The players said they feel fine through seven games. Alabama has a bye week after this Saturday's Tennessee game. "We've done a good job this year implementing things to help us recover and stay good throughout the season," junior defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said. "I feel great and I think the team feels great. "We have these little leg sleeves we sleep in to help us keep our legs rejuvenated. Cold ice (tubs). Just new things, little things here and there, stretches and strides we do. I think Coach (Scott) Cochran has given us things to be our best."
The bigger news out of this one is that Ryan Kelly has a minor concussion and is undergoing concussion protocols. There's no word on whether he'll practice or when we can expect to see him return. Saban is upbeat, but if Alabama must go to Hassenauer to be healed up for the LSU game, then so be it. JC had a tough assignment coming off the bench last week; but against that pass rush, nearly anyone in the country would. This says nothing about far greater concern, however, the running game's production falling off.
RB Kenyan Drake practiced after taking a helmet to the thigh at Texas A&M.
Speaking of players dinged up in that very physical affair, Kenyan Drake seems to be on the mend after taking a shot to his quads. It's Week 8 and the Tide's 8th straight game, so nicks and scrapes are bound to happen. In the main, though, Alabama has had excellent injury luck this year.
Coker doesn’t run often, but when he does, he’s usually successful. Seven times this season he’s rushed for 10 yards or more, 12 times he’s run for a first down, and he’s already racked up 26 yards after contact. “He’s a tough guy,” Saban said. “Do you want him to run out of bounds? Sometimes I wish he wouldn’t take the hits, but sometimes I like to see the other team’s reaction when he does that.
It is fun watching Coker lower the shoulder and blast would-be tacklers. When the wheels were falling apart during Alabama's 2nd and 3rd quarter attempted meltdown, Coker's physical run against A&M, one where he broke no less than four tackles, was a much-needed momentum play.
As a team, the Crimson Tide recorded four picks (three off sophomore Kyle Allen, one off true freshman Kyler Murray), took three of them back for touchdowns (Eddie Jackson added the third score), and set a school record with 207 interception return yards, most by an SEC defense since 1971. After finishing with a modest 11 interceptions in 2013 and 2014, Bama already has 12 picks in 2015, best in the SEC and tied for fifth-best nationally.
Amazing turnaround by the Alabama secondary this season. Eddie Jackson has played great, Minkah Fitzpatrick is the next Alabama great one. Ronnie Harrison is making plays. Cyrus has practically taken away an entire third of the field. And, Marlon Humphrey is getting better each week as well.
It's not just talent, either. True: Three of those guys are freshmen, but Secondary Coach Mel Tucker has these guys playing fantastic football.
“I’ve talked about friendly fire before but I look at our team and I’m like, we play different when it’s 28-6 than we do when it’s 0-0. Well, there’s not supposed to be a scoreboard. You’re supposed to have enough killer instinct to keep playing at a high level and execute and do your job. It can’t be the scoreboard. It can’t be playing at home. It can’t be the fans. “All those things should be positive things that enhance your chances of competition, affects the other team. Something that we’ve just got to continue to address and try to get the players to focus better, and do a better job.”
The long and short of it appears to be that this young team has too many distractions at home. On the road, however, the unfamiliar environment makes the players more vigilant, more generally aware on each play. Greater focus will be necessary against a dangerous Tennessee team, and certainly against an LSU team that finally has a functional offense.
Speaking of struggling: HUNH QBs
“Honestly, when I did Bryce Petty’s film – and I love Bryce, he was my favorite quarterback in the whole draft, in terms of a project – but there were like 25 transferable snaps from the entire season,” Dilfer said. “I watched every snap, and there were, like, 25 times where he did something he was actually going to do in the NFL.”
“That’s the biggest thing that the pro guys are frustrated with, is that the college quarterback, for the most part, is managed from the sideline,” Dilfer said. “They are making very few dynamic decisions at the line of scrimmage or after the ball is snapped. Dynamic decision-making before the ball is snapped and after the ball is snapped is what separates the best pro quarterbacks from everybody else.
Great read here. As Dilfer notes, the talent is better than its ever been. But, he's also correct in that there are almost no decisions made by guys in the HUNHS and Air Raid offenses. We've seen it repeatedly now with Dixon, Weeden, RGIII, Bradford, Petty, Manziel et al. There are two notable outliers here: Cam Newton, who is transcendentally talented, and by all appearances, Marcus Mariota -- who seems as though he will be very good.
Dilfer and Ryan's larger point remains: You can have a $10 arm, but it's up the coaches to help guys grow out of their ten-cent heads. Frankly, that's not being taught or developed at many places.
“I knew about Alabama’s basketball tradition before I took the job,” Johnson said. “I was teammates with Derrick McKey in the NBA. We actually came to Tuscaloosa for a football game and we got to work out with the basketball team.” Johnson said he got to know several former Alabama players from his days as an NBA player. He mentioned Robert Horry, Latrell Sprewell, “Hollywood” Henderson and Buck Johnson. “It’s important for us to make that connection with the past,” Johnson said. “We want the program back to the level it was when they played.”
It is so good to see Coach Johnson reach out to students, alums, local coaches -- and, critically -- former players and coaches. Too often, guys come in running from a program's past or wanting to salt the earth and claim the program, when instead an integrative approach really helps build early support. This will be especially important, as the Tide are likely to struggle this season.
Who wouldn't want this kid on their team?