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Initial Impressions │Florida Atlantic

What can we as fans take away, if anything, from yesterday's 41-0 victory over Florida Atlantic?

Scott Cunningham

What did we learn yesterday? A lot, a little, and at time a whole lotta nothing. Every thing said below should be read through the context that the opponent was Florida Atlantic. This isn't meant to disparage the positives but the Owls were outmatched in every phase of the game and Alabama passed, ran, rushed, defended, and scored nearly at will.

The Defense

Eddie Jackson made his return to the starting defense after injuring his knee in Spring and never reached his pitch count of 40 snaps. No disrespect intended towards Bradley Sylve, but Jackson is an obvious upgrade at the corner position. It was nice to see his aggressiveness in run support early in the game (though his form was awful) and he later made a nice play on the forced fumble after giving up a short completion.

Cyrus Jones was targeted early, gave up a few long receptions, and was called for two penalties, one being rather ticky tacky, but played reasonably well. Maurice Smith who filled in for the injured Jarrick Williams wasn't credited with a tackle but had a nice pass break up in the 3rd quarter.

FAU only passed for 88 yards and the longest pass reception of the day was 16 yards, so I would call the day a success for the Alabama defensive backs. That is unless your name is Nick Perry who was, how shall one say, trucked after he came up in the box and attempted an open field tackle on a FAU running back (can't remember which one). If anyone can find video of this "tackle" please post it in the comments.

Again, realizing the opponent was FAU, Trey DePriest didn't seem hampered by his knee injury and with less communication issues throughout the game, his leadership and presence was apparent from the start. Reggie Ragland found himself out of position and missed a few tackles but you saw improvement from week one, which is all you can expect at this point.

The front seven played well I thought and the defensive line, when given the opportunity, applied a good amount of pressure on the FAU quarterback. The official stat line for defensive line is three sacks (Reggie Ragland, Rashaan Evans and Ryan Anderson each had one) and Evans had the one QB hurry, though it seems the stat guy missed a few hurries.

Though I still have my concerns about this defense, they did pitch a shutout against an over-matched opponent. The FAU offense had some success running the ball between the tackles and put together a few long drives, so with that, I'd grade the defense out with a solid B+.

The Offense

YOU get a screen pass and YOU get a screen pass ALL Y'ALL get a screen pass! (unless your name is O.J. Howard)

Amari Cooper has already amassed 319 yards on 25 catches in just two games averaging 12.76 yards per completion. For comparison sake, he caught 45 passes for 736 yards in ALL of 2013. BTW, I'm starting to love Lane Kiffin and probably so is Amari's draft stock. If Coop keeps up this type of production, he's not only going to shatter Alabama receiving records, he very well may find himself in the Heisman talk by season's end.

And remember when Saban said Ardarius Stewart was having a great camp and would be someone to keep an eye on this season? He wasn't lying. Stewart was 2nd on the team in receptions (3) and total yardage (63).

The running backs had a quiet day as the game plan was obviously focused on the passing game but even so Kenyan Drake was able to show off his speed and elusiveness with a rushing and receiving touchdown. It's difficult to grade out the running backs and offensive line when they received a collective 33 attempts but the 204 total yards on the ground and 6.2 ypc was nice to see.

One note on the offensive line: Alabama had 37 passing attempts and the line gave up only one sack.

As for the quarterbacks, again, what did we learn yesterday?

  • Sims control/ knowledge (of the offense) > Coker's control/ knowledge
  • Coker's arm strength > Sims' arm strength

But we already knew all that, so we basically learned nothing, right?

With the extra game experience under his belt, Sims looked more confident and had better control of the offense but this is to be expected playing at home against FAU. His stat line looks Heisman-esque, 11-13, 214 yards and 2 TD's, but again, the amount of wide receiver screens that went for 52, 49 and 41 yards skew the numbers ever so slightly.

And let me make this clear: I don't blame him one bit. In this offense, with the athletes we have at wide receiver and running back, all the quarterback has to do to be successful is avoid mistakes and get the ball into the play maker's hands. The method of which he does so isn't crucial, if that's by screen passes, quick hitches, or by four verticals and Sims did this to near perfection, solidifying his place as the starting quarterback. His only mistake was the fumble inside the 5 yard line where the call was a bootleg to Fowler and Sims tried to hand the ball off to Yeldon These are mistakes that will improve with time and certainly not something to swing cactus over.

Jacob Coker, on the other hand, looked like a guy who hasn't played football for nearly 365 days because that's exactly who he is. When Jake entered the game, he looked nervous and tentative, much like Sims did to start the WVU game.  He short hopped a few passes, over threw some, and made rookie mental mistakes. If you expected to see anything different, you probably stop reading Jimbo Fisher quotes.

From what we saw yesterday it's fairly clear the quarterback competition is over and the job is Sims' to lose. It would take a complete meltdown by Sims at this point for Coker to be inserted into the line up and until that day happens, Sims is our starter. And honestly, I'm fine with that. Both guys look more then capable but Coker did nothing yesterday to prove to us he should be the starter and his clock mismanagement issue before the half just solidified that opinion.

Could Coker one day over take Sims from an ability to run the offense, manage the game and passing accuracy stand point? Sure but that day isn't today.

In the end, everything must be evaluated and sifted through the context of the opponent. Alabama looked like a team who could beat the Green Bay Packers, because they were playing a team who would struggle with some high school teams. Okay, perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, but the point stands. The quarterbacks didn't have to make many difficult reads or throws into tight coverage, the wide receivers had a 15 yard cushion on most plays, and the defense hardly felt threatened outside of maybe two Florida Atlantic drives. The game was what we expected and nothing more.

Other Random Thoughts

  • After just two games, Adam Griffith has won me over. I don't even worry about a miss when he steps on the field and I can't remember the last time I felt that way about an Alabama kicker.
  • At one point in the 2nd half, the 2nd team defense had more five stars on the field than the starting 11.
  • I thought the 2nd team offensive line played well and allowed Coker more time throwing the ball then he did when he played for FSU.
  • Coker's willingness to stand tall in the pocket and make throws under pressure impressed me.
  • You have to wonder if the issue isn't the quarterbacks but OJ Howard.
  • Robert Foster had his first career catch and could have a huge run after the catch had he read the block better.
  • Chris Black had three receptions for 45 yards but it feels like Stewart out played him.
  • With his 20 yard run, Tyren Jones showed his burst of speed and power.
  • On that note, our 4th string running back is better than most team's starter. #gumping
  • Vogler and Howard have yet to catch a pass this season and by my account, the tight ends as a group have only one catch.
  • Who else is starting to get nervous about UF coming to town in two weeks?
Roll Tide