Before we get started in earnest, guess who leads the SEC in receiving? I can't think of a more deserving guy to get out of the gate so quickly. He's Alabama's do-it-all guy on the outside: speed, power, excellent blocker, clutch catches, fearless over the middle. It's really good to see ArDarius get his.
OFFENSE Senior tight end O.J. Howard Howard had two catches for 29 yards while also contributing as a blocker. Sophomore wide receiver Calvin Ridley Ridley caught nine passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. Freshman right tackle Jonah Williams Williams graded out at 85 percent. He didn't allow any sacks or pressures and had two knockdown blocks.
For the second week in a row, Jonah Williams balled out, and Ridley rebounded from Adoree' Jackson quite nicely. OJ saw quite a few targets this past week, and, like Stewart's contributions, it's very nice to see him more involved in the gameplan.
Saban speaks...and he's not happy.
"The thing I’ve probably changed the most is, I think you have to make it more about the player himself. I really do. If you just say, ‘We need you to do this for the team,’ I’m not sure they get that. "I had a player in the other day, and I was upset with the way he was practicing, and I showed him a couple clips, didn’t think he was giving the effort he needed. I wanted to say ‘You’re letting your team down,’ but I didn’t say that to him. I said, ‘Let’s take everybody out of this. You tell me you want to play in the NFL one day. So let’s make a totally selfish decision about what you’re doing here. You are cheating yourself. How is what you’re doing right here help get where you want to go?’ The guy was speechless. He could relate to that. He couldn’t even relate to, ‘You’re letting your team down.’"
It may be a function of the calibre of athlete that Alabama is signing, and the life-long slavish attention many have received, but overcoming their individual goals to accomplish a team purpose has to be one of the most difficult parts of Saban's job.
If you want to know why he was upset on Saturday, it’s simple. Where others saw a lopsided win, he saw the rough outline of complacency, the bugaboo that many at Alabama attribute to the the program’s inability to repeat as national champions in 2010 and 2013. "We have lots of work to do," Saban said. "We’re going to play a lot better teams. I didn’t think we practiced very well this week, and I didn’t think we prepared very well for this game. I don’t think we respected the team that we played. Like I said before, when you’re arrogant, it makes you complacent and it creates a blatant disregard for doing things right. And if we don’t start doing things right, we’re not going to have the kind of success that we’re capable of."
It it worrisome to see words and phrases like "complacency," "lack of respect," "blatant disregard," and "arrogant" used to describe the attitude of a team so young at so many positions. And, it is particularly disconcerting to know that we, as fans and observers, had far more respect for Saturday's opponents than some Bama players. Get the headspace right, fellas.
Ole Miss prep begins, but don't call it payback or revenge
— Injured wide receiver Cam Sims was practicing. Coach Nick Saban said Sims should be able to play against Ole Miss. Sims didn't play against Western Kentucky on Saturday due to a shoulder injury he suffered during Alabama's season-opening win over USC. — The first-team offensive line was Cam Robinson at left tackle, Lester Cotton at left guard, Bradley Bozeman at center, Ross Pierschbacher at right guard and Jonah Williams at right tackle.
If anyone has any idea what's going on with the offensive line rotation, please let me know. As we discussed yesterday in our text thread, it's simply baffling at this point. But, on the plus side, it's good to see Cam Sims finally practice again. The oft-injured WR looked to finally rebound this season. While that may be delayed some, it's nice to know the injury wasn't more serious,
"You just got to take their confidence away," he said. "If you take their confidence away and scare them a little bit and hit them, then you'll get to them." And that's done how? "Just hit them hard," Mageo said.
If "hitting them hard" is the only scheme Ole Miss' defensive line has to stop Jalen Hurts, then the land sharks are in for a much longer day than I already suspect. "Freshman" doesn't mean quite what it used to: Hurts has been through two camps, simulated a Heisman runner-up after being on campus for three days, eviscerated one of the most storied and talented teams in the nation in an NFL stadium on national television, won the locker room and respect of soon-to-be millionaires, and beat out four other older competitors to be the first true freshman starting QB under Nick Saban (and the first at Alabama in three decades.) But, yeah, "hit him hard" is going to rattle Jalen.
Speaking of Jalen Hurts...
After the game, Saban was asked if Hurts did enough to win the job. "I think we need to watch the film and make that decision," Saban said, but on Monday, he didn’t have an answer as to what his quarterback plan will be against Ole Miss. "We’re going to continue to work with the quarterbacks that we have, rep the quarterbacks that we have and try to get them better," Saban said. "Jalen obviously played the most in the game. There’s things that he could do better. There’s some things that he did very well. The emphasis, no matter who’s playing, is let’s get the better things more consistent."
So, do we really think Alabama meaningfully plays two QBs, on the road in the SEC opener, against a team with a very good defensive line, who also owns a two-game winning streak against them? Nah, me either.
"I think the focus for us needs to be on better execution; I talked about this after the game and after viewing the film. When we have issues; when we give up plays on defense; when we have negative plays on offense; it really comes from the fact that our fundamental execution is not really what it needs to be. I think that we have to spend the time in practice to get the fundamental execution that we need. I think this helps everyone play better, it benefits everybody, and I think it benefits the unit that you play on. Playing in the SEC, playing against better teams, playing on the road; all these things are definitely things we need to emphasize and improve on.
So don’t expect reminders around the building of what happened the last two years. Saban often gets riled up ahead of games against inferior opponents. It sounds like that’s not an issue this week. "Creating a bunch of anxiety with players is not the best way to go when it comes to being able to perform well," he said. "I think we were pretty anxious in the game last year, and it sure didn’t help us play very well. Hopefully, we won’t have anxiety. We’ll have motivation and go with a sense of purpose and stay focused on that sense of purpose for 60 minutes."
"... I keep going back to the fact that everything that we mess up, it’s not really what the other team did. It’s more what we didn’t do. So we can get more focus on execution, the process of what we need to do to get it right? I think that will be very, very important. Emotion doesn’t last in the game. Character, want-to, commitment to what you’re doing, playing for 60 minutes in the game, one play at a time, regardless of what happened in the last game, is the mindset that you want. And I hope that our players understand that that’s what we’ll need in this game."
All of the above hit on a series of related fundamental concepts: execution on every play, every down, play within yourself, and don't let last year beat you this year. I think we should call the above, "The Process." I should trademark that. Still, despite Saban's insistence this isn't about revenge, deep down you have to know he's very angry about losing two games in a row via mental mistakes to one of the perceived ringleaders of a brand of football Saban loathes to his core, and has reluctantly adopted.
Is this what we want football to be? No, but the hope is that we take our shiny new toys, stomp a mud hole in Hugh Freeze's ass, and then walk it dry.