Happy Friday, everyone. Nick Saban spoke to the media last night for the last time until the Monday of game week, which is... THIS MONDAY, PEOPLE!
That's right, next week is game week for USC. The butterflies are building. We know the talent is there, but there are still those little doubts in the back of your head:
"Do we have a QB?"
"Will the OL jell?"
"Can our RBs carry the load?"
"Can we replace Cyrus, or was he the glue holding everything together in the secondary?"
"Will our lighter front seven be as dominant against the run?"
"Can we trust the kicking game?"
If most of those questions are answered affirmatively, as they should be, this will be another special season for the Tide. In any event, it's time for football season. There is even a little game tonight to whet your appetites.
On to the practice notes. We'll start with the topic du jour:
On if there has been any talk of playing two quarterbacks
"No, we haven't had any discussion about that yet. ... It's a pretty simple question and pretty simple answer. Like I'd tell you if we were going to." — Saban
What we think it means: Alabama has definitely had discussions of playing two quarterbacks. Nick Saban pays attention to every little detail so there's no way it hasn't been mentioned. As of right now, look for Cooper Bateman and Jalen Hurts to be the two quarterbacks. Bateman is the safe option. Hurts will be eased into the offense. Saban not telling reporters his plan on how he'll use the quarterbacks is pretty standard. But now believes that he, Lane Kiffin and the offensive staff haven't talked through every possible scenario.
Phil Savage's prediction? The former NFL executive and current Alabama football radio analyst said he expects the Tide to play two quarterbacks in each of its first two games before deciding on a starter heading into its third game, which is on the road against No. 11 Ole Miss. That's what Savage told WNSP 105.5 FM after attending Alabama's practice Wednesday afternoon. The two quarterbacks Savage believes will play in the first two games: Redshirt junior Cooper Bateman and freshman Jalen Hurts.
The thought of a two quarterback system is stomach-churning for many Alabama fans who subscribe to the old quote that says, "If you've got two QBs, you have no QB." Also, Notre Dame is doing it, and we do not wish to be like Notre Dame.
It could be that the coaches have indeed decided that Hurts is the guy but don't want to throw him into the fire on the big stage. Of course, while Bateman has been in the program for three years, he also has little game experience and Jalen's personality seems to be one that wouldn't crumble under pressure.
No, odds are that if you see two QBs next Saturday, it is truly because the coaches were unable to decide on a guy in camp. Hopefully that turns out to be a good thing in that both are highly capable. In any event, Saban has made it clear that no announcements are forthcoming. Keep 'em guessing, coach.
—The first-team nickel defense featured Anthony Averett, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Marlon Humphrey at cornerback. Ronnie Harrison and Eddie Jackson were the safeties. Reuben Foster and Shaun Dion Hamilton were the linebackers. Rashaan Evans, who had been at that spot Hamilton was occupying, was taking part in another drill before joining Holcombe at linebacker on a second-team version of the same formation.
I don't see Hamilton playing ahead of Evans in nickel. This is probably just a matter of getting him some reps in case of injury.
"Dakota Ball has shown some progress," Saban said. "This is the natural position that he played. We moved him to tight end a year ago because we had depth problems there. I think he can help us some. Then I think there’s the three new guys that came in we’re working with and they’re making significant improvement. I think, probably, after the next scrimmage, we’ll have to decide, ‘OK, which one of these guys are we gonna invest our time in?’
"... I think Josh Frazier has made some improvement. He’s played some nose and some five technique."
With news that Davis may not be eligible for the season, this unit is not as deep as one would like. As it stands now, Dakota Ball is the #4 DE. Josh Frazier is unsurprisingly getting reps at both nose and end, which makes sense. If he can step forward and be another Swiss-army knife in the mold of Dalvin Tomlinson, the staff should still be able to mix combinations and keep guys fresh. This group simply cannot afford injuries to any of Jonathan Allen, Da'Shawn Hand, Da'Ron Payne, or Tomlinson though.
His son, Charlie Jr., was hired by Nick Saban as an offensive analyst last spring. Supporting the Tide has been a way for Weis to experience football as a fan in the stands for the first time in four decades. According to Weis, Alabama football "got him through." via ESPN: Weis watched games from the stands for the first time in more than 40 years. He couldn't completely detach and just be a fan. He kept watching for patterns, wondering why the coaches called the plays they did. But mostly he rooted for his son. "You talk about what gets you through?" Weis says. "He got me through this last year because, on football weekends, I had Alabama football. I lived vicariously through him."
Roll Tide, Charlie.
"I told him, ‘If you want to become one of the elite safeties in the league you are going to have to at least get between 212 and 216.’
He texted me this morning, it is funny and he said, ‘Coach, I am at 216’, I said, ‘Great. Keep it up.’ "
In Saturday’s preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, Collins forced a Jerome Felton fumble at the goal line that prevented a Bills touchdown and resulted in a turnover. He also sliced into the backfield several times to disrupt running plays.
"Landon has been a breath of fresh air versus the young man from last year because he understands the defense a little more being in his second year, so he is communicating, he is taking charge out there as well as Darian (Thompson), so I am very happy with Landon and where he is mentally," Merritt said.
Landon's issues in the NFL have been similar to those in college. He is nothing short of outstanding against the run, but pass coverage is tough for him. He should improve in this area with experience, but in any case has a bright future as an in-the-box strong safety.
"The SEC right now owns the city of Houston from a TV ratings standpoint," said University of Houston board chair Tilman Fertitta. "Those eyeballs in Houston are extremely important to the Big 12." As it seeks an invitation to join the Big 12 in the event the league expands at some point this year, Fertitta and UH officials have been making a twofold pitch to Big 12 leaders. One, that the Big 12 has lost the Houston market to the SEC.
Somewhere, Tom Herman gazes longingly at the SEC logo as those sweet Gatlin lyrics play in his head: "Houston. Houston means that I'm one day closer to you..."
Lastly, we're always up for some more Auburn humor, right?
Sophomore Sean White has won the starting quarterback job at Auburn. "It will be important he'll have a good full week just working with the ones," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Thursday. White beat out Jeremy Johnson and John Franklin III for the starting job. The team was alerted Thursday. "Jeremy had a very good fall camp. He's much improved," Malzahn said. Malzahn did not name a second-team quarterback. Auburn opens the season against No. 2 Clemson on Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. CT.
Ah, another year of watching a pocket passer try to run an offense that needs a running QB to thrive. Good times.
Do you expect your new coach to have a win over a top-ranked team every other year?
Of course not—not even the biggest powers in college football do that.
OK, well, do you expect to beat Alabama every other year, or at least one out of three?
Of course! We should be able to compete as well as they do! Gus has shown he can't. FIRE GUS!
Well, Gus has won one out of three, and has been competitive in losses, even when his team has struggled.
And consistently beating Alabama means consistently beating a top-ranked team.
Never heard of Vice Sports before, but as of now they are OK with me.
That's about it for today. Have a great weekend.