal, Bama’s offensive line coach, is one of the best in the business….so we wouldn’t be surprised to see this unit go from strength to strength as the season rolls on.

DEFENSE: MONSTER AFTER MONSTER

The amount of talent leaving Tuscaloosa this year would make most teams cry. See you later,  CJ Mosley, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Vinnie Sunseri, Ed Stinson, Jeoffrey Pagan, Adrian Hubbard! Don’t worry ‘Bama fans, Kirby Smart’s re-loaded, and the Crimson Tide should be stronger than ever. Nose guard Brandon Ivory and MLB Trey DePriest will marshall the D, and we can’t wait to see more of future God DE A’Shawn Robinson. We can’t wait to see more of JUCO D.J. Pettway and Jarran Reed, when the latter leaves Saban’s doghouse. Adrian Hubbard’s departure will have to be filled, too.

SS Landon Collins and CB Cyrus Jones are going to try and hold together a unit that wasn’t that good last year and was exploited in the Iron and Sugar Bowls. Tony Brown – also in the Saban doghouse – figures to be a starter by end-season.

THE SCHEDULE: SHOULD ROLL

Aug. 30 West Virginia (in Atl)
Sep. 6 Florida Atlantic
Sep. 13 Southern Miss
Sep. 20 Florida
Sep. 27 OPEN DATE
Oct. 4 at Ole Miss
Oct. 11 at Arkansas
Oct. 18 Texas A&M
Oct. 25 at Tennessee
Nov. 1 OPEN DATE
Nov. 8 at LSU
Nov. 15 Mississippi State
Nov. 22 Western Carolina
Nov. 29 Auburn

We keep looking at the schedule, and we keep laughing. Alabama will be 4-0 without even having to think about it (West Virginia’s ‘D’ and Florida’s ‘O’ are horrible), and while the game at Ole Miss will provide some test, it’s not hard to think ‘Bama will be 8-0 before going into Death Valley to face LSU. This game is going to be a monster, which we can quite easily see them losing. A lot of people are talking up Mississippi State, but Alabama’s at home. It might be closer than previous years, but we expect Alabama to roll to an 11-1 season/12-0 season (we still can’t work out which one!) and into the SEC Championship Game, and then into the College Football Play-Off. 

No Title? No problem! Bama’s No.1 on National Signing Day

No Championship? No problem for Nick Saban.

The Alabama Crimson Tide was AGAIN the No.1 recruiting team on National Signing Day, with a tremendous signing day haul.

It included: Three of the ESPN 300’s top 10 players (OT Cameron Robinson, DE Da’Shawn Hand, CB Tony Brown), and the No.10 and No.12 players in the nation, too (ATH Bo Scarborough, and CB Marlon Humphrey).

They also stunningly picked up OLB Rashaan Evans from Auburn High school – who had also been rated highly, despite many thinking – including Auburn itself– that Evans was a cert to play in Jordan-Hare. The move seemed to have annoyed Evans’ mother, who seemed clearly worried about what people in the area would think. Saban described the process: “All the people you’re going to make unhappy….you’re going to make more people happy here”. Evans has been described as the ‘next Melvin Ingram‘, by Bleacher Report, although that will have to be seen to be believed.

Saban added that he saw the Electric Slide video on YouTube that had everyone laughing, and was sorry that no-one saw his ‘Wobble’. “I do that pretty well, too”, he said, in a rare lighthearted moment.

No Alabama signing was under a three-star recruiting valuation for the Tide, who also added former Florida State QB Jacob Coker (not counted here) as well as former Georgia TE Ty Flournoy-Smith, who is getting a second chance in Tuscaloosa.

 

 

 

Alabama back-up QB to transfer, New one coming?

Alabama back-up quarterback Luke Del Rio has said that he’s leaving Tuscaloosa, although it’s not knowing where he will end up.

The player, who decided to walk on at Alabama despite being offered scholarships at Oklahoma State, Oregon State and Colorado State (according to Bama recruiting website TideSports.com) said via Twitter: “I had an incredible year at Bama, it’s sad to say that it will be my last,I’m excited for the next chapter of my life and what it will bring.”

His decision to leave – just days after the arrival of new offensive co-ordinator Lane Kiffin, has further fuelled rumors that Florida State back-up QB Jacob Coker could be transferring from Florida State, although the player himself dismissed that as ‘rumors’ before the Seminoles’ National Championship win over Auburn.

The rumor mill went on overdrive after an article by CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman, which seemed to connect Alabama coach Nick Saban to Coker……who’s currently nursing a torn meniscus after blowing it out in November.

Feldman’s article notes that Coker is a “lifelong Alabama fan”, which certainly got tongues wagging.

BOTTOM LINE: Rumor. Speculation. Don’t you just love the college football off-season? If Coker was to come to Alabama, it might well be Saban and Kiffin’s recruit of 2014.