The Crimson Tide now stand at 5-1. For some it is not good enough but this team is still alive for the four-team playoff. Sloppy mistakes cost Alabama one game and it almost cost them one against Arkansas on Saturday if not for the effort of Jonathan Allen on blocking an extra point.
There is something about this Bama team that does not feel right. The struggles come from many areas but they had their geneses from two unexpected events:
1. Chad Lindsay transferring out.
I am not sure what he was thinking by leaving Alabama for Ohio State. I understand he was a senior back-up and wanted to play but it is quite difficult for a center of all OL positions to break into the starting line-up of another "power" team.
Obviously, this move caught coach Nick Saban a little off guard (no pun intended) and made Alabama suddenly thin at center. So thin that the Crimson Tide had exactly ONE scholarshipped center enrolled at the Capstone when Lindsay decided to transfer this past March. It was so bad that walk-on Paul Waldrop carried most of the work at second-team center this past spring. With no waiver wire in college ball, Saban had no choice other than to convert someone to the position.
With all apologies to Bradley Bozeman, he is not very good right now. Granted he played tackle in high school and is still a youngster, but his play is below par. The effort is there but he is a bit overwhelmed at this stage in his career.
The redshirt freshman initially agreed to take a greyshirt in 2013 but was promoted due to attrition of another player. The staff did not expect to see Bozeman crack the lineup for a few years but once starter Ryan Kelly went down (again), he was the only other choice aside from taking a redshirt off true freshmen J.C. Hassenauer or Josh Casher.
Just so you know, moving a guard or tackle over to center is not as easy as Barrett Jones made it look. First there is calling the blocking assignments. Then there is hiking the football under center, in the pistol (3 or 4 yards), and in the shotgun (5 or 7 yards). If you think it is easy, go out to the Quad or your back yard with a buddy and see how accurate you can snap while pretending you have Robert Nkemdiche or Darius Philon in your face.
For the record, Chad Lindsay did not fare much better in Columbus. He was listed as the back-up before quitting football due to "unspecified injuries". I have to believe if he had stayed in Tuscaloosa, he would've started Saturday's game against Arkansas and the Tide would've had a much better offensive output.
2. Vinnie Sunseri leaving early for the NFL.
The struggles of the Tide secondary have been well documented and discussed. However at this point in the season, I am afraid they are what they are. Much of that would be different had Sunseri not unexpectedly declared for the NFL draft after his junior year. Here again, Saban was blindsided and his displeasure with the move was clear in his comments.
Some of the shortcomings of this season's defensive backfield include lack of a big hitter, lack of a ballhawk, lack of leadership. The reason for those deficits are Sunseri, Sunseri, and Sunseri.
- The hard-working safety was a terror to any receiver daring to cross the middle. The current Bama team does not have any strong safeties or nickles who strike fear in the hearts of the opponent.
- Sunseri had a nose for the ball returning back-to-back pick-sixes against Virginia Tech and Texas A&M in 2013. Through six games, this year's version has only three interceptions as a team and only one fumble recovery from the secondary - Cyrus Jones' controversial return against Ole Miss.
- Perhaps it was not AJ McCarron's place to speak out against the leadership of the Crimson Tide but he had a point. Like AJ, I am not on the team but if you follow a team closely enough, you can tell from player interviews and by the way players carry themselves on the field that their is a dearth in the leadership position. Many
Had Vinnie stuck around for his senior season, he would have likely filled all these roles and it would be a MUCH different team. He would have bettered himself as a player and improved his NFL stock. He did get drafted (fifth round, New Orleans Saints) and played well in the preseason but has found himself exclusively on special teams so far in this his rookie season.
The Nick Saban Process® is a wonderful beautiful thing but it is not full-proof. Sometimes, unforeseen events can knock the ship askew. I am sure Saban is up in his office right now working on fixing the situation.